Bellows Falls station
The station (left) and the former REA building in 2015
|Location||54 Depot Street, Bellows Falls, Vermont|
|Owned by||Green Mountain Railroad|
|Line(s)||New England Central Railroad|
Green Mountain Railroad
|Platforms||1 side platform|
|Connections|| The Current: 2, 53, 55, 57|
|Opened||January 1, 1849|
September 30, 1972
July 18, 1989
|Closed||September 6, 1966|
April 6, 1987
Bellows Falls station is an Amtrak intercity rail station located in the Bellows Falls village of Rockingham, Vermont, United States. The station is served by the single daily round trip of the Washington, D.C.–St. Albans Vermonter. It has a single side platform adjacent to the single track of the New England Central Railroad (ex-Central Vermont) mainline.
Three railroads—the Sullivan County Railroad, Cheshire Railroad, and Rutland and Burlington Railroad—were completed to Bellows Falls in 1849, followed by the Vermont Valley Railroad in 1851. This placed Bellows Falls at the junction of two major trunk lines: Boston–Burlington via Rutland and Fitchburg, and New York–Montreal via New Haven and White River Junction. A two-story brick station was constructed in 1851 at the junction of the four railroads. After a number of mergers and leases over the next half-century, service was consolidated into three major railroads by 1900. The Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) and Central Vermont (CV) ran north–south service through Bellows Falls, while the B&M and Rutland Railroad collaborated on east–west traffic on the Boston–Montreal route via Bellows Falls.
Much of the downtown area, including the train station, was destroyed in a 1921 fire; it was replaced in 1922–23 with a one-story brick building on the same site. Passenger service declined over the following decades, with all passenger service to Bellows Falls ended in 1966. In 1972, newly-created Amtrak restored the Washington, D.C.–Montreal Montrealer. Bellows Falls was served by the Montrealer from 1972 to 1987, and 1989 to 1995; since 1995 it has been served by the Vermonter.
The station building and a circa-1880 Railway Express Agency (REA) building nearby were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 as part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District. The former REA building houses the offices of the Green Mountain Railroad.
The village of Bellows Falls was a transportation hub even before railroads: the 1785 construction of a bridge across the Connecticut River made it a stop for stagecoach lines, and the 1802 completion of the Bellows Falls Canal provided industrial power and a safe water route bypassing the nearby falls. In 1849, three railroads met at Bellows Falls. The Sullivan County Railroad opened from Bellows Falls to Charlestown, New Hampshire on January 1, 1849, and to Windsor, Vermont the next month, where it connected to the Vermont Central Railroad.:170 Around the same time, the Cheshire Railroad completed its line from South Ashburnham, Massachusetts (where it met the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad) to the New Hampshire side of Bellows Falls; the bridge across the Connecticut River was completed that June. The Rutland and Burlington Railroad was completed from Bellows Falls to its namesake towns on December 18, 1849; it met the previous two railroads at the north end of the island formed by the canal.:41
The Vermont Valley Railroad opened from Bellows Falls (including a tunnel under the town square) to Brattleboro, Vermont in 1851.:170 This placed Bellows Falls at the junction of two major trunk lines: Boston–Burlington via Rutland and Fitchburg, and New York–Montreal via New Haven and White River Junction. Boston–Montreal traffic also passed through Bellows Falls until around 1853, when the Vermont Central began using the Northern Railroad as its main Boston connection.:249:271 The railroads constructed a two-story brick station in the southeast corner of the railroad junction on the island. The island also housed freight houses, a roundhouse, and other railroad structures. A one-story brick Railway Express Agency (REA) building with a cupola on its roof was built next to the station between 1878 and 1885.
A series of acquisitions and leases resulted placed the Sullivan County Railroad, Vermont Valley Railroad, and Rutland Railroad (successor to the Rutland and Burlington) under the control of the Vermont Central by the end of 1870.:173 These moves left the Vermont Central deep in debt; it was reorganized as the Central Vermont Railroad (CV) in 1873. By 1880, still struggling, the CV leased the Sullivan County and Vermont Valley to the Connecticut River Railroad (with the CV retaining trackage rights); the CV itself would be leased by the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) in 1893.:173 The Cheshire Railroad was acquired in 1890 by the Fitchburg Railroad, which was in turn leased by the B&M in 1900.:61 The CV canceled its lease of the Rutland Railroad in 1896.:173 The B&M and CV ran north–south service through Bellows Falls, while the B&M and Rutland collaborated on east–west traffic on the Boston–Montreal route via Bellows Falls.
The second station
On December 21, 1921, much of the station was destroyed by a fire that began in the station's kitchen. It was replaced in 1922-23 with a one-story brick building on the same site. Construction was handled by H. Wales Lines of Meriden, Connecticut. The rectangular building has three polygonal pavilions - one each on the sides facing the tracks, and a larger seven-sided one facing the junction - to provide additional interior space. The larger pavilion, with its panoramic view of the Connecticut River, housed a newsstand and restaurant; the pavilion facing the CV/B&M line houses the agent's office. A canopy wrapped around the station building and onto the REA building. The new building opened on March 10, 1923.[note 1] The Great Vermont Flood of 1927 left the station under 4 feet (1.2 m) of water.
All passenger service on the Rutland Railroad - including the Boston sections of the Green Mountain Flyer and Mount Royal via Bellows Falls - ended on June 26, 1953.:44 (Freight service on the Rutland Railroad ceased in 1961; three years later, the Green Mountain Railroad took over the Rutland–Bellows Falls line.):45 The B&M discontinued passenger service on the Cheshire on May 18, 1958 - part of massive service cuts that day.:62 Passenger service to Bellows Falls ended on September 6, 1966, when the Montrealer was cut.:175 The canopy was soon removed.
Amtrak took over intercity passenger rail service in the United States on May 1, 1971. Vermont was not initially served by Amtrak, as initial routes were limited to a "basic system" primarily consisting of intercity routes still in operation at that time.:32 1972 legislation to add international service resulted in the restoration of the Montrealer on September 29, 1972, restoring rail service through Vermont. The waiting room was reopened for Amtrak passengers, but services like ticketing were not provided; the B&M used the baggage room for storage. After the REA ceased operations in the 1970s, the Green Mountain Railroad began using the REA office as its freight office; it also maintains the station building.
The Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 16, 1982. It included three railroad structures as contributing properties: the station building, the REA office, and a circa-1860 Cheshire Railroad freight house (which was later demolished around 2000). In 1984, the Green Mountain Railroad began operating excursion service from Bellows Falls.
The Montrealer was suspended north of Springfield, Massachusetts, on April 6, 1987, because of deteriorating track conditions on the B&M-owned section of the CV mainline between Brattleboro and Windsor, Vermont, as well as the Connecticut River Line in Massachusetts. After National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp. upheld Amtrak's right to seize the Vermont section and resell it to the CV, the Montrealer resumed service on July 18, 1989. On April 2, 1995, the overnight Montrealer was replaced with the daytime Vermonter, with its northbound terminus truncated to St. Albans. The station has been served by the single daily round trip of the Vermonter since then.
The station was used as a filming location for the 1999 movie The Cider House Rules. Writer John Irving commented that "Indeed, the Bellows Falls train station and its attendant buildings showed all the usual signs of neglect; it required only some period automobiles, and of course the steam engine and vintage passenger cars, to look like St. Cloud's, Maine, in the 1940s." In January 2020, the town of Rockingham considered purchasing the poorly-maintained station building from the Green Mountain Railroad for $120,000. This was soon scaled back to a $12,000 evaluation. In March 2020, the town applied for an equally-sized federal grant for the evaluation.
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- Smallheer, Susan (January 22, 2020). "Bellows Falls train station request scaled back". Brattleboro Reformer.
- Smallheer, Susan (March 23, 2020). "Town to submit train station grant application". Brattleboro Reformer.
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