Rutlanders love their trains and the very hub of the nostalgic, former Rutland Railroad came out in force last week to show its support of Amtrak's scenic Ethan Allen Express passenger train. Over 200 train enthusiasts and Amtrak cusomters were on hand to voice their support for the troubled train.
The rally demonstrated that a stark divide exists between western Vermont and eastern Vermont - with the eastern side of the state getting all the public-transportation goodies thanks to the political influence of the Burlington-Montpelier corridor. Meanwhile, western Vermont struggles with an overburdened, crumbling highway (U.S. Route 7) and lack of daily passenger train service.
The public rally - held Jan. 19 and organized by the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) - was held at the downtown train station. It demonstrated visible community solidarity against the proposed "derailing" of the Ethan Allen train. The train is currently on the budget chopping block.
Organizers of VRAN recently published their "manifesto" for saving the Ethan Allen. The organization is firmly set against the state's proposed train substitute by bus. But the effort may be an uphill political and economic battle that even an Amtrak locomotive can't climb.
Christopher Parker, executive director of VRAN, said there are numerous unanswered questions and points regarding the VAOT Amtrak Bus that should be raised with the governor and legislators.
"The Rutland County delegation is unified in their opposition to the administration's proposal and understands the economic importance of the train," Parker said. "The administration is promoting the bus as an improvement over the train to Rutland. When asked recently, no Amtrak passengers seem to agree. They also say it is temporary.. Even the governor himself gave caution... about that point."
Parker said Amtrak officials indicated that there is a lack of passenger rollingstock in the U.S.