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Amtrak's Vermonter is a 611-mile (983 km) passenger train service between St. Albans, Vermontmarker, New York Citymarker and Washington, D.C.marker One trip runs in each direction per day.

The train replaced the overnight Montrealer which terminated in Montrealmarker, Canadamarker. When the Montrealer route was threatened with cancellation due to budget cuts, the State of Vermontmarker stepped in to subsidize service as far north as St. Albans, near the Canadian border.

The tracks currently used were originally part of the Canadian National Railway, Central Vermont Railway, Boston and Maine Railroad, New Haven Railroad, New York Central Railroad, and Pennsylvania Railroad systems. The tracks currently used are owned by the New England Central Railroad (St. Albans, VT – Palmer, MA), CSX (Palmer, MA – Springfield, MA), Amtrak (Springfield, MA – New Haven, CT and New Rochelle, NY – Washington, DC), and Metro-North Railroad (New Haven, CT – New Rochelle, NY).

History

Montrealer

The Montrealer was originally a service of the Boston and Maine Railroad (BM), running between Montreal and Washington. The southbound line 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 NortheastDirect in 1995. The Ambassador ran the same route but terminated in New York. Both services used the Boston and Maine's Connecticut River Railroad south of Vernon, Vermontmarker, rather than the current route over the New England Central.

Amtrak's Montrealer acquired a reputation as a party train due to the large numbers of skiers who would take the train, staying up late into the night or not sleeping at all. Amtrak equipped the train with its own dedicated lounge car outfitted with a piano, dubbed the LePub.

The Montrealer was suspended from early April 1987 to mid-July 1989, because of deteriorating track conditions on the Boston and Maine Railroad, which had been taken over by Guilford Transportation. During the suspension, Amtrak offered "Ambus" service (operated by Vermont Transit) to Springfield, Mass., where passengers would board an Amtrak train for points south to Washington. This situation precipitated the only instance of Amtrak seizing another railroad by eminent domain, followed by the re-sale of the track by Amtrak to the Central Vermont. Led by Jim Jeffords, Vermont's congressional delegation secured federal funds to rebuild the track. Only the section between Windsor, Vermontmarker and Brattleboro, Vermontmarker was transferred, however, leaving the line between Springfield, Massachusettsmarker and East Northfield, Massachusetts as an obstacle. The train was reinstated in July 1989, this time taking the long way over the Central Vermont Railway (CV) from East Northfield to New London, Connecticutmarker, rather than traveling over the direct Guilford Rail System (formerly BM) track.

In 1989, when the train returned to service, the stop in Northampton, Massachusettsmarker was discontinued, although the replacement daytime "Ambus" service via Vermont Transit continued running, and a new stop in Amherst, Massachusettsmarker, was added. The crew change was shifted from Springfield to Palmer at the same time. In 1992 a stop was added at Willimantic, Connecticutmarker, but service there was discontinued in 1995 upon inception of the Vermonter.

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 travelers from Vermont back to stop in Springfield and Hartford. This was made possible by the use of cab cars of locomotives on both ends so that the train could travel east from Springfield, Massachusettsmarker to Palmer and reverse direction to connect with the Central Vermont to continue north (see Palmer backup move, below). This detour adds 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.


The train featured a colorful baggage car from its inception in 1995 until 2002. These baggage cars accepted unboxed bicycles and skis.

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 (Bradley International Airportmarker) in Connecticut for the first time in its years of existence.

Proposed equipment change and service upgrade

Amtrak had urged the state of Vermontmarker to purchase diesel multiple unit (DMU) trainsets for use on the New HavenmarkerSt. Albansmarker stretch of the line. These DMUs would have been a smaller and more efficient alternative to the current locomotive-pulled configuration. Instead of remaining in the same passenger coaches while the crew switched locomotives at New Haven, passengers would have to change trains. Amtrak offered a $2 million grant to help make the switch and market the new service. The new cars would purportedly have saved $4.25 million over three years, being 4 times more fuel efficient than a locomotive hauled train. In 2008 the Vermont state legislature approved the purchase of five cars from Colorado Railcar at the cost of $18.2 million, but the decision was pending the approval of Governor Jim Douglas when the company closed, and with no other manufacturers of DMU's that comply with US regulations for DMU's, the plan has since been dropped.

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

Ridership

In the twelve months ending September 2008, 62,902 people traveled to or from Vermont's nine stations on this line.

Palmer–Springfield backup move

At Palmer, Massachusettsmarker, no direct connection exists to allow eastbound trains to head north, or southbound trains to head west. Therefore the Vermonter must operate with either a locomotive on both ends or a cab car on the end opposite the locomotive. There is no station stop in Palmer, which is a small town.

On the southbound Vermonter, the train enters the CSX tracks heading east and moves clear of the crossing. The conductors get off the train and throw the switches and the engineers move to the other end, and the train goes the other way west to Springfield. On the northbound Vermonter, the procedure is reversed, with the train being pushed east from Springfield to Palmer.
With the start of the all-electric Keystone Service freeing equipment, it is now common to see two P42 locomotives on the Vermonter, instead of one engine and a cab car. In this configuration the train is not pushed per se, as both engines are powered. However, using the computer systems in the locomotives, which communicate with each other, the engines are able to balance the momentum, preventing full waste. It is roughly tantamount to having both engines working at half capacity.

Potential re-routing north of Springfield

Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed which potentially could be used for improvements to the Vermonter service, there is serious discussion between the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and officials of the Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study of restoring the more direct route from Springfield through Holyokemarker, Northamptonmarker and Greenfieldmarker with stops in each. This re-routing would, while bypassing and deleting the Amherst station stop, serve more population centers and shave off forty-five minutes to an hour of travel time between Springfield and Brattleboro. The re-routing would also eliminate the need to switch directions in Palmer and for two locomotives on each train.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has proposed to change the route with money from the Federal Stimulus Package.

Notes

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