March 22, 1997
By Paul Conant for Friends of Amtrak
My wife and I took the Sugartime Special to Vermont, yesterday. We got to the Worcester, MA Amtrak station (small building) around 9 AM. Didn't want to be late for the 9:30 departure. We were surprised at the number of people waiting. While we sat in the car (it wasn't warm outside) we watched some TOFC being shuffled around. Around 9:15, we got out and went to the station. Shortly thereafter a train headed in and we all got prepared but it was the MBTA commuter train. As it pulled in front of the station, I, of course, had to take a picture or two. As it came close to 9:30, I figured that our train was going to take the outside track so I headed down to the end of the platform to take a picture as it came in. While at the end of the platform (east side) I noticed some new tracks down on a lower level. Believe they are to be holding tracks for the MBTA trains nightly stay over. At 9:30 our train arrivred. A standard Amtrak diesel, 3 Northeast Direct Coaches, 1 Cafe Car and two MBTA coaches. After the MBTA train headed back to Boston we got aboard. We were in the next to the last car, one of the MBTA coaches. It had bigger windows (dirty) and the standard commuter seats. We set out for our journey more or less on time. After I got another cup of coffee, we settled in. On our way out to Palmer we passed by several old stations and freight buildings (Brookfields?). We were passed by a Conrail freight carrying cars. Later on we got sided for another Conrail train with mixed cars. Kind of hard to tell what/when is going by you only feet away.
We got into Palmer and headed north on the NEC line. We passed by the diesels of the Central Mass Railroad. The have an ex-Alaska RR engine still in its Alaska paint job. Three Rivers is an interesting view from the train. It's different to go on a train ride in the winter. You get to see into the woods and valleys that you can't see when the leaves are on the trees. We arrived in Amherst, MA about 20 minutes behind schedule. A lot of people got off (lunch at Lord Jeffery Inn and a trip to Yankee Candle Shop) and some people got on. A lot of the new passengers were from the Amherst Railroad Society. We headed out of Amherst and up along route 63. It was lunch time and we got our Amtrak boxed lunch. Better than airline food. In Millers Falls (Grounts Corner) the New England Central Railroad track cross over the B&M (Guilford) lines and then come down along side of them before heading across the Miller River. Shortly we cross over the Connecticut River and into Vermont. Just after we crossed over we came to a stop and had to back up onto the B&M tracks of the Connecticut River lines to let the southbound Vermonter pass by. I took a couple of pictures out the window. Don't expect much from those shots.
Next stop was Brattleboro. Somemore of our passengers got off and some got on. Heard the group getting off were going to Basketville.
Since crossing the river we have been following its bank. The river was mainly open with a few patches of ice floating southward. Saw some wild turkeys in a field.
Next stop was Bellows Falls. Bellows Falls is the home of the Green Mountain Tourist Railroad. Got to see some of their cars on a siding and also a B&M RDC Budd car. After Bellows Falls we crossed back over the river to the New Hampshire side. We went by the Charleston and Claremont Jct. stations. We crossed the Connecticut river again (over to the Vermont side) and saw the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge. Believe it's the longest covered bridge in the country.
We finally arrived in White River Junction at 2:30, about 45 minutes late. White River has a nice station and an old B&M 4-4-0 (#494) and wooden caboose on display. White River was a busy railroad place back in the early 1900's. One sign said that over a 100 trains a day came through this junction. Looking at a map, the B&M came in from the east and across the river into White River then headed north. The old Central Vermont came in from the south and then headed west. At the station they had an old map showing all the trackage that was there back in 1917. What a spaghetti of track. We walked around the town a bit but it was windy, mostly cloudy and cold. Took a few pictures of the Amtrak engine and Old 494 . In September they are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Railroading in Vermont, "The Glory Days of the Railroad". There will be a big Model Railroad Show and other events on Saturday the 13th. Will have to put that on my list.
At 3:20 PM they blew the train horn to call the passengers back and at 3:30 PM we left for our trip home.
At 3:30 PM we headed south out of White River Junction. The sky was mostly cloudy so it seemed like sunset and the view out the window was limited.
We had now spent many hours in those commuter seats and they were starting to get to us. Wished we were in the Amtrak cars with the plush seats. On our way south (believe just north of Brattleboro), we were shuffled onto a passing track and waited for the northbound Vermonter to pass by. I believe this was around 5:00. The siding we were held on had an old small white wooden station that had a post that used to contain a train order signal.
We picked up and left off passengers at Bellows Falls, Brattleboro and Amherst. By the time we were back in Massachusetts, it had gotten too dark to see much of anything out the windows. We were on time when we departed Amherst. We came into Palmer and then we hit the ConRail lines. I heard from someone that there was a signal problem and we crept alone at a snails pace. The trip from Palmer took forever. Figured we did all of 20 miles an hour. We finally arrived in Worcester a little after 9 PM and well over a hour behind time. I was glad to be getting off and not continuing on to Boston. Those commuter seats had gotten to both of us after almost 12 hours.
I had a great time.
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