Rutland-bound train #291 entering Croton Harmon
Station, August 12, 2008
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|First service||December 1996|
|Ridership||50,717 total (2016)|
|Start||New York City|
|Distance travelled||241 miles (388 km)|
|Train number(s)||290, 296 (southbound); 291, 293 (northbound)|
|Class(es)||Business class and reserved coach|
|Seating arrangements||Airline-style coach seating|
|Catering facilities||On-board cafe|
|Baggage facilities||Carry-on only|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet coaches|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||Up to 110 mph (180 km/h)|
|Track owner(s)||Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad|
Canadian Pacific Railway
The Ethan Allen Express is a 241-mile (388 km) higher-speed passenger train service operated by Amtrak between New York City and Rutland, Vermont via Albany, New York. The scheduled total trip time is 5.5 hours. Operations are subsidized by the states of Vermont and New York, and the train is popular among vacationers travelling to the ski resort area of Killington, Vermont. The Ethan Allen Express is named for the American Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen. Between Penn Station and Rensselaer, it operates along the Empire Corridor.
In April 1995, the Montrealer was shifted to daytime operation, cut back to St. Albans, and renamed as the Vermonter, providing daytime service to eastern and central Vermont for the first time since 1966. The western part of the state then advocated for rail service to Rutland as well. $4.7 million in federal funds was secured to upgrade the former Delaware and Hudson Railway Whitehall Branch between Whitehall and Rutland for passenger speeds. Service was initiated on December 2, 1996. This was the first passenger service to Rutland since the Rutland Railroad ended its Burlington–New York City service in 1953, and the first passenger service on the Whitehall Branch since 1936.
The Ethan Allen Express began with stops in Rutland, Fort Edward, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Albany–Rensselaer, Hudson, Rhinecliff, Poughkeepsie, Croton, Yonkers and New York City. A stop at Fair Haven was added in November 1997.
Until May 2002, the train included a baggage car for skis and unboxed bicycles as well as checked baggage.
In October 2008, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) proposed eliminating the Ethan Allen Express and replacing it with a bus citing budgetary restrictions. The proposal was rejected by a legislative committee. VTrans again proposed ending service in January 2009; two hundred people rallied at Rutland station against the proposed cut. Rail advocates, led by the Vermont Rail Action Network and local political leaders organized to fight the cut and plans to drop the service were abandoned.
On February 23, 2011, VTrans began an investigation into the Vermont Rail System's (VRS) handling of the Ethan Allen Express between Whitehall, New York and Rutland after Amtrak notified the state that track conditions meant the train was frequently delayed. Amtrak evaluated the line as the worst in the nation. During the summer of 2011, VRS conducted work to improve the track in question, planned to result in an eighteen-minute reduction in travel time by the end of the year, with additional work planned for the summer of 2012. The project was funded by both the railroad and the state of New York at a cost of $3.25 million, and involved rebuilding about 8 miles (13 km) of track and eight grade crossings. By February 2012, the trackwork had resulted in a 15-minute southbound and 25-minute northbound reduction in travel time between Rutland and Whitehall, while the total time the Ethan Allen Express operated behind schedule fell to 135 minutes in December 2011, from 11,068 minutes a year earlier.
All trains using the Empire Connection, excluding the Lake Shore Limited operated into Grand Central Terminal from May 26, to September 4, 2018 to allow work on the Empire Tunnel, the Spuyten Duyvil movable bridge, and Track 19 in New York's Penn Station.
Proposed extension to Burlington
There have been plans to extend the Ethan Allen from Rutland to Burlington since at least 2000. The last passenger service between the cities was in 1953 on the Rutland Railroad's Green Mountain Flyer and Mount Royal.
In 2005, a $30 million earmark was obtained by Senator Jim Jeffords to, in part, fund the extension. Of this, $19 million remained by 2011, the balance having been used for other projects such as a new spur for freight traffic.
Advocates, led by chambers of commerce and the Vermont Rail Action Network, renewed the push for an extension to Burlington. They believed that service to Burlington would secure the long-term sustainability of the service by generating much more ridership than Rutland is capable of.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) applied for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds to rebuild the tracks between Rutland and Burlington to passenger standards (59 mph (95 km/h)). While the initial application was not approved, the state subsequently entered a second US$70 million application for similar grants, and later a third, all of which were rejected.
In 2013, the extension received additional funding via a $9 million grant from the fifth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER V) program to pay for the replacement of jointed rail with continuously welded rail. In October 2015, the Vermont Agency of Transportation was awarded a $10 million TIGER 2015 grant to rehabilitate 11 miles of track, add a wye in Rutland, add crossovers and passing sidings, and install passenger platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington. These improvements will result in increased speeds of up to 40 mph (64 km/h) for freight and 60 mph (97 km/h) for passenger trains between Rutland and Burlington.
In October 2015, VTrans said that service to Burlington would begin in three to four years. However, service is currently not expected to start until 2021 or 2022. When it starts, it is anticipated that the train will arrive in Burlington in the evening and depart in the morning. Middlebury has hired a consultant to study locations for its station, while Burlington has hired a consultant to study where the train should overnight.
The Ethan Allen Express operates over trackage owned by the following railroads:
- Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad: Rutland, Vermont–Whitehall, New York
- Canadian Pacific Railway: Whitehall–Schenectady, New York
- CSX Transportation (Hudson Subdivision): Schenectady–Poughkeepsie, New York
- Metro-North Railroad (Hudson Line): Poughkeepsie–Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx, New York City
- Amtrak (Empire Connection): Spuyten Duyvil–New York Penn Station
The Ethan Allen Express meets the performance speeds of higher-speed rail. Between Albany and Schenectady, New York, CSX Transportation's Hudson Subdivision allows for speeds of up to 110 mph (180 km/h).
In the 2010s a typical Ethan Allen Express had three-four Amfleet passenger cars, an Amfleet business class car, and an Amfleet cafe car, with the train being pulled by a GE P32AC-DM dual-mode locomotive.
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- Vermont Agency of Transportation (January 2010). "Passenger Rail Equipment Options for the Amtrak Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express" (PDF). Vermont Legislature. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
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