Vermont Railroads And Railfanning In "The Green Mountain State"

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

While Vermont railroads once featured celebrated lines like the Rutland Railroad, Boston & Maine, Central Vermont Railway and the Delaware & Hudson, unfortunately it carries a similar statistic that most New England states would rather not have, it now longer includes a large, Class I railroad. However, the Green Mountain State continues to be served by two, Class II regionals, a handful of shortlines, and is a major tourist attraction with excursion trains like the famous Green Mountain Flyer carrying riders through the breathtaking Vermont countryside. If you are interested in visiting the state and seeing its trains there are few others that such beautiful topography. And, if the time is available, I would certainly recommend taking a ride aboard one of Vermont's excursion trains. Also, please be aware that as a means of providing more information there are additional links to other pages here at the site which relate to Vermont railroads.

Central Vermont Railway 4-8-2 #603 is seen here at White River Junction, Vermont on July 23, 1952. This location was once a busy interchange with the Boston & Maine. #603 was retired just a few years later on July 31, 1956.

Vermont railroads date back to 1843 when the Vermont Central Railroad was chartered to connect Windsor with Burlington, a distance of roughly 103 miles. The first segment was completed in June of 1848 connecting White River Junction with Bethel, and the entire line was opened on December 31st, 1849. The railroad eventually became part of the Central Vermont Railway, a fabled New England line that eventually connected northern/central Vermont with central Massachusetts, reaching as far south as New London, Connecticut.

Boston & Maine GP9's #1701 and #1848 layover at White River Junction, Vermont in June, 1982. Roger Puta photo.

At the railroad's height of independence it controlled the Rutland Railroad but bankruptcy in the late 19th century forced it to lose control of the nearby company. Soon after in the early 20th century the Central Vermont came under the control of the Grand Trunk Railway, a Canadian National subsidiary. It remained under CN control until 1995 when it was sold to the New England Central Railroad, an important shortline system in the region.

A quartet of Grand Trunk Western GP9's lead a fall foliage special over the Central Vermont Railway at Brattleboro, Vermont on October 6, 1968. Roger Puta photo.

While Vermont was home to railroads like the B&M, Central Vermont, and D&H perhaps its most legendary railroad was the Rutland Railroad, which even named itself after the state, The Green Mountain Gateway.   Today, Vermont railroads, along with the Vermont Rail System are the realm of regionals and shortlines like the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Claremont Concord Railroad, Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad, New Hampshire Central Railroad, St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railway, Vermont Railway, Washington County Railroad, New England Central Railroad and Pan Am Railways.

A quartet of Maine Central U18B "Baby Boats" are on the Mountain Division near East St. Johnsbury, Vermont on August 6, 1981. Doug Kroll photo.

* By New England standards, Vermont's first railroad was not constructed until relatively late when the Vermont Central Rail Road (VCRR) was incorporated by the state in late 1843.  The road's purpose, conceived by Charles Paine, was to not only link Vermont with the rest of New England but also transport its agriculture (notably cheese and milk) and marble to market.  Construction was launched in 1845 and the first section, about 25.5 miles, opened between Bethel, Vermont and White River Junction in the summer of 1848.  Throughout the 19th century the company continued to expand and grow, becoming one of the region's largest.  Unfortunately, it became overextended and fell into bankruptcy in 1896, emerging two years later in 1898 as the Central Vermont Railway.  The CV became a Canadian National subsidiary for decades until it was spun-off in 1995.  The original route remains in regular service today.

Running over the Central Vermont Railway a Grand Trunk Western GP9 is stopped at St. Albans, Vermont with train #21, the northbound "Montrealer," on September 6, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

Additionally, passenger service can still be found in the Green Mountain State with Amtrak operating the Vermonter between St. Albans and Washington D.C. and the Ethan Allen Express between Rutland and New York City. Historically, Vermont was never home to any important or significant streamlined passenger trains although lines like the Rutland, D&H, and Boston & Maine offered local/regional service to the state. Lastly, Vermont railroads offer some of the most spectacular excursion trains in the country with the Green Mountain Railroad offering splendid views of the Vermont countryside aboard one of its many tourist trains. Also, be sure and visit the New England Transportation Museum to learn more about Vermont's railroad history.


Vermont Railway wooden caboose #3, of Rutland Railroad lineage, is seen here in Rutland, Vermont on May 20, 1977. Warren Calloway photo.

For more information on Vermont railroads in terms of route mileage over the years please refer to the chart above.   Today, Vermont railroads operate over 500 miles of track although at one time the Green Mountain State featured a rail network of nearly 1,100 miles. While not a particularly large number the state was once an important agricultural producer, particularly in milk and related products which sustained the Rutland for years. Today, many of the state's secondary and branch lines that served these farming interests have long since been abandoned as it retains just 52% of its original rail infrastructure (which is about average for most states, which have seen similar declines).

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