The Vermonter, with daily service between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans, Vermont, replaced the original Montrealer, which terminated in Montreal. Vermonter is also a term used to refer to someone who lives in Vermont.
Of the 391 national park sites, 248 are within 100 miles of an Amtrak route or station.
by Douglass Davidoff
I've ridden Amtrak across our country a couple of times. I've done the Empire Builder — twice. I've done the train from Los Angeles to Chicago. I've ridden in the Northeast Corridor starting in the pre-Amtrak days of the New Haven Railroad and the Penn Central Railroad.
But I've never quite enjoyed a day so sublime as the southbound Amtrak Vermonter a few weeks ago. I was vacationing in a remote cottage in Brookfield, Vermont.
I had some business in Connecticut, and fortunately, Brookfield is right between the Vermonter's station stops at Montpelier (the charming state capital city) to the north and the small town of Randolph to the south. Randolph happens to be the geographic center of Vermont.
My partner and I drove into Randolph that morning and we enjoyed coffee at the Randolph Depot coffee house in what used to be the station for the town. The Vermonter came through on time, at 10:17 am, on the well-maintained passenger platform right outside the door to the depot coffee shop. I got on board, took a seat in the Quiet Car, opened my laptop and iPad, and hooked right into the onboard wi-fi.
But the countryside kept interrupting. I was enjoying a seven-hour journey through the New England region encapsulated in one ride.
Our travel south from Randolph on a single track took us around hills and along creeks (as is the habit with railroads) through one Vermont town after another. The New England Central Railroad crosses the Connecticut River twice into and then out of New Hampshire. The first crossing is just south of a covered bridge that spans the Connecticut. There's a New Hampshire station stop at Claremont. Then it's back to the Vermont side for the final Vermont stations at Bellows Falls and (as it likes to say in its tourist literature, "The One and Only") Brattleboro.
I'm enough of a Vermont chauvinist that just before we crossed the state line south of Brattleboro (actually in the border town of Vernon) into Massachusetts, I texted my partner to tell her that I was already missing the comfortable rural spirit of Vermont and I was not enjoying the entry back into the Real World Hustle Bustle of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
We continued down the Connecticut Valley through Amherst and executed the train-direction flip-flop at Palmer, Massachusetts, made necessary by a weird joining of the tracks where two different railroad companies meet awkwardly. For this reason, the Vermonter consist has a locomotive at each end and the train reverses orientation at Palmer so the front becomes the back and vice versa. With this enforced new view of life, we entered Springfield a few minutes after leaving Palmer Junction.
I grew up in Connecticut, and our trip that day from Springfield south passed through towns I've transited since my youth — town after town where my mother did business as an advertising entrepreneur.
We stopped at Hartford and then at New Haven station. I rode to Bridgeport, where I left the Vermonter. The train continued on to Washington, D.C. Some of the Vermont people who boarded in the smallest rural towns of Northern New England were going to ride all the way to the national capital.
A child of Connecticut and New England, I returned to live in the region three years ago after living in the South and the Midwest for much of my adult life. I've glad to be back in New England. I've been glad to live near Boston and I'm glad to have a consulting assignment in Connecticut that lets me ride the Northeast Regional as a commuter round trip once a week.
But few experiences have shown me the reality of New England, from its glorious soft mountains and its chief river, the Connecticut, to the manufacturing — and reinventing-from-manufacturing-to-something-else — cities of Springfield, Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, to the environs of famous New England colleges: Dartmouth, the Five Colleges of Massachusetts, Wesleyan, and Yale.
For me, the Vermonter was a day of rediscovering the interior of New England. Not its seacoast, but its mountainsides, its rivers, its towns, and the cities which grew from settlement as towns. I was totally relaxed. The Vermonter may have wi-fi. But on a clear day, there's only so much work one can do looking at a laptop or tablet screen. On the Vermonter, the New England countryside and cityscapes are simply too much competition. The view eventually wins over the wi-fi. Goodbye, online content. Hello, America.