Rail News Roundup #32

 

Today’s Headlines

• Platform C at Springfield Union Station Re-opens

• East-West Rail Service in Massachusetts

• East-West Rail Study Meetings Announced

• Fifth Anniversary of the Vermonter in the Valley

• Hartford Line Ridership Hits 1 Million Mark

• MassDOT Awards 2019 IRAP Grants

• Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show

 

CALENDAR

Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show
Sat. & Sun. January 25/26, 2020
Eastern States Exhibition Fairgrounds
West Springfield, Mass.
Information on getting to the show by train on this link.

Advisory Committee Meeting1
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Thur. February 6, 2020 | 1–3 PM
Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel
Ballroom North, Third Floor
One Monarch Place
Springfield, Mass.

Public Meeting
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Wed. February 12, 2020 | 6–8 PM
UMass Center at Springfield
1500 Main St
Springfield, Mass.

1Note this this meeting is open to the public.

 


Platform C at Springfield Union Station Re-opens

The new 512-foot high-level platform platform at Springfield Union Station opened on Thursday, January 24, 2020.

An unconfirmed report said that the first train to board passengers on the newly re-opened Platform C was Amtrak Hartford Line train 475, the 3:35 PM departure for New Haven Union Station.

The images below provide an overview of the new platform as it appeared on Day 1, during the period of civil twilight just after sunset.

Platform C | looking west
Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

The former Amtrak station can be seen on the left in this image.

 

Platform C | Looking east
Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

The low level platform (Platform D) on the right provides a nice contrast, between historic elements of the station and the new modern structure that is Platform C.

 

A view from the bottom of Stairway C | Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

Stairways don’t get much more attractive than this.

The graffiti-resistant glossy white paint that was applied to the walls is practical, but it sure would have been nice if a few architectural design features could have been included in the design — similar to what CTDOT has done in the platform stairwells at New Haven Union Station.

 

Amtrak train 471, the Valley Flyer waiting for departure at 8:52 AM
Platform C, Track 6 | Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

This Valley Flyer train was spotted on the new platform bright and early on Friday morning.

 

Late on Friday afternoon Gov. Charlie Baker, Rep. Richard Neal and other dignitaries met on the platform to cut the ribbon to officially open the rebuilt platform.

Gov. Charlie Baker being interviewed by local reporters
Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

 

Dignitaries, invited guests, media and others at the ribbon cutting for Platform C
Springfield Union Station | January 24, 2020

 

Video | “Springfield Union Station – Platform C Grand Opening” (16:35)
January 24, 2020 | Recorded by Focus Springfield Community Television

 

“Union Station Platform C Opens” (1:39) | WWLP-22 News | January 24, 2019

“Union Station Platform C Opens” (1:39)
Video from WWLP-22 News via YouTube | January 24, 2020

 

Further reading
“Platform C opening completes Springfield Union Station’s rebirth; Gov. Charlie Baker remains cautious about east-west rail”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | January 24, 2020

 


East-West Rail Service in Massachusetts

It has been suggested to us that we should be doing more to promote the existing Amtrak service that operates daily in each direction between western and eastern Mass — which of course is a great idea.

So here we go —

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited service (trains 448 and 449) provides daily service between Boston South station and Albany-Rensselaer, NY — with intermediate stops in Boston Back Bay, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, and Pittsfield.

Through service to/from Chicago, and intermediate stations, is also available.

The Lake Shore Limited in Chester, MA | Jacob Pike | via Flickr

Its important to note that this is not a state-supported service, like the Hartford Line, the Valley Flyer, and the Vermonter. The Lake Shore Limited is part of Amtrak’s Long Distance Service Line and is financed primarily through funds made available by the federal government.

The schedule for the service if not ideal for travel to/from Boston, but for many people it does work. We know that there are people who take this train in one direction, to Boston as example, and then return on a Peter Pan or Greyhound bus.

Interestingly, the Amtrak fares for travel between Boston and Springfield (98 miles) are about 30-40% lower the fares for travel on the Valley Flyer between Northampton and New Haven (84 miles). Why that is the case we don’t know.

We would encourage people who are interested in expanded east-west passenger rail service this use — or at least try — the existing limited service that we have today.

On this page on our site you can find most everything you need to know to travel on today’s east-west rail service, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited service.
East-West Rail Service in Massachusetts

 


East-West Rail Study Meetings Announced

For those of you who want to see expanded passenger rail service across our state would would encourage you to closely follow the on-going East-West Rail Passenger Rail study that is underway.

Importantly, MassDOT has just announced that there will be two study meetings in February.

Advisory Committee Meeting1
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Thur. February 6, 2020 | 1–3 PM
Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel
Ballroom North, Third Floor
One Monarch Place
Springfield, Mass.

Public Meeting
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Wed. February 12, 2020 | 6–8 PM
UMass Center at Springfield
1500 Main St
Springfield, Mass.

1Note this this meeting is open to the public.

 

It has been reported that Rep. Richard Neal traveled to Hartford by train earlier this week to discuss East-West passenger rail with officials in the Connecticut Department of Transportation. It is said that Neal wanted to hear about the success the Hartford Line and to exchange ideas about how to replicate such success in Massachusetts.

The Boston Globe reported that Richard Andreski, chief of the Connecticut DOT’s public transportation bureau, pledged to offer Neal whatever support his office could provide to ensure east-west rail in Massachusetts becomes a priority. A connection to Boston would bring more riders to CTrail and provide an important alternative if Amtrak’s coastal Northeast Corridor route ever floods.

How ironic is is that here we have officials from our neighboring state to the south doing what they can to establish a rail link to Boston via Springfield, while senior officials in our own state remain about as cautious as they can be on this topic.

The last study of East-West rail in 2016 — which took three years and produced some 700 pages of published study output — made a strong case for what would, in simple terms, be an extension of the existing Hartford Line service to Boston.  As many know, this study was shelved by MassDOT soon after the ink was dry on the report.

It should be noted, to be clear, that the current study isn’t even looking at the market for through rail service from central Connecticut to Boston via Springfield, and MassDOT has said that any such service would require a transfer in Springfield.

Time will of course tell how this all plays out.

Further reading

East-West Passenger Rail Study (Official site)

East-West Passenger Rail Study
Trains In The Valley

“Springfield-Boston rail service? Lawmaker’s message is that it’s long overdue”
By Jon Chesto | The Boston Globe | January 22, 2020

Opinion | “The solution to Boston’s housing and congestion crisis? Western Mass.”
By Joan Joan Vennochi | The Boston Globe | January 22, 2020

 


Fifth Anniversary of the Vermonter in the Valley

Its sort of hard to image that five years has past since passenger rail service returned to the the cities of Greenfield and Northampton on December 29, 2014.

To celebrate this milestone we’re sharing a few images and a video from the not so distant past —

Pan Am’s Conn River Line prior to reconstruction
Northampton, MA – June 20, 2014

And example of what the rail line looked, back in the days when the maximum authorized speed (for freight trains) between Greenfield and Springfield was just 10 miles per hour.

 

Site of future Holyoke station | December 10, 2014

Service to Holyoke was added on August 27, 2015

 

The inaugural train (a.k.a. the VIP train) arrives in Northampton | December 22, 2014

 

“First 55 Vermonter arrives Northampton, MA (NHT)”
By Harpo Jaeger via YouTube | December 29, 2014

 

Northampton station | looking north
By Robert Kearns | March 8, 2019 | 2.02 pm

The panoramic image above shows the scene at the station in Northampton on Friday, March 8, 2019 — the last day of classes before the start of Spring recess at UMass Amherst and Smith College.

An estimated 150 people were standing in line waiting to board the southbound Vermonter on this day.

 


Hartford Line Ridership Hits 1 Million Mark

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has announced that the Hartford Line has exceeded 1,000,000 riders since the service was launched on June 18, 2018.

According the press release linked below, the Hartford Line carried 1,075,559 riders between 6/18/2018 (the 1st day of service) and 12/31/2019.

For calendar year 2019 the service carried 731,239 riders, which CTDOT says is well ahead of expectations.

Further reading

Governor Lamont Announces Hartford Line Surpasses One Million Riders, Exceeding Forecasts
Office of Gv. Ned Lamont | Press Release | January 16, 2020

 


MassDOT Awards 2019 IRAP Grants

MassDOT has awarded grants totaling more than $2.7 million from the Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP) to enhance rail and freight access, economic opportunity, and job growth in the Commonwealth.

IRAP is a competitive state-funded public/private partnership program that provides financial assistance to eligible applicants to invest in industry-based rail infrastructure access improvement projects. Applicants must match public funds with private funds, with private funds paying at least 40% of a project’s total cost, and several of today’s awardees will match more than the required minimum.

The following 2019 grants were awarded in our region

WT Terminal LLC ($500,000)

The project will allow a liquid asphalt facility in Deerfield to continue to grow by creating a new spur and increasing terminal capacity by 25%. WT expects an additional 300 railcars annually with the new spur, thereby reducing truck traffic. WT is providing 58% of the project cost.

Pioneer Valley Railroad ($176,322)

The project will build a siding in Westfield that will increase facility capacity by 25% to meet the demands of customers served by the Easthampton Branch. The facility will handle an estimated 400 additional rail cars annually. The railroad is providing a 40% match.

Further reading

MassDOT Announces IRAP Grants
MassDOT Press Release | December 23, 2019

 


Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show

The 52nd annual Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show is this weekend —

• Saturday, January 25, 2020 from 9 am – 5 pm

• Sunday, January 26, 2020 from 10 am – 5 pm

at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds (home of The Big E) in West Springfield, Mass.

 

The show features real life railroads and scale model railroads, historical societies, travel agencies, art shows, flea market dealers, importers, manufacturers and photographers.

Commercial vendors and hobbyists will be selling model railroad equipment, parts and supplies — books, DVDs, ephemera, postcards, timetables — and all sorts railroad memorabilia.

As they say, “there’s something for everyone!”

 

Show stats

Operating full-size model railroad layouts | 60+

Expected Attendance | 23,000 people

Show size | 500,000 square feet

Registered vendors | 411

 

The best options for traveling to the show by train are on the Hartford Line and Amtrak’s Valley Flyer.

Six reasons to take the train to the show —

  • The shuttle bus between Springfield Union Station and the show is free
  • You will be one of the first users of the newly opened high-level boarding platform at Springfield Union Station
  • Up to four children (ages 2-12) can ride the Hartford Line for just $1/each with an adult
  • Let someone else do the driving and avoid paying for parking at the Eastern States Exhibition grounds
  • Traveling by train is more environmentally friendly than driving
  • Who wouldn’t want to take a train to get to a train show!

 

Further reading

Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show (Official website)

Take the Train to the Railroad Hobby Show | Trains In The Valley
Everything you need to know to take the train to the 2020 Amherst Railway Society Hobby Show

 

 

Post updated: January 26, 2020