The Vermonter at Brattleboro, Vermont in March 2004
|Service type||Regional rail|
|Locale||New England, Mid-Atlantic States|
82,086 total (FY12)
|Start||St. Albans, Vermont|
|Distance travelled||611 miles (983 km)|
|Average journey time||13 hours 27 minutes|
|Service frequency||One daily round trip|
|Catering facilities||On-board cafe|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet coaches|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operating speed||max:79 miles per hour (127 km/h)|
|Track owner(s)||NECR, CSX, MNCR, AMTK|
The train replaced the overnight Montrealer which terminated in Montréal, Québec, Canada. When the Montrealer route was threatened with cancellation due to budget cuts, the state of Vermont stepped in to subsidize service as far north as St. Albans, near the Canadian border.
The tracks currently used were originally part of the Canadian National Railway, Central Vermont Railway, Boston and Maine Railroad, New Haven Railroad, New York Central Railroad, and Pennsylvania Railroad systems. The tracks currently used are owned by the New England Central Railroad (St. Albans, VT – Palmer, MA), CSX (Palmer, MA – Springfield, MA), Amtrak (Springfield, MA – New Haven, CT and New Rochelle, NY – Washington, DC), and Metro-North Railroad (New Haven, CT – New Rochelle, NY). The route is planned to be switched to the rebuilt Conn River Line (owned by MassDOT) through Massachusetts in 2015.
The Montrealer was originally a service of the Boston and Maine Railroad (BM), running between Montreal and Washington. The Ambassador ran the same route but terminated in New York. Both services used the Boston and Maine's Connecticut River Railroad south of Vernon, Vermont, rather than the current route over the New England Central. The southbound service from 1972-1974 was called the Washingtonian, and the northbound was called the Montrealer. The Washingtonian was also Train 185, which came from New York and later along with most other regular trains on the Northeast Corridor, folded into one NortheastDirect in 1995. In 1992 a stop was added at Willimantic, Connecticut, but service there was discontinued in 1995 upon inception of the Vermonter.
The Vermonter replaced the Montrealer on April 1, 1995, bringing daytime service to Vermont. Business Class was added to replace the sleepers that were taken out of service upon the change to the Vermonter. The route was changed to allow travelers from Vermont back to stop in Springfield and Hartford. This was made possible by the use of cab cars or locomotives on both ends so that the train could travel east from Springfield, Massachusetts to Palmer and reverse direction to connect with the Central Vermont to continue north (see Palmer backup move, below). This detour adds an hour of running time, but was judged more practical than seeking to use the direct route over the former Boston and Maine Railroad owned by Guilford. The train travels from Washington to New Haven on the Northeast Corridor, where electric locomotives are substituted for the diesel locomotives used north of that location.
The train featured a colorful baggage car from its inception in 1995 until 2002. These baggage cars accepted unboxed bicycles and skis.
Vermont declined to pay for continuing the Vermonter to Montreal due to very high labor and terminal costs (Amtrak did not have the ability to use its own crews on the short Canadian portion of the run). Amtrak offered passengers a connecting Thruway bus service, operated by Vermont Transit, which met the train at St. Albans for connections to and from Montreal. Ridership plunged when the train schedule was moved two hours earlier, requiring a southbound departure before 5:00 a.m. The schedule was returned to its previous position, but the service was dropped by Vermont Transit (which had been running it without a subsidy as part of its regular schedule) on October 30, 2005.
Due to a schedule change effective October 30, 2006, the Vermonter began stopping at the towns of Wallingford and Windsor Locks (near Bradley International Airport) in Connecticut for the first time in its existence.
On November 9, 2010, the State of Vermont, Amtrak, and New England Central began a $70 million project to increase train speeds along the route in Vermont to 59 miles per hour (95 km/h) between St. Albans and White River Junction, Vermont, and to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) between White River Junction and Vernon, Vermont.
On October 5, 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration announced the completion of track work within the states of Vermont and New Hampshire for the above mentioned stimulus plan (track work in Massachusetts is ongoing). 190 miles (310 km) of track within the states of Vermont and New Hampshire were refurbished. The track work included installation of continuous welded rail, road-crossing improvements, ballast replacement, tie replacement, bridge repair and renovation, and embankment improvements. The top speed of the line within Vermont was increased to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h). The Massachusetts portion of the track work is ongoing with an expected completion date of 2014.
Proposed equipment change and service upgrade
Amtrak had urged the state of Vermont to purchase diesel multiple unit (DMU) trainsets for use on the New Haven–St. Albans stretch of the line. These DMUs would have been a smaller and more efficient alternative to the current locomotive-pulled configuration. Instead of remaining in the same passenger coaches while the crew switched locomotives at New Haven, passengers would have had to change trains. Amtrak offered a $2 million grant to help make the switch and market the new service. The new cars would purportedly have saved $4.25 million over three years, being four times more fuel efficient than a locomotive-hauled train. In 2008 the Vermont state legislature approved the purchase of five cars from Colorado Railcar at the cost of $18.2 million, but the decision was pending the approval of Governor Jim Douglas when the company closed, and with no other manufacturers of DMUs that comply with US regulations for DMUs, the plan has since been dropped. However, by 2012 three U.S. commuter railroads were operating Stadler GTW DMUs: Capital MetroRail, A-train (Denton County Transportation Authority) and the Southern New Jersey Light Rail.
Amtrak and the State of Vermont have also tentatively discussed adding another train between White River Junction and Springfield, Massachusetts, that would enable greater flexibility in passenger travel times. A 2013 study released by the World Bank showed that increased rail frequency between cities likely encouraged economic synergies and greater economic activity in the connected regions.
Palmer–Springfield backup move
At Palmer, Massachusetts, no direct connection exists to allow eastbound trains to head north, or southbound trains to head west. Therefore the Vermonter must operate with either a locomotive on both ends or a cab car on the end opposite the locomotive. There is no station stop in Palmer, which is a small town.
On the southbound Vermonter, the train enters the CSX tracks heading east and moves clear of the crossing. The conductors get off the train and throw the switches and the engineers move to the other end, and the train goes the other way west to Springfield. On the northbound Vermonter, the procedure is reversed, with the train being pushed east from Springfield to Palmer.
With the start of the all-electric Keystone Service freeing equipment, it is now common to see two P42 locomotives on the Vermonter, instead of one engine and a cab car. However, in the spring of 2013, cab cars made a return to the Vermonter and remain in use from May until October.
Planned re-routing north of Springfield
In 2009, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation submitted a grant application to use funds from the Federal Railroad Administration's High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to improve the Vermonter service. As described in the Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study, the rail line would be restored to the more direct route from Springfield through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, with stops in each. This re-routing, while bypassing and deleting the Amherst station stop, would serve more population centers and eliminate 45 to 60 minutes of travel time between Springfield and Brattleboro. The re-routing would also eliminate the need to switch directions in Palmer and for two locomotives on each train.
One proposal to continue rail service to Amherst using this line is the Central Corridor Rail Line, which would veer southeast after Palmer and would pass through eastern Connecticut, terminating in New London.
On January 28, 2010, the White House announced that $70 million from ARRA funds would be allocated to re-routing the Vermonter to its original route between Brattleboro, Vermont, and Springfield, Massachusetts, along the Connecticut River. The rerouting would shorten the train's route by 11 miles (18 km) and 25 minutes of travel time by laying new track and upgrading other infrastructure on the line. A station in Northampton was to be renovated, and a new station in Greenfield would be constructed. The realignment was expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
Separately, ARRA funds were used to upgrade track in Vermont for higher speeds. The Vermonter can now travel up to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) on portions of the route from the Massachusetts-Vermont state line to White River Junction, and 59 miles per hour (95 km/h) north of there to Saint Albans.
- "Amtrak Sets New Ridership Record" (PDF). Amtrak. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
- "Vermont, Amtrak formally kick off high speed work". Trains Magazine. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- "Railroad Amtrak Article - USDOT, FRA mark completion of Vermonter rail project. Information For Rail Career Professionals From Progressive Railroading Magazine". Progressiverailroading.com. 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Vermonter improvements completed on time and on budget | Railway Track & Structures". Rtands.com. 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
- "Vermont considers buying smaller passenger cars for Amtrak route". Connecticut Post. August 9, 2006.
- Edwards, Bruce (June 22, 2008). "Rail plan off track for now". Barre Montpelier Times Argus. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Evaluation of High-Speed Rail Program Should Consider Wider Economic Benefits, January 21, 2013, The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2013/01/21/evaluation-of-high-speed-rail-program-should-consider-wider-economic-benefits
- "2012 Regional Transportation Plan for the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization". September 2011. p. 18.
- Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study
- Roessler, Mark (May 7, 2009). "Train Departing Amherst Station". Valley Advocate.
- Garofolo, Chris (May 26, 2009). "Groups study improving train service". Brattleboro Reformer.
- Recovery Act High Speed Rail Awards
- "High speed rail in the Northeast: Beyond the Corridor, slow trains get some help". Trains Magazine. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "New Ties Mark Rail Work Start". Retrieved 27 August 2012.
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