Union Station (Northampton, Massachusetts)
|Amtrak inter-city rail station|
The historic Union Station building and
the current station platform
125A Pleasant Street|
|Line(s)||Conn River Line|
|Platforms||1 side platform|
|Station code||Amtrak code: NHT|
1897 (original station)|
December 29, 2014 (new platform)
|Passengers (2017)||19,974 15.2% (Amtrak)|
Union Station is a historic building in Northampton, Massachusetts that served as a train station from 1897 until 1987. The building, which is privately owned, was converted in 2013 into a 200-seat banquet facility, a sports bar, and a facility known as the Tunnel Bar that runs underneath the building.
Built at the close of the nineteenth century, the structure incorporates many features of the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. The buff brick masses of the station are trimmed with red Longmeadow brownstone and hooded by red tile roofs. Steep dormers protrude from the roofline. The interior once featured Italian marble floors, oak woodwork, and a large fireplace.
In June 2018, plans were announced to expand service of the New Haven–Springfield Shuttle to Northampton towards Greenfield in Spring 2019. The pilot program will include the stations north of Springfield, including Holyoke to the south. With subsequent service contingent on the results of ridership, the pilot program will end in Fall 2021.
The Connecticut River Railroad opened to passenger service between Springfield and Northampton in late 1845; trains reached Deerfield in August 1846, Greenfield in December 1847, and the junction with the Central Vermont Railway in January 1849. When the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad reached Brattleboro in 1850, the Connecticut River Railroad began running through service from Springfield to Brattleboro. Over the next century, the line was host to a mix of local and long-distance passenger and freight service. It became part of the route for numerous New York-Montreal trains as early as the 1860s, and was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1893.
Northampton's Union Station was built in 1896-97 during a project to eliminate grade crossings through downtown Northampton. The station unified two separate stations, serving the Connecticut River mainline, the Central Massachusetts Railroad, the New Haven and Northampton Railroad, and the NH&N's Williamstown Branch. The station opened on Sunday morning December 5, 1897 in time for the departure of the 9:25 a.m. train for Springfield. It was reported that upwards of 2,000 people visited the station on its opening day.
The station was heavily damaged by fire in the early morning hours of October 31, 1928. The fire, which was visible for miles up and down the valley, is said to have attracted a large crowd of late Halloween revelers. Service quickly resumed and the station was rebuilt.
Long-distance passenger service over the line ended in October 1966, with local service between Springfield and Brattleboro lasting several more months. In 1972, Amtrak began running the Montrealer, which ran along the line at night, stopping at Northampton but not Holyoke or Greenfield. The Montrealer was discontinued in 1987 due to poor track conditions on the line.
Montrealer service resumed in 1989 after Amtrak seized control of the line in Vermont from the Boston and Maine Railroad, but the train was rerouted over the Central Vermont Railway through Massachusetts and Connecticut to avoid the still-dilapidated Conn River Line which Amtrak did not control. A stop was added at Amherst to replace Northampton. The Montrealer was replaced by the daytime Vermonter in 1995, using the original route through Connecticut but still avoiding the Connecticut River Line in Massachusetts.
Restoration of service
In order to shorten travel times on the Vermonter and add additional local service to serve the populated Connecticut River Valley, the Conn River Line is being rebuilt with $73 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money and $10 million in state funds.
The Vermonter was rerouted to the line on December 29, 2014, stopping at Northampton, and Greenfield. New handicapped-accessible platforms have been built at both stations. Northampton's platform has been built next to Union Station; a temporary platform was built for the start of service, to be replaced by a permanent 400-foot-long platform by the end of 2015. The permanent platform is being bid in combination with an underpass connecting the Norwottuck Rail Trail (part of the Mass Central Rail Trail) with the Northampton Bikeway north of downtown.
In FY 2016, over 17,000 passengers boarded or alighted at the station, significantly exceeding a 2009 projection of 10,000 annual riders.
Possible future service
Commuter rail service has been proposed for the corridor, running between Springfield and Greenfield with four daily round trips. A 2014 state transportation funding bill included $30 million for acquiring used MBTA Commuter Rail rolling stock and new locomotives for the service. In June 2018, Governor Charlie Baker announced that two Amtrak Shuttle round trips would be extended to Greenfield in 2019 as a pilot program.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation are conducting a study to examine the opportunities and impacts of more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service between Boston and Montreal. The Boston to Montreal corridor runs from Boston to Springfield Union Station. From Springfield the rail corridor follows the route of the Vermonter northerly through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield and Vermont. From St. Albans, Vermont the corridor continues to the Canada–US border and onward to Montreal Central Station in Quebec. This study has been designated the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative.
The former station building, associated 200-space parking lot, and the Tunnel Bar that operates under the building in the under-track passage, were purchased by the business entities Harmonic Rock LLC and Notch 8 Inc. in 2013 for $2.55 million. The current owners have added a new 200-seat banquet facility called Union Station Banquets and a bar called Platform Sports Bar.
- "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2017, State of Massachusetts" (PDF). Amtrak. November 2017.
- Cain, Chad (November 17, 2013). "Union Station in Northampton to become banquet facility, sports bar; Tunnel Bar and The Deck to stay". Gazette Net. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- C. Dubie (April 15, 1975). Northampton, Union Station, Form B - Building (Report). Massachusetts Historical Commission.
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- "Rail News Roundup 14". Trains in the Valley. June 12, 2018. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018.
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- Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 173–175. ISBN 0942147022.
- Roy, John H. Jr. (2007). A Field Guide to Southern New England Railroad Depots and Freight Houses. Branch Line Press. pp. 209–210. ISBN 9780942147087.
- "In the Union Depot: Andrew Sawin will be the Union Station Ticket Seller". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton, Massachusetts. December 6, 1897. p. 1.
- "Union Station Swept by Flames; Loss Estimated from $12,000 to $20,000". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Northampton, Massachusetts. November 1, 1928. p. 1.
- Amtrak (October 26, 1986). "Amtrak National Train Timetables". Museum of Railway Timetables. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- Merzbach, Scott (February 16, 2014). "Pioneer Valley Business 2014: Development hopes ride on expanded rail". Gazette Net. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- Kinney, Jim (December 29, 2014). "Amtrak Vermonter makes first Knowledge Corridor run in Springfield, Northampton and Greenfield". Springfield Republican. Springfield, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
- "MassDOT Offers Update on Amtrak Train Through Northampton". ABC40. June 18, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
- Contrada, Fred (16 March 2015). "Next up: Underpass that will complete the Northampton section of the rail trail". MassLive. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
- DiChello, Taylor (July 3, 2017). "Northampton Amtrak Vermonter stop third busiest station". WWLP. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
- Fritz, Anita (February 4, 2014). "Train platform will have access from Olive Street, transportation center". The Recorder. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Session Laws: Chapter 79 of the Acts of 2014". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 18 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- Tuthill, Paul (June 12, 2018). "Commuter Trains To Run North Of Springfield Starting In 2019". WAMC.
- "About this Project". Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative. Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
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