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By Jack M. Turner

    After taking Amtrak from Jacksonville to Albany-Rennselaer, NY (covered in my previous story) Christine and I drove eastward from Lake Placid along the Ausable River then north to Plattsburgh.  Near Plattsburgh we boarded a Lake Champlain ferry for the short crossing to Grand Isle, VT.  Our destination was Stowe, a popular resort town in Vermont’s Green Mountains.  We took a circuitous route to visit many covered bridges, a few waterfalls, and country stores that are New England icons.


Monument Falls east of Lake Placid


Passing another Lake Champlain ferry near Grand Isle, VT


A covered bridge at Fairfax, VT


A waterfall on the edge of Jeffersonville


Covered bridge at Johnson

    Two nights at the Golden Eagle Resort in Stowe gave us time to enjoy that property’s peaceful atmosphere and well-manicured grounds and explore some northern Vermont back roads.  In addition to finding more covered bridges, we stopped at a store located on a nice farm where maple syrup is produced.  The shopkeeper directed us to a country road that took us to Jay Peak where the autumn leaves were brilliant then we continued to the town of Montgomery where more excellent covered bridges stood.  At her recommendation we stopped for lunch in Montgomery Center at Bernie’s a very good restaurant located in that small town.  On the return to Stowe we made a short side trip to Wolcott to view an out of service covered railroad bridge.  Since our last visit about 20 years ago the tracks have been removed except for the section under the bridge cover.


The serene grounds at the Golden Eagle Resort


Our studio suite at the Golden Eagle Resort


Mountain lake beside Route 100 north of Stowe


Autumn splendor at Jay Peak


Jay Peak is awash in color in early October


Longley covered bridge north of Montgomery, VT


Unique railroad covered bridge east of Wolcott

The other highlight of our visit to Stowe was a late afternoon drive to Smuggler’s Notch west of Stowe where the autumn leaves were at their peak.  On the return to Stowe we stopped at the Trapp Family Lodge for a delicious dinner.  The lodge was established by the famous singing family which was the subject of the legendary movie “The Sound of Music”.  One could almost hear the words “the hills are alive with the sound of music” while exploring the hillside property.


Smuggler's Notch west of Stowe


The Green Mountains seen from the Trapp Family Lodge parking lot

    The following morning we headed south on Vermont Highway 100, arguably the state’s most scenic route, and observed more covered bridges, church steeples, waterfalls, and country stores framed by brightly colored autumn leaves.  Shortly after leaving Stowe we passed through Waterbury, a convenient stop on the route of Amtrak’s Vermonter.  We paused at impressive Moss Glen Falls then headed to East Middlebury to look at the Waybury Inn which was used for exterior shots on the “Newhart” television series.  We actually spent the night in Rutland due to its proximity to the next day’s train excursion.  Rutland is the end point for Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express which our son and I rode several years ago.  During the evening Christine and I attended a high school football game at Rutland High School and found it to be an enjoyable experience.


Farmland along Route 100 south of Waterbury


An iconic Vermont scene: covered bridge, church steeple, and winding stream at Waitsfield


Autumn leaves on a tree and mountainside in Waitsfield


Warren is home to this covered bridge


Moss Glen Falls along Route 100 south of Waitsfield


The Waybury Inn was used for exterior shots on "Newhart"


A mountain sunset forms the backdrop for Rutland High School's football game

    Saturday October 6 dawned clear and chilly as we made the short drive to Chester, VT where we boarded the Green Mountain Railroad’s autumn leaves excursion train which operates during the autumn peak.  The 10 car train was headed by GATX GP 38-2 # 2663 with Vermont Railway GP 40-2 # 307 on the rear.  We found swivel lounge seats in snack counter-lounge car 3091 at the center of the train and enjoyed the company of fellow passengers seated near us.


GATX 2663 leads the Green Mountain RR autumn leaves train at Chester


Streamlined Green Mountain RR cars originally served Santa Fe trains

    The rail line was laid by the Rutland Railroad in 1848-49 and hosted the overnight Green Mountain Flyer until 1953.  The line went bankrupt in 1961 and was subsequently purchased by the State which established the Green Mountain Railroad.  Eventually the GMRR was merged with the Vermont Railway to become part of the Vermont Rail System.  Most of the cars in the excursion consist originally were streamlined Santa Fe cars built in the 1930s though the last three cars were open window commuter coaches once belonging to the Central of New Jersey.


Former Central of New Jersey commuter coaches are carried near the rear of the excursion train


Vermont Railway GP 40-2 # 307 carries the markers on the westbound run

    A couple of rock cuts, a few small towns, forests with leaves turning gold, and the Black River provided interesting scenery to enjoy along the route.  Just west of Ludlow we passed over a tall bridge over Vermont Highway 100, the Black River, and the Okemo Valley.  Just beyond the bridge we stopped at a crossing to unload a busload of passengers who were touring New England mostly by highway.  A couple of miles further west we briefly stopped at the Okemo Ski Resort before continuing to the rail line’s summit where the head end crew moved to the other end of the train.


The view from the high bridge over the Okemo Valley and the Black River


Woodlands flank the railway's south side for much of the trip

    The return trip began 10 minutes later at 11:31am with Vermont Rail System GP 40-2 # 307 pulling the train back to Chester.  After we crossed the high bridge over the Okemo Valley, we picked up lunch at the lounge car counter.  Food service was provided by an on-board catering company contracted by the railroad.  Having traded sides of the car at Summit, I was able to observe the thick, scenic woods on the rail line’s south side and the short stone wall paralleling the railway through the woods that had a historic story behind its construction.


The lounge car offers comfortable seating and a snack counter

    Our arrival back at Chester was a few minutes earlier than expected at 12:40pm.  The Green Mountain Railroad excursion had covered 42 miles roundtrip and had provided a relaxing and scenic way to enjoy the autumn colors.  The train’s origin point in Chester is just 12 miles from the Bellows Falls Amtrak station served by the Vermonter and 37 miles from Rutland, terminus of Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express.


The return to Chester was led by Vermont Railway # 307

    Shortly we were on the road heading for an evening train ride in New Hampshire.  That journey will be detailed in my next story.


Lake Champlain Ferries
Golden Eagle Resort, Stowe, VT
Green Mountain Railroad

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