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All photos by Ron Goodenow. Reproduction without Ron's permission is prohibited.

License plates in New Hampshire scream 'Live Free or Die.' If the state's congressional delegation has its way most Granite Staters will pass on to the Beyond without ever riding a train to work or visit Aunt Fannie in Florida -- and they would equally bless the rest of us. There will be a couple of long-resisted stops in the delayed Portland-Boston timetable, and the Vermonter runs over some state soil, but the increasingly traffic choked Concord-Manchester-Lowell corridor is utterly devoid of passenger rail and the restoration of any cross-state Boston-Montreal service or trains to popular White Mountain ski and summer resorts -- and too many poverty-stricken towns without any public transit whatsoever -- are but a gleam in too few eyes, with such creative planning and implementation left to good folks of Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. It wasn't always that way.

Well into the 1960s the Boston and Maine provided several frequencies a day along the coast and up to Concord -- and slightly beyond for the odd RDC. On the left is the summer only train between Boston and Meredith, stopping at Weirs Beach in 1962, perhaps its last year. On the right, photographed in July 2000, is one of the Winnipesaukee Scenic RR trains which ply the route between Meredith and Lakeport, stopping at Weirs Beach with a motley collection of B&M castoffs. In the Autumn it joins cross-state rival Conway Scenic in reaching into the North Country.

August 5, 2000. Amtrak's southbound Vermonter in White River Junction, Vermont. White River Junction is a true railroad town. It has a big celebration in early September to remember its place at the middle of traffic from Boston, Montreal [on two routes], nearby Woodstock, New York and beyond, served by the Boston and Maine, Central Vermont, Canadian Pacific's backdoor route to Quebec and, I'm sure, many other lines I am happy to hear about. It has a restored railway hotel (the Collidge) and a beautifully maintained depot blessed by considerable railroad memorabilia, lots of plants, and an Amtrak ticket agent who thoughtfully sets out chairs on the platform for waiting passengers. And yes, a coffee pot that asks only for donations. The Vermonter is funded in part by the state of Vermont and perhaps that accounts for Amtrak's willingness to brand it not only with a name but a baggage car for bikes, skis and whatever else one choses. The Vermonter reminds us of connections between place and the things that serve people well. And that if done well the folksin the statehouse and with suitcases will support it.

These two photos were taken of Amtrak's train #41, the Silver Star, on August 10 and 11, 2000. On the left is an early evening shot taken in Richmond, Virginia, and on the right, one taken the next morning at my destination, Winter Park, Florida. All in all a satisfying trip. My Viewliner sleeper (Moonlight View) was comfortable, the diner dished up some fine food and service, equipment was spotless and the packed train (four Amfleet II coaches, diner, two Viewliners, and crew dorm-lounge), was but 40 minutes late, due mainly to CSX delays between the magnificent Washington Union Station and Richmond. Amtrak could do a bit more to make high-paying first class passengers feel first class -- how about a welcome card or some wine and cheese before dinner? -- but all in all a pleasant way to travel. A late Delta flight home and the hopeless chaos of Logan Airport and environs reminded me that when Amtrak gets its Acela and long-distance equipment act together there are rich markets to be mined.

Tuesday, September 5, 2000. Amtrak's eastbound California Zephyr cuts through the High Sierras and pauses at Truckee, about 30 miles from Reno, my destination. Spotless on-time train of three sleepers, diner, Superliner II lounge/cafe, three coaches -- busy, assisted by a cheerful and helpful crew and followed by a handful of mail and express cars. This is one of the world's great train rides, from Oakland's Jack London Square, the sparkling new Emeryville station across the bay from San Francisco, past bustling refurbished and new stations, through splendid river and nature preserve country, Emigrant Gap, Donner Pass and more snowsheds than I could count. But California Zephyr of old or Coast Starlight of new this one isn't -- quite. It could easily be, but would first have to shed ugly xeroxed signs haphazardly plastered around the lounge and cafe forbidding passengers from consuming 'personal' food and drink [took me awhile to figure that out], fix a dull overpriced lunch menu in the diner that would make an Northeast Corridor or California Capitol cafe attendant feel like a purveyor of gourmet victuals and do something about an utter lack of descriptive literature to help guide tourists from around the world across the historically and geographically fascinating landscape. Come on guys, go light on the bean counting and turn some of that mail and express revenue into the touch of class this wonderful train deserves!


Page created by: Craig O'Connell
Changes last made on: July 1, 2002.



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