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Great Railroad Stations - White River Jct, VT

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

 

White River Junction, Vermont

On Vermontís eastern border with New Hampshire stands the quaint railroad town of White River Junction. In the heyday of New Englandís passenger trains, travelers from Boston going to Montreal almost always passed through White River Junction. Trains originating in New York City had a choice of routings, either on the Delaware & Hudson for an all Empire State routing, or if using the Central Vermont or Boston & Maine Railroads, their train would go via White River Junction. It was a wonderfully busy station with some thirty passenger trains a day in the late 1930ís.

The present depot opened December 8, 1937 and was built in a Colonial Revival style of architecture, common to many public buildings in New England. The large depot site is prominently located at the crossing and junction point of Boston & Maine routes to the east and southeast. On the west side of the depot are the Connecticut River lines of the former Central Vermont and Boston & Maine joint trackage to Bellows Falls. Passenger trains on these tracks included through services of CV and parent Canadian National to New York and Washington DC. The station is surrounded by track in the middle of the downtown area of White River Jct. With all these iron diamonds, it is not surprising that one of the B&Mís classic ball signals would be found here. All trains were required to stop within 1,000 feet of the crossing before proceeding when the appropriate signal was displayed. A recent article in Model Railroader magazine details the signals: "One ball allowed trains from the CV north end to proceed onto B&Mís New Hampshire Division heading east. Two balls allowed B&M New Hampshire Division trains from the east to cross or switch the diamonds. Three balls allowed B&M Fitchburg Division trains from the north to cross or switch the diamonds. Four balls allowed trains from the CV south end to proceed onto the B&M Fitchburg Division heading north. If no signal was displayed all trains had to stop and could only proceed as directed by the signalmen." It is believed the ball signal was used until at least 1958.

The station building features a two-story center section with copper roof and a neat Colonial cupola. Classic photos of the depot show the cupola topped by a copper steam locomotive weather vane. The locomotive was modeled from one of B&Mís P-2 class, 4-6-2 Pacificís. Red brick, and white cast stone lintels were used in the construction, along with typical multi-paned, Colonial windows. Originally, the waiting room featured Colonial-style maple chairs and some small round tables. Benches were later added. North of the depot, across the tracks, is a large V shaped Railway Express facility. A baggage room, mail handling, and storage areas occupied the north end of the station, while the south wing contained the waiting room and a lunch counter restaurant. The center section upper floor housed a trainmenís locker room. What a treat it must have been to change trains in White River Junction and have lunch at the cozy confines of the stationís lunch counter as steam pulled consists rumbled past the restaurant windows!

White River Junction still sees passenger train service today with Amtrakís Vermonter, service from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans, Vermont.

All is quiet along the Central Vermont and Boston & Maine tracks as the White River Junction station basks on a warm, sunny late afternoon of July 27, 1990. The glory years that saw such neat name trains like the Ambassador, Cheshire, Connecticut Yankee, Day White Mountains, Washingtonian, New Englander, and the Montrealer are gone. In later years, B&M ran Budd RDCís on many of the few remaining trains. Alas, in 2001, the Central Vermont and Boston & Maine are now also gone. CV has been divested from parent Canadian National and is now called the New England Central. The venerable name Boston & Maine has disappeared from the Official Guide and is now known as Guilford Rail System. Today the only passenger train service is Amtrakís daily Vermonter, with the southbound train arriving about mid morning. The northbound train arrives in the early evening hours.

 

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This page was last updated Wednesday, January 23, 2002

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