Housatonic Railroad Thread (Maybrook, Berkshire, Pittsfield)

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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Otto Vondrak »

Let's try to rope this back to the Danbury-Pittsfield service.

If the tracks get rebuilt and there's an occasional passenger excursion running over the line, I think that's great. Walter Rich campaigned for the same thing when he had his NYS&W Northern Division rebuilt with help from the state. So perhaps the same idea can work in Connecticut. But I seriously, seriously doubt this is laying the foundation for a possible state-wide commuter operation or expansion of services.
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Otto and Dutch both have great points, there are many hurdles to overcome. And I think Dutch has a good "inside" perspective, given his knowledge of HRRC operations and personnel. And we know there are some good folks over there. I guess my point is this COULD be a model for statewide operation; right now, MNRR and Amtrak have a duoopoly on operations in CT, contracted from CDOT. The point being, CDOT could attract other operators, particularly freight, with subsidies and infrastructure improvements (which they already provide). So that could be mutually beneficial - freight gets better operating conditions, customers get better service, CT gets passenger service without government bureacracy.

I had a friend of mine from the Army Reserve in Danbury years ago (15 or 20 years) who worked for MNRR who thought CDOT should do it on their own. It never came to anything of course, as under Rowland, subordinates and predecessors rail was an orphan.

I know ACRE is a hurdle. If CT withdrew the branches from MNRR via the operating agreement (much as they tried to discontinue under Rowland) and left them with the main line and New Canaan, well, who's to say it wouldn't work? I'm sure there'd be compensation involved.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

As I noted at Thr Republican's site, I'm not exactly placing my bets that I will be riding such back to South Kent for my 'Fifieth' during June 2011,

I've often contended that Litchfield County has long been a wasteland for any kind of transportation; it was a wonder that somehow The Berkshire held on until A-Day. It's not just rail, as the "other guys' haven't done too well either. Case in point, where's the Litchfield County International Airport (ain't kidding; but in some locales, need is irrelevant), where is I-89 or otherwise an Interstate roundly paralleling US7? For that matter, save the Depression era Cownwall Bridge or a smaller 60's era bridge at Gaylordsville, have any improvements been made to US7? Oh, maybe a stoplight or two as some "suburban sprawl" has proliferated around New Milford.

But somehow I think that is how the residents want it; give the snowball UNOWARE a better chance than this one.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Ridgefielder »

Gilbert B Norman wrote:But somehow I think that is how the residents want it...
Mr. Norman, I would certainly agree with that statement. Aside from Route 8 to Winsted the road network up in the Litchfield Hills is basically the same now as it was in 1960, and I don't think anyone up there really wants that to change.

IMHO though that is what might give a resurrection of The Berkshire a better chance of success than anything else-- it could be pitched as a return to the past, not some unwanted intrusion of the present/future... but I agree, it's highly unlikely you're going to be getting off of a regularly-scheduled passenger train in South Kent at any time within the next five years.

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Re: Housatonic May Restart Passenger Service

Post by goodnightjohnwayne »

Oh dear! 150 million? Investors? Passenger service? Investors?

Replace the word "investors" with "taxpayers," and you might be closer to the truth. Honestly, would any private sector investor in the their right mind want to invest that much money in a passenger service, when every other regularly scheduled, non-tourist, passenger service is taxpayer subsidized?

Golly, if there's so much money to be made in passenger rail, the taxpayers of New York and Connecticut should already be getting a substantial dividend from the MTA? As we all know, that's not about to happen any time soon.....

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

It's interesting how fast a private company can complete a study compared to a public entity.

http://www.countytimes.com/articles/201 ... 004039.txt
The new study—conducted among over 2,500 residents in Connecticut and New York City—shows a potential of two million one-way riders per year if passenger service were offered from Danbury to the rail company’s current terminus in Pittsfield, Mass., with 8,000 daily trips in summer and about 3,200 in winter. “Outwardly, it would appear that a combination of public/private investment could create a service that requires little or no operating subsidy,” rail company president John Hanlon said in the press release. The release said that the travel time from Pittsfield to New York City would be about four hours, and that fares would “be competitive with intercity bus travel and automobile.”
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TomNelligan
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by TomNelligan »

Huh? Eight thousand trips (or four thousand RT riders) a day? Maybe if you turn Route 7 into a gravel road or something. That's more people than are carried on a lot of urban US commuter routes serving densely populated suburbs. As one who rode the line in NH days and would love to have a chance to do that again, I think there is some market for seasonal service to Pittsfield, but I'd be astonished if ridership amounted to more than a single trainload of people a day except on some major holiday weekends. I suspect that a lot of those survey participants just gave the environmentally correct answer, "sure, I'd ride a train", but I wonder if they were even screened to insure that they were in fact regular travelers along the Housatonic RR route and thus part of the potential market.

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

I agree, Tom, I thought the number was high. I think the service is viable at the levels you suggest. Of course, HRRC may need an eye-popping number to get the assistance they need from the state.
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Noel Weaver
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Noel Weaver »

In order to properly serve the market you would need at least two round trips every day. AM and PM out of both New York
and Pittsfield. This does not fit the catagory of commuter service and Amtrak wasn't interested in it in 1971, I do not think
a two seat ride would be a good idea, maybe the Housy can make a deal to use Metro-North/Connecticut owned equipment
although I do not know for sure. I think some sort of food service might be needed on a trip of this length as well.
I stopped in Danbury last month while up north and it was pretty depressing to look around. The museum is fine and the
Danbury Branch is in good shape and with lots of service but the rest of the place is literally going to weeds. It would need a
big infusion of funds from both Connecticut and Massachusetts to get this one going although I like Tom would love to see
it happen.
There are both positives and negatives in this one, negatives include sparse population all along the route, track work
needed and operational questions such as a two and maybe even a three seat ride which people will not like. The positives are that it is a resort area and both summer and winter traffic is possible, route 7 especially in Connecticut is pretty much a terrible road and time wise it might do almost as well as the road does.
As much as I would like to see something like this, I think the negatives are just too much for it to happen.
The day to day ridership potential is not very good and you would probably have to have at least a two person crew.
The only passenger train that I ever rode with a one person crew (the engineer) was the NYS&W train in Syracuse where the
engineer collected the fare before starting out and at every stop.
Noel Weaver

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Great point; no one wants a "commuter ride" for four hours. As Dutch has pointed out ACRE protects Danbury and south. Lots of hurdles.

New Amtrak service would have to be negotiated and subsidized, and that's not what HRRC wants; they want to run it in a public-private partnership. They could only run on HRRC track due to ACRE to Danbury, and then on CDOT track north of New Milford. So yeah, you're looking at at least a two seat ride, with the first two hours on commuter equipment.

You'd need MNRR to run a super-express from GCT (100% subsidized by CDOT since it's branch service), maybe one stop in Stamford, then direct to Danbury, to cut the run time, and then transfer to HRRC.

And let's not forget CDOT wants to run service to New Milford, and perhaps Pittsfield.

Here's the HRRC press release: http://hrrc.com/press/seemoreie.php?story=6#Scene_1

Read the first paragraph carefully; also mentioned is the "capacity to connect with Metro North in Brewster, New York". hmmmmmm.
John Hanlon, President of the Housatonic Railroad, announced today the results of a comprehensive study to determine ridership demand for a rail passenger service between Pittsfield, MA and New York City. In June, 2010 Housatonic Railroad contracted with Market Street Research of Northampton, Massachusetts to determine if it was feasible to start a privately operated rail passenger service over the Housatonic Railroad route between Pittsfield, MA and Danbury, CT. In Danbury, Housatonic’s rail line connects with Metro North into New York and Housatonic Railroad also has the capacity to connect with Metro North in Brewster, New York.

In a letter to government officials, regional planners and other interested parties Hanlon stated, “If we use the median ridership information (accounting for seasonal trends) we have a ridership of two million one way riders per year. This is extremely encouraging.” Hanlon further noted “Outwardly, it would appear that a combination of public/private investment could create a service that requires little or no operating subsidy.”

The proposed Berkshire Line Project will serve cities and towns in western Connecticut generally between Danbury and North Canaan and would operate in Massachusetts to Pittsfield through Berkshire County. The service region draws a large number of visitors from New York and generates substantial traffic to New York City. In discussing the regional benefits for a new service, Hanlon continued, “Today Litchfield and Berkshire County residents and visitors are limited to the use of the automobile. Rail transport for both freight and passengers is an energy efficient, environmentally friendly solution for our region’s transportation needs. Reducing our dependence on the automobile to move over two million passengers to and from the region reduces our carbon footprint, saves energy and promotes responsible land use.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Gilbert B Norman »

Somehow, I would not be placing my bets that I'll be riding up to my "50th" at South Kent next June on The Berkshire.

A little OT, but how about checking out RRNET Member Tom Curtin's article in NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine regarding a little 1941 "incident" occurring within sight of the School. I think, but cannot confirm (and not certain given my age I'll be able to confirm when I go back "up The Hill'), that the School's Bell is from one of the locomotives involved.

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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Otto Vondrak »

Somewhat off-topic: Housatonic should stop worrying about starting its own privately passenger service, and start supporting the passenger carrier that already runs on its rails... The BSRM staff has the equipment, the manpower, and the marketing skills to offer seasonal excursions beyond its current limit of Lenox-Stockbridge. Housatonic should stop beating their heads against the wall and start working with the resources they already have. Build up a more attractive seasonal excursion service, then see if the market warrants adding additional trains. Much easier to lobby support to expand an EXISTING service than to create one out of thin air.

http://www.berkshirescenicrailroad.org/

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Jeff Smith »

Yeah, they have the expertise; Housatonic wants the $$$.
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Otto Vondrak
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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Otto Vondrak »

Jeff Smith wrote:Yeah, they have the expertise; Housatonic wants the $$$.
HRRC would still get the money to upgrade the physical plant, and BSRM would be able to offer expanded seasonal excursions (within the state of Massachusetts).

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Re: Proposed Danbury-Pittsfield service?

Post by Noel Weaver »

Otto Vondrak wrote:Somewhat off-topic: Housatonic should stop worrying about starting its own privately passenger service, and start supporting the passenger carrier that already runs on its rails... The BSRM staff has the equipment, the manpower, and the marketing skills to offer seasonal excursions beyond its current limit of Lenox-Stockbridge. Housatonic should stop beating their heads against the wall and start working with the resources they already have. Build up a more attractive seasonal excursion service, then see if the market warrants adding additional trains. Much easier to lobby support to expand an EXISTING service than to create one out of thin air.

http://www.berkshirescenicrailroad.org/

-otto-
This is an excellent point. I think there are railroad politics involved here.
Who know what will become of this but I am not very optimistic.
Noel Weaver

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