Transit Adventures

Westerly, RI to Windsor, VT aboard a NE Regional to the Crowded Vermonter (Listing to the sounds of the Cab Car)

The main thing that spurred this Local Trains to Boston and Vermont trip was needing to take the train up and meet my parents in Windsor, Vermont where we have relatives. I’ve taken the train up to that station with the lowest ridership of any stop in the Northeast before but not in many years. From Southern Rhode Island I have two options that cost about the same, either the Northeast Regional to New Haven to the Vermonter or the MBTA from Wickford Junction to Boston to the Lake Shore to Springfield to the Vermonter, both cost nearly the same (with New Haven more expensive when early in the week Northeast Regional Train #83 is at a higher $32 bucket but someone I assume cancels and I get the last seat at the lowest $20.70 bucket before the fare rises again). What seals the trip via New Haven is a leisurely two hour later departure time, a shorter drive and realizing that if I board in Westerly I can get my photo essay when the station house with its limited 5:15am to 1:30pm weekdays hours is actually open.

We go out for breakfast and arrive at the station at about 10:10. I get my photo essay and am very happy to get the interior of the 1912 station house. The most frustrating part of the visit is the Train Approaching Stand Behind Yellow Line signs aren’t functioning and keep randomly going off. One Southbound Acela goes by while I’m in the parking lot getting photos but we get decent shots of a northbound one.
10:46-Agent announces the train and does a good job announcing all the stops to Newport News Virginia.
At 10:51 the train arrives on time. The crew is good and opens three doors at the low-level platform for everyone boarding. I guess we have three conductors for today’s train. A good two dozen of us are boarding. The conductor asks my destination I say New Haven. I board and he comes and scans my ticke while I’m sitting at my seat. Leaving Westerly we immediately cross into Stonington, Connecticut.

At 11:02 we come and make are next station stop of Mystic and can now say I made every stop between Fordham and Boston on this trip! It’s a quick stop we leave at 11:03, on my next trip to visit Robbie in Quonnie I’ll probably try and get on or off here or at least make a visit. Mystic has so few trains stopping at it that it would require a long layover to make one of my usual multi-city ticket stops.

At 11:11 a Boston-bound Regional passes as we approach the Thames River bridge into New London. I looked into switching here or Old Saybrook to Shore Line East but would have been left with a 7 minute connection in New Haven, not worth missing a train over.

We come into New London at 11:14, please exit as directed. There clearly quite a few passengers boarding and we finally start pulling away at 11:17. We switch onto the other, southern track before the next bridge out of New London.

  • 11:24 – A short Northbound train passes.
  • 11:28 – Pass the beaches full of people along the sound.
  • 11:33 – Cross the Connecticut River that I will be following from about Hartford north aboard the Vermonter this afternoon.

We switch onto the northbound track approaching Old Saybrook and arrive to its modem but short high-level island platform at 11:35. It’s a quick stop.

I fall into my post breakfast slumber as in nap and wake up again at 11:54 as we pull past Branford on the north track. All those 4 stops we visited, slept through in 20 minutes.

At 12:04 I See the sign that were entering Metro-North territory and get the announcement for New Haven. We arrive on Track 1 across from a just arrived Shuttle train . The same train we stepped off of 48 hours ago during my initial points run to Wallingford.

I walk into the station and ask when the track number and boarding will post for the Vermonter, I’m told at 1:10 after it arrives. I check Metro-North’s train time on my phone and it already says track 2. I’m hoping to get photos of the train entering with its electric locomotive. I also notice Amtrak claims the Vermonter is on time but Metro-North TrainTime says its 6 minutes late. I enjoy some last moments with the flipping of the Solari board before it is removed.

I take a walk and find some great shots of the yard (even see some SPV-2000s) before returning to the Station at about 12:52. I’m hungry and don’t see the track posted so I stop at Subway. I finish at Subway at 1:00 and the Solari board lists track 4. I photograph the Vermonter entering with a HHP-8 pulling a Cab Car, the first and second generation attempts at high-speed service and walk back to snag a seat in the cab car. Unfortunately the train pulls up beyond the end of the platform. I notice we have a business class car in use as a coach (where I would make a point of sitting with the better legroom) but want to sit in the cab car. I find one two rows from the back and hear the crew asking a pair of people to move away from the first row of seats. There is are clearly some seat issues on this crowded train but I dump my bag down and it seems fine.

I get off and photograph the engine change and nearly miss the train when the conductors close the doors without screaming “All Aboard” to the platform! The conductor lets me on grudgingly and I walk back to my seat through a very crowded Vermonter train and find that the women who gave up her to seat to me is back in that seat because the crew have blocked of both sets of seats closest to the end of the Cab Car putting up a red flag and Crew members only sign. I say something like I specifically sat there for the window but she is luckily only going to Springfield. I sit down There is a trainee engineer at least to Springfield with an instructor.

At 1:26 we leave, delayed 6 minutes waiting for someone to transfer from the arriving Acela. The crew wait for the person transferring but call him an Idiot to each other. We leave, the door of the cab car closes and I notice a piece of cardboard has been attached to the window so you can’t look in. The teacher keeps opening if since its so small.

We stop in Wallingford at 1:40 for the quick stop. Someone in the next row in front is going to Meridan so I’ll move up there. I hear the engineer and trainer talking about how much they love an engine over a cab car.

We stop at Meridan at 1:50. The cab car way beyond the platform. We leave at 1:52. I get another seat mate and feel badly for separating a grandmother and granddaughter. I offer but at first get refused to switch by the grandmother.
1:57 – Pass some track work as we go through the backyards.

We arrive in Berlin at 2:01. I have a non-stop cell phone talker I’m getting annoyed by it. We leave at 2:03. There actually seem to be seat mates chatting. I’m waiting for Hartford to finally have two seats to myself.
We pull under the highways in Hartford. They announce for Hartford and that the cab car won’t open. We arrive at 2:15 and leave at 2:17, going back to the same seat I started in, letting the mother and granddaughter sit together. Seat checks are a mess! The crew leaving Springfield will sort the. I realize my seat check is gone and think the conductor grabbed it thinking it was Windsor Locks, CT (someone in front of me is getting off there). The conductor tells the operator which door to open as they joke about the foot long platform.

2:24 – We bypass the other Windsor, Connecticut not the one I’m getting off at. The only station north of New Haven the Vermonter now skips.

We arrive in Windsor Locks at 2:28 the student and his trainee saying Freaking Assume for stopping perfectly at the tiny bus stop platform. I see the Connecticut River that I’ve already crossed once today at its mouth. I then realize that the door of the cab car is defective and clicking. We pas the mill and continue north along the Connecticut

  • 2:33 – Cross the Connecticut for the 2nd out of five times today! I’m enjoying the noises of the cab car, I’ve ridden this line enough times I don’t feel the need to sightsee. We pick up speed passing houses, approaching Springfield.
  • 2:39 – Zoom by a southbound freight train. They keep talking about how the open door feels good. I hear them say “I thought that asshole was moving and I could use the 3 days off” guess we almost hit someone.

There is enough recovery time that we are still early. We slowly enter. I notice the Tower says Spring on it. The Lake Shore has just departure. We arrive on track 3 one platform away from the station at 2:51 for a 24 minute stop. I decide to step off, this takes awhile with the long line of people getting off and the crew not opening all the days.

I see our new conductor who confirms our 3:15 departure time. The Southbound Vermonter 55 is running late and I get a great picture of its cab car arriving passing another cab car at 3:14. It leaves at 3:19. We finally leave at 3:21 as the crew trash talks running each other over as they go from the train platforms to their cars parked on the otherside of the half abandoned railway viaduct that is the Springfield Station. They close the doors and we leave.

We pull up beyond the station at 3:22 and I hear stuff about work area. We then switch onto CSX. I see during the stop the conductor has come through and now everyone has handwritten seat checks.

  • 3:37 – They announce that in 15 minutes we will get to the town of Palmer, Mass which isn’t a station stop but where the direction of travel will change from the East-West CSX Railroad to the north-south New England Central for continuing service into Vermont and to bring your seat check above you since we’re rather crowded if you wish to move. I still don’t have a seat check, missing the conductor who already came through.
  • 3:29 – Pass water and continue north towards Palmer as we leave Springfield beyond.

The conductor comes making himself a list of everyones destination and I tell him Windsor, VT not Windsor Locks that my original seat check I think said. Theircodes are really similar WNM vs WNL. I picked up a paper ticket from the agent in the Westerly station and he even re-scans it.

At 3:40 we pull into Palmer passing Steaming tenders. I hear the door opening and the engineer walking the train. We seem to have two engineers because I hear the conductor with the other engineer in the cab car. He eventually gets up to walk through the train. I see the conductor sitting in the cab and hear what I assume is the New England Central telling us when ever your ready to leave to head into Vermont .

  • 3:49 – I See the conductor pushing buttons in the cab. He gets up closes the door, leaves the flags in place. and collects the seat checks for Amherst, one car forward to get off.
  • 3:52 – We start moving for the first manual switch. It’s the other woman conductor standing on the ballast doing it. We pass the usual railfans at steaming tenders. We stop again outside of it. I look for the other conductor.

At 3:55 I hear the door of the cab car slide open and we slowly leave. Someone is doing a non-train related photo shoot outside the old depot. We slowly enter the old jointed rail that isn’t going to be improved as in a couple of years the Vermonter will be moving farther east onto new track. The Palmer back-up move has wasted 15 minutes, I can’t wait for the new line closer to the Connecticut River to Reopen that will reduce the trip time of the Vermonter.

  • 3:59 – Pass some locomotives for the Mass Central Railroad and the cab car door gets upset, clicking away
  • 4:01 – Curve away from the Massacussettes Central and cross a neat stream. The second conductor finally leaves the cab as the LSA announces he’s fixed his credit card machine.
  • 4:05 – The town of Three Rivers as we go into the trees. We pick up speed, the jointed rail isn’t too smooth, perhaps the cab car also has the tale wag effect.
  • 4:18 – Pass Arcadia Lake.

We pull into Amherst at 4:29. The conductor apologizing that the platform is short and they can only open one door. The cab car door is really clicking. We leave at 4:31. We’re 52 minutes from Brattleboro and the state of Vermont. We go over the grade crossings with only lights and continue north.

  • 4:50 – In Miller’s Falls we join another railroad and slow down. The cab car door is upset again.
  • 5:07 – Cross the Connecticut River for the third time today. We then slow down for a moment to join the Connecticut River railroad that is getting rebuilt to allow the Vermonter to get rerouted and not have to perform the back-up move at Plalmer.
  • 5:17-Pass Vernon, first town in Vermont and follow the Connecticut through the trees
  • 5:20-Pass a large freight siding with some trains and UP locomotives as we get the announcements that were arriving in Brattleboro.

We stop in front of a grey building at 5:23. I’m now in the rear. We clearly block traffic. We get the double toot at 5:25 and leave. There still cars parked on the platform although there plastic bollards with No Parking signs.

  • 5:38 – See the NECR sign for Putney as we keep following the Connecticut River between the trees. It’s a scenic but not awe dropping like the Hudson going up to Albany. In places are fields between us and the river.
  • 5:52 – Slow down as we’re coming into Bellows Falls and enter a tunnel and cross the canal onto the island that has the station.

We make our very brief Bellows Falls stop at 5:56 crossing the Green Mountain Railroad tracks and then my forth crossing of the Connecticut River into North Walpole.

We regain speed it seems like some track work has happened even though we’re now in New Hampshire. We follow the otherside of the Connecticut and I decide the track seems slightly less smooth.

We stop at Claremont at 6:15 on the outside track not the inside for the tiny ten foot tactile warning strip. 9 minutes to Windsor. The conductor comes to get me and tells me I need to walk up two full cars. The train isn’t crowded but isn’t empty like I think of rides on the Vermonter. I sit down, happy I don’t have much luggage to wheel through the train. My backpack is on, ready to get off. We’re making good speed. I’m trying to figure out if the speed was increased here as well. I’m not the only passenger it appears!

6:23-Cross the Connecticut and see the famous Windsor Covered bridge. There 6 of us getting off!
We stop at 6:25, the two conductors opening both sets of doors since there 6 of us getting off!
My Dad is waiting for me, I get some quick photos of the cab car leaving. Were in the car at 6:30 with my Dad musing that the last time he met someone at the train station in Windsor he was six years old and meeting his father. My Dad has never taken the train during his lifetime of visiting relatives in Vermont. Were at my cousins house (the legacy of my great-grandmother’s house in the Town of Windsor) up in the hills near Mount Ascutney at 6:46.

All in all an easy seamless trip (except for nearly missing the train’s departure in New Haven not hearing any ‘All Aboard’ annoucements) from Westerly to Windsor (VT not CT).