Many years ago when I was just a wee lad, the year was 1959 and it had been announced that the Budd car passenger rail service up the Connecticut River from White River Jct. to St. Johnsbury was to be terminated. This was several years before Interstate 91 even crossed the Mass. border into Vermont but by now the automobile was king. It was just not profitable anymore. My Parents decided to take me on the last run to give me the experience of riding a train. I remember still watching my Aunt and Uncle follow us in their car up Route 5 which ran parallel to the track. It was great fun. After that rail travel went extinct.
Fast forward to today.
From the Times Argus
MONTPELIER — “Back to the Future” is how officials described the return of an old technology to power a future transportation system with the arrival of 1950s-built, independently powered rail cars in the Barre-Montpelier area on Tuesday.
The Budd rail diesel cars — or Budliners — are among 10 purchased to run passenger rail service in both central and western Vermont that could pave the way to meet net zero-energy emissions goals in the state.
The driving forces behind the program are venture capitalist David Blittersdorf and Montpelierbased Net Zero Vermont.
Blittersdorf is the former CEO of NRG, a successful wind-energy company, who subsequently launched AllEarth Renewables — both based in Williston — to build energy-efficiency enterprises that reduce fossil-fuel demand and slow climate change.
“The vision of the future is that we have to get back to mass transit, we have to get back to train, so I call this ‘Back to the Future,’” Blittersdorf said. “What settled Vermont, what settled the U.S. and even the world were the rail lines and the river and boat traffic.”
He said the old technology would make a comeback because it’s the most efficient way to move people and freight.
“Vermont is so small and we can innovate. With the rail, we are going to lead,” Blittersdorf added.
He spent over $4 million to buy 12 Budliner rail cars from a Texas company that had restored them. The cars are individually powered by diesel engines and do not require a locomotive to pull them. The cars can carry 80 passengers and provide an alternative to people driving cars.
Additional photos here.
So basically what we have are buses that run on railroad tracks. That Mr. Blittersdorf used his own money to purchase them is commendable.
The only problem with rail is…and now don’t get me wrong, I’ve a lot of experience with railcars, and I have nothing against the concept of mass transit, is that unless your going to have a flexible schedule, i.e. a single RDC leaving Barre-Montpelier every hour for Burlington, and vice versa, people are forced to accommodate their schedule to the trains.
And after you arrive at your destination and your job is miles away from the rail station…TAXI!
And a little bit more of your freedom disappears.
Since the RDC’s will be going back and forth on a single track, and sharing it with freight trains and Amtrak safety will need to be of prime concern. These cars were built in the 1950’s, will they be upgraded with 21st century technology? That won’t be cheap.
Will there be local and express trains? One stopping in every town and one direct to the big city?
What will be the price of tickets? What happens went the novelty wears off. What happens if the whole enterprise is awash in red ink? Every rail service in the entire world requires subsidizes i.e. taxpayer money.
But remember, we have to save the planet,
Well, I wish them luck in their endeavor. While riding the rails one will be able to look out the windows and see acres and acres of
corn and cows solar panels may not be as green as you think.
I will be looking forward to giving it a ride someday. If only to reminisce about that day long ago. And what America was.