Scenes of Vermont's Potpourri Reviews


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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 .

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.

 Timothy Palmer-Benson
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!


Jeremy Heidenreich

 Vermonter Schedules are at:

Comments Section

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)
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.

Mark Meyer

Date: 09 Feb 97 18:04:21 EST
From:  John Gropper <75200.1110@CompuServe.COM>
To: "" <>
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!

Oh dear!

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

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