The Rutland Railroad, The Green Mountain Gateway


The Rutland Railroad was a fabled system located in the New England area. Based out of Rutland, Vermont the railroad is best remembered for the large amount of milk and dairy products it moved over its system and its classic forest green and yellow livery. The railroad finally succumbed to a long battle of money troubles in the early 1960s when a strike collapsed any hope of the Rutland staying solvent as it shutdown operations in 1961. Today, happily, much of the former system is still operated by successor Green Mountain Railroad, which hauls both freight and excursion passenger service over the line, much to the delight of the thousands of passengers which arrive annually to ride aboard its popular trains.

Former Rutland RS1 #405 now works on the Green Mountain Railroad with her original number as the locomotive passes a classic covered bridge at Bartonsville, Vermont on August 26, 2000 pulling the Green Mountain Flyer.

While Vermont was home to railroads like the Boston & Maine Railroad, Central Vermont Railway, and Delaware & Hudson Railway perhaps its most legendary was the Rutland. The system has its beginnings dating back to the Champlain & Connecticut River Railroad, which was chartered by the State of Vermont in November of 1843 to connect Rutland and Burlington. By the time construction began on the railroad in 1847 it had changed its name to the Rutland & Burlington Railroad to better reflect its intentions. The railroad would open its main line in December of 1848.   The Rutland & Burlington in 1867 reorganizes itself into the now well-known Rutland Railroad. From this point forward the Rutland would marginally grow through leasing railroads like the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad and the Addison Railroad, and purchasing the 50-mile Chatham and Lebanon Railroad.

With leased lines included the Rutland extended just over 400 miles in total on a system that looked a bit like an upside-down “L”; extending from Chatham, New York to Alburgh, Vermont with a western extension from Alburgh to Ogdensburgh, New York. The railroad’s one major branch line extended from Rutland southeasterly to Bellows Falls where it connected with the B&M.  For all of the fondness and status that surrounded the Rutland, particularly by the people of Vermont, the railroad struggled to survive for most of its life. Trouble first began in 1871 when it was leased to the Central Vermont, which held control of the Rutland until the CV entered receivership in 1896 allowing the railroad to regain its independence.

A GMRR S3, #303, trundles over a trestle at East Wallingford, Vermont on June 23, 1978 with a short freight in tow.

However, it again fell under the control of an outside railroad when the New York Central gained control of the Rutland in 1904 selling half its interest to the New Haven Railroad in 1911. Together both owned 52% of the railroad’s common stock until 1941 when they sold their interest in the company.  Things took a turn for the worse in 1927 when that year major flooding in the Vermont region heavily damaged large sections of the Rutland’s right-of-way. Then, in May of 1938 the railroad entered receivership and was on the verge of total shutdown until the unions agreed to a wage reduction in August that kept the railroad operating.  However, just 15 years later the Rutland Railroad was in trouble again (having already reorganized in 1950 to become the Rutland Railway), this time with a strike as the railroad’s organized workers would not comply with a new change in operational practices, which was to move the center of the railroad’s operations from Rutland to Vermont's larger city of Burlington.


The point of this move was to increase the length of train movements to both gain longer hauls (and more profit per train) and to more efficiently utilize man-hours. Unfortunately, the unions stubbornness to not comply with the change not only resulted in a total loss of passenger traffic in 1953 but also a second strike in September of 1961 that left the Rutland with little choice but to petition the ICC for total shutdown.

The grant was approved in September of 1962 and on January 29th, 1963 the Rutland ceased to exist. Thankfully, in a proactive move the State of Vermont purchased all of the remaining Rutland property and today it is under the direction of the Vermont Rail System which includes the Vermont Railway and Green Mountain Railway, both of which derive their livery from the Rutland.  While the railroad was never a large carrier, even in its own region, it was in many ways the face of Vermont itself and is remembered for its classic green and gold livery and long trains of milk. To learn more about the system please click here.

GMRR RS1 #405 skirts the Connecticut River as it heads southbound towards Bellows Falls, Vermont with an excursion on July 26, 2003.

During the Rutland’s over 100-year history it owned quite an interesting collection of locomotives. It’s steam locomotive fleet, while never large, featured everything from Mikados to Pacifics.  The railroad also owned a small fleet of diesels, although because the railroad shutdown in 1961 it was very small. Interestingly, the company must have been very pleased with Alco during its operation of steam locomotives as it stuck with the builder when it replaced its steam fleet with diesels.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
RS1400-40519516
RS3201-2081951-19528

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
70-Tonner50019511

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
B-2, B-9 (Various)Switcher0-6-0
E-10Mogul2-6-0
F-2 Through F-12 (Various)Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
G-34a Through G-34dConsolidation2-8-0
H-6aMikado2-8-2
K-1, K-2Pacific4-6-2
L-1Mountain4-8-2
U-3Switcher0-8-0

Following the shutdown of the Rutland in 1961 it was resurrected just a few years later in 1964. That year F. Nelson Blount created the Green Mountain Railroad. Using a forest green and yellow livery inspired directly from the Rutland (it’s virtually identical) the Green Mountain was started by Mr. Blount to operate his collection of steam locomotives. While Mr. Blount passed away a few years after creating his new tourist railroad, which eventually became part of the National Park Service’s Steamtown, USA located in Scranton, Pennsylvania the Green Mountain Railroad lived on and split off as its own operation. Today, the railroad hauls both passengers and freight and has been widely acclaimed as the top tourist railroad in New England with its spectacular views of Vermont's Green Mountain Range and on board train services.


GMRR RS1 #405 leaves Bellows Falls with the popular Green Mountain Flyer on July 16, 2005.

For more reading on the system you might want to consider picking up a copy of the The Rutland Railroad by author Jim Shaughnessy. While it is hard to find resources out there detailing the Rutland Mr. Shaughnessy’s book is a fabulous compilation of information on the railroad from its earliest beginnings to eventual shutdown in 1961. If you have any interest in the Rutland or would like to learn more about this fabled little Vermont railroad I would highly recommend Mr. Shaughnessy’s book. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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