Business & Economy

Crews rush to rebuild washed-out railroad bed before Amtrak return

A stretch of train track hangs without support after unusually heavy rain washed away the underlying railroad bed along the Mill Brook tributary of the Connecticut River in Dummerston. Photo by Howie Peterson

DUMMERSTON — Unusually heavy rain has washed away the railroad bed of a stretch of track in this southern Vermont town, spurring a construction crew to scramble to rebuild the area before the scheduled return of Amtrak service to the state on Monday.

A worker for the New England Central Railroad first noticed a burst culvert Tuesday along the Mill Brook tributary of the Connecticut River near the Dummerston fishing access area, leading parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc. to close the line to its usual two to four freight trains a day.

Employees and equipment from Bazin Brothers of nearby Westminster arrived Thursday to replace the concrete culvert, surrounding embankment and stone roadbed underneath the track that had been left hanging, with a goal of finishing by Sunday.

“That’s the plan,” New England Central Railroad spokesman Charles Hunter said. “Our highest priority is to work safely and get it reopened.”

The tracks, used mostly for freight, carry a daily Amtrak Vermonter train that suspended service during the Covid-19 pandemic but is set to return to its usual route from St. Albans to Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Amtrak had offered $1 in-state first-day fares, and sold out the 300 seats for most of the route. The public is welcome to attend free events still scheduled to start Monday at 8:30 a.m. in St. Albans and continue as the train stops at each of Vermont’s stations until reaching Brattleboro at 1 p.m.

Windham County has received “particularly heavy rainfall” in the past week, according to the National Weather Service, with upward of 3 inches of rain recorded from Sunday night into Monday alone.

“It was just a lot of water, and there were no injuries or incidents,” Hunter said of the resulting washout. “We’ll make sure things are restored safely.”

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Kevin O'Connor

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