Nearly four weeks ago Hurricane Irene swept across RailAmerica-operated NECR, which stretches from the Canadian border near St. Albans, VT, to New London, CT. Railroad crews discovered the extent of damage on August 30 and quickly restored service to NECR’s north end between Burlington and Swanton, VT, and its south end between White River Junction, VT, and New London, CT.
But things were different on the NECR’s mid-section, roughly White River Junction to Essex Junction, VT, where Irene downed trees, washed out track and knocked down bridges. Damage was especially severe across six miles of rail line near Roxbury, VT. Rail service through the Roxbury area was restored on September 19. The NECR arranged for some shipments to move via detour trains and alternative routes while the Roxbury section of the railroad was out of service.
It took a team of close to 90 people and 15,000 tons of ballast to restore rail service on the NECR. “We appreciate our colleagues’ hard work, our customers’ patience and the cooperation of our connecting carriers” said John E. Giles, RailAmerica President and Chief Executive Officer. “I am especially proud of the fact that our professional railroaders handled this incredible job both quickly and safely.”
The NECR worked closely with the Vermont Agency of Transportation to coordinate the work, gain access to otherwise closed state roads and perform emergency repairs. Several railroads in the region, including Canadian National, Pan Am Southern, Amtrak, and Providence & Worcester provided much needed equipment to transport large volumes of rock and fill. Local Vermont vendors worked tirelessly to provide support in the form of crushing stone for ballast, trucking, and railroad contract services. “We greatly appreciate everyone’s efforts and team spirit” said Charles Hunter, RailAmerica AVP of Government Affairs.
From the Vermont Rail System:
We are happy to report the following updates to our recovery plan:
Rutland, VT to Bellows Falls (NECR interchange)– This line is expected to be open Friday, September 16; trains will commence operating but at reduced speeds. This will restore service on The Green Mountain Gateway between Whitehall, NY (CPR) and Bellows Falls, VT and allow for normal interchange of traffic with NECR at Bellows Falls. There is a backlog of traffic and we will be working to eliminate delays as quickly as possible.
Rutland, VT to North Bennington, VT and Hoosick Junction, NY (PAS interchange)– This line is expected to be open on Saturday, September 17 with first trains operating on Sunday, September 18. This will restore our connection with PAS at Hoosick Junction, NY.
Target date for restoration of service over the Washington County Railroad bridge at White River Junction is September 27.
From the New England Central Railroad:
All NECR customers are once again being served by the railroad although the end-to-end NECR route has not been re-opened. Attention is now focused on the six miles of rail line near Roxbury, Vt., that remain closed. The route near Roxbury and end-to-end service on NECR should be back to normal on September 24.
“After having prepared and managed the high-speed rail project so well, this is way more than we bargained for,” said Paul Lundberg, RailAmerica senior vice president and chief operations officer. “We appreciate our colleagues’ creativity and persistence on getting the hurricane-recovery job done quickly and safely.”
The following message is from the National Association of Railroad Passengers (Note that Vermont's congressman, Bernie Sanders has been very supportive of Amtrak -- but you should know what's going on and make your opinons known in the form of thanks to Bernie and prompts to your out-of-state friends):
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation & Housing proposed slashing funding for Amtrak to $1.1 billion—a reduction of more than $357 million from what Amtrak received in FY2011.
The bill forbids use of the operating grant to fund short corridors, potentially endangering almost 150 weekday state-supported trains and stranding millions of passengers in California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
This really would kill all of Amtrak because of how loss of “state corridors” would cut revenues and increase costs of Northeast Corridor and overnight trains. The NEC and interstate trains would be severely victimized both by assuming much of the shared costs now assigned to the short corridors, and the loss of revenues from connecting passengers disenfranchised by loss of those corridors.
The High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program—a highly oversubscribed program that has seen 39 states apply for funds (Including Vermont) to improve (and introduce) modern passenger trains for the 135 million Americans that live in a community connected to a rail corridor—was given no funding at all.
This proposed budget is a direct attack on the right of Americans to travel by train, indeed, on the very existence of intercity passenger trains in the U.S. Take a minute and call your Congressperson to ask them to stand up for trains. Or click the Take Action link and write a letter to your Representative.
We need your voice today!
AMTRAK NEWS RELEASE: House Republican Budget Plan Will Eliminate All State-Supported Amtrak Service The following news release is issued today by Amtrak Media Relations. It will be available soon in the News & Media Section of Amtrak.com. HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET PLAN WILL ELIMINATE ALL STATE-SUPPORTED AMTRAK SERVICE WASHINGTON - Despite record-breaking Amtrak ridership and strong support for intercity passenger rail by 15 states, the House Republican transportation budget plan will effectively eliminate all state-supported Amtrak service across the country for the fiscal year beginning October 1. The FY 2012 Transportation-HUD House Appropriations Subcommittee budget proposal offered by the Majority prohibits the use of federal funds provided to Amtrak to fund any operating costs of state-supported trains. If enacted by the full Congress, it will eliminate nearly 150 weekday state-supported trains and negatively impact the more than nine million passengers who ride those trains each year and the communities they live in. "The House Republican plan is shortsighted and is the wrong policy for America," said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. "It will result in the loss of jobs and reverses significant progress made to use passenger rail to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil." "The GOP plan penalizes states that have made investments in passenger rail, some of which have contributed toward costs for nearly 40 years," said Amtrak board chairman Tom Carper. "It kills an engine of local and regional economic growth much needed today, harms the future economic vitality of the nation and is unnecessary." Under legislation passed by Congress in 2008, Amtrak is working cooperatively with its state partners to develop a common methodology to shift more of the operating and capital costs of state-supported trains to the states. "The Republican proposal forces an unwelcome decision on states who clearly want to preserve and expand passenger rail service," Carper stated. The 15 states which provide state-supported Amtrak service are: California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
According to the Valley News, The Hartford Selectboard voted yesterday to cancel the Glory Days of the Railroad festival, planned for this weekend in White River Junction.
Floods have damaged the railroad bridge over the White River temporarily preventing Green Mountain Railroad excursion trains from running (it is hoped to be fixed by foliage season).
In light of the flood recovery efforts, the town decided to redirect volunteer efforts to help storm victims.
Selectboard Chairman Alex DeFelice was quoted in the Valley News saying: “It's a question of whether we're going to go party on Saturday or whether we’re going to continue to help these people who need our help.”
Rail Director Joe Flynn is temporarily managing one of two incident command centers the Agency of Transportation has set up to help manage the work that needs to be done to restore the transportation network after Hurricane Irene. Rail Director Joe Flynn is managing the Dummerston site. His previous crisis management experience as a selectman, member of the fire department and a Deputy Sheriff will serve Vermont well in that role. Stepping in as Acting Director in the interim is Trini Brassard who is Assistant Director of the agency's Policy, Planning and Intermodal Development Division. Trini is also now the Acting Director of the Policy, Planning and Intermodal Development Division as Director Chris Cole is working full time with the state's Emergency Operations Center.
Trini has been working on rail issues for some time and is praised by railroaders and observers as someone who gets things done. She is recipient of the Vermont Rail Action Network's Rail Advocate of the Year award in 2010, in recognition of her excellence in a challenging job facilitating the high speed rail grant. In the busy aftermath of Hurricane Irene we are lucky to have competent and experienced Agency of Transportation staff at every level who can step forward in Vermont's time of need and be on the front lines of putting Vermont back together. VRAN offers it's support.
Reports are just coming in of significant washouts on every rail line in Vermont. Particularly hard hit are the Green Mountain Railroad and the Washington County. The landmark Bartonsville covered bridge has been swept away and smashed.
The NECR has sustained considerable due to Irene. It is thought the line will be out of service for a week so repairs can be made. Two
bridges have had some major damage. Most of the washouts and other weather related problems is between Brattleboro and Essex.
Amtrak service on both the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen has been discontinued until further notice.The following message is from the Vermont Rail System:
To All Vermont Rail System Customers:
Vermont Rail System along with all railroads in the Northeast US has been severely impacted by Hurricane Irene. We have had numerous washouts across our system and still have many sections underwater. Some bridge structures have also been compromised. Service has been severely curtailed or cancelled today on all line segments. Interline service with our connecting roads has also been cancelled for today. We are still doing a detailed assessment and will be providing regular updates as we complete repairs and we bring service back on line. In addition we are working with our connections to arrange detours where necessary to keep traffic moving. We will also looking at transload options where feasible. If you have any questions please call your VRS representative or our customer service representatives at 1-800-639-3088.
We will be working around the clock over the next several days and as long as it takes to restore service across our system. Our next service bulletin will be provided at approximately 5:00 PM today.
More pictures of Vermont Rail System Hurricane Irene Damage
Amtrak’s Exhibit Train, a unique traveling display showcasing memorabilia from Amtrak’s 40-year history is touring the country and is stopping in Burlington, Vt. this weekend.
Admission to the Exhibit Train is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21 at Main Street Landing’s Union Station (1 Main Street Landing) on the waterfront.
The Exhibit Train showcases Amtrak history over the decades, displaying memorabilia like vintage advertising, past menus and dinnerware, and period uniforms. The Exhibit Train will also include train-themed kids’ activities at Chuggington Depot, featuring characters from the popular train-based television series on Disney Junior, Disney Channel’s programming block designed for kids ages 2-7 and their families. In addition, commemorative 40th anniversary merchandise will be available for purchase onboard the train.
Two new movements of freight that pass through Vermont are in compeition for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association Marketing Awards:
New England Central Railroad:The NECR, in partnership with Canadian National (CN) and Maple Leaf Distribution Services, successfully implemented a backhaul initiative involving inbound CN-marked boxcars of paper products originating on CN in Canada. Maple Leaf, located in Barretts (Palmer), MA, receives the inbound loads at their facility and generates outbound loads of old newsprint that move to Canadian customers on CN. The key factor driving the success of this program has been rapid turn times. Cars are made empty and reloaded on the same day, usually at the same rail door. The NECR expects to handle 500 cars of old newsprint in 2011.
Providence & Worcester Railroad:Working with Motiva Enterprises LLC, the PW developed a rail-served ethanol terminal in Providence, RI. The facility can handle 100-car trains of fuel grade ethanol. Although PW also handles unit trains of ethanol in conjunction with the Eastern Class I’s, it has partnered with Canadian Pacific to reach into the corn-based ethanol production area west of Chicago. More than 5,000 railcars were delivered to Motiva in 2010. This traffic crosses Vermont on the Vermont Rail System and is taken from Bellows Falls to P&W by the New England Central Railroad.
After some weeks of closure due to problems caused by a burst water main, the Rutland Railway Association has reopened it's museum and model train layouts in the historic West Rutland station. The depot is regularly open Saturday, 11am to 1pm and is located at 79 Depot Lane in Center Rutland Vermont, 05736.