All Aboard! Green Mountain Flyer restarts Fall Foliage excursions

inside another car

The Green Mountain Flyer train excursions will be restarting in the fall using the Green Fleet cars such as this one. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

The Green Mountain Flyer will begin using Chester as the hub for its regular Fall Foliage excursions beginning on Tuesday Sept. 23 and running through mid-October.

In preparation, employees of the Vermont Rail System, which is celebrating its 50th year this year, have been working in and around the Chester Depot, sprucing up the building and expanding parking to accommodate five tour buses and 25 cars. They have also been cleaning and upgrading the passenger coaches in North Walpole.

The excursions, which will take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays,  Saturdays and Sundays, will run three round trips each day — two from Chester to Ludlow and one from Chester to Rockingham. Each leg takes about 45 minutes and there is an opportunity for visitors to spend the afternoon, following any round trip, shopping and dining in Chester.  They could also take a later return train after the first leg of the Ludlow trip to spend a few hours there. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children. To buy tickets or for more information, click here.

The days were chosen to accommodate freight traffic that must use the tracks.

Bob Popovak in one car he's been working on

Bob Popovak proudly shows off some of the work he and Scott Whitney have put into the passenger coaches.

It’s up to employees Bob Popovak of Walpole and Scott Whitney of Claremont to do all the work on the passenger cars, while also maintaining and repairing the mechanicals of the engine and coaches as well as running the excursions, which are pulled by the  F. Nelson Blount – a diesel engine built in 1951. That engine was named for the founder of Steamtown, which ran the excursions before moving to Pennsylvania.

By sheer number, the work on the 15 coaches seems daunting: There are nine coaches in the Green Fleet, which were built around 1931 and used on the New Jersey Central, and five in the Silver Fleet, which were built around 1937 and used on the Sante Fe Railway. Each will accommodate seating for 48 to 78 passengers. Popovak is obviously proud of the work they have been doing. Coaches have been painted, some windows were replaced, new carpet has been laid, tables were made in-house, new chairs have been installed while older ones have been reupholstered.

Inside one car

This Silver fleet car is set up and ready for passengers.

Popovak says the railway has learned from the past and will now make a bigger push for bus tour group sales.

He added, “This let’s people know what the railroad is all about. The general public tends to only see the freight cars going across the at-grade crossing, but this gives passengers a closer look at (this type of) transportation.”

Once on the train for the Fall Foliage, passengers will be able to purchase snacks and drinks.

Inside the McIntyre

Popovak gives a tour of the inside of the luxury coach, the McIntyre.

If you wish to take an excursion with more luxurious accommodations, but  with much fewer passengers, Popovak recommends the “predecessor to the corporate jet” — the 1923 MacIntyre, one of only four rail cars ever built by the Bethlehem Steel Co. in Baltimore, Md. The 80-ton MacIntyre features a lounge, formal sleeping quarters for four plus two in the lounge, a dining room and a 1970s kitchen. Selden Houghton, assistant vice president of the Vermont Rail System, says the cost for chartering this begins at $3,500.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Rita Bolognani says:

    Very excited to find this on Facebook! Have wanted to do this for a very long time now. Please keep me updated.