Rail News Roundup #39

Today’s Headlines

• Vermonter Return to Service – July 19th

• 2nd Valley Flyer Round Trip Returns – July 26th

• MassDOT to install PTC on the Conn River Main Line

• Man on Tracks in Northampton Hit by Train

• East-West Rail Updates

• New Hartford Line Station Planned for Enfield CT

• Springfield Riverfront Park Access Project Funded

• NECR Freight Corridor Upgrade Moves Forward

• Amtrak Celebrates its 50th Anniversary


Welcome Back the Vermonter
Mon. July 19, 2021 starting at 1:45 pm
(the train is schedule to depart at 2:01 PM)
Northampton station
170 Pleasant St

Further details on this link —
Welcome Back the Vermonter – Northampton MA

Vermonter Return to Service – July 19th

At long last, Amtrak’s Vermonter is returning to western Mass.

Northbound in Holyoke | By Roman Daniels | December 29, 2014

The Vermonter, which has not been seen in our region since March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, will return on Monday afternoon July 19th.

The scheduled times for the first southbound train are:
dp. Greenfield – 1:36 PM
dp. Northampton – 2:01 PM
dp. Holyoke – 2:18 PM
ar. Springfield Union Station – 2:35 PM.

For those of you who may have forgotten, the Vermonter provides daily service between Washington, DC and St. Albans VT with direct service to Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, White River Junction and other intermediate stops.

The cities, towns and villages along the route in Vermont will celebrate the return of its two trains, the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express, with events at every Amtrak station in the state.

To complement these events, $1 fares are being offered for train travel within Vermont on July 19th so attendees may participate in the celebration with a ride on the train.

In our region Trains In The Valley will host an informal celebratory event — open to all — at the station platform in Northampton starting at 1:30 PM.

Supporters of passenger rail service, elected officials, the media, and others will meet to celebrate the return of the train to our region.

Further details on this event can be found on this link —
Welcome Back the Vermonter – Northampton MA

Additionally, Amtrak is offering 50% off on coach tickets for travel on the Vermonter for a limited time.

Amtrak’s 50% off sale is for travel on the Vermonter between stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

The sale, which runs until Thur. July 15th, is for travel July 19 – September 6, 2021

If you plan to use this discount please note the following:

  • The discount applies to travel on the Vermonter between stations in CT, MA and VT. For example, Northampton MA to Montpelier VT.
  • The offer is valid for 50% off the regular (full) adult rail fare (what Amtrak calls the “Value” Fare.) The discount unfortunately cannot be applied to the lower, “Saver” fare.

The complete set of Terms & Conditions for this promotion can be found here:

Further reading

Amtrak Vermonter
Trains In The Valley’s page with everything you need to know to ride this train

Agency of Transportation Announces Events to Welcome Back Amtrak Trains
Press Release | VTrans | July 6, 2021

2nd Valley Flyer Round Trip Returns – July 26th

The inaugural run of the Valley Flyer arriving in Northampton | By Wayne Feiden | August 30, 2019

Amtrak, in conjunction with MassDOT, is re-launching the second round trip of the Valley Flyer on Mon. July 26, 2021.

Restoration of full service means that Train 495 (departing Greenfield at 5:45 AM) will operate in addition to Train 471 (departing Greenfield at 7:35 AM) each weekday traveling southbound to New Haven.

Northbound Train 478 (arriving at Greenfield at 12:38 AM) will be added to Train 494 (arriving at Greenfield at 10:23 PM) to round out each weekday schedule.

It had been hoped by many that the restored 2nd northbound train would have been moved to an earlier arrival (between 7 and 8 PM) in our region but from what we understand this is simply not possible at the moment.

In addition to the restoration of the 2nd Valley Flyer weekday train, three Amtrak trains that were suspended in March 2020 that provide service between New Haven and Springfield will also be restored.

This will result in a full restoration of Amtrak’s service along the corridor between New Haven and Springfield to early 2020 service levels.

Further information

“Valley Flyer ready to again spread its wings”
By Sophia Gardner | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 24, 2021

Amtrak Restarting Service In Western Massachusetts” (4:06)
By Paul Tuthill | WAMC Northeast Public Radio | June 23, 2021

MassDOT to install PTC on the Conn River Main Line

MassDOT is moving forward with a project that will bring a safety system known as Positive Train Control (PTC) to the MassDOT-owned Connecticut River Main Line between Springfield and the Vermont state line.

The PTC project is one of handful of new projects in the final version of the 2022 update to the five-year $18.3 billion MassDOT and MBTA Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2020-2024.

MassDOT CIP final review (PDF) – page 23 | June 21, 2021

The Connecticut River Main Line, which is often referred to as the Conn River Line or the Knowledge Corridor, is used by Amtrak’s Valley Flyer and Vermonter trains, and the freight operator Pan Am Railways.

Notably, the Conn River Line is the only rail corridor used by Amtrak in Massachusetts that does not have PTC installed and in use today. The other rail corridors that Amtrak operates on in the state — the Northeast Corridor, the CSX freight line west of Worcester, the MBTA Commuter Rail network1, and the Amtrak line south of Springfield — all have PTC installed and in use today.

We do not know at the moment exactly why MassDOT decided to add this project to the CIP. What we do know is that there were elected officials, in particular Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, who asked that this project to be added.

Trains In The Valley also played a role here, with this written request on June 1, 2021, in support of adding PTC to the the Conn River Line.

1 The entire MBTA Commuter Rail network also has PTC installed and in use today.

Man on Tracks in Northampton Hit by Train

Multiple media sources have reported that on the evening of Saturday, June 12th a man who was on the tracks was struck by a northbound Amtrak train as it was slowing to stop at the station platform in Northampton.

The man was transported to Bay State Medical Center with a severe laceration.

Amtrak train 488, the northbound Valley Flyer enroute to Greenfield, terminated in Northampton. Alternate transportation was provided for passengers destined for Greenfield.

Two people, the man and a women, will be charged with trespassing on railroad property.

Needless to say, no one should ever be on the railroad tracks.

Further information

Investigation continues into man hit by train
By Scott Merzbach | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 14, 2021

East-West Rail Updates

Sen. Markey Introduces Act to Expand Passenger Rail

On May 5th Senator Ed Markey reintroduced the Building Rail Across Intercity Networks To Ride Around Interior of the Nation (BRAIN TRAIN) Act (S.1852).

WWLP 22News | May 5, 2021

The legislation would authorize $5 billion annually, for a total of $25 billion over five years, to invest in “high-performance” passenger rail projects that offer service to unconnected and under-connected communities across the country — such as those in Central and Western Massachusetts.

Congressman Richard Neal (MA-01) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

We applaud Sen. Markey’s continued strong support for passenger rail service in our region an our country.

Further information

“Markey, McGovern: Train bill could connect Worcester with Western Mass., boost economy”
By Marco Cartolano | Worcester Telegram | May 5, 2021

“Rail Service Connecting Towns Across Massachusetts?” (12:40)
Video | WGBH Boston | May 7, 2021

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Metro Hartford-Springfield Rail Economic Benefits Report Released

A new report commissioned by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) — in consultation with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission — has found a nearly 10 to 1 return on investments in passenger rail between New Haven and Worcester via the Hartford–Springfield Metro Area.

On May 6th Congressmen Richard Neal (MA-01) hosted at press conference at Springfield Union Station to highlight the new report and the need for passenger rail service along the New Haven – Springfield – Boston Corridor.

“I am proud to have helped secure federal funding for the successful Hartford Line. Now is the time to build on that success. Improving the Hartford Line and expanding it to Worcester would provide reliable service between Boston and New York City. This would have a profound economic impact for the greater Hartford region, including our neighbors in New Haven and in Springfield and beyond.” said Congressman John Larson (CT-01).

For those of you who have been following the saga of East-West rail, this is what was proposed by the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative Study back in 2016.

The report found that some 20,000 to 40,000 jobs in information technology, finance, and professional services are “missing” from Metro Hartford-Springfield because of the lack of regional and intercity rail connectivity.

We strongly support the idea of extending the CTrail Hartford Line service to Boston as an first step towards building out East-West rail.

Further information

The Economic Benefits of Regional Rail Investments in Metro Hartford-Springfield Report (PDF)
Prepared by AECOM for the Capitol Region Council of Governments | April 2021

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Amtrak’s includes East-West Rail in 2035 Network Plan

Proposed Amtrak 2035 Network Map – Northeastern Corridors
Source: Amtrak Connects US Vision (PDF) | Page 57

On May 27th Amtrak released a proposal to grow its passenger rail service by 2035.

The proposal suggests that an Amtrak-operated corridor should be established between Albany and Boston, as shown on the map above.

The proposed new service would add two new round-trips between Albany and Boston, with new station stops in Chatham NY, Chester MA, and Palmer MA.

This new service would be in addition to the existing Boston–Albany Section of Amtrak Lake Shore Limited service which operates as part of Amtrak’s Long Distance Service Line.

While this is simply a proposal at the moment, it is notable that Amtrak included this service in its Corridors Vision plan.

Further information

Amtrak Connects US Vision document (PDF)

New Hartford Line Station Planned for Enfield CT

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is moving forward with a plan to construct a new station in Enfield.

The new station, which has been under discussion for well over a decade, will be built just north of Main Street in the Thompsonville neighborhood of Enfield.

The current timeline calls for construction to start in 3Q2022, with the station open for service by the end of 2023.

Architectural renderings of the planned Enfield Station | CTDOT | April 2021

The current plan calls for a new 200 foot high-level platform to be constructed on the west side of the single-track Amtrak-owned rail line that runs through town.

Enfield Station preliminary site plan | April 2021

So, why is this important for people in western Mass you might ask?

Because it is likely that people who live south of Springfield near the state line — as example, in Longmeadow — will drive to this station rather then driving north to Springfield if they are traveling south on the Hartford Line.

Further information

Video: CTDOT Train Station Presentation (43:36)
Enfield Town Council meeting | April 5, 2021

Springfield Riverfront Park Access Project Funded

The Transportation Bond Bill that was signed by Governor Baker on January 15, 2021 included $1.5 million in funding to improve access to Riverfront Park in downtown Springfield.

Access to the park, which is located between the the Amtrak tracks and the Connecticut River, is only accessible via an underpass at the north end of the park or an overpass located behind Esporta Fitness.

The proposed improvements, shown below, would replace the existing surface level parking lot on the east side of the tracks with an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant pedestrian path to the underpass.

Rendering of proposed improvements | Springfield, Mass.

At the moment its unclear when work will begin on this project.

Further information

“Railroad underpass work to improve safety, access to Springfield’s Riverfront Park”
By Jim Kinney | Springfield Republican | February 19, 2021

NECR Freight Corridor Upgrade Moves Forward

In February 2021 the MassDOT Board of Directors agreed to move with a project that will upgrade the 55-mile New England Central Railroad (NECR) corridor that runs between Monson, Palmer and Northfield.

The project, is funded roughly 1/3rd by NECR, 1/3rd by MassDOT, and 1/3 by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Presentation to MassDOT Board | February 22, 2021

The project includes the replacement of 22.7 miles of jointed rail with continuously welded rail, the installation of 30,000 wood ties, the replacement of 30 turnouts, the installation of 25,000 tones of new stone ballast, the alignment and surfacing of 54.7 miles of track, and bridge deck repairs on 16 structures.

The project, which should be complete in early 2024, will increase the maximum allowable gross weight for freight cars moved on the NECR line from from 263,000 lbs to current national standard which is 286,000 lbs.

Further information

FRA BUILD Contract – Western Mass. Rail Upgrade Project
MassDOT Rail & Transit Division | February 22, 2021

Amtrak Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Amtrak service was launched on May 1, 1971, when a train known as a Clocker”, rolled out of New York Penn Station bound for Philadelphia just after midnight.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, as Amtrak is legally known, consolidated the intercity passenger rail obligations belonging to most of the private railroads under a single national network and brand.

In 1971 operated in 184 trains a day with service to 323 stations.

Today, Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations across 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Happy anniversary Amtrak. 🎉🎉🎉

Video: Amtrak 50th Anniversary – A Year of Celebration (1:47) | Amtrak (via YouTube)

Further information

Celebrating Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary

Amtrak Historical Timeline