Green Mountain Railroad History
The first railroad to operate at this location was called the Champlain & Connecticut River Railroad Co. in Nov. 1843. It later became known as the Rutland & Burlington Railroad Co. Construction on the “Island” at Bellows Falls began in Feb.1847. The rails were laid from Bellows Falls to Burlington in April 1849. Service between Bellows Falls and Burlington began in Dec. 1849.
The original two-story station was built with native bricks from the brickyard of a local gentleman name Sanford Granger from Saxtons River in 1851. The station was destroyed in a spectacular fire in late Nov.1923 and was replaced soon after by the Rutland Railroad Co. to the present structure you see today.
Passengers traveling to Boston prior to 1850 would leave from the “Mountain Track” behind the engine house in North Walpole, NH. Passengers and freight were transported over the Tucker Toll Highway Bridge to North Walpole.
The rail line to Brattleboro was not opened for business until 1851 following the completion of the tunnel under the square in Bellows Falls. The rail bed of this tunnel was lowered in 2007 to accommodate modern day freight. Amtrak also uses this line to go to NYC and Washington DC.
The canal, which is located on the west side of the station, is the oldest man made canal in the United States chartered in 1790. Most of the properties owned by the Rutland were acquired from the Bellows Falls Canal Co.
From about 1918 until the mid 1950’s milk from the Bellows Falls Creamery was shipped daily by rail to Boston via refrigerator cars owned by the Boston and Maine. During its heyday much freight passed through Bellows Falls: lumber, cattle, talc, milk, mail, coal, soapstone, and grain. During this time up to 16 daily passenger trains traveled through Bellows Falls.
The great flood of 1927 almost put the railroads in Vermont out of business. Tracks, buildings, and bridges were washed away. The trestle near the station in Bellows Falls is still standing because the railroad took a gamble and left an engine and tender parked on it. The theory was to weigh it down, and it worked.
The Rutland Railroad was reorganized a few times over the years. It finally went out of business in the early 1960’s. F. Nelson Blount started Green Mountain Railroad in 1964. He later went on to create “Steamtown”, now located in Scranton, PA. Blount passed away in 1967 due to a plane crash. Freight service continued and there was still interest in having a tourist train operating out of Bellows Falls. After “Steamtown” left the Vermont Historical Railroad was created to preserve and continue excursion rides that lasted only for one season, then Green Mountain Railroad agreed to take over in 1984 offering train rides to tourists and locals. Freight service runs 6 to 7 days a week.