Montrealer (train)

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Service type Inter-city rail
First service September 30, 1972
Last service March 31, 1995
Successor Vermonter
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Track owner(s)

The Montrealer was a passenger train operated by Amtrak between Washington, D.C. and Montreal, Quebec, Canada. After operating from the 1970s to 1995, with a two-year stoppage in the 1980s, it was replaced by the Vermonter after service to Montreal ended.

The Adirondack currently provides service between New York and Montreal, using a route through New York State until the Canada–United States border.


The Montrealer was originally a service of the Boston and Maine Railroad (BM), running between Montreal and Washington, D.C. The Ambassador ran the same route during daylight hours but terminated in New York City. Both services used the Boston and Maine's Connecticut River Railroad south of Vernon, Vermont. As of December 29, 2014, the Connecticut River line is re-opened for the Vermonter. It is said that during the days of prohibition the train was often called "the rum runner" or "the bootlegger" because American passengers carried many well-hidden bottles on nearly every southbound run.[1]

Amtrak began operation of the Montrealer on September 30, 1972.[1] The southbound run 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.

Amtrak's Montrealer acquired a reputation as a party train due to the large numbers of skiers who would take the train, staying up late into the night or not sleeping at all. Amtrak equipped the train with its own dedicated lounge car outfitted with a piano, dubbed Le Pub.

1984 wreck[edit]

On the morning of July 7, 1984, the northbound Montrealer (carrying 262 passengers and 16 crew) was derailed by a washed-out culvert between Williston and Essex, Vermont. Heavy rains over the previous night had broken beaver dams upstream, resulting in a 50-foot washout in the 20-foot-high embankment.[2] Five of the train's thirteen cars fell into the stream, with one sleeper car buried under several other cars.[3] Three passengers, one Amtrak attendant, and one Central Vermont Railway crew member were killed; 29 others were seriously injured.[4] The train included four private chartered passenger cars, doubling the usual passenger load and increasing the number of injured; the resulting rescue operation involved extricating dozens of trapped passengers and was then the largest in Vermont history.[2]

Despite the severity of the wreck, the death toll was low due to circumstances permitting quick rescue: area hospitals were at shift changes with doubled staff levels, a 2,400-person Vermont National Guard detachment with helicopters and a tank retriever was nearby preparing for training, and a large mobile crane was at a construction site in nearby Georgia, Vermont.[2] The National Transportation Safety Board investigation faulted Amtrak for the lack of a proper cab radio and recommended changes in locomotive battery placement, improvements in baggage rack and seat cushion retention, and the use of shatterproof mirrors in passenger cars.[4]

Suspension and return[edit]

The platform at Willimantic, Connecticut, used from 1992 to 1995

The Montrealer was suspended north of Springfield from April 6, 1987 until July 19, 1989, because of deteriorating track conditions between Brattleboro, Vermont and Windsor, Vermont.[5] During the suspension, Amtrak offered bus service (operated by Peter Pan Bus Lines) between Burlington, Vermont and Springfield, Massachusetts with connectioning Amtrak service in Springfield.[6][7]

This situation precipitated the only instance of Amtrak seizing another railroad by eminent domain, followed by the re-sale of the track by Amtrak to the Central Vermont Railway. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court in National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Boston & Maine Corp., which upheld Amtrak's action. Led by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Silvio Conte of Massachusetts, Congress appropriated $5 million to rebuild the track.[8] Only the section between Windsor and Brattleboro, Vermont, was transferred, however, leaving the line between East Northfield and Springfield, Massachusetts, as an obstacle.

The train was reinstated in July 1989, this time taking the long way over the Central Vermont Railway (now the New England Central Railroad), from East Northfield to New London, Connecticut, rather than traveling over the direct Guilford Rail System (formerly Boston & Maine Railroad, now Pan Am Railways) track.[9]:47 When the train returned to service, the stop in Northampton, Massachusetts, was discontinued, although the replacement daytime bus service via Vermont Transit continued running, and a new stop in Amherst, Massachusetts, was added. The crew change was shifted from Springfield to Palmer at the same time. In 1992 a stop was added at Willimantic, Connecticut, but service there was discontinued in 1995 upon inception of the Vermonter.

Planned extension of the Vermonter to Montreal[edit]

Efforts have been underway for many years to extend the Vermonter to Montreal. In 2012 the Federal Railroad Administration awarded $7.9 million to allow for the upgrade of the existing freight rail line between St. Albans and the Canada–US border.[10] Work on this project was completed in late 2014.

On March 16, 2015, the United States and Canada signed an agreement that would allow for the establishment of a pre-clearance customs and immigration facility within Central Station in Montreal. Before the Vermonter can be extended to Montreal the agreement must first be approved by Congress and the Parliament of Canada, and a preclearance facility must be constructed within Central Station.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b Borders, William (October 1, 1972). "New York to Montreal Trains Are Running Again After 18 Months". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c McCutcheon, Shaw (1985). "Flood Derails Train outside Williston, Vermont". Yankee Magazine. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Fein, Esther B. (8 July 1984). "3 KILLED AS TRAIN FALLS INTO RAVINE IN VERMONT HILLS". New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Burnett, Jim (15 January 1986). "SAFETY RECOMMENDATION(S) R-85-125 through -128" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Amtrak Suspends a Montreal Train". The New York Times. May 7, 1987. 
  6. ^ "Amtrak National Train Timetables". Amtrak. May 15, 1988. p. 29 – via Museum of Railway Timetables. 
  7. ^ Lavin, Carl (July 24, 1989). "Amtrak Journal; In New England, an Old Friend Is Back on Track". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Gram, David (10 August 1990). "Ruling sidetracks Amtrak victory". The Telegraph – via Google News. 
  9. ^ Solomon, Brian (2004). Amtrak. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 0-760-31765-8. OCLC 56490949. 
  10. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (June 21, 2012). "Grant aids Montrealer's return, advocates say". Railway Age. Retrieved 2015-03-16. 
  11. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (March 16, 2015). "Pact bodes well for restored Amtrak Montrealer". Railway Age. 
  12. ^ "United States and Canada Sign Preclearance Agreement" (Press release). Washington: Department of Homeland Security. March 16, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Nelligan, Tom (October 1989). "Amtrak's Montrealer returns". Trains. 49 (12). 

External links[edit]