Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today's Train of Though: Distant Signals- Aug 10, 2011

Today's train of thought takes us to the Green Mountain State and what amounts to a newly reconstituted Rutland. After years of operating losses and labor disputes since the end of World War II, the Rutland Railway shut down operations in May 1963. With the Rutland's abandonment and shutdown leaving much of the state of Vermont without Rail service, the state of Vermont stepped in and in 1964 awarded the Burlington to North Bennington, VT section of track to the Vermont Railway and the Rutland to Walpole, NH to the Green Mountain Railroad. The lines south to Chatham, NY and west to Malone, NY were ultimately abandoned- although the trackage from Ogdensburg, NY east to the New York Central interchange at Norwood, NY remained intact.

Both the Green Mountain and Vermont Railway managed to exist separately, with the Green Mountain trying to get by on seasonal excursions and bridge line traffic between the Boston & Maine and Central Vermont on one end and the Vermont Railway and Delaware & Hudson on the other.

Meanwhile, the Vermont Railway was gradually expanding while hauling feed, lumber, marble, grain, wood chips, limestone and oil. In 1972, the VTRR took over control of the little marble-hauling shortline Clarendon & Pittsford. A little over a decade later, the VTRR would go on to purchase the former Delaware & Hudson Whitehall, NY branch between Rutland, VT and Whitehall, NY. This line would be operated under the Clarendon & Pittsford name, although thanks to a prolonged strike on the Guilford/Delaware & Hudson lines in 1986, traffic on both railways would take a hit.

Fortunes for both railroads seemed to improve heading into the 1990s. To the west, Canadian Pacific managed to acquire the Delaware & Hudson after Guilford transportaiton divested themselves of the line. To the east, Canadian National sold off their Central Vermont subsidiary to RailTex to form the New England Central. For the Green Mountain, additional online traffic in the form of limestone and fly ash began to materielize as well as more favorable interchange partners on each end.

By 1997, the Vermont Railway had paid back the State of Vermont for the former Rutland lines and began consolidating operations with the Green Mountain. Two years later, they took over operations of the struggling Washington County Railroad which operated between Barre Jct, Vt and the state capital of Montpelier. That year, the state also acquired the lightly-used Boston & Maine line north of White River Jct. to Newport, VT and eventually leased the line to VTRR (operating as the Washington County RR) after the previous operator, Iron Road Railways, went bankrupt.

But to this day, the Green Mountain line between Rutland and White River Jct. remains the linchpin of the Vermont Railway system, with the shift in operators still providing ample bridgeline traffic, with the Providence & Worcester (by way of the New England Central) being the latest to move cars in and out of New England through the Green Mountain gateway. Some of the more recent commodities to appear on the VTRR/GMRC rails include coal, limestone slurry and ethanol- the latter two moving in dedicated unit trains. contributor Tim Stockwell catches Clarendon & Pittsford GP38-2 #204 is seen trundling past the abandoned Ludlow, VT station on the Green Mountain line, heading back to Rutland with train #264 with a mixed bag of freight on a sunny May 2010 afternoon. Although inactive, the station still sports the intact blades from a semaphore signal.

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