Beacon Hill (train)

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Beacon Hill
Amtrak LRC loco 38.jpg
A Bombardier LRC in use with the Beacon Hill in 1980
Service type Commuter rail
Status Discontinued
Predecessor Clamdigger
First service 1978
Last service 1981
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Start Boston
Stops 12
End New Haven
Distance travelled 157 miles (253 km)
Average journey time 3 hours
Service frequency Daily (weekdays only)
Train number(s) 153, 154
Route map
Dist. Station
0 mi
0 km
Boston South Station
1.0 mi
1.6 km
Boston Back Bay(1978-1979)
12 mi
19 km
Route 128
MA/RI border
44 mi
71 km
57 mi
92 km
East Greenwich
63 mi
101 km
Wickford Junction
71 mi
114 km
76 mi
122 km
88 mi
142 km
RI/CT border
96 mi
154 km
106 mi
171 km
New London
113 mi
182 km
East Lyme
124 mi
200 km
Old Saybrook
136 mi
219 km
148 mi
238 km
157 mi
253 km
New Haven

The Beacon Hill was a daily 157-mile (253 km) commuter rail service operated by Amtrak between Boston, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut, from 1978 to 1981. The Beacon Hill was one of the last long-haul commuter services operated by Amtrak. Service consisted of a single rush-hour round trip, with service eastbound to Boston in the morning and westbound to New Haven in the evening.


Previous service[edit]

After the New Haven Railroad folded into Penn Central in 1969, most commuter service between New Haven and Providence was terminated. (Commuter service west of New Haven continued under Penn Central and Conrail then Metro-North Railroad, while Boston-Providence service was taken over by the MBTA in 1975). The Clamdigger operated as a daily local from New London to New Haven until 1972, then later from Providence to New Haven beginning in 1976.[1][2]

Beacon Hill[edit]

Geographic map of Beacon Hill service

On April 30, 1978, the Clamdigger was replaced with the Beacon Hill, which ran in the reverse direction to serve the Boston commuter market rather than the New Haven and New York markets.[3] This left the Beacon Hill as the only commuter service between New Haven and Providence, except for a daily Westerly-Providence train subsidized by Rhode Island.[4] The Beacon Hill supplemented Amtrak's existing intercity trains on the Corridor, which made fewer stops.[5]

The Beacon Hill initially made station stops at New Haven Union Station, Branford, Madison, Old Saybrook, East Lyme and Niantic, New London Union Station, Mystic, Westerly, Shannock, Kingston, Wickford Junction, East Greenwich, Providence, Route 128, Boston Back Bay, and Boston South Station. Running time was slightly over 3 hours, with service on weekdays plus Sundays.[5][6]

On November 3, 1979, the Southwest Corridor was closed for reconstruction. All MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak service was routed via the Midland Branch instead. The Midland does not pass through Back Bay station; a shuttle train from South Station to Back Bay was available.[4]

In December 1979, the Westerly-Providence trip was canceled, leaving the Beacon Hill as the only commuter service in southern Rhode Island.[4] On February 20, 1981, MBTA Providence/Stoughton Line service was back to Attleboro. Pawtucket/Central Falls was abandoned and Providence became an Amtrak-only stop.[4]

When service began in 1978, the Beacon Hill departed South Station in Boston at 5:05pm.[5] However, beginning February 2, 1980, the departure time was moved to 4:20pm and the train became weekdays-only.[7] This prevented workers on a 9-to-5 schedule - a major segment of the commuter market - from using the train.

Beginning in late 1980, the Beacon Hill frequently ran with one of Amtrak's two LRC test trainsets.[8]

Cancellation and modern service[edit]

This MBTA station at Wickford Junction was opened in 2012 across the tracks from the former Beacon Hill station

The Beacon Hill was discontinued effective October 24, 1981, victim both of Amtrak cost-cutting and the unwillingness of state governments to provide necessary funding, as well as declining ridership.[9] Regional (now branded as Northeast Regional) service continues and has been supplemented by Acela Express service, but those intercity services stop only at larger towns and cities and are not priced for commuter service.

In 1990, the Connecticut Department of Transportation began Shore Line East service between Old Saybrook and New Haven, with 4 daily trains. The service was extended to New London in 1996 and now includes 15 daily trains in each direction.

MBTA service to Providence resumed on February 1, 1988, restoring commuter rail service to Rhode Island. The Pawtucket/Central Falls station remained closed and was replaced in 1990 by South Attleboro station just across the Massachusetts border. After years of planning by RIDOT, the Providence/Stoughton Line was extended south to T.F. Green Airport on December 6, 2010, and to the former Beacon Hill station at Wickford Junction on April 23, 2012.[4]

ConnDOT and RIDOT have long-term plans to extend Shore Line East and MBTA service to meet at Westerly station, which would provide a two-seat ride roughly matching the Beacon Hill.[10][11] RIDOT also plans to add an infill station at East Greenwich near the former station site.[11]


  1. ^ Baer, Christopher T. (June 2005). "PRR CHRONOLOGY: 1972" (PDF). Pennsylvania Technical and Historical Society. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Baer, Christopher T. (August 2011). "PRR CHRONOLOGY: 1976" (PDF). Pennsylvania Technical and Historical Society. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Seaport urges early train". The Day. July 25, 1978. Retrieved 2011-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Belcher, Jonathan (31 August 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) (1 October 1979). "National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 15. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  6. ^ National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) (1 October 1979). "National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 15. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  7. ^ National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) (3 February 1980). "National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 15. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Pictures of AMTK 38". RR Picture Archives. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Hebert, H. Josef (August 26, 1981). "New Amtrak Network Keeps Most of System Intact". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  10. ^ "Expanding Rail Service" (PDF). Connecticut Department of Transportation. 1 January 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Edwards and Kelcey, Inc (July 2001). "South County Commuter Rail Service Plan" (PDF). Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 

External links[edit]