Rutland Railroad

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Rutland Railway
Reporting markRUT
LocaleNew York and Vermont
Dates of operation1843–1963
SuccessorVermont Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Rutland Railroad (reporting mark RUT) was a railroad in the northeastern United States, located primarily in the state of Vermont but extending into the state of New York at both its northernmost and southernmost ends. After its closure in 1963, parts of the railroad were taken over by the State of Vermont and are now operated by the Vermont Railway.

Construction and early years[edit]

Rutland Railroad map, 1899

The earliest ancestor of the Rutland, the Rutland & Burlington Railroad, was chartered in 1843 by the state of Vermont to build between Rutland and Burlington. When the Vermont legislature created the state railroad commission in 1855 to oversee railway construction, maintenance, and operations, the first person appointed to the position was Charles Linsley, the Rutland and Burlington's counsel, and a member of its board of directors.[1] A number of other railroads were formed in the region, and by 1867 the Rutland & Burlington Railroad had changed its name to simply the Rutland Railroad.[2]

Between 1871 and 1896, the Rutland Railroad was leased to the Central Vermont, regaining its independence when that road entered receivership. The New York Central Railroad briefly had a controlling interest in the Rutland from 1904 but sold half of its shares to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1911.

In 1901, the Rutland Railroad completed construction of a system of causeways and trestles across Lake Champlain, through the Champlain islands, to connect between Burlington, Vermont and Rouses Point, New York. The purpose of this construction was to give the Rutland access to Canada, independent of the tracks of the competing Central Vermont. Both companies did share the same bridge over the Richelieu River at the final approach to Rouses Point by using an unusual gauntlet track, which allowed sharing without the need for switches.[3] The causeway between Burlington and South Hero, built at that time, was later maintained as a recreation trail called The Island Line Trail.[4] The company also had a line from Rutland, southeast to Bellows Falls, in southeastern Vermont opposite New Hampshire, and a line from Rutland south to North Bennington, thence to Chatham, New York. Chatham was a major junction for connections via the New York Central to New York City and the Boston & Albany Railroad service to Massachusetts.[5]

The railroad operated a day passenger train called the Green Mountain Flyer. It also operated a night train counterpart, the Mount Royal, from Montreal to New York City, via Burlington and Rutland.

The Rutland's primary freight traffic was derived from dairy products, including milk, that used to move over the system. At its peak, the Rutland served a system extending approximately 400 miles (640 km) in the shape of an upside-down "L" running from north Chatham, New York, to Alburgh, Vermont, and thence west to Ogdensburg, New York along the St. Lawrence River. The railroad's northernmost terminus was Noyan, Quebec. In 1925, Rutland reported 259 million net ton-miles of revenue freight and 38 million passenger-miles along 413 miles (665 km) of road and 559 miles (900 km) of track. In 1960, it had 182 million ton-miles on 391 route-miles and 476 track-miles.


D&H Train westbound over Center Rutland Falls (Otter Creek) in c. 1905
Rutland-Burlington Railroad passing through Proctor

Lacking a solid financial operation, the Rutland entered receivership for the first time in 1938. Cost cutting, including wage reduction, was implemented to improve its financial standing. After World War II, the decline continued as many branches were closed down. A reorganization of the company occurred in 1950, and its name changed from Rutland Railroad to Rutland Railway. Employees went on strike for three weeks in 1953, which ended the line's passenger service. In 1955, the Rutland retired its last steam locomotives.

In 1961, following additional worker strikes, the railroad sought application to the Interstate Commerce Commission for complete abandonment. The measure was approved, and the railroad closed permanently on May 20, 1963. The strikes were the result of the employees' unwillingness to accept changes that would have moved the center of operations from Rutland to Burlington, requiring them to relocate.

The railroad's tracks in New York State, from the Vermont border directly west of Bennington, along the eastern towns of Rensselaer County south to Chatham were removed, sealing off the previous connection in Chatham to New York City's Grand Central Terminal via the New York Central's Harlem Line. The changes would have lengthened the runs from Burlington to both Bellows Falls, Vermont and Ogdensburg, New York, which would have created a nightly stop that wouldn't return until the following day. Under operating orders in place at the time, they would make the run from Rutland to Burlington or Bellows Falls and back in a day, or from Malone, New York running out and back to Ogdensburg and Burlington. Several years later, national unions agreed to nationwide job changes that allowed this type of change.

Much of the right-of-way was purchased by the State of Vermont. The Northern Division across the top of New York State from Ogdensburg to Norwood remains in tracks. It is operated by Vermont Railway, resulting in all the remaining trackage of the Rutland being operated by one company. Ownership of the railbed from Norwood to Burlington has been dispersed, but a 21-mile (34 km) section from Norwood to Moira, New York, is the multi-use Rutland Trail. Other abandoned sections make up all or part of the Hudson and Delaware Rail Trail, Corkscrew Rail Trail, and the Alburg Recreation Rail Trail.


Until it was relocated to Scranton, Pennsylvania, The Steamtown Foundation, located near the Bellows Falls terminus, operated tourist trains between the museum site and Chester, Vermont. Following Steamtown’s departure, several tourist trains were operated using the original Rutland rolling stock.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ellingson, Barbara (1997). "Biographical Sketch, Charles Linsley" (PDF). Charles and Emmeline Linsley Papers, 1827-1892. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society. p. 1. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  2. ^ Lindsell 2000, p. 41.
  3. ^ Lindsell 2000, p. 43.
  4. ^ Baird, Joel Banner (June 20, 2011). "Causeway bike ferry canceled for season". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, Vermont. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  5. ^ "An Eastern Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's, Rutland Railroad".[circular reference]
  • Lindsell, Robert M. (2000). The Rail Lines of Northern New England. Pepperell, MA: Branchline Press. ISBN 0942147065.

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