Passenger train returns to Castleton

CASTLETON - Passenger train service has returned to Castleton after a 55-year-long absense. The taxpayer funded Amtrak Ethan Allen Express stopped at the newly renovated Castleton Depot for the first time Jan. 2.

Luke and Molly Arno of San Francisco, Calif., were the first passengers to board the Amtrak train at Castleton. The husband and wife were returning to their home in California after visiting family in Middlebury during the holidays.

"I was surprised to see everyone celebrating," Molly Arno said. "The officials treated as like celebrities. We had no idea we'd be the first passengers to board the Ethan Allen Express in Castleton."

Arno, a graduate of Vergennes Union High School and Castleton State College, appears on the new NBC-TV drama series "Trauma" which is filmed in San Francisco.

According to Maryann Jakubowski, owner of the depot, "We told everyone around town that today's the first day for passenger train service in Castleton." Local media and residents turned out for the snowy celebration.

Clearly thrilled with the "first passenger" event, Bill Hollister, an Amtrak spokesman, said, "This train station pure Vermont. Ridership on the Vermonter showed an increase but the Ethan Allen was fairly flat in 2009; this is good news for Vermont; we're doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country."

According to Jakubowski, the Ethan Allen Express will stop in Castleton, briefly, twice a day. It is hoped that more college students will use the train to travel between campus and home. It is also easy for students to make cultural visits to New York City via Amtrak.

Officials hope that a $73 million federal taxpayer grant will fund the expansion of Ethan Allen service north to Burlington.

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