Like many, I love Vermont. But I’m not crazy about getting there.
From my home in Darien, Conn., to Burlington, Vt., is about 300 miles. By car, that’s at least five hours and about $50 in gas each way.
Flying may seem quicker, but with the airport drive it’s not much better and about $150 each way. But there’s another alternative: Amtrak.
There are actually three trains a day that will take you to (or close to) Vermont:
The Vermonter — Your best choice, this train runs daily from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans, Vt., coming through Stamford at about noontime each day. It also stops in Bridgeport and New Haven before heading up the Connecticut River Valley to Vermont stops in Brattleboro, Windsor, Montpelier, Waterbury (Stowe) and Essex Junction (Burlington), to name but a few.
It’s not the fastest run (Stamford to Essex Junction is eight hours), but it’s certainly beautiful and relaxing. A frustrating reverse move at Palmer, Mass., will be eliminated this fall with new tracks, shaving an hour off the run.
The Amfleet seats in coach are comfy. There’s also business class seating (for a premium). The AmFood is tasty. The crew is great … and there’s even free WiFi. Despite the many stops, the train hits 80 mph in many stretches on smooth, welded rails.
Remember, Amtrak runs in any kind of weather, so if you’re thinking of skiing this winter when there’s a blizzard and its 20 below zero, the train will get you there when airports and highways are closed.
The Ethan Allen Express — If you’re heading to Rutland, Vt., this is your train. Originating at New York’s Penn Station mid-afternoon, this train bypasses Connecticut and shoots up the Hudson Valley, arriving in Rutland just before 9 p.m., with stops in Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Castleton, Vt.
Best strategy here is to catch this train at Croton-Harmon (in Westchester County, N.Y.), where there’s plenty of paid parking available. The hope is that the Ethan Allen may be extended from Rutland north to Burlington in the coming years.
Same kind of Amfleet cars, coach and business, AmCafé and free WiFi.
The Adirondack — This daily train from New York’s Penn Station to Montreal doesn’t go through Vermont, but it gets you close … if you don’t mind a ferry boat ride. Leaving New York City at 8:15 a.m., you de-train at Port Kent, N.Y., on the western shore of Lake Champlain, at about 2:30 p.m., walk about 100 yards down to the dock, and catch the ferry to downtown Burlington.
Same kind of seating, WiFi, etc., but on this train you’re traveling with a much more international crowd of Quebecois. Poutine anyone?
Thanks to state subsidies and increasing ridership, fares on all of these Amtrak are very affordable: On The Vermonter, Stamford to Burlington (booked in advance) is just $55 one-way ($47 for seniors and kids are half-price).
So if you’re planning a vacation in The Green Mountain state, remember that getting there can be half the fun if you leave the driving to Amtrak … the “green” way to travel.
Jim Cameron is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at [email protected]