Where the Central Vermont Railway Came From

by Jim Murphy (Ambassador Vol 2, No. 1 - Spring, 1991)


Since this is an early issue of the CHARLIE VERMONT newsletter, I thought it would be fitting to do a short history on where the Central Vermont Railway Inc., as we know it, came from. The alphabet jumble above represents the early lines of the CV.

On the Southern Division, the New London, Willimantic, and Springfield was chartered in May 1847 in the state of Connecticut, and the New London, Willimantic, and Palmer in the state of Massachusetts, to build from New London, CT to Palmer, MA. The extension north from Palmer started out at the Amherst & Belchertown and then changed its name to the Amherst, Belchertown and Palmer. It was actually built from Palmer to Millers Falls where it made connection with the Vermont & Massachusetts between Millers Falls, MA and Brattleboro, VT. All of these railroads eventually became the New London Northern Railroad running between New London and Brattleboro with a steamship line from New London to New York City.

At Brattleboro there was also a narrow gauge line running 36 miles along the West River to South Londonderry, VT. This road, called the Brattleboro & Whitehall, was planned to go as far as Whitehall, NY, but only got as far as South Londonderry.

The Vermont Central Railway started at Windsor, VT and run to Burlington over almost the route it follows today. The exception was a section from just west of the Blue Bridge across the Winooski River where the line ran in a deep gully through the center of Burlington and ended near the end of Main Street. In the early 1860s the line tunneled under North Avenue to connect with the Burlington waterfront.

The line from Essex Junction was called the Vermont & Canada and ran to the edge of Lake Champlain in Alburg, VT. Since the capital of Vermont was not on the main line, a track was extended into the city of Montpelier and later on to Barre and then to Williamstown with the idea of continuing on to Royalton where it could have made a connection with the Vermont Central. This road from Barre south was to be called the Montpelier & White River.

In the early 1870s the Burlington & Lamoille ran from Burlington to Cambridge Junction. The CV bought this railroad in 1889 and ran it until 1938 when it was abandoned.

In Saint Albans, the CV acquired the Saint Albans & Richford Plank Road, or, I should say, J. G. Smith acquired the road and then built the Missisquoi Railroad on part of this Plank Road from Saint Albans to Richford. That road of course is the Richford Branch now.

The Montreal & Vermont Junction Railroad made connection with the Vermont & Canada Railroad at the Canadian border at Highgate Springs and continued to Iberville, Quebec, where it crossed the Richelieu River into Saint Jean, making connection to Montreal. This section of track from Fonda Junction to Saint Jean was known as the Saint Armand Sub up until its abandonment in 1956. Part of the Saint Armand Sub is now Interstate I-89 which was build on the old roadbed from Swanton to Highgate Springs.

They also owned another line from St. Jean to Waterloo, Que., known as the Stanstead, Shefford & Chambly RR.

In 1870 the VC and the V&C were reorganized as the Central Vermont Railroad Company. In 1883 due to financial problems the Consolidated Railroad Company bought the VC and the V&C at forced sale. After a year they leased the road to the Central Vermont Railroad Company for 99 years.

The name has changed slightly since then: Central Vermont Railway Company, Central Vermont Railway Company Inc., but no matter how you look at it, we have been operating as a railroad since the mid 1840s, a total of more than 140 years. Many of the branch lines are gone, but one can still see the old right of ways in the late spring or early winter when there is a light snow covering the ground highlighting the raised portions. Even some of the old bridge abutments and culverts are still in place.

Reprinted from CHARLIE VERMONT (Central Vermont Employee Newsletter), Volume 1

Number 1, February 1985.

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