Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by daylight4449
I'm looking at this proposal like this: Get passenger trains running frequent enough and at convient times (and prices), then you give options to commuters and travelers. There is also another interesting point in that many areas that could be served aren't very close to a freeway, which increases driving time between any location. The same idea can be considered the backbone of the Houastonic's passenger study. But, with this plan, many of the stations are still in place, so revitalizing those structures would give significant cost savings to the project, as new facilities are kept to a minimum. There is one question though, and that's who will run this line? Can we assume that it will be Amtrak, or will there be passenger trains running under the New England Central banner? Only time will tell. It wouldn't supprise me if Blake Lamothe succeeds, as he tends to be a bit of a mover when it comes to large projects. Wasn't the restoration of the Steaming Tender a major undertaking in itself? He also started a NRHS chapter out there, the Seven Railroads chapter. If anyone can try and pull all the pieces of this puzzle, than Blake can. How long can we expect for something like this to come to fruition? My guess is at least a decade. The Greenbush line took a few years to plan, and then implement.
Food for thought from your friendly neighborhood Lambe.
  by necr3849
CV in its later years and NECR/RA have done pretty darn good keeping the ROW in decent shape for higher speeds. There still remains 115lb CWR on the mainline between upper Stafford Springs and New London. If passenger service was to ever return to this route, the operator(s) would have to run trains at convenient hours. Growing up within ear shot of the CV, I'd often hear each half of the MONTREALOR through my area within an hour or so of each other before 3 am. UCONN students from Storrs used to utilize them regularly, especially during the busiest times and Holidays. It just sucked for the folks to have ride over to Willimantic(Willi'rico) in the middle of the night to catch the train. Where the platform was at Bridge Street wasn't too welcoming that time of day. Who cares about UMASS?:)
  by Jeff Smith
Developments: http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=2314&q=260046

PDF File: http://www.ct.gov/dot/lib/dot/minaug11.pdf

From the August minutes:
New projects being pursued by the NECR include a new siding to an aggregate customer in Bozrah, possible passenger service to the Mohegan Sun casino and better port/ rail connections at New London.

Switching gears to passenger service, Hunter discussed the Central Corridor Project, a passenger rail initiative that would use the NECR’s track. Several universities, including UConn, UMass, the Coast Guard Academy, Eastern Connecticut State University and Amherst College, are located on or near the NECR line so this project has a potential market in college students as well as other passengers. The Mohegan Sun casino has also expressed an interest in this service. The route would connect to Amtrak at Palmer, Massachusetts and at New London. NECR would be interested in operating the passenger service and has identified self-propelled diesel passenger cars it would use on the line.
What I find really interesting is that NECR (Rail America) would be interested in running it, and that they are looking at what I assume are Budd Cars (see: http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 11&t=78965 )

Now, I'm sure there'd have to be some type of state-support for the service, including ROW improvements.
  by CarterB
What's the point!! Sparsely populated countryside with no significant end points. I'd rather see through service Boston, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven and on to NYC.
  by Noel Weaver
We just read one that made sense so I guess it is time for more about one that does not make sense. New London with maybe 30,000 population and Brattleboro with maybe a bit less than half of that and not too much in between. New London - Worcester makes a lot of sense, New London - Brattleboro makes absolutely no sense at least to me and probably most others as well.
Noel Weaver
  by Ridgefielder
My rough criteria for passenger service in Southern New England (which I'm defining as everything south of the B&A) is this: if it lasted well into the age of good highways (mid-late 1950's) it probably work again given higher gasoline prices and more congested roads.

New London-Worcester passes that test (IIRC local service was in fact reinstated in the early '50s with the coming of the RDCs to the New Haven, having been withdrawn in the '30s, and proceeded to last until A-day.) So does South Norwalk-Pittsfield (at least on summer weekends), Waterbury-Hartford, Worcester-Providence, Boston/New York-Hyannis, and New Haven-Hartford-Boston via the Inland Route.

Routes that basically lost service once the automobile was invented-- New Haven to Boston via the Air Line through Middletown and Willimantic, for example-- are probably gone for good. I think the ex-Central Vermont from New London to Brattleboro falls in this category, unfortunately. If the best it could support by the 1940's, in the middle of wartime shortages, was a 1-a-day mixed, then I don't see much hope.
  by The EGE
How big was UConn, then vs now (17000)? College ridership could potentially be a factor, as well as Mohegan Sun (which, unlike NLC-WOR, is right on the line).
  by Jeff Smith
I think, ultimately, if anything happens, it will be Mohegan to start, under contract (similar to the AC casino's and NJT) to NECR. The potential availability of ACES coaches should the AC casino's stop their service may help, although it's not exactly a good portent for this type of service.
  by Ridgefielder
The EGE wrote:How big was UConn, then vs now (17000)? College ridership could potentially be a factor, as well as Mohegan Sun (which, unlike NLC-WOR, is right on the line).
UConn Storrs is probably an order of magnitude bigger now than it was in '47.

However, the problem is the geographic relationship between Storrs and the rest of the state. The most heavily populated parts of CT are the Connecticut Valley from the Mass border to Middletown, the lower Farmington valley, the towns along the Quinnipiac, the Naugatuck valley and the coastline from New Haven to the NY State line. The NECR doesn't go near any of those; in fact, if you're heading south on that line you're moving away from them at about a 50-degree angle.

Have to admit that I don't know how much of UConn's student body is in-state vs. out-of-state. However, I'm willing to bet that a decent amount of the out-of-state students are from other nearby New England states: and a New London-Palmer-Brattleboro train likely wouldn't do that much for them, either, since the most populous parts of Mass. and Rhode Island are basically due east of Storrs.

Rail-wise, UConn would be best served by a restored Midland Route from Willimantic to Hartford via Bolton Notch: something that will likely happen around the time pigs sprout wings.
  by Jeff Smith
By comparison, the small South Georgia town I ended up in has a state university with an enrollment of 24,000 or so. No one is clamoring for passenger rail service along our beloved shortline to either Atlanta (>200m NW of here) or Savannah (<75m SW of here). We don't even have Greyhound service. Granted, outside of our town, it's nothing but farms and cotton fields as far as the eye can see, and then some.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
It's bait for freight improvements. NECR is only proposing this because they think the infrastructure investment will make them boatloads of money. And it will. And the state would be wise to chuck in money for upgrades, like it's doing with the NECR-P&W connection with the Willimantic Branch rebuild.

Passenger service on fairly intermittent schedules in a lowish-density region would not be expensive to run. They would not be proposing it if it weren't CHEAP. But it's great bait for public support if investment in the line for freight $$$ had some tangible hook to the residents on the line and legislators who would vote on state aid for track upgrades. You'll have people welcoming the trains instead of bitching about the increase in freight. NECR is pitching this because they're smart and know how to work the knobs for good PR. There doesn't have to be any passenger trains run necessarily if they pitch themselves to being the bestest neighbors in the world on encouraging public utilization of their mainline. But...if that's what it takes to get the 286K double-stacks, signal improvements, and whatever else they need to rake in profits hand over fist then a slick little side operation is money extremely well spent. And one they can hand off to CDOT as a public service if it proves popular enough. I would think UConn and Mohegan would sustain it as a short operation transferring from SLE and Amtrak. Maybe even running to Palmer and Tolland to catch Mass Pike and I-84 park-and-ride traffic. If you're only talking a few runs clustered around weekends...make good trip time on their Class 3 track and that's attractive. Maybe even eats into the Mohegan Sun tourbus profits with the park-and-rides.

Brattleboro's a bit of a fantasy...BUT...they don't want the money they've been getting for hosting the Vermonter to dry up with the relocation back to the Conn River Line. I'm sure for that stretch of track they see future Amtrak Boston-Vermont/Montreal service as a linchpin to getting their free ride back on that stretch of track. So, again, signaling the willingness to roll up their sleeves on running passenger service is good PR for them in Massachusetts to chip away at that long-term goal. UMass is being left in a lurch by abdication of the Amherst stop, so anything they propose servicing the campus is going to have some positive vibes going for it.

Artful negotiation. That's what this is about, not some altruistic goal about running a passenger railroad. That Shortline of the Year award sits in their trophy case for a reason.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
Also important to note...

With the last, greatest hope of an I-384 extension from Bolton Notch to Willimantic going up in flames in 2005 over the same community squabbles--missing a rare opportunity for big fed $$$ when the Bush Admin had it briefly on the fast-track list--CT is recommending a commuter rail study from Hartford to Willimantic to save "Suicide 6" from its next over-capacity crest in 15-20 years. (Docs recommending the future study are somewhere on the CDOT website). 6 has been expanded to 100% of its physically possible roadway capacity with the last dump of money and asphalt they put into it 8 years ago, so without the highway proposal coming back CR is the literal last option for that corridor's exploding congestion and the safety problems on that road returning with a vengeance in a few years. Do CR on full Class 4 passenger track from Hartford/Manchester and now NECR's gambit looks very attractive to the state as a regional rail option from Hartford to Mohegan Sun/Norwich/New London/SLE transfer as a lower-frequency addon to the regular Willimantic CR. So if they've got a modest freight upgrade in place on that corridor and have trialed this very limited self-run passenger service to get some hard data on the demand, they've got ready-serve bait for CDOT when it does the Hartford-Willimantic study later this decade and builds it 2025-30 or whenever. Even better...if I-384 does happen it's supposed to be built on a greenway with the carriageways being buffered by a couple hundred feet of trees. If the highway grading builds in a future rail ROW on the median then CR looks an even better (and faster) prospect on new pre-cleared ROW.

Again, don't see anything all that self-sustaining north of UConn on NECR other than rare low-speed I-84/Tolland and I-90/Palmer park-and-ride casino shuttles to muscle in on a little of the lucrative Mohegan Sun tourbus revenues, but there's definitely permanent passenger potential on the Willimantic-New London and Palmer-Amherst-Vermonter (i.e. future Boston-Montreal via Palmer Amtrak) segments in the 2 decade range if they get their ducks in a row on modest track upgrades, serving up passenger trackage rights to the states on a silver platter, and encouraging (or direct-conducting with this trial service) passenger study data. Like I said, this is all about revenue and getting their teeth into some permanent track maint subsidy, with any toy train service being a few nickels' of political wooing to get the gov't to pony up for faster/better/heavier/taller freight track. Anything they can do over the next decade to lower the barriers to entry at the public level helps permanently secure their long-term profit margins and competitive status among the "Big 4" New England carriers.
  by Larry
I would think with high speed coming to the NH, Hart. and Spring. line in the future that connecting Willimantic with Hartford through the Notch would be most beneficial to all. P & W, CSOR, New England Central and Central New England all could benefit the way I see it if that line was ever connected back in for freight. This would free up the freight on the High speed line and yes, who knows in the future go from Hartford to say Willimantic by passenger train. Uconn, Eastern and the Casino's could take advantage of this. Freight coming from the north down to Willimantic and then branching out in all directions worked many years ago and could again work today. But because CDOT doesn't like rail they would and have proposed a Busway through that segment and who needs that.
  by Jeff Smith
Norwich City Council backing rail proposal

Brief, fair-use quote:
Norwich Bulletin wrote: Norwich, Conn. — A planned passenger rail line linking New London and Brattleboro, Vt., won the support of Norwich leaders last week.

The 110-mile Central Corridor Line would go past 13 colleges and universities, including the University of Connecticut in Storrs and University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Stops would include Mohegan Sun and Norwich’s Intermodal Transportation Center, now under construction.


Planners say it will cost about $110 million to upgrade the existing line so it can accommodate passenger travel, and Central Corridor Line Coalition Chairman Blake Lamothe said trial runs along the route are expected in the spring.


The Mohegan Tribal Authority also is a major player, having signed a letter of support for the rail line. Its casino in Uncasville and Palmer, Mass., where the tribe hopes to build a second casino, are expected to be stops.
  by Jeff Smith
Still a long way off, but it seems like support is coalescing...

Here are some other links:


The route serves:

■Two large state universities: U-Mass and U-Conn, whose 52,000 students account for 35% of the total New England student population.
■11 smaller colleges like Amherst College and Connecticut College (the tracks run through both campuses)
■Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino: Destination for more than 1 million visitors
■Commuters who travel between Willimantic, Norwich and New London
■Regional travelers from and to the area and nearby cities reached by existing or planned connecting trains and ferries to Long Island.
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