Connecticut River Railroad
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The Connecticut River Railroad in western Massachusetts in the United States was formed in 1845 by the merger of the Northampton and Springfield Railroad (chartered in 1842) with the unbuilt Greenfield and Northampton Railroad.
Investors from Boston joined forces with business owners from Northampton and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as from Hartford, Connecticut, in building a rail line from Springfield north along the Connecticut River to Northampton. While the line was under construction, the rail company merged with another company building a line from Greenfield, Massachusetts, south to Northampton. The two companies became the Connecticut River Railroad (CRRR).
The line opened between Springfield and Northampton in 1845 and by the following summer was extended to Deerfield, Massachusetts, and then to Greenfield in November 1846. In 1849, the line was extended further north to the Massachusetts-Vermont state line, where it met the Brattleboro line of the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad (which later became part of the Fitchburg Railroad). This allowed the CRRR to provide rail service between Springfield, Massachusetts and Brattleboro, Vermont.
For over 40 years, the CRRR operated on its own and acquired a vast network of rail lines north of Brattleboro to Canada. These included New Hampshire's Ashuelot Railroad, which had been acquired in 1877, and the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad in northern Vermont, acquired in 1887. The days of independence came to an end when the Boston and Maine Railroad leased the CRRR in 1893. With a main line from Springfield, Massachusetts, north along the Connecticut River to the village of White River Junction in Hartford, Vermont, the B&M became a major route between Montreal, Quebec, and New York City.
The express trains called the Montrealer (northbound) and the Washingtonian (southbound) used the CRRR route until 1966, and local passenger service on the line ended by the beginning of 1967. In 1972, Amtrak brought the two trains back (by 1974 they were both called the Montrealer) and ran them until 1987, when Amtrak rerouted the train to the Central Vermont line through Amherst, because Guilford Rail System refused to improve poor track conditions.
Three branch lines were built off the CRRR, all of them in Massachusetts. The Chicopee Falls (1845), Easthampton (1872) and Deerfield (1906) branches were built and served the railroad until two of the three were abandoned by Guilford (now Pan Am Railways). The Chicopee Falls line was let go in 1983, and the Easthampton line was wiped out in 1984. The Deerfield Branch is still in service, connecting the main CRRR line to large switching yards on the old Fitchburg line.
The original CRRR main line between Springfield and Northfield is still operating as part of Pan Am Railways' main network of freight lines in Massachusetts. The line currently operates at FRA-exempted levels, and trains may not exceed 10 miles per hour (16 km/h). Due to these conditions, there are only a few remaining online customers. One of the largest customers, Yankee Candle, despite being on the other side of the road, receives wax shipments via truck from a competing railroad's depot further south.
The CRRR is part of the Pan Am Southern system, a recent merger between Norfolk Southern and Pan Am. Pam Am Railways enjoys intermodal haulage rights as far south as New Haven, Connecticut. This, combined with a surplus of available property on the line, has many speculating if the line will be restored.
A separate proposal, by residents of the area and the state government, involves turning the line into a commuter railroad between Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Deerfield, and Greenfield, in a venture known as the Knowledge Corridor due to the number of colleges and universities on or near the line. As PAS plans to rebuild the PVRR interchange in Holyoke, the line could directly access the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside.
An MBTA news release regarding a July 11, 2012 meeting about possible appropriation of the Connecticut River Line appeared on the MBTA website on July 8, 2012.
- Karr, Ronald D. (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England - A Handbook of Railroad History. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-02-2.
- Karr, Ronald D. (1994). Lost Railroads New England. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-04-9.
- Knowledge Corridor - Restore Vermonter Project - massDOT's homepage for this project