This early diesel survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad
Into the 1980’s, it was over 1400 miles long and operated in six states. Its main line went from South Portland, Maine, through the famous Hoosac Tunnel, to Rotterdam Junction, New York. Secondary lines stretched out from Boston throughout eastern Massachusetts and into New Hampshire. An important branch ran 123 miles up the Connecticut River valley from Springfield, Mass. to White River Junction, Vermont. Important interchange points along the main line were at East Deerfield, MA and Mechanicville, NY. In the modern era, the road was operationally divided between the Boston (eastern) and Fitchburg (western) divisions.
The B&M got off to an early start: The Boston & Lowell opened 25 miles of track in 1835. About the same time, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts corporations were formed, then united by 1843 as the Boston & Maine, to build a link between Maine and Wilmington, Mass. Two years later an extension went into Boston. An early competitor was the Eastern Railroad which built its own Boston-Portland link via Salem, Mass. The rivalry ended in 1884, when the 207-mile B&M would lease the Eastern. The B&M would grow to 2285 miles by 1900.
The Boston & Maine and the Boston & Lowell were brought together in 1887. This added numerous branches in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire to the system. The Connecticut River Railroad was leased in 1893; the Concord & Montreal in 1895; and the Fitchburg in 1900. This round of expansion left the B&M as the major northern New England road.
1907 to 1913 saw the New York, New Haven & Hartford controlling the B&M. The New Haven went bankrupt in 1913 because of overexpansion. This same problem then hit the B&M in 1916. By 1919, a simplified structure let the B&M emerge from bankruptcy. The B&M was hit early by highway competition. It formed a bus a truck subsidiary in 1924. Economic development in northern New England peaked well before the depression. The highest volume of freight was 30 million tons in 1918. Almost 40 million passengers in 1901 had halved by 1937 and down to commuter-only by 1967.
The 1920’s saw an upgrading of track and installation of CTC; but it also brought early branch line sales and abandonments. The B&M survived the Depression, made money in World War II, and held out until 1956 when Patrick B. McGinnis moved in to the presidency, fresh from the New Haven. He introduced several innovations, including the TALGO train which didn’t exactly work out,
There was a lot of deferred maintenance in the 1960’s. This resulted in many slow orders which contributed to further loss of business. Many branch lines were cut in this period. One example was the 1973 sale of the Worcester to Gardner, Massachusetts line to the newly re-incorporated Providence & Worcester. There were 1531 miles of track in 1969. About two-thirds of all revenue came from the main line and the Connecticut River line.
There were several attempts at merger. The Boston & Maine almost joined the D&H and the Lackawanna in the Norfolk & Western. Later, the B&M decided not to join CONRAIL; instead following its own reorganization plan.
The B&M became insolvent in 1970. The economy of the northeast was worse than the rest of the nation ever since textile mills moved south. The B&M was a bridge line. It not only competed against the D&H, New York Central, and the CN-CV; but it also depended upon them for its connections.
The B&M participated in the revival of passenger service in the greater Boston area. It operated the country’s largest fleet of Budd RDC’s. The D&H Alco PA diesels worked this service about a year. Later, rebuilt GM&O F3’s (renamed FP10’s) were used. In 1965, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) made its first assistance payment to the B&M for operating commuter trains. In 1975, the MBTA purchased the B&M’s locomotives, cars and physical plant used for commuter service. The B&M continued to operate the system and later took over the service that was formerly operated by the New York Central and the New Haven. Outside of Boston, Amtrak’s “Montrealer” ran on the Connecticut River line.
Most B&M tonnage was received from connecting lines and terminated on the B&M. Therefore, a lot of effort was spent moving empties off the property. The B&M made a lot of headway reducing high per-diem charges by good car utilization.
Right into the modern era, ball signals protected diamond crossing at some B&M locations. At White River Junction, one ball allowed the Central Vermont (Northern Division) to cross. Two balls allowed trains from the B&M Concord line while three balls gave the go ahead to B&M trains from Berlin. Four balls was for the Central Vermont (Southern Division). Another ball signal was with the Rutland in Bellows Falls. Rules stipulated that trains stop 1000 feet from the crossing then proceed at yard speed. Vermont inflicted a $100 penalty on the engineman for each violation.
Because the B&M was built early on in an older section of the country, there were numerous public grade crossings. Many of these were not automatic and required a crossing watchman. If a train crossed outside of the scheduled hours of protection, a “traveling crossing watchman” was required. Other crossing gates (for instance, the branch to Marblehead) were operated by the train crew.
The 4.7 mile Hoosac tunnel had many special and some unusual rules. Passenger trains could not follow or be followed. Telephones were located in manholes. The manholes were indicated by boards about four feet above the rail with figures burned in showing distance in feet from East Portal. Trains running through the tunnel had to display night signals. Traffic in the tunnel was controlled by North Adams Tower. Inflammables could be handled, but only when tunnel workers were properly notified. Explosives could only be handled when for the U.S. government.
There was a special set of rules to handle the joint (with D&H) track between Mechanicville and Crescent. Other interchanges with the D&H were at Troy and Scotia. When Mechanicville was still active for both the B&M and D&H, there were numerous special rules for operation of that yard.
The history of what had been traditionally known as the Boston & Maine ended in 1981 when Timothy Mellon purchased the road and created a more unified “New England” system by combining it with the Maine Central and D&H. In addition, he purchased several old New Haven branch lines in Connecticut – a state the B&M had never operated in.
It was a low-density line which was sold to a short line operator in the 1940’s. The Saratoga & Schuylerville Railroad operated for years as a branch of the Boston & Maine Fitchburg Division. The line ran between the two towns, with an arm running down to Mechanicville where it connected with the main line. This branch was built in 1882-1883 as part of the Boston, Hoosic Tunnel & Western RR. It later became part of the Fitchburg RR, then the Boston & Maine and was operated as a Boston & Maine branch until 1945, when it was sold to Samuel M. Pinsly of Boston, MA. Pinsly incorporated the S&S and ran it with two 45-ton GE diesels. As an independent operation, the line was a marginal operation and petitioned for abandonment in 1954. This was granted by the ICC, and service ended in 1956. The tracks still remained, though dormant, into the ’60s. The S&S did not connect with the D&H main line at Saratoga. It came into the city from the east end and had a station and a freight yard (some of the buildings are still standing), and while it came to within a mile of the D&H, the two didn’t meet. The S&S crossed the northern part of Saratoga Lake on a trestle. This is the branch which went to Mechanicville. The Schylerville branch diverged from the main line at a place called Dyer Switch. This is in close proximity to a place called Staffords Bridge. They have built a nature trail on the old roadbed running from the switch point back toward Saratoga and route 29.
The D&H was also in Saratoga Springs but interchange was at Mechanicville. Rotterdam Junction interchange was the New York Central. Only the line to Rotterdam Junction remains. The Rotterdam Junction line of the B&M was the first to be fully dieselized. Mostly F units in maroon with yellow striping. Passenger service went to Troy until 1958, then cut back to Williamstown, Mass. The last years were Budd RDC-1’s mainly(the B&M had the world’s largest RDC fleet). Primarily a freight line, it carried many long freights to Mechanicville for re-classification to D&H and NYC. Before the disaster of Guilford, there were 4-5 thru freights, each way, between Mechanicville and Portland, Lawrence, MA, Lowell, MA, Concord, NH and East Deerfield. Later power was almost always three or four GP40-2/GP38-2 “bluebird” units. Line was also all CTC.
Troy passenger service went in the late 1950’s with freight soon after. The Rotterdam Junction NYC/B&M connection is on the former West Shore side of the railroad, at the old RJ tower interlocking. It is where the Hoffmans Branch also connects with the West Shore, since called the Selkirk Branch by Conrail. The Chicago Line, or the former NYC main line, is on the opposite (East) side of the Mohawk River/Barge Canal, and connects to the West Shore via the Hoffmans Branch. The Troy branch was abandoned for freight service in the summer of 1971. There were actually two separate lines. The Troy and Boston RR was built first in 1851-52 to Bennington and to the Hoosic tunnel site. After the tunnel was opened in the 1870’s, another line, the Boston, Hoosic Tunnel and Western RR was built from the Vermont-Massachusetts line west to Rotterdam Junction, partly on the grade on the long gone Albany & Vermont RR. The BHT&W line from Vermont to Johnsonville was abandoned over a half-century ago, and only the Troy and Boston one was left. In Troy was the Troy Union RR, which owned the passenger station and the tracks connecting the B&M with the New York Central and the D&H. It was abandoned in 1963, leaving the B&M with no connections in Troy. Its yard was just north of Hoosic Street in Troy. After the Rutland RR abandoned its line from Bennington to Chatham in 1952 they ran their trains from Bennington via Eagle Bridge and the B&M through Troy to connect with the New York Central.
Adjacent to the Thruway, Conrail/CSX continues to South Amsterdam on the stub of the old New York Central West Shore and serves a large quarry and several other industries. This line now ends a few short miles from Rotterdam Junction, but you can see where the tracks went (old trestles, etc) all the way to Herkimer. Until a few years ago, this line went to Fort Plain. In the early 1970’s, the line had been cut between Fort Plain and Ilion (by Penn Central). The remainder was torn up by Conrail when the Beech-Nut business in Canajoharie dried up. As late as 1965 there was an east-bound and a west-bound freight every day except Sunday between Rotterdam Junction (Tower “RJ”: mile marker 159.6; open day and night in 1961 but closed by 1965) and Harbor (mile marker 226.2; connection to NYC mainline near Utica). Canajoharie (mile marker 190.3) was the only station open on the line. From Harbor, this line continued through Clark Mills, Vernon, Canastota (interchange with the Lehigh Valley) to Kirkville Junction (Syracuse Division). The line between South Utica and Vernon was cut between 1961 and 1965. Before 1961, the line between Canastota and Kirkville Junction was abandoned and connection to the main line was at Canastota. Additionally, the Lehigh Valley branch to that point was abandoned. The line through South Utica to a junction with the NYC mainline at Harbor was cut after 1965. Near this point, industrial trackage which served the old textile mills in New York Mills left the West Shore. In 1949, this line was double tracked and had a 35 MPH speed limit. By 1961, it was single tracked and had a 15 MPH speed limit. Now it is gone. The line from RJ to Canajoharie was substantially upgraded by NYSDOT after the formation of Conrail. Later DOT and CR became engaged in a dispute over operation of the line and for a while there was strong indication that the B&M was going to become operator. CR blocked this effectively by not permitting trackage or operating rights (or charging extortionary rates for privilege of doing so) for B&M to crossover and reach the WS. Net result: line abandoned. The West Shore was one of the first railroads in the US to use an automatic block system, with semaphore signals spaced every 3 miles or so. The connection to the NYC main at Hoffmans, as well as the reconfiguring and separation of grades between there and Fullers, were part of the Selkirk/Castleton bypass project — altogether a huge investment for the prosperous NYC of that era.
While staying with my maternal grandparents in Manchester, NH, came to love the B&M found out my GF’s brother, my Uncle Joe, was a lifetime B&M man, a suit actually, working at 150 Causeway at the B&M hqs.
I have always had a soft spot for Edward S. French who kept the B&M going through the depression, the War years and the promising post war 40s but the fifties brought out the difficult times again and that awful stockbroker, Pat McGuinnis, to the helm of the B&M with his artistic wife Lucile. My Uncle Joe was lucky enough to die in harness in Feb 1957 so never saw the worst of it.
Hoosac Tunnel to Troy
Penney Vanderbilt developed the map of Troy, including the Troy Union Railroad, when she was writing a blog about the Boston & Maine going through the Hoosac Tunnel to serve Troy. It shows important points like Troy Union Station, the Adams Street Freight House and the Green Island Bridge. Other blogs you might like include the
Troy Union Railroad Towers; abandonment of train service to Troy; and last but not least, the Troy Union Railroad.
Boston & Maine Resources
Boston & Maine Forum at Railroad.Net
Boston & Maine Historical Society
Boston & Maine archives at the University of Massachusetts
Rutland to Troy
Did Rutland had trackage rights on the B&M to Troy?
No, the Rutland didn’t have trackage rights over the B&M until the Chatham Subdivision was abandoned and they started running via B&M Troy NYC Rensselaer B&A Chatham. That agreement was between the Rutland Railroad and the B&M (and NYC), and it died with the Rutland.
Before that, the only Rutland operation to Troy was their passenger service, but they were actually B&M trains operated with Rutland crews and equipment as soon as they crossed the state line (and property line) at White Creek, NY. The B&M collected the revenue for that part of the trip between White Creek and Troy.
That was an interline agreement, and technically not trackage rights. The operating expenses for the Rutland (and equalization of crew miles under the union agreements) were made up with B&M operating Rutland trains between
When the Rutland ceased operation, the State of Vermont purchased most of its track in Vermont (Burlington and south) and leased it to the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railway. Those railroads started from scratch with what they had in 1964. They didn’t inherit any business arrangements or obligations from the Rutland except for the equipment they purchased and any former employees they hired, who started from scratch, also.
Boston & Maine in the Albany area in 2010
The Boston & Maine Railroad, now under Guilford, continues to maintain a presence in the Capital District. The B&M mainline — what is left of it — crosses the Hudson River at Mechanicville, turns south and joins with the former D&H Colonie Main (now CP) at the former XO tower, which was the eastern approach to the now-abandoned Mechanicville yard. Joint track begins here and continues westward to Crescent Junction, where the B&M diverges from the D&H and continues westward to its interchange with CSXT at Rotterdam Junction (where CSXT interchanges a unit coal train).
Railroad Station at Troy, New York
The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy. See Penney’s blog for more information (and a great movie from the 1950’s).
B&M Budd car approaches station. The station consisted of 6 thru tracks and towers at each end.
|The Saratoga and Schuylerville (S&S) went from Saratoga Springs, New York, to Schuylerville, Schuyler Junction to Stillwater Junction/Mechanicville. It was chartered in 1833 and acquired by the Fitchburg Railroad (later absorbed by the B&M) in 1875 as part of their Boston-Buffalo ‘grand plan’. It connected with the Greenwich and Johnsonville (D&H) as well as the B&M. It did not connect with the D&H at Saratoga. It carried passengers, small freight and sand until all dried up. It was sold (1946) to Sameul Pinsley who ran it a few years before pulling up the tracks.|
| There was a B&M rail branch out of Mechanicville to Stillwater. It was built by the Boston Hoosac Tunnel & Western, predecessor to the Fitchburg RR in this territory. BHT&W’s eastern end was North Adams, Mass., I think, and it ran roughly parallel to the Troy & Boston as far west as Johnsonville, N.Y., where the two lines left each other (T&B to Troy; BTH&W to Mechanicville & Rotterdam). So the branch to Stillwater was, I believe, built contemporaneously to the BTH&W’s main line. Fitchburg bought both BTH&W and T&B; then B&M took over the Fitchburg. This all happened in the 19th Century. B&M operated the Stillwater branch right up into the 70s.
There was also the branch to Saratoga Springs and Schuylerville; the Stillwater branch was a remaining stub of that. B&M spun off the former lines to a short line called Saratoga & Schuylerville.
See a history of the Saratoga & Schuylerville Railroad from Gino’s Rail Pages
List of New York Railroads
List of Massachusetts Railroads
Boston & Maine Steam Locomotives
Minute Man’s Boston & Maine Rail Yard
The Boston and Maine Railroad, The Route Of The Minute Man
1923 list Officers, Agents and Stations of the Boston and Maine Railroad
Phil Dalton & Dale Pierce Train Blogs about various subjects
Traditionally, NYC had two interchange points with the B&M in the Capital District – Rotterdam Jct (RJ) and Troy. The B&M at those locations had once been two separate railroads – The Boston, Hoosac Tunnel and Western at RJ, and the Troy and Boston at Troy. BHT&W had set up freight and passenger routes with the West Shore at RJ before the West Shore was acquired by the NYC. T&B had the interchange at Troy, and some small amount of traffic still came to Troy over the NYC Troy and Schenectady Branch even into 1960.
During the 1940’s, NYC and B&M moved much of the Troy interchange traffic to RJ, and set up some run-through operations with joint crew assignments and mileage equalization agreements. Traffic to and from the west moved between Dewitt and Mechanicville via RJ on BY-2 and BY-4 eastbound, and YB-1 and YB-3 westbound. Those trains used NYC crews and power through RJ into and out of Mechanicville. I’m pretty sure that the B in the symbol was Buffalo, and the Y was a NYC designation for Yankee, meaning New England, much like the Y designation in front of New Haven train numbers on the Electric Division.
B&M ran a crew from Mechanicville to Selkirk and back at least once daily, via RJ where they ran around their train. The mileage equalization was worked out between the YB crews on NYC and that B&M local.
Boston & Maine in Troy, New York 1911 from one of our old post cards. This station was in downtown Troy and had numerous street crossings. Passenger service lasted until 1958. The station was also served by the Delaware & Hudson and the New York Central. The terminal itself was owned by the Troy Union Railroad.
|B&M Shops at Billerica, Massachusetts Today|
On June 13, 1845 the Troy & Greenbush Railroad opened between Troy and Greenbush, NY. It is the last link in an all-rail line between Boston and Buffalo. See more random dates in railroad history.
No Way to Run a Railroad
| The Valley’s Pan Am Railways Is An Example Of All That’s Wrong With The Way America Moves People And Freight.
By Eesha Williams
January 25 2007
There is just one passenger train a day that runs down the length of the Valley. Assuming the train is on time, which it often isn’t, it takes two hours and nine minutes to get from Brattleboro, Vt. to Springfield, Mass. That’s an average speed of 27 miles per hour. (The train makes just one stop, in Amherst.) Driving from Brattleboro to Springfield usually takes under an hour.
On the Boston to New York City Amtrak line, trains travel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and average about 60, including stops. To understand why Amtrak is so slow in the Valley, one must travel down the river from Brattleboro to Deerfield, Mass., home of Pan Am Railways’ sprawling freight train parking lot and repair facility.
Pan Am Railways (until recently known as Guilford Rail System) runs freight trains on about 1,600 miles of track that it owns in New England and New York. Pan Am is privately held, not publicly traded, so executive compensation and other information is unavailable. The company’s spokesman, David Fink, did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.
Timothy Mellon of Old Lyme, Conn. owns most of Pan Am and controls the company. Mellon bought the railroad in 1981 for $24 million cash. In 1998, he spent $30 million to acquire the bankrupt Pan Am airline, which now operates flights between Florida and cities like Elmira, N.Y. and Bedford, Mass. Mellon later merged the two companies. Mellon, heir to one of America’s biggest fortunes, has been a major donor to President Bush and Republican members of Congress, and was a founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.
Pan Am is a big part of the reason Amtrak takes so long to get from Brattleboro to Springfield, and why there is no longer passenger rail service in Northampton. Until 1987, Amtrak took the direct route down the Valley, on Pan Am’s tracks alongside the Connecticut River through Greenfield and Northampton.
Because Pan Am did such a poor job maintaining its tracks, trains were required to go so slowly that it became faster for Amtrak to switch to a more circuitous route over tracks owned by New England Central Railroad. This new route, which is still used today, sent trains traveling from Brattleboro to Springfield on a detour through Amherst and Palmer. Today, Pan Am’s track in the Valley is in such bad repair that its trains typically average five to 10 miles per hour. When Pan Am workers want to stretch their legs they will sometimes get off the train they’re on and walk alongside it as it travels up and down the Valley. So you don’t have to be an economist to see why most companies that need to move freight up and down the Valley put it on trucks that go 70 miles an hour on I-91, rather than on Pan Am’s tortoise-like trains.
Even at the glacial speeds they travel, Pan Am’s trains sometimes derail. A Pan Am freight train derailed in Deerfield in September. Several of the heavy cars ended up lying on their sides, perpendicular to the tracks. (Witnesses to another recent derailment on New England Central tracks near Brattleboro compared the sound to an earthquake.) Deerfield police, fire, and ambulance personnel rushed to the scene, fearing that federally-designated hazardous material on the train had spilled. It turned out that the cars carrying hazardous material did not derail.
In October the town sent Pan Am a bill for $6,915 for the emergency services it provided. The Advocate obtained a copy of a Nov. 22 letter from Pan Am lawyer Clinton Wright to the town. In three pages of highly legalistic prose written in tiny type, Wright refused to pay the bill, writing, “It is Pan Am’s position that it is not liable to the Town or Fire Districts for costs associated with emergency response actions as there was no release of hazardous materials warranting such response action.”
Carolyn Shores Ness is a member of the Deerfield selectboard. She has worked aggressively to get Pan Am to pay what it owes the town for the derailment. She also wants Pan Am to pay a whopping $228,078 it owes Deerfield in back taxes. “The railroad has not been a good neighbor,” she said. “When a major taxpayer doesn’t pay its taxes, it impacts the ability of our small, volunteer-run government to deliver services like schools and police.”
Deerfield police chief Michael Wozniakewicz recently expressed concern about Pan Am’s plans to remove the security guards it had provided at the Deerfield rail yard. Wozniakewicz said local police will have more calls to answer without the two officers Pan Am had previously stationed at the yards. Last year the company cut 60 percent of its police force system-wide, though in the post-9/11 world both passenger trains and freight trains carrying hazardous cargo are considered potential terrorist targets.
In 2004, a Pan Am train carrying sulfuric acid derailed in Greenfield, according to the Greenfield Recorder. The year before that, another Pan Am train carrying propane and chlorine derailed in Charlemont. No spills were reported either time. But in 1999, a Pan Am train derailed and spilled 6,000 gallons of latex into the Deerfield River.
“It turned the whole river white,” Charlemont selectboard member Chuck Bellows told the Advocate recently. “It wasn’t paint. We weren’t sure what it was. They said it wasn’t hazardous. At the time, we talked about sending them [Pan Am] a bill for around $2,500 for our people’s time, but I don’t think we ever got around to doing it.”
Warren Flatau is a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). He said Pan Am’s safety record is “pretty average” compared to other mid-size railroads. Flatau refused to say how much Pan Am has paid in fines for violating safety rules. After the Advocate filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the FRA disclosed that in the 10 years ending December 22, 2006, the FRA fined Pan Am $482,500 for 71 violations. The company paid just 57 percent of that amount, because FRA lowered the fines to avoid having to take Pan Am to court. When the Advocate asked the FRA for the average total fines for railroads the same size as Pan Am for the same time period, the FRA claimed it has no way to provide that information.
Andrea Donlon of the Greenfield-based Connecticut River Watershed Council has worked for years with Deerfield Planning Commission member Lynn Rose to try to get Pan Am to clean up the mess at its Deerfield yard. “The company’s technique for dealing with the groundwater pollution under the Deerfield rail yard is basically to not do anything and hope it goes away,” Donlon said. “We don’t know how serious the pollution is because the state and federal regulators haven’t done enough oversight of the yard.” Donlon noted that Pan Am’s rail yard is located at the juncture of the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers—a spot that a recent study concluded was the most important section of the entire Connecticut River for the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species of fish.
Pan Am has about 1,000 employees, according to George Casey of the United Transportation Union, which represents about 175 Pan Am conductors and engineers. (Workers who do track maintenance and other jobs belong to different unions.) Casey said Pan Am treats its workers the way the Army treats soldiers. “They’re pretty discipline-oriented,” he said. “Our guys are expected to be available for work 24/7. They don’t get as much time off as they’d like. The average workweek is probably 48 hours.”
There is some good news when it comes to rail service in the Valley. The state of Connecticut recently announced it will extend frequent, low-fare commuter rail service from New Haven to Hartford, at a cost of some $300 million. It would cost Massachusetts about $30 million at first, then around $1.25 million per year, to extend and operate commuter rail service from Hartford to Springfield, said Tim Brennan, director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “The odds of commuter rail getting to Springfield are better than 50-50,” he said. “It depends on the legislature and the governor. In the best case scenario, commuter rail to Springfield could open for business by 2011.”
If that happens, Brennan added, it’s likely that commuter rail would eventually be extended from Springfield to Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. Brennan praised Congressman John Olver for his efforts to improve rail service in the Valley and urged people to call governor-elect Deval Patrick and their state legislators to urge them to support the Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project.
Commuter rail ridership in eastern Massachusetts roughly doubled between 1991 and 2004. That’s according to “Shifting Gears,” a 2006 report by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG) and other environmental groups.
Meanwhile, the state of Vermont is “very keen” to get high-speed rail service restored along Pan Am’s more direct tracks from Brattleboro to Northampton and Springfield, Brennan said. Yet to be determined is whether Vermont will be willing to pay the cost of buying the rights to have Amtrak use Pan Am’s tracks in the Valley, and the cost of maintaining the tracks so trains could go more than 10 miles an hour. (After much resistance, Pan Am recently agreed to such a deal with Maine, allowing Amtrak service to resume between Boston and Portland.)
The Vermont legislature is expected to vote by the end of January on whether to spend $18 million on three high-tech, fuel efficient “self-propelled” train cars and two passenger train cars. Amtrak would contribute $2 million to the project. Vermont subsidizes the daily roundtrip Amtrak service that runs from Washington, D.C. to Burlington via New York City, New Haven, and the Valley.
Moving people and freight by train instead of by car and truck cuts global warming and acid rain, reduces suburban sprawl, and saves lives. Some 43,000 people are killed in auto accidents every year in the U.S. And, says Amtrak rider Carrie Dawes, trains are more fun. “Taking the train is more relaxing than driving,” Dawes said as she stood in the sun with a dozen or so other people on a recent Sunday afternoon waiting for a southbound train at the Brattleboro train station. “You get a nice view.”
Between 1992 and 2004, passenger rail ridership in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor grew by 40 percent. That means fewer people are dying in car accidents. In 2005, the most recent year for which data were available, 43,443 people were killed in auto accidents in the U.S. On a “passenger-mile” basis, trains were 38 times safer than automobiles, according to the National Safety Council. (Local buses were 15 times safer than autos; long-distance buses and scheduled airlines were both 150 times safer than private automobiles.)
Trains are also cleaner. Some 70,000 Americans are killed annually by air pollution, more than one-third of which comes from transportation (almost all the rest comes from heating buildings and generating electricity). Shipping a ton of freight by rail uses less than half the fuel a truck would use, according to the MassPIRG report. The environmental benefits of moving people by train are similar. One “passenger-mile” takes 1,600 BTUs of energy on a commuter train; 2,100 on Amtrak; 3,600 by car; 3,800 by domestic airplane; and 4,000 by SUV.
MassPIRG notes that local, state, and federal governments spend far more on subsidies for driving—cheap gas, road construction and maintenance, cheap or free parking—than they do on trains, buses, bicycle paths and sidewalks. Because the gas tax is so much higher in Europe, and because money from the tax is used to lower the cost of train travel, it is often cheaper and faster to travel by train than by car, even in rural Europe. So far, public support for raising the gas tax in the U.S. to improve Amtrak and commuter rail has been unable to overcome lobbying by the auto, oil and road construction industries. The way things are now, if a state wants to build a highway, it gets 50 to 90 percent of the money from the federal government, says Ross Capon, director of the National Association of Rail Passengers. “If a state wants to spend money on making Amtrak better, they get zero from the federal government,” he said. “People should call their representatives in Congress and tell them that has got to change.”•
Copyright © 2007, Valley Advocate
Billerica Name Game
TROY UNION RAILROAD
The first railroad in New York State, and one of the first anywhere, was the Mohawk & Hudson, connecting Albany and Schenectady. The Rensselaer & Saratoga Rail Road followed in 1832, only a year late. Within twenty years, three more railroads came into Troy:
(1) Troy & Greenbush;
(2) Troy & Boston; and
(3)Troy & Schenectady.
The resulting congestion led to the formation of the Troy Union Railroad in 1851, owned jointly by the four roads. It opened in 1854. The tracks were moved from River Street to Sixth Avenue and a new station built. One of the lines was eventually bought by the D&H RR (Rensselaer & Saratoga RR), two were merged into the New York Central RR (Troy & Schenectady RR and the Troy & Greenbush RR), and the fourth became part of the Boston & Maine RR (Troy & Boston RR).
Although the tracks in Troy were moved inland to avoid congestion, the growth of the city overwhelmed it still. Row houses, stores, and factories crowded in on all available land near the track. There wasn’t room for the conventional two-storied interlocking towers needed to control the switches at each end of the terminal, so both towers had to straddle the tracks. Switches were thrown by the tower operators through a series of rods and cranks.
In other major cities, early 1900’s grade crossing elimination programs rebuilt the right-of-way above or below the streets. Similar plans were drawn up for Troy, but never were built. Numerous streets required a gate guard, to flag the crossing or drop the gates. The track ran part of the way in the pavement of Sixth Avenue, and steam road locomotives inched their way past parked cars. This looked like industrial trackage but was a passenger main.
Troy’s first depot (before the Troy Union Railroad) was the “Troy House” on River Street. The second one burned (1862) when Troy had what is known as the “Great Fire”. The third one was built shortly afterwards, and lasted until 1900, when Troy finally got a “modern” one. The depot was designed by Reed & Stem, who eventually worked on Grand Central Terminal. The Troy station pioneered individual train platform sheds reached by an underground passageway instead of one huge shed.
The 1900 station was a colonial revival design with Beaux Arts columns and decorated by Grecian castings.”
The station was 400 feet, and the passenger tracks weren’t much longer. Most trains blocked grade crossings at each end of the station. In 1910, there were 130 passenger trains a day. Most of these, except the Albany- Troy beltline, required an engine change.
The station was torn down in 1958, with only a single track left in place because of Rutland trackage rights for their milk train to Chatham, NY. This track came out in 1964, after abandonment of the Rutland. The tunnel for the tracks was between Congress and Ferry Streets.
This area was known in history as the first “red-light district”. Off-duty railroaders visited houses of “working girls”. The railroaders hung their lanterns outside so the crew- callers could find them.
The Troy Branch was the southern end of the original Rensselaer and Saratoga RR, later absorbed by the D&H. The Green Island Branch was a D&H connection to the former Albany and Vermont RR, which formed the later D&H Saratoga Division Main Line.
The B&M connected with the D&H (and New York Central) at Troy via the Troy Union RR, which was owned by all three (D&H, B&M and NYC). The TURR was formed around a wye, with the passenger station at the south leg. NYC came onto the TURR at Madison St, and from Schenectady via a short stretch of trackage rights on the D&H, which came onto the west leg of the TURR at River St. The B&M came via the north leg at Hoosick Street.
The Rutland originally operated a joint passenger service with the B&M, with Rutland trains and crews becoming B&M trains at the Vermont State Line (White Creek) and running to a NYC connection at Troy. In 1954, after the Rutland passenger service ended, the Rutland gained freight trackage rights on the B&M to Troy and NYC/B&A to Chatham, running three round trips per week out of Rutland.
END OF THE TROY UNION RAILROAD
The only reason for retaining the Troy passenger station at the bitter end was the remnant of B&M service from Boston with one or two Budd RDC’s. The NYC and D&H had the alternative of using Albany as their passenger interchange, and actually it switched back and forth between Albany and Troy for individual trains over the years. The B&M had nothing but Troy.
The D&H preferred Troy over Albany, because the distance from Colonie Shops (the Capital District locomotive service point and crew HQ) was shorter to Troy, and then they didn’t have to run the North Albany Yard Engine to Albany to handle the occasional passenger switching. The Troy Station Switcher (NYCRR crew) was in the station anyway. I don’t think the individual railroads paid for it per move, just a on a fixed percentage.
NYC preferred Albany, because it avoided running light engines the longer distance between Troy and Rensselaer, their locomotive service point, if they didn’t come back with a train.
The D&H paid NYC to use the upper level at Albany on a pro-rata basis, but, all three railroads that owned the Troy Union RR paid a fixed percent of the operating expenses. NYC paid 50%, D&H and B&M 25% each, because NYC took over the ownership of two predecssor RR’s – the Troy and Greenbush and the Troy and Schenectady. The Rutland had no ownership – they operated as B&M trains between White Creek and Troy.
The passenger station was demolished as soon as the last B&M train left town, mostly to avoid the high property taxes levied on railroad property in New York State. The Troy Union RR employees once said, only half in jest, that they knew the end was near when they put a new roof on the station. That was usually the kiss of death for any railroad building.
A serious problem that always plagued Troy was the number of highway grade crossings in the city. Every switching move blocked Fulton Street or Broadway, and the TURR needed about ten crossing watchmen per trick, or a total of more than 40 for the 24/7 passenger operation.
As for the demolition of Troy Union Station, the last passenger service left town in January of 1958 and it was demolished by the end of the summer that same year. So, no, there was never a post-classic- era shack.
Probably the reason Troy lost its direct passenger service relativley early is because it wasn’t far from more-than-adequate remaining service in Albany (7 miles, and with good local transit connections) . The cost saving from shutting down TUS was probably enormous.
Around 1959 D&H and NYC had brought running B&M to Albany, but they couldn’t make an agreement with the operating brotherhoods to allow B&M crews to run to Albany. It wouldn’t work out if a D&H crew had to take the train over that distance. The B&M wasn’t about to put any more money into maintaining that service west of Fitchburg, and this was another good reason for them to dump it.
Either way, the B&M would have had to either run via TURR to the NYC at Madison Street or to the D&H via the Green Island Bridge, and they would have still needed most of the TURR with all of its crossings, and the Green Island Bridge. A route via Mechanicville would not have worked, either. All three railroads wanted to be shed of the entire TURR, not only the station, and the best way to get regulatory approval was to let the expenses pile up and then dump the whole thing. The only fly in the ointment was the Rutland operation, and when that went away in 1961 the fate of the TURR was sealed.