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Culinary Wonders On Rails Aboard Vermont's Dinner Trains

Last revised: December 8, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Vermont is a beautifully scenic state, much of which is home to the Green Mountains.  One of the nation's classic railroads served here, the Rutland Railroad, and part of its route now hosts popular excursions for the public.

The Vermont Rail System/Vermont Railway/Green Mountain Railroad, which operates over much of the former Rutland now owned by the state, provides a first-class dinner experience for guests by train.  More information about this trip may be found below.

While the Green Mountain Railroad, which operates the former Rutland main line between Rutland and North Walpole, New Hampshire hosts public excursions throughout the late spring through early fall, only the Vermont Railway offers a dinner train experience.

If you are interested in the history of the Rutland Railroad I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Jim Shaughnessy's, "The Rutland Road."  The book provides a complete history of this company which was instrumental in providing Vermont with efficient rail transportation from 1849 until sever labor strike ended service on September 15, 1960.

The development of railroads in this region began with the Vermont Central Rail Road which opened its first 25.5 miles between Bethel, Vermont and White River Junction in the summer of 1848.  It was the Rutland's main competitor and later became the Central Vermont Railway.  Its original main line is still in service today.

The Rutland's peak system was only 415 miles (1930), forming a roughly upside-down "L" from Alburgh, Vermont to Bellows Falls and Bennington with the line splitting at Rutland. It also maintained a western extension to Ogdensburg, New York as well as trackage rights to Montreal, Quebec.

Finally, until 1953 the railroad operated the Chatham Branch to Chatham, New York.  It was the railroad's one-time dream of handling significant freight and passenger business between New York City and Montreal.  Ultimately, it lost out to Commodore Vanderbilt's New York Central & Hudson River system.

Because of its small size, the Rutland never operated gleaming streamliners.  Nevertheless, the company did maintain a fine collection of trains between New York and Montreal via Chatham and Rutland until the early 1950s.

These trains included the Green Mountain Flyer and Mount Royal.  In 1940 the latter featured a lounge-buffet car (New York to Montreal and Burlington to Montreal), sleepers (New York to Montreal, New York to Burlington, and New York to Rutland), and reclining seat coaches while the former hosted a broiler-buffet-parlor car as well as reclining seat coaches.

2o096278267289629069039873788.jpgBoston & Maine GP7 #1555 leads a special fan trip northbound, just north of Bellows Falls, Vermont in April of 1968. American-Rails.com collection.

Overview

Vermont Rail System

(Burlington): Operating on former Rutland Railroad trackage the Vermont Railway hosts very popular excursions through the heart of northern New England through the breathtaking Green Mountains. 

In 2018 they launched the Champlain Valley Dinner Train.  This 3-hour trip includes a three-course meal and option of hot coffee or hot tea.  All trains depart from Burlington during the mid-afternoon, running to Middlebury before returning.

The trips run on a fall and summer schedule with trains departing at a slightly different time depending on the season.  Please check the railroad's website for complete information.  All trains depart from Amtrak's station platform in Burlington.

The railroad notes that a standard ticket price includes the three-course meal while the train also provides a full bar and available soft drinks.  Finally, they also host the "Cocktails On The Rails" excursion.  This trip does not offer a complete dining experience but does feature alcoholic beverages and light snacks.


According to the railroad: "This intimate 18 passenger experience will surely make you feel as if you’re in a 1930’s movie, only this “speakeasy” is on a moving train! Enjoy a relaxing three-hour round-trip train ride from Burlington through Addison County accompanied by live music, delicious finger foods and cocktails. Our lounge car has comfortable leather barrel seats, direct bar access, and a restroom."

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