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Great Railroad Stations - Bennington VT

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

 

Bennington, Vermont

 Photo by the author

Over one hundred years ago, the Bennington & Rutland Railroad began construction of a new depot.  The local newspaper of October 5th, 1897, proclaimed the station to be "the handsomest and most artistic in the state."  Prominent local Bennington architect William C. Bull followed in the then popular style of the great Victorian architect, H.H. Richardson.  Famous for more than depots, "H.H." designed many now landmark structures.  Richardson created a style that was uniquely applied to many buildings, public and private.  In many instances he collaborated with Frederick Law Olmsted and his buildings were beautifully landscaped.  His style was emulated by several late 19th Century architects and is still admired and studied today.

The Bennington & Rutland eventually became a part of the Rutland Railroad of fond recall for many railfans.  The branch line on which Bennington is situated has an interesting history of it's own, dating back to the 1850's.  The line extended from North Bennington southwest to Chatham, NY by way of the former Lebanon Springs Railroad.  Nicknamed the "corkscrew" division, owing to the numerous curves and somewhat rickety trackage, the railroad for many years operated a milk train from Ogdensburg, NY to Chatham, NY.  At Chatham, the cars were turned over to the New York Central for delivery to New York City.  Milk trains are a legend in themselves on the Rutland.  Far from being "pokey" trains, milk runs were among the most important and the fastest trains of railroading at the turn of the century.

The Bennington depot is a tribute to Vermont's native craftsmen.  Blue marble stone for the exterior was hand quarried in West Rutland.  A unique rounded end waiting room with a massive slate roof covers the structure.  The handsome interior fittings of cherry stained paneling and cornices were contracted to the Eagle Square Company (now Stanley Tools) of Shaftsbury.  A polished marble fireplace and interior columns topped by Corinthian capitals rise to the 12-foot-high ceiling. The interior space is surprisingly large, and is elegantly sheathed in hardwood.  A porte-cochere provided arriving passengers a dignified entrance way.  A long platform canopy provided passengers protection from the sometimes harsh Vermont elements.

Despite the branch line status of the railroad, (Rutland's mainline passes through North Bennington) some eighteen trains a day moved north and south during the peak year of 1915 before automobiles effectively eliminated the once frequent, convenient train service of rural Vermont.  Passenger service evaporated during the Depression year of 1933, and the station fell into various uses such as a State Liquor Store, a Nash automobile dealership, building supply warehouse and even as a dining hall for a local college.  Since 1986, the building has housed a railroad theme restaurant, which your writer had the pleasure of sampling while on a Vermont vacation several years ago. "Four Stars" for Bennington!

Rutland Railroad, Bennington, Vermont August 19, 1993

 

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This page was last updated Thursday, December 06, 2001

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