After many years of planning, construction of a new rail “cut and cover” tunnel in Middlebury, Vermont, began this July. During the planned 10-week closure, Vermont Rail System’s BDRD (Burlington to Rutland) and the return RDBD began detouring over the New England Central Railroad between Burlington and Bellows Falls, Vt.
Detours began July 14 and continued through September 17 while temporary street overpasses along Main Street and Merchants Row in Middlebury over Vermont Rail System’s Northern Subdivision were replaced by a 360-foot long tunnel. The original 100-year old street overpasses were replaced in 2017, as they had deteriorated beyond repair. Tracks were lowered during the work project to allow clearance for double-stacks and to provide improved drainage.
Northbound Vermont Rail System detour train RDBD, led by GMTX GP38-2 2331, is crossing the Sugar River Trestle in Claremont, N.H., on New England Central’s Palmer Subdivision, Saturday, September 5, 2020. Eight GMTX GP38-2s were leased by the state of Vermont to provide power for detour trains which operated over NECR from Burlington to Bellows Falls to bypass tunnel construction on VRS in Middlebury.
The Burlington-to-Rutland via Bellows Falls detour added an additional 120 track miles to the run. VRS trains departing Burlington followed NECR’s Burlington, Roxbury, and Palmer Subdivisions south to Bellows Falls. Upon arrival at Bellows Falls and following a quick crew change, trains pulled south, then backed from the NECR’s Palmer Subdivision onto the VRS Green Mountain Railroad Bellows Falls Subdivision, where consists were swapped with VRS 263/264 for the return to Rutland. Shortly after the swap, the RDBD would back south on the NECR for the return north to Burlington.
Trains regularly departed Burlington between 6:45 and 8:00 a.m, arriving at Bellows Falls between noon and 1:30 p.m. After a crew change upon arrival in Bellows Falls and swapping consists with 263/264, the northbound train usually departed Bellows Falls for Burlington approximately 60–90 minutes after arrival.
Leased GMTX GP38-2 2617 leads Vermont Rail System BDRD exiting the Mill Street tunnel in Bellows Falls, Vt., Saturday, September 5, 2020. This detour train ran from Burlington over NECR to Bellows Falls. After a short crew change, the train pulled south through the tunnel before backing on VRS rails for swapping consists with GMRC 263/264 to Rutland, before returning north over the NECR to Burlington.
Eight GMTX GP38-2s were leased by the State of Vermont for use on the near-daily detour trains, and Green Mountain 263/264, the Rutland to Bellows Falls train. Each detour train consisted of four GMTX locos and occasional colorful VRS locomotive move, providing photographers a splash of color. Following Pan Am detours over VRS earlier this year due to a collapse inside the Hoosac Tunnel, Vermont has certainly been an interesting place to visit for railfans during a strange year.
The Middlebury tunnel opened for rail traffic at 10:05 a.m. on Friday, September 18, 2020, with the passage of a Vermont Rail System office car special led by SD70M-2 432…