Rutland Railroad

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For the UK railway see Rutland Railway Museum
Rutland Railway
Reporting mark RUT
Locale New York and Vermont
Dates of operation 1843–1963
Successor Vermont Railway
Track gauge 4 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 northern-most and southern-most ends. 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. 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.[1]

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. At the final approach to Rouses Point, though, both companies did end up sharing the same bridge over the Richelieu River by using an unusual gauntlet track that allowed sharing without the need for switches.[2] The causeway between Burlington and South Hero built at that time is today maintained as a recreation trail called The Island Line.[3] 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.[4]

The Rutland's primary freight traffic was derived from dairy products and to many[by whom?] the railroad is fondly remembered for the long trains of milk that used to move over the system. At its peak the Rutland served about a 400-mile (600 km) system that roughly resembled an upside-down "L" running from Chatham, New York north to Alburgh, Vermont (the railroad's northernmost terminus was Noyan, Quebec) and thence west to Ogdensburg, New York along the St. Lawrence River. Never a solid financial operation, the Rutland entered receivership for the first time in 1938. Cost cutting, including wage reduction, brought things around. A reorganization in 1950 changed the name from Rutland Railroad to Rutland Railway.

In 1925, Rutland reported 259 million net ton-miles of revenue freight and 38 million passenger-miles on 413 miles of road and 559 miles of track; in 1960 it had 182 million ton-miles on 391 route-miles and 476 track-miles.


Train over Rutland Falls in c. 1905

After World War II the decline continued; many branches were closed down. In 1950 the company was reorganized as the Rutland Railway. The year 1953 brought three weeks of employee strike action, which killed off the remaining passenger service on the line.

In 1961 after further strikes the railroad apparently decided it was no longer viable and applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission for complete abandonment. This was approved, and the railroad closed down on May 20, 1963. The strike was brought on by the employees' unwillingness to accept changes that would have moved the center of operations from Rutland to Burlington, requiring them to relocate from Rutland to Burlington.

Rutland-Burlington Railroad passing through Proctor

The changes would have lengthened the runs, running from Burlington to Bellows Falls or Ogdensburg on one day, staying over and then running back the next day. Under current operating orders 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.

A few years later the 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. Interestingly, it is operated by Vermont Railway, so all the remaining trackage of the Rutland is 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 is the multi-use Rutland 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 using the original Rutland rolling stock were operated.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lindsell, Robert M. (2000) "The Rail Lines of Northern New England" p. 41. Branchline Press, Pepperell, MA. ISBN 0942147065
  2. ^ Lindsell, Robert M. (2000) "The Rail Lines of Northern New England" p. 43. Branchline Press, Pepperell, MA. ISBN 0942147065
  3. ^ Baird, Joel Banner. "Causeway bike ferry canceled for season", "Burlington Free Press", Burlington, Vermont, 20 June 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Rutland Railroad"

External links[edit]