Beacon Hill (train)
A Bombardier LRC in use with the Beacon Hill in 1980
|Service type||Commuter rail|
|Distance travelled||157 miles (253 km)|
|Average journey time||3 hours|
|Service frequency||Daily (weekdays only)|
|Train number(s)||153, 154|
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.
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.
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. 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. The Beacon Hill supplemented Amtrak's existing intercity trains on the Corridor, which made fewer stops.
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.
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.
In December 1979, the Westerly-Providence trip was canceled, leaving the Beacon Hill as the only commuter service in southern Rhode Island. 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.
When service began in 1978, the Beacon Hill departed South Station in Boston at 5:05pm. However, beginning February 2, 1980, the departure time was moved to 4:20pm and the train became weekdays-only. This prevented workers on a 9-to-5 schedule - a major segment of the commuter market - from using the train.
Cancellation and modern service
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. 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.
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. RIDOT also plans to add an infill station at East Greenwich near the former station site.
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