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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New England Train Routes

New London Amtrak station

This Saturday marks National Train Day sponsored by Amtrak. There are a number of events tied to the celebration, the purpose of which is to foster education and interest on train travel in this country.

Interest in future commuter and high-speed rail systems has accelerated, if you will, with federal rail stimulus funding appropriated to Massachusetts last fall to rebuild the rail line to Vermont. A feasibility study may be conducted on a high-speed link from western Mass. to Boston.

Commuter rail service is spotty in New England where once train travel was proliferate. The new scheme to improve commuter service from Connecticut to Vermont recalls the days of over 40 years ago and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, when commuter rail linked Springfield to New Haven. The new projected route through Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield to Vermont is being referred to as the Knowledge Corridor.

Part of the rail stimulus funs will also go to extending Amtrak’s current Downeaster route beyond Portland to Brunswick.

Amtrak currently offers several regional routes which service New England. Have a look at these pages on the Amtrak website for more detail:

The Vermonter, the Downeaster, the Lake Shore Limited, the Ethan Allen Express, the Northeast Regional, and of course the only "high-speed" route, the Acela Express.
Looking down the corridor of a sleeper car.

New England also has a variety of tourist excursion trains which use restored cars from bygone eras to remind us, or give us our first taste, of what train travel was like when it was much more common. Here are a few train adventures you might like to try:

The Essex Steam Train of Essex, Connecticut. The Green Mountain Railroad in Vermont. The Cape Cod Central Railroad in Hyannis, and the Berkshire Scenic Railway from Lenox to Stockbridge, Mass. New Hampshire can boast the most scenic railroads out of any New England state, and here is a website that will link you to a variety of them. The Conway Scenic Railroad in Conway is one of them.

The Green Mountain Railroad at the Bellows Falls station.

Maine has its Maine Eastern Railroad from Rockland to Brunswick, and even little Rhode Island has its Old Colony and Newport Railway. If you’ve traveled on any of these trains, let us know what you thought.

For more on National Train Day, have a look at this website.


John Hayes said...

Very much enjoying your train posts! & am also glad to hear that there's serious consideration of expanded rail service in New England. There are even rumblinbgs about bringing Amtrak back to Boise, something I'd dearly love to see. I so hope to see a rejuvenation of train travel in this country!

John Hayes said...

& Bellows Falls station! I've been there both as a passenger & as a worker--when I was young, I worked on the shipping & receiving crew at Robertson's Paper Mill, & we had to unload freight cars from time to time.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"...when I was young, I worked on the shipping & receiving crew at Robertson's Paper Mill, & we had to unload freight cars from time to time."

You just made my day.

I also hope for a rejuvenation of train travel in this country, and I hope that Boise link becomes a reality for you folks in that part of the country.

One aspect of the new attention given train travel is simply that Amtrak has reported an increase in ridership. Perhaps this is not so much a case of "if you build it, they will come", but rather, "they're coming now, so build it."

Many of us in New England, myself included, when we travel to New York City or Boston will drive as far as we must by car, then take the first available opportunity to take the commuter train in the rest of the way. If the commuter trains stretched father into the hinterland, we'd likely see a greater ridership.

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