Kingston is the most important Amtrak station on the northern half of the Northeast Corridor without any Acela Express Service. The station receives service from every single Northeast Regional train. Acela Express trains can't stop in the station because the platforms are low-level with just new ADA mini-high platforms that can align with just a single Acela Express door. The station is also on a straightaway in the middle of one of Acela Express's sections of track where it goes 150mph so these trains zoom through the station extremely fast. Acela travel times would substantially increase if the trains made this stop.
The station has a historic depot built in 1875 that has had nearly three lives. First in the early 1970s it was under disrepair and threatened with demolition. The Friends of Kingston Station came together and in June of 1974 had a series of volunteer coordinated workdays to aesthetically restore the historic station. The building was then added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1988 disaster really struck and a fire gutted the Amtrak waiting room. This nearly resulted in the building becoming condemned. Instead because of the historic designation of the building and new Federal Funds for Intermodal projects resulted in the restoration of the station. First the station was physical moved a number of feet back from the tracks to accommodate the electrification of the Northeast Corridor. The station was then restored and a rededication occurred on May 31, 1998. Today the station house has two stories and is painted yellow with green trim. Inside is a ticket office and waiting area. It contains a ticket office that is staffed all day every day by an Amtrak agent. The agent sits behind a grill window. Next to the ticket office is a single Quik-Trak machine. The rest of the room contains a few wooden benches for waiting passengers and some vending machines. It is lined in wood with cream-colored walls. In one corner, near the ticket office, is an old CRT television that acts as a departure monitor listing next train arrival times.
The station house and the station's only entrance are along the west platform, track 2 used by Boston-bound Amtrak trains. For most of the station's existence the platform configuration was a side platform along the Boston-bound platform with level-crossings leading out to a narrow island platform for the opposite track 1 allowing trains to stop on either track. This unfortunately created a hold-out situation and with the coming of very High Speed Acela trains a new side platform for the New York-bound platform had to be built. Access to this platform was more of an issue, High Speed Acela trains and grade crossings don't mix. The westbound platform is adjacent to sidings used by Amtrak to store ballast and maintenance of way equipment. A new side platform was constructed for the southbound track except there was no public pedestrian/road access. There is the Route 138 highway bridge just north of the station but no easy way to provide pedestrian access (especially that would have been ADA compliant) to this platform. Instead starting in 2001 Westbound/Southbound customers (for most trains, a few like the Twilight Shoreliner/Federal at very off peak times could single track at the station and stop in front of the station house) had to take a shuttle bus from the station house along the northbound platform over the Route 138 highway bridge from the main station house over to the southbound platform. I assume the shuttle bus ran partially via a temporary dirt road. Amtrak timetables showed the times for Kingston with a note "Time shown for westbound Acela Regional trains at Kingston, RI is the departure time for a connecting shuttle bus for the short trip to the Westbound platform." In 2005 the $4 million pedestrian overpass bridge structure opened rendering this operation obsolete and gave the station its current appearance and facilities.
Today's station consists of two low-level side platforms along a two-track line. These platforms begin just south of the Route 138 highway bridge (that has narrow sidewalks) and continues south covering at least ten cars. The platforms are simple with a low-black fence and black lampposts that are trying to look vintage. The black fences restrict entry and all have gates allowing the platforms to be completely closed off. Modern tactile warning strips are present. At the front end of both platforms, northern end of the Boston-bound tack 2 platform, and at nearly at the southern end (the platform continues a bit) for track 1 for points south are mini-high platforms. These mini-high platforms each have canopies painted in the same green and cream style as the historic station house. The sides of the mini-high platforms can also retract to allow freight trains to pass through the station. When most Northeast Regionals stop, one door of most trains open at the mini-high platform between the Quiet Car and Business Class. A sign on the mini-high platform to Track 1 says "Business/Handicap Access." Two additional doors throughout the rest of the train normally open using their traps. Most regionals have three conductors that can manually open the doors as is required for low-level platforms so three doors are opened for the station stop.
The historic station house was relocated a bit away from the platforms and is now at a higher elevation that would be at the same level as a full-length high-level platform if one is ever built, in front of the station house. Stairs and a ramp lead down to Track 2 outside the station house. It is towards the northern end of the platforms. The only cover for waiting passengers along Track 2 is on the porch outside the building. Track 1 has a canopied section for a couple car lengths directly across from the station house. The canopy has the same paint scheme as the historic station house and also includes a single sheltered by windscreens bench.
Continuing south down the platforms is the modern enclosed overpass structure. The middle of the structure is a glass-enclosed bridge with an elevator at each end (arriving at the low-level of each platform to an enclosure with automatic doors), there is also an enclosed (with windows and a substantial roof) staircase down to each platform. The color scheme of the overpass is white and grey.
Directly outside the station house is a driveway circle (with a green median) that serves as the main drop-off loop with 15 minute parking spaces. North of the traffic circle is another partial loop used by RIPTA buses running on a semi-express route to and from Providence. South of the circle is the station's main parking lot with 100 long-term parking spaces. At the southern end of this parking lot is the start of the South County Bike Path that runs for 8 miles using the former ROW of the Narragansett Pier Railroad. This branch line connected the station with the pier for ferry service to Newport, Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. All vehicle access to the station is from driveways/Railroad Avenue that loop up to both sides of route 138 are basically on/off ramp type intersections. There is also an original staircase overgrown by shrubs down from the south sidewalk of the Route 138 overpass (built in 1936 as State of Rhode Island tiling says) down to grass on the opposite side of the on-ramp/street to Route 138 West.
Finally signage at the station is interesting. On station side, track 2 the only signs are Kingston Station signs affixed to the station house. The opposite platform just has one blue format with directional arrows beneath Kingston sing. At each entrance from Route 138 to the station are different signs. From the eastbound side is a wooden circular sign in the style of the historic station with a cream-colored background and green text that says Kingston Station below an Amtrak pointless arrow. The westbound access road (that loops around under Route 138 to reach the station) has a old wooden hand-painted square sign with the Amtrak chevron logo above Kingston Station in small letters. Along the access road (between it and the bridge) is also a To Amtrak sign and a dilapidated tower that used to be adjacent to the station and has since been moved. This tower is two stories and has feeling blue paint with a dilapidated outdoor staircase. A small blue sign says Kingston on it.
All Photos: 8 June, 2014
Last Updated: 19 June, 2014