Ethan Allen Express
Rutland-bound train #291 entering Croton Harmon
Station, August 12, 2008
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|First service||December 1996|
54,376 total (FY12)
|Distance travelled||241 miles (388 km)|
|Train number(s)||290-293, 296|
|Catering facilities||On-board cafe|
|Baggage facilities||Carry-on only|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet coaches|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Track owner(s)||Canadian Pacific Railway|
The Ethan Allen Express is a 241-mile (388 km) passenger train service operated by Amtrak between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, via Albany, New York. The scheduled total trip time is 5.5 hours. Operations are subsidized by the state of Vermont, and the train is popular among vacationers travelling to the ski resort area of Killington, Vermont. The Ethan Allen Express is named for the American Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen.
When Amtrak's Vermonter began operating in the central and eastern portions of Vermont with state funds in 1995, the western side of the state pushed for train service to Rutland as well. Federal funds were secured to rebuild the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad line to permit speeds up to 59 miles per hour (95 km/h). Service was initiated in December 2, 1996. It was the first train on that route since 1953. Notably, the Rutland–Whitehall segment had not seen a passenger train since 1936.
Until May 2002, the train included a baggage car for skis and unboxed bicycles as well as checked baggage.
In October 2008, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) proposed eliminating the Ethan Allen Express and replacing it with a bus citing budgetary restrictions. The proposal was rejected by the appropriate legislative committee. VTrans again proposed ending service in January 2009. Two hundred people rallied at Rutland station against the proposed cut. Rail advocates, led by the Vermont Rail Action Network and local political leaders organized to fight the cut and plans to drop the service were abandoned.
On February 23, 2011, VTrans began an investigation into the Vermont Rail System's (VRS) handling of the Ethan Allen Express between Whitehall, New York and Rutland after Amtrak notified the state that track conditions meant the train was frequently delayed. Amtrak evaluated the line as the worst in the nation. During the summer of 2011, VRS conducted work to improve the track in question, planned to result in an eighteen-minute reduction in travel time by the end of the year, with additional work planned for the summer of 2012. The project was funded by both the railroad and the state of New York at a cost of $3.25 million, and involved rebuilding about 8 miles (13 km) of track and eight grade crossings. By February 2012, the trackwork had resulted in a 15-minute southbound and 25-minute northbound reduction in travel time between Rutland and Whitehall, while the total time the Ethan Allen Express operated behind schedule fell to 135 minutes in December 2011, from 11,068 minutes a year earlier.
Proposed extension to Burlington
Plans have existed to extend the Ethan Allen to Burlington from at least 2000. A $30 million earmark was obtained by Senator Jim Jeffords in 2005, partially to fund the work, of which $19 million remained by 2011, the remainder having been used for other projects such as a new spur for freight traffic.
Advocates, led by Chambers of Commerce and the Vermont Rail Action Network renewed the push for an extension to Burlington. Advocates believed that service to Burlington (an hour and 40 minutes north of Rutland and the state's largest city) would secure the long-term sustainability of the service by generating much more ridership than Rutland is capable of.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation applied for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds to rebuild the tracks to passenger standards (59 mph) which would enable the extension. While the initial application was not approved, the state subsequently entered a second US$70 million application for similar grants, and later a third, all of which were rejected.
In 2013, the extension received additional funding via a $9 million TIGER V (fifth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. The money will pay for the replacement of jointed rail with continuously welded rail.
In October 2015, the Vermont Agency of Transportation was awarded a $10 million TIGER 2015 grant to rehabilitate 11 miles of track, add a wye in Rutland, add crossovers and passing sidings, and install passenger platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington. These improvements will result in increased speeds of up to 40 mph for freight and 60 mph for passenger trains between Rutland and Burlington.
The Ethan Allen Express operates over trackage owned by the following railroads:
- Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad: Rutland, Vermont-Whitehall, New York
- Canadian Pacific Railway: Whitehall-Schenectady, New York
- CSX Transportation (Hudson Subdivision): Schenectady-Poughkeepsie, New York
- Metro-North Railroad (Hudson Line): Poughkeepsie-Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx, New York City
- Amtrak (Empire Connection): Spuyten Duyvil-New York Penn Station
The Ethan Allen Express began with stops in Rutland, Fort Edward-Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Albany, Hudson, Rhinecliff-Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Croton-Harmon, Yonkers and New York City (Penn Station). Amtrak added Fair Haven in 1997 and discontinued service there in 2010 with the addition of Castleton. There is a short amount of trackage between Albany and Schenectady that allows for 110MPH (177 km/h) operations.
- "Amtrak Sets New Ridership Record" (PDF). Amtrak. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
- "In Amtrak History" (PDF). Amtrak Ink 18 (11). December 2013.
- Lloyd, Barbara (December 19, 1996). "Train Trip to Vermont Offers Some of the Fun". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- FW: Erosion of Amtrak bike access Posted June 11, 2002
- Ethan Allen Safe . . . Until January Posted Thursday, 18 December 2008
- Hirschfeld, Peter; Stephanie M. Peters (January 20, 2009). "Amtrak rally draws 200 people". Rutland Herald. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- Vermont Rail Action Network 2009 Accomplishments January 5, 2010
-  Rutland Herald: State panel, county delegation speak against Amtrak bus service]January 10, 2009
- Hirschfield, Peter (February 26, 2009). "Rutland Herald: Agency Soften Stance on Amtrak". Rutland Herald. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- "Amtrak ranks Vermont last as worst railroad". Burlington Free Press. February 24, 2011. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- "Vermont Rail System posts progress on trackwork for Amtrak's Ethan Allen service". Progressive Railroading. August 12, 2011. Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
- "Vermont Rail System's bolstered track improves Amtrak transit times". Progressive Railroading. 8 February 2012. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
- "Critics question whether money for rail in western Vermont is being well spent". Vermont Public Radio. 15 May 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- "To Rutland by train: 68 miles and many millions of dollars". Burlington Free Press. 21 August 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
- Rutland Herald: Chambers push for revitalized rail system March 26, 2009
- Vermont Rail Action Network: Extending the Ethan Allen To Burington April 6, 2008
- Hirschfeld, Peter (December 28, 2009). "Rutland to Burlington state rail service tied to stimulus". Times-Argus. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- "State Will Re-Submit Application to Rebuild Track for Ethan Allen to Burlington". Vermont Rail Action Network. 21 April 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.[dead link]
- Tiger V grants awarded, NARP News, September 2013, National Association of Rail Passengers, p.3
- "TIGER 2015 Awards" (PDF). United States Department of Transportation.
- "Amtrak Northeast Timetable". Amtrak. November 10, 1996. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- "Castleton revives Amtrak service". WCAX. January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- Vermont Agency of Transportation (January 2010). "Passenger Rail Equipment Options for the Amtrak Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express" (PDF). Vermont Legislature. Retrieved 29 December 2014.