New England Central Railroad
NECR GP38 in Palmer, Massachusetts
|Headquarters||St. Albans, Vermont|
|Dates of operation||1995–|
|Predecessor||Central Vermont Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||366 miles (589 km)|
The New England Central Railroad (reporting mark NECR) began operations in 1995. It is a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming and runs from New London, Connecticut, to Alburgh, Vermont at the Canada–US border, a distance of 366 miles (589 km). The railroad interchanges with the CN, CSX, MCER, PAS, P&W, GMRC, WACR, and VTR.
The new railroad was marked by improved service compared to the old Central Vermont, as well as more flexible crew arrangements, both of which led to a resurgence of the line. Within a year of NECR’s takeover of the line declining traffic flow was reversed, with the railroad handling more than 30,000 carloads annually within two years of commencing operations, in contrast to the old CV, which had suffered through years of declining traffic and the loss of profitability. NECR’s motive power initially consisted of former Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad EMD GP38‘s although by the late 1990s, leased locomotives, largely former Conrail EMD SD40-2s, entered service.
In 2010, the railroad operated freight trains at night in order not to conflict with the Amtrak schedule. This led to sounding horns at unprotected crossings when nearby residents were sleeping. Some residents in Winooski complained.
On 9 November 2010, the railroad began construction on a project to raise speeds on trackage within Vermont to 59 miles per hour (95 km/h), with speeds on the route south of White River Junction being increased to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) for passenger service. The upgrades were part of a project to decrease running times for Amtrak‘s Vermonter, which operates over the route. Construction was funded by a $70 million grant from the federal government, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
At the end of August 2011, the NECR was severely impacted by flood waters from Hurricane Irene. Though downgraded by this time to a tropical storm, Irene inflicted major damage between Montpelier and White River Junction, completely washing away about 2,000 feet (610 m) of roadbed and leaving welded rail and ties suspended in mid-air. Two bridges over the White River were also heavily damaged, but the line from White River Junction to New London was not affected as severely. At first it was estimated that repairs would take 4 to 6 weeks. However, with repair crews working around the clock to replace the washed-out ballast and shore up the bridges, the railroad was reopened for traffic by mid-September.
The 45 railroads formerly owned by RailAmerica, which had previously taken over RailTex lines, were transferred to Genesee & Wyoming in December 2012. This change of ownership caused a shuffle of locomotives around their rail system, and the original NECR yellow & blue paint scheme is slowly being replaced by the Genesee & Wyoming scheme.
On August 15, 2016, Genesee & Wyoming announced an agreement to purchase the Providence and Worcester Railroad, which interchanges freight with the New England Central.
The railroad’s traffic consists largely of general freight, including lumber products, metals, chemicals and stone products, although COFC (container on flat car) and TOFC (trailer on flat car) business is also operated from the Canada–US border to Boston, in partnership with the Providence and Worcester Railroad. The NECR hauled around 37,000 carloads in 2008.
NECR maintains significant operations at several locations along their line. Its main office is located in St. Albans, Vermont, along with the main office for the Connecticut Southern Railroad (CSOR), with which NECR shares many management functions. St. Albans is also the location of the main shop and dispatch office. Vermont’s largest rail yard is the St. Albans yard, which handles upwards of 40,000 cars each year. Other significant operations are at White River Junction and Brattleboro, both of which are the location of offices and smaller yards. Palmer, Massachusetts serves as the main yard and office for operations south of the Vermont line.
Since 1989, Amtrak has operated its daily Vermonter service between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans, Vermont, using the NECR. Until 2014, the NECR was used north of Palmer, Massachusetts, and since 2014, north of Northfield, Massachusetts. The largest cause of delays on this line has been track and signal problems along the NECR. Since 2007, many mainline track and surfacing improvements brought Amtrak’s on time performance to above 80% on-time levels.
New England Central Railroad Locomotive Roster
As of May 2020, the NECR fleet consisted of the following:
|3844 and 3845 are the variant GP38AC, with an alternator instead of a generator.|