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A ride on the Vermonter for the missing miles 6/28/2015

by Chris Guenzler

I needed to get the rail miles from Springfield to Brattleboro which was restored to service on 12/29/2014. Getting this section of track would then let me have only one more unridden piece of the Amtrak system in Virginia. So after the Connecticut Trolley Museum, Robin and I drove to Springfield and since we were really early, Robin finally bought his tickets from Albany to New York City to Newport News, the bus to Norfolk and then Norfolk to Washington, DC. With time, I asked the agent about somewhere to get a steak and he sent us north of Springfield. We did not find the Lone Star but found an Outback Steakhouse where we both had a very good meal. I drove us back to Amtrak and gave Robin the keys as he would meet me at the Amtrak stop in Brattleboro. The train was already in the station so I walked out to get a picture of the train that would help me reach my goal.

Vermonter train 54 ready to take me to Brattleboro, Vermont.

Vermonter History

The Montrealer was originally a service of the Boston and Maine Railroad (BM), running between Montreal and Washington. The Ambassador ran the same route but terminated in New York. Both services used the Boston and Maine's Connecticut River Line south of Vernon, Vermont, rather than the current route over the New England Central. The southbound service 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 Northeast Direct in 1995. In 1992 a stop was added at Willimantic, Connecticut, but service there was discontinued in 1995 upon inception of the Vermonter.


The Vermonter replaced the Montrealer on April 1, 1995, bringing daytime service to Vermont. Business Class was added to replace the sleepers that were taken out of service upon the change to the Vermonter. The route was changed to allow travellers from Vermont to stop in Springfield and Hartford. This was made possible by the use of cab cars or locomotives on both ends so that the train could travel east from Springfield to Palmer, Massachusetts, and reverse direction to connect with the Central Vermont to continue north. This detour added an hour of running time, but was judged more practical than seeking to use the direct route over the former Boston and Maine Railroad owned by Guilford. The train travels from Washington to New Haven on the Northeast Corridor, where electric locomotives are substituted for the diesel locomotives used north of that location.

Vermont declined to pay for continuing the Vermonter to Montreal due to very high labor and terminal costs (Amtrak did not have the ability to use its own crews on the short Canadian portion of the run). Amtrak offered passengers a connecting Thruway bus service operated by Vermont Transit, which met the train at St. Albans for connections to and from Montreal. Ridership plunged when the train schedule was moved two hours earlier, requiring a southbound departure before 5:00 a.m. The schedule was returned to its previous position but the service was dropped by Vermont Transit (which had been running it without a subsidy as part of its regular schedule) on October 30, 2005.

Due to a schedule change effective October 30, 2006, the Vermonter began stopping at the towns of Wallingford and Windsor Locks (near Bradley International Airport) in Connecticut for the first time in its existence.

On November 9, 2010, the State of Vermont, Amtrak and New England Central began a $70 million project to increase train speeds along the route in Vermont to 59 miles per hour between St. Albans and White River Junction and to 79 miles per hour between White River Junction and Vernon.

On October 5, 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration announced the completion of track work within the states of Vermont and New Hampshire for the above-mentioned stimulus plan (track work in Massachusetts is ongoing). 190 miles of track within the states of Vermont and New Hampshire were refurbished. The track work included installation of continuous welded rail, road-crossing improvements, ballast replacement, tie replacement, bridge repair and renovation and embankment improvements. The top speed of the line within Vermont was increased to 79 miles per hour. The Massachusetts portion of the track work is ongoing with an expected completion date of 2014.

Proposed upgrades

Amtrak and the State of Vermont have tentatively discussed adding another train between White River Junction and Springfield, Massachusetts, that would enable greater flexibility in passenger travel times.


The Vermonter uses Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and New Haven-Springfield Line between Washington, D.C., and Springfield, Massachusetts. It then uses the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)-owned Connecticut River Line between Springfield and Northfield, Massachusetts. North of Northfield it uses the New England Central Railroad.

Connecticut River Line

Until 1989, the Montrealer traveled on the Connecticut River Line between Springfield and Brattleboro with stops in Northampton and Greenfield. Due to the deteriorating condition of the tracks in that section, Amtrak ceased service of the train. When the Vermonter service restored train service between Springfield, Brattleboro and points north in 1995, the Vermonter traveled a somewhat indirect route east to Palmer, Massachusetts, and then up the east side of the Connecticut River via Amherst, Massachusetts. It used CSX Transportation's Boston Subdivision between Springfield and Palmer. At Palmer, it made a reverse move on to the NECR, as no direct track connection existed. Massachusetts rehabilitated the more direct Connecticut River Line route with $10 million in state and $73 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Folowing rehabilitation of the Connecticut River Line, Vermonter service was restored on it on December 29, 2014. With the re-route, the train ceased stopping at Amherst but stops were restored to Northampton and Greenfield. The re-route and consequent elimination of the reverse move is expected to eliminate about 25 minutes of travel time between Springfield and Brattleboro when the line rehabilitation is complete sometime in 2016. A stop in Holyoke is expected to be added in late 2015.

Our Ride

The trip started by reversing out of the Springfield Amtrak station.

We reversed to the Connecticut River mainline. Now I would be on new rail until we reached the junction with the New England Central just outside of Brattleboro. Sit back, relax and enjoy a trip aboard the northbound Vermonter.

The Vermonter passed the junction with the New England Central Railroad and my new mileage ended. I would now ride the last few minutes into Brattleboro where I would detrain one happy train rider. Thank you to Amtrak for helping me reach my goal. This ended our trip on the Vermonter.

The Vermonter in Brattleboro. I met Robin here and soon we were on our way to the last stop of this great trip.