Rail News Roundup #18


Today’s Headlines

• CTrail Customers Kicked Off Amtrak Trains On The Hartford Line

• Rail Users’ Network Meeting Recap

• Longmeadow | Bernie Road Crossing – Some Good News

• Springfield | State St Crossing Concerns

• Knowledge Corridor Tie Replacement Project

• Worcester | Station Platform Project Moves Forward

• Holyoke | Repairs to Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge

• Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner | Nov 8th

• 2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit | Nov 19th

• Report | Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County

• The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System

• Fall Foliage Train on the Pioneer Valley Railroad

• Train Time in Northampton | October 8, 2018



Thur. November 8, 2018 | 4:30 pm – 8:00 (POSTPONED)
Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner
Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center
100 State Street, Montpelier, VT


Mon. November 19, 2018 | 11:30 am – 7:30 pm
2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit
UConn Hartford
10 Prospect St, Hartford, CT
FREE for members of the community


CTrail Customers Kicked Off Amtrak Trains On The Hartford Line

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

“As Ridership Booms on the Hartford Line, CTrail Customers Are Being Kicked Off Amtrak Trains”
By Frankie Graziano | Connecticut Public Radio | October 25, 2018

According to this report, some passengers holding CTrail tickets have in recent weeks been asked to leave Amtrak Hartford Line trains to make room for passengers holding Amtrak tickets.

“Jim Redeker, Connecticut’s transportation commissioner, said that’s not supposed to happen. ‘That may be something that occurs in the field,’ Redeker said. ‘That could be simply that the particular crew that’s on that train is not familiar with our policies.’ ”

The basic problem is a simple one — the number of people showing up at some stations along the line is, at times, exceeding the number of available seats on some of the Amtrak-operated Hartford Line trains — in particular the Amtrak trains that today operate with only two coaches. Commission Redeker said just the other day, at the ribbon cutting for the new Berlin station, that the Hartford Line has carried over 120,000 passenger trip since its launch and that it had exceeded all of their expectations.

CTDOT and Amtrak need to correct whatever is “occurring in the field” and discontinue the reported practice of removing selected passengers from Amtrak Hartford Line trains. The optics of this practice is very bad, at multiple levels.

CTDOT and Amtrak need to find a way to provide additional coaches where needed since clearly there should be no reason for any passenger to be left standing on the platform.


UPDATE — The Hartford Courant is reporting that CTDOT is working with Amtrak to add coaches to some Amtrak Hartford Line trains. When this will actually happen is not clear at this time.

Further reading

“State Asks Amtrak For More Cars On Hartford Line To Ease Crowding After Passengers Kicked Off”
By Kenneth Gosselin | Hartford Courant | October 27, 2018


Rail Users’ Network Meeting Recap

Courtesy of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

The Rail Users’ Network, a national rail advocacy organization, held its annual meeting on September 13th at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commissions offices in Springfield. Approximately sixty people attended the meeting.

Topics covered included developments along the Hartford Line Corridor, new passenger service north of Springfield on the Knowledge Corridor, and MassDOT’s East-West Rail Study. Additional topics included an update on the Berkshire Flyer (a planned service between New York City and Pittsfield) as well as updates from two regional rail advocacy groups — the Train Campaign and Trains In The Valley.

The highlight of the meeting was probably the presentation given by MassDOT on the East-West Rail Study.

The study will look at up to six alternatives for passenger rail service in the Pittsfield–Springfield–Boston corridor, with at least one alternative for 90 minute of less travel time between Springfield and Boston. The study will also look at the potential for infill stations, as example Palmer.

MassDOT’s outreach efforts for the study will include a Study Advisory Committee of stakeholders, public meetings, briefings for legislative leaders, as well as a project website and outreach through social media.

The study, once its fully underway, should take about a year to complete.

Note | All of the presentations have been posted on page | Trains In The Valley Events

Further reading

“Picking up steam: Rail advocates to meet in Springfield for updates on CTrail, expanded north-south service and east-west plans”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | October 11, 2018

“MassDOT takes next step toward $1 million east-west rail study”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | October 17, 2018


Longmeadow | Bernie Road Crossing – Some Good News

Amtrak train crossing Birnie Road in Longmeadow | March 16, 2017
Photo credit: Greg Saulman / The Republican

Funding in place for safety upgrades at Longmeadow rail crossing where DPW worker Warren Cowles was killed in train crash”
By Greg Saulmon | The Republican | October 18, 2018

At long last, safety upgrades for the Bernie Road crossing in Longmeadow are moving forward.

The crossing, the site of seven collisions and five deaths since 1975, will see the installation of active traffic control devices (flashing lights, gates, and bells) in the coming months.

One has to wonder, why, with all of the regulatory oversight that is afforded to railroads, and railroad crossings in particular, that the crossing at Bernie Road remained unprotected and seemingly unnoticed for so long.

Why did Amtrak allow this crossing to remain listed as “closed” in the Federal Railroad Administration’s database for decades?

Was it too many layers of oversight? Was it that “everyone and but no-one” was ultimately responsible for safety at this crossing?

There are lessons to be learned here and we can only hope that someone in government will now look back and to see what steps can be learned from the decades long saga of the Bernie Road railroad crossing.

Work at the crossing, to install gates, flashing lights, and bells, is expected to begin in 2019.


Springfield | State St Crossing Concerns

The Republican has published an in depth article on the many issues surrounding the crossing of the Amtrak double-track rail line at the end of State Street in Springfield. (shown in the image below.)

Aerial photo of Riverfront Park
Photo credit: Patrick Johnson / The Republican

“Riverfront Park in Springfield is getting a facelift — but is a rail crossing a barrier to access?”
By Greg Saulmon | The Republican | October 16, 2018

This railroad crossing, which today is marked with nothing more than a pair of stop signs and a crossbuck, sees nearly 30 trains a day at the moment (24 passenger trains and 4-6 freight trains.)

Amtrak train passes through the crossing at Riverfront Park | October 9, 2018
Photo credit: Greg Saulman / The Republican

We did some research (using the FRA Crossing inventory database) and its looks to us like this is the only public rail crossing between Springfield and New Haven that is *not* protected with active traffic control devices (flashing lights, gates, and bells.) We didn’t count the Bernie Road crossing because its blocked to all traffic at the moment.

To put this in some perspective, an underpass was recently constructed to connect the bike paths on either side of the single-track rail line that runs through the city of Northampton. The underpass allows people to safety cross a rail line that carries six trains a day at the moment. (2 passenger trains and 4 freight trains.)

The State Street railroad crossing in Springfield, which is closed to the public at the moment due to the construction, looks like a significant safety concern that needs to be reviewed very carefully before it is reopened.


Knowledge Corridor Tie Replacement Project

Conn River Main Line | looking north
North Main Street | Deerfield, Ma. | April 8, 2018

MassDOT is in the process of awarding a contract for tie replacements, track refurbishment and related work along 32 miles of the Connecticut River Main Line (CRML) between Springfield and Greenfield.

The project includes the follow elements:

  • Install up to 30,000 new wood crossties
  • Install 3.5 track miles of new continuous welded rail on the controlled sidings in Northampton and Springfield and on the southbound track in Deerfield
  • Construct 0.4 miles of new southbound track in Deerfield
  • Distribute 28,500 tons of track ballast
  • Surface, align and regulate the ballast along 32 miles of CRML track, including all turnouts that branch off the mainline track
  • Remove and reconstruct five farm crossings along the line
  • Remove & dispose of all scrap crossties, timbers, and wood debris


The specifications states that scrap crossties, switch timber, and other wood products shall be removed from the right-of-way within five working days of their removal from the track.

The contract documents say the contractor shall achieve Contract Completion within 300 calendar days from Notice to Proceed or by May 15, 2019, whichever is earlier.

The presumptive low bidder for this project is LM Heavy Civil Construction of Quincy, Mass.

See also

Infrastructure > Current Projects


Worcester | Station Platform Project Moves Forward

On October 1, 2018 the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board approved a proposal to proceed with the design work required for the planned construction of a new center platform at Worcester Union Station.

MBTA Contract No. X72PS01 | Worcester Union Commuter Rail Station
Source: FMCB Meeting presentation | October 1, 2108

Why you might ask is this relevant to the Pioneer Valley . . . Because one of the many elements that must be resolved before East-West passenger rail service could be expanded is is the removal the platform bottleneck that exists today at Worcester Union Station.

The resolution of this issue, which will take about 3–5 years, will make it possible for the station in Worcester to handle additional passenger trains in the future.

Further reading

MBTA board approves Union Station platform expansion”
By Grant Welker | Worcester Business Journal | October 1, 2018

Worcester Union Station Design Contract presentation (PPT)
Fiscal Management Control Board | October 1 2018


Holyoke | Repairs to Pioneer Valley Railroad Bridge

Curved open-deck railroad bridge | looking northeast from Cabot St
Near South Canal & Cabot streets | Holyoke, Ma. | October 11, 2018

The Pioneer Valley Railroad is now working to rehabilitate a curved open deck bridge in Holyoke near South Canal and Cabot street. The bridge, which is shown in the image above, will have both steel and masonry work performed on the structure.

The re-opening of this bridge, which was last used in 2013, will allow the Pioneer Valley Railroad to interchange freight rail cars with the Pan Am Southern railroad which operates the north-south rail line through Holyoke.

This work is being partially funded by a grant of $495,000 that was made by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The grant was one of eight grant awards made in 2017 under MassDOT’s Industrial Rail Access Program.


Vermont Rail Action Network’s Annual Dinner | Nov 8th

UPDATE 10/31/2018 | This event has been postponed due to scheduling challenges with the speakers and honorees. VRAN intends to reschedule the event in early 2019.

The Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) will hold its annual dinner and awards celebration next month in Montpelier.

Join rail industry and community leaders, railroad employees, shippers and rail supporters from around the region for Vermont’s premier rail event of the year.

All Earth Rail Budd Rail Diesel Car | in St Albans, Vermont | October 2018
Author: CodeJeffrey | Source: Wikipedia Commons

This year’s gala event will be held on Thursday, November 8th from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. (POSTPONED) at the Capitol Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Montpelier, VT.

With the recent arrival of 12 self-powered Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) in Vermont, enabling reliable and affordable regional rail service for commuters in Vermont, there is much to celebrate.

Two of All Earth Rail’s recently renovated Budd RDC’s (shown above) will be parked on the tracks behind the hotel. A cocktail hour is planned onboard the RDC’s for those who arrive early.

This annual event is a wonderful opportunity for networking with delicious food, live music from a swing jazz band, and the presentation of VRAN’s annual Rail awards


2018 Multimodal and Transit Summit | Nov 19th

The Center for Latino Progress’s Transport Hartford Academy is organizing the first annual Multimodal and Transit Summit, which is co-hosted by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planners Association and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The Multimodal and Transit Summit will be held on Monday, November 19th in downtown Hartford from 12:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

The Summit will bring together local leaders, legislators, transportation professionals, planners, engineers, construction firms, and passionate citizen advocates to discuss the current state, known challenges, and the best future for Connecticuts’s transportation system.

The Summit will reach transportation professionals, while also reaching non-professionals that we need to keep informed and engaged to move multimodal topics into the public sphere, daily conversations, policy changes, and state legislation.

Multimodal transportation is about building connections and increasing mobility.

Note that this event is free for citizen advocates and members of the community.

If you are traveling to the Summit from western mass we recommend that you park at the Springfield Union Stations Garage ($5/day) and take the Hartford Line!

Further information

Multimodal Summit 2018

Registration link


Report | Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County

The Franklin County Council of Governments has recently released an interesting report that looks closely at the opportunity for passenger rail based tourism in the Franklin County region.

Attracting Visitors by Passenger Rail to Franklin County, MA (PDF)
Franklin County Council of Governments | September 2017

The report starts with a review of train-based tourism programs around the country (the Downeaster, Vermont by Rail, Ski Sante Fe, and the Trails and Rails Program) in areas that are similar to the Franklin County region.

The authors of the report looked at Amtrak’s efforts to promote travel to region and found that these efforts were minimal, somewhat disjointed, and could be improved.

The report includes a number of good recommendations, including the following tasks (each task in the report includes multiple steps and parts.)

  • Request Amtrak to update its webpage for the Vermonter route
  • Request Amtrak to update its webpage for the Greenfield Station
  • Coordinate with Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield tourism industry leaders on a number of activites
  • Develop partnerships and materials to support the local tourism industry in promoting travel by rail.


The report reinforces the view that we have always had — that efforts to promote passenger rail service need to driven from the local level.


The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System

‘They’re Bold and Fresh’: The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System
By Erick Trickey | Politico Magazine | October 25, 2018

If your interest is transit advocacy this is a must read article.

Simply put, TransitMatters is the 21st-century model for transit advocacy.

” ‘They’ve been terrific in asking us to think about things differently,’ says Joseph Aiello, chairman of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, a governor-appointed panel that oversees the T for the state department of transportation. ‘The board and staff listen to them very carefully. We don’t always agree with them, but we frequently adopt their work.’ ”

We’ve added this great story here as an inspiration transit advocacys.


Fall Foliage Train on the Pioneer Valley Railroad

Last year’s autumn passenger train on Pioneer Valley Railroad
Courtesy of the organizer (listed below)

Please note that both trains are now SOLD OUT

This weekend, rail or shine, the Pioneer Valley Railroad will be operating a two special passenger runs to raise money for a local charity in Holyoke.

Each train has room for 70 passengers – 60 in the passenger coach and 10 in caboose. The caboose is used as a so-called “shoving platform” for the train movement when the engine is not leading.

Here are the details:

Sat. Oct. 27th | 9 and 11 am
Holyoke to Westfield and return

Departing from
Heritage State Park, 221 Appleton St, Holyoke

Adults $40 – Children under 12, $20 (SOLD OUT)

Note that this event is sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians James A. Curran Division One and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. Half the proceeds from the event will be used for the Hibernians’ scholarship fund.


Train Time in Northampton | October 8, 2018

Northampton station | October 5, 2018

In closing out this mega-post we’ll leave you with this nice image from Northampton.

The photo was emailed to us by someone who was walking along the bike path one day and wondered what was going on.

October 5th, to be clear, is the day before Columbus Day weekend when many people are traveling.

The line of people in this image — all of them — are waiting to board Amtrak Train 55, the southbound Vermonter.

The line starts on the left, loops around the parking lot, and past the historic Union Station building. It continues to the station platform then turns and goes up the access ramp at the front of the platform. The line ends at the bench on the platform.

Using the high-def image we were counted about 100 people waiting to catch the train. We couldn’t get an exact count because some people were clearly sitting on the ramp.

If the are wondering how long it took to board this crowd, the answer is 5 minutes.