The Vermonter arriving in White River Junction VT. Photo by tbpb
So, what is it like to ride a train that uses 20 year old rail cars? A train that is forced to use freight lines that clackety-clack rather than give off the smooth swish of dedicated passenger rail? Well, it's all part of travelling the Vermonter, a train that offers northeast urban dwellers a simple means of escape from their Spaved mayhem.
Mind you, you'd better not be in a hurry. As you can see from the map, the Vermonter makes many stops along the way. It also travels slowly - maximum permitted speed is 55 mph - because of an old railbed. It may take more than 12 hours to reach your destination.
Yes, things move at a relaxed pace aboard the Vermonter with periodic sojourns into sidings to allow more important freight to clatter by. But this is Vermont Life anyway - informal and less frantic than the rest of the country. If the buffet car isn't crowded you can sit there and plug your laptop into convenient AC outlets. There's also a phone but don't try to use it when the train enters Vermont. The technology cannot cope with Vermont's mountains.
You'll find the train crews and station masters courteous and helpful (at least I did!). No one will scowl at you if you bring your own food, and munch it while sitting in the dinette car, though you may miss out on the Vermonter box lunch (containing only Vermont-made products - naturally) for $6.95. The dinette also offers simple fare such as hot sandwiches, hot dogs, snack food, soft drinks and beer.
The Vermonter runs north and south, daily from Washington D.C. to St. Albans in northwestern Vermont.A round trip costs about $160.00. Children under the age of 15 ride for free when accompanied by one adult. Advance ticketing is required. Departures from Washington are at 7:25 am arriving in St. Albans at 9:05 p.m. New stops have been added. These include Metropark, NJ and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Despite vociferous complaints from some of the ski resorts in northern Vermont, there is no longer a night train.
How about some poetry on the Vermonter!
Special for NYC Skiers - A Five Hour Train Ride to Vermont!
Ethan Allen Express: A 240-seat train, consisting of three coaches, travels at speeds of up to 100 mph from NYC's Penn Station up the Hudson River valley, making stops at Yonkers, Croton-Harmon, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson and Albany/Rensellaer. The train continues north to Schenectady, Saratoga and Fort Edward/Glens Falls before arriving in Rutland in southern Vermont. In an effort to attract skiers and other weekend travelers, trains are scheduled to leave New York near the end of the work day.
This is proving to be a popular train with the number of riders in excess of expectations. Most of the riders are skiers going to Killington or Okemo. Word has it that an employee of Killington travels once a week on the train to report on "Amtrak train cleanliness, punctuality and train crew politeness." But, there appears to be some discontent among the passengers (read on).
If you are in search of a less frenetic resort, you must travel further north. Still, a one way fare is only $50.00 and only $19 from Albany.
Please note, we now have some comments on this train. You will find them at the bottom of this page.
If you have comments please E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Other features of the Vermonter
In spring, summer and fall you can bring your bicycle and stow it securely in a baggage car equipped with a bicycle rack . The rack changes to a ski-rack in winter. The day time schedule means there's adequate light for several hours of biking, even if you get off at the northern most point - St. Albans. You can escape to the rolling hills and a cozy B&B or a campground. If you come during the week, the chances are that you'll find a room in an inn or B&B without a booking. Furthermore, some establishments (such as those around Waterbury) will send a van to meet you, if you let them know. Those hoping to travel to Montreal must take a bus from St. Albans to the Quebec border. It makes for a long day.
Scenes of Vermont
Dear Scenes of Vermont,
I've taken the Vermonter from White River Junction to Philadelphia 6 times. It has only been late once. Sure it takes a long time! But the ease of use and less frequent stops then a bus make it an ideal choice for travelers trying to save money. On my first trip with Amtrak (and subsequent trips) I found the crew very helpful and on one trip there were intermittent descriptions over the PA (Which you can actually understand) of historic sites that we were passing along the way which I enjoyed thoroughly and would love to hear again. On my last two trips from Philadelphia to VT all the cars were brand new except for the dining car. Amtrak is trying to improve and union workers or not the staff does a wonderful job!
Vermonter Schedules are at:
Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Scenes of Vermont
Is the Ethan Allen service not what it should be?
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 1997 01:24:46 -0500 (EST)
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Comments on the Ethan Allen
Mr. Gropper, to the Editor of "Scenes of Vermont",
While I have not ridden the Ethan Allen yet (but have ridden the Vermonter), I find your comments about the poor attitude of the train crews being the result of union "featherbedding" to be an outrage. You certainly are clueless when it comes to understanding what's going on at Amtrak. I do not doubt that there are rude Amtrak employees out there, and you have experienced them, but I have ridden nearly every Amtrak train in the system, and there are excellent employees as well as poor ones. I never did think that most of the Amtrak employees were as professional as they could be, but to "blame" this on the fact that they're union-represented is ludicrous.
Southwest Airlines has the greatest number of union-represented employees, as a percentage, of any U.S. transportation system, yet their level of service is almost always among the highest in the airline industry. How could this possibly be true using your line of reasoning? Criticizing Amtrak's union employees is most ridiculous because anyone who has the vaguest inkling about employee moral (for both scheduled and exempt employees) at Amtrak knows that it's at its lowest point ever, largely due to the gross incompetence of management, mostly CEO Thomas Downs.
In 1995, Amtrak swallowed the recommendations of an outside consulting firm (Mercer) hook, line, and sinker and cutback many well-patronized trains to less than daily operation (notably the Empire Builder and California Zephyr). These cuts also resulted in the discontinuance of the Montrealer. Two years later, Amtrak has pretty much admitted that these changes were disastrous. On May 10, some of the trains that were victims of frequency reductions will return to daily status. Unfortunately, Amtrak has lost so much revenue from these cutbacks (the Empire Builder produces more passenger-miles per train-mile than any other Amtrak train), that now, other trains will have to be discontinued due to the resulting budget shortfall. Only intervention by individual states can prevent this.
I know many Amtrak employees who have diligently fought to provide service in the face of management incompetence, but have lost hope with those currently in charge. Here's an example:
The product-line manager for the Empire Builder is spending money to study the construction an Auto-Train type terminal at Whitefish, Montana. This project would cost millions; money that Amtrak doesn't have; and all to transport autos to a region that attracts tourists for only three months per year!
I could go on (and if you don't believe me, I'd be happy to have Amtrak employees E-mail you with thousands examples of management incompetence at Amtrak. You will be amazed. As for the "Scenes of Vermont" homepage, I believe that such subjective comments as expressed here should not have been included. It would have been adequate to state that the track was bad, the equipment was poor, AND the employees had, in his opinion, a poor attitude. The person expressing this opinion is not the ultimate judge of human character, and even then, he really can't explain why people behave why they do. Blaming inadequacies on the assumption that people don't care "they can't get fired" because they're union employees is completely baseless (and untrue). Unless your contributor is an Amtrak employee that faces the day-to-day frustrations of trying to work for a company that thinks the only way to save money is to cut back service, I can state without fear of contradiction he knows not of what he speaks.
Date: 09 Feb 97 18:04:21 EST
From: John Gropper <75200.1110@CompuServe.COM>
To: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Ethan Allen
While a great bargain, this train suffers from the same problems as all of Amtrak.
1. The railbed above Albany is so poorly maintained that the train cannot move quickly. Grade-level crossings provide opportunities for crashing into other vehicles.
2. The rolling stock is so old that you are sure to be inconvenienced by heating and fresh air problems.
3. Train crews are not uniformly well trained in how to operate these systems, nor do they check the cars before they leave NY, where there might be a mechanic. The attitude of the train crews reminds us that, the union rules and featherbedding which have made rail transportation in the US non-competitive, are still with us.
I have taken this train on more than 10 round trips between NYC and Rutland. Only on two occasions were the temperature and fresh air systems working properly. No train crew person has ever seemed to care very much, act as though they felt that passenger comfort was a key objective of the system or that they were responsible for trying to fix the problem.
Amtrak may get past the rail bed problem, they may even replace the rolling stock, but they never will be a passenger transportation company until they kill off the old crews and replace them with people who have a sense of service.
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 1997 17:37:52 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Ethan Allen
You're one hundred percent correct about the railroad's lack of quality service resulting from union employees who can't get fired if they want to!
The only train I've taken in Vt. recently was the "touristy" one that travels from the Burlington riverfront to Vergennes and beyond. What I can say about Amtrak folks is that I have ridden the "San Diegan," from L.A. to San Diego and back. I found the crew to be wonderful, and helpful on both legs. So much for the union idea.
I'm looking forward to taking that same train trip again. For those who read this note, and want to take the same trip, sit on the right side of the train. The ocean views are incomparable, when traveling southbound.
For comments or questions e-mail to email@example.com