MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Guilford Rail System changed its name to Pan Am Railways in 2006. Discussion relating to the current operations of the Boston & Maine, the Maine Central, and the Springfield Terminal railroads (as well as the Delaware & Hudson while it was under Guilford control until 1988). Official site can be found here: PANAMRAILWAYS.COM.

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MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park »

Not big news since this has been in planning for over 2 years and Berkshire Scenic's Adams-N. Adams tourist train is getting ready to start, but MassDOT sent in its formal STB filing to initiate purchase of the branch from PAS:

http://www.stb.dot.gov/filings/all.nsf/ ... 239032.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Usual perpetual freight rights protection for PAS applies, as it did in the fine print on the Conn River Line sale. I didn't see a purchase price in there while skimming, but that's more likely to appear in an upcoming MassDOT Board meeting minutes than an STB filing.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by Rockingham Racer »

I'm not up to speed on this one. Why would MassDOT want the Adams Branch?

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by newpylong »

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:...I didn't see a purchase price in there while skimming, but that's more likely to appear in an upcoming MassDOT Board meeting minutes than an STB filing.
$1.5M. The P&S is in the larger filing.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by jaymac »

When the T was a stand-alone agency, it was easy for politicians west of Worcester to say the T was a Boston-and-suburbs-only issue, with predictable affect on funding. The T got folded into MassDot, the T led -- superficially at least -- the Commonwealth's participation in the Knowledge Corridor (remember all those ties by CPF-384 stenciled with a circle T?), and the T extended its presence into Berkshire County with the Berkshire Scenic taking. The T is now a Commonwealth-wide agency with a Commonwealth-wide constituency. Whether the new administration will reverse the expansion, let it wither, or embrace it, we'll all find out.
"A gray crossover is not company transportation."

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by newpylong »

I wouldn't go that far. The T won't be running trains out there anytime soon if ever. As DOT is not a common carrier the T is just their rail arm so only natural to uae their material and equipment. It is certainly new to see DOT investment in rail out of MBTA district though.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by jaymac »

Especially with Berkshire Scenic, it is far more likely a flag-flying effort than an operational one. The more the T establishes itself as a Commonwealth-wide authority, the harder it is for those who were once outside its area to vote against its and now their interests.
"A gray crossover is not company transportation."

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park »

Rockingham Racer wrote:I'm not up to speed on this one. Why would MassDOT want the Adams Branch?
Housatonic RR banned Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum from their native tracks on the Berkshire Line in an ugly spat a few years ago where they accused the museum of "FRA violations" on its tour trains (though those "violations" were probably Housy's since that was right when they were derailing freight trains once a month). The non-profit museum's viability was severely threatened by not being able to run their own trains, and that was a big concern for the tourism interests out in Berkshire County. BSRM, state, county, Chambers of Commerce, etc. all put their heads together on a way to get them immediate help. They came up with a plan to set up BSRM with rights on the Adams Branch to run a summertime tourism shuttle with a BSRM-acquired RDC set, and to restore about 3/4 mile of trackage to the downtown Adams depot. This was all the same time PAS was negotiating to sell the Conn River Line to the state, so they were game for scraping off more track miles. Sales were supposed to happen in tandem, but were split into separate STB filings and spaced out. I wouldn't read much into the $1.5M purchase price quoted here because it's probably packed with enough accounting remainders from the $17M Conn River sale to be nearly meaningless as a valuation for the Adams Branch-proper.


That's it. Absolute zero state-level operating interest, just an economic stabilizer move for the county's tourism industry. BSRM thinks it can get a decent farebox recovery on this barebones dinky, towns of North Adams + Adams think it ties the room together nicely during peak tourist season and are backing it with enthusiasm, and the state served its economic development purpose by stepping in on BSRM's and the county's behalf when Housy evicted the museum. That's the be-all/end-all of the "strategic" interest in this purchase. Really, really microscopic stakes. State will probably get BSRM back operating on its Berkshire Line tracks sometime in the next 2-3 years too once it digests what it has in that other acquisition and slaps Housy around a few times to play fair. But they still see this North Adams dinky as a permanent summertime attraction that'll float itself, so it's here to stay as a second BSRM operation if/when they return to their home rails.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by Engineer Spike »

Was the cart put ahead of the horse? Now that Housatonic sold the part of its mainline in MA to the commonwealth, they (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) should be better able to dictate to Housatonic whether or not BSRM can run over the line. My second point is what's in N. Adams? There might be some tourists who do the Mohawk Trail, Mt. Greylock, or Bennington, but nothing compared to southern Berkshire County.

The later has more tourist amenities. It also draws from a larger area. With the Mass Pike/NY Thruway, it is easy to access. It is an easy drive from Boston, NYC, as well as Connecticut and Albany.

On the other hand, would someone intent on visiting Tanglewood be also inclined to ride a tourist train? It just seems like Adams is off the beaten path. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, since Bennington seems to have a decent tourist trade, yet nothing of the scope of southern Berkshire County.

Maybe it is just my perception. I live in Saratoga. I sometimes go over towards N. Adams, usually chasing B&M, or meeting my friends from Ayer half way. I tend to travel the southern corner of MA, enroute to my family in NW Connecticut.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by Hux »

Well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I'm sure the area could use another tourist draw, and this could be the reward for the little kid who gets dragged through MaMoCA. Imagine how the area would be had they allowed the casino to go in Adams 30 years ago.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park »

This was in the works before Housy agreed to sell. As mentioned, it was a crisis intervention cooked up quickly because BSRM was placed in a life-threatening spot by its ban from HRCC's tracks. Particulars with PAS were squared 3 years ago, construction been underway all summer long on the track restoration to downtown Adams, and supposedly they are still looking at an abbreviated Fall foliage season starting next month. Everything came together fast except for this actual STB filing to do the transaction.

BSRM's in a less threatened spot now that MassDOT owns the Berkshire Line, but they are still as of now not allowed to run. MassDOT's geo train just made its pass through Western MA, and I think Sperry has also completed a tour through all HRCC trackage. The abominable condition of the line is likely going to keep them grounded for a couple more years until a couple mil in state-funded repairs get made to undo the neglect Housy left in its wake. The ban was never about the museum; it was Housy trying to create a PR diversion from its track being too unsafe to carry passengers. And that's not going to be an instantaneous fix. So in the meantime the museum still needs this Adams dinky to get through the next couple seasons because their collection in Lenox is static-display only and not drawing a whole lot of visitors as long as the embargo continues and its trains can't leave the yard.


BSRM was a very small operation even beforehand...just a 9-mile pingback between Lenox, Lee, and Stockbridge stations. Got nowhere near Great Barrington, nowhere near downtown Pittsfield. Their home territory was only twice as long as this Adams dinky. Not that big a draw since it was stuck in 'tweener land, close to the Pike but not a whole lot of population. It might make sense to keep the track repair embargo going a couple years longer so when it's lifted they can get set up with a proper Pittsfield stop (not the Amtrak station since that would require cab signals to get on the B&A...but shy of the junction at Route 20 with a runaround track would work). Just to put them on that much more solid footing when they are back. If this Adams excursion buys more time to not only get the Berkshire Line in safe running shape but also get BSRM access to more of the population center when they do come back online, everything including this PAS ownership transfer will have been worth the effort to the county.


(I take it PAS doesn't ever run on the Branch on weekends if they were A-OK with this from the start.)

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by newpylong »

Not often but it happens. There is language allowing passenger trials to run during the week and freight on weekends if both parties agree and they are not on the same track simultaneously.

Regarding Northern Berkshires vs Southern Berkshire tourist draw, time will tell how ridership goes. I can say with the Clark Art, the Theatre Festival and Mass Moca there are quite a few tourists up north now. That number is going to increase as Moca just got funding to complete their final phase effectively doubling museum footage. There are also two other proposals, one to redevelop the old Greylock Mill another to build another museum.

I know the BSRM is planning on programing thein to tell the story of the industrial past of the area vs glossing it over as a scenic line. I think that makes a lot of sense given where the line travels.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by johnpbarlow »

newpylong wrote:...I know the BSRM is planning on programing thein to tell the story of the industrial past of the area vs glossing it over as a scenic line. I think that makes a lot of sense given where the line travels.
Frank Sprague, a North Adams HS grad, was a pioneer figure in developing the trolley car motor and systems and multiple-unit control of subway cars, among other things. His son RC Sprague founded Sprague Electric, which in 1929 moved to N Adams and built the building that Mass MOCA uses.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park »

Consider also that there's potential to stage some other trips out of the Adams/N. Adams base further off in the future once some more consequential projects on the mainline are completed. First off being some nice, semi-regular Hoosac Tunnel excursions. That'll be a lot easier reach after the double-stack clearance construction and NS-funded trackwork are all done. And moreso when NS buys out PAS and blitzes the West End up to Class 3 spec. Doesn't matter if they need to clear out 1 or 2 weekend freight slots during foliage season...BSRM is such a "make nice PR with the neighbors" brownie points move I could even see NS being the initiating party on talks for those permissions when they own the works and are putting out their charm offensive on the locals.

Later on, also consider VT's Ethan Allen Express extension plans up/down the Western Corridor. Rutland-Burlington extension is already being fast-tracked for construction, and the further-off Phase II would relocate that route entirely off of CP and C&P to run via PAS to Hoosick Jct. and cover the whole top-to-bottom Western Corridor. 2025 target if the 2018-target Rutland-Burlington extension pulls its weight on ridership. Do that and and it's only about 20 miles from N. Adams to Hoosick Jct. and a wintertime ski country charter in the making.


Bottom line is that if the county, towns of N. Adams + Adams, local Chambers of Commerce, MassDOT, and BSRM want to keep tossing around some pennies-on-dollar brainstorming ideas there's more future utility to wring out of here than just a 2-3 year lifeboat for BSRM to ride out the Berkshire Line embargo. You won't ever be talking anything huge or any capital costs that tourism grants and loose MassDOT change wouldn't cover, but a well-motivated business coalition (which it appears they've got) can do some nice things here that return the investment into the county's coffers.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by NH2060 »

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:towns of North Adams + Adams think it ties the room together
"Be careful man there's a Budd Car here!"

Sorry I couldn't resist :-P
johnpbarlow wrote:Frank Sprague, a North Adams HS grad, was a pioneer figure in developing the trolley car motor and systems and multiple-unit control of subway cars, among other things. His son RC Sprague founded Sprague Electric, which in 1929 moved to N Adams and built the building that Mass MOCA uses.
An interesting thing to note is that Frank Sprague worked with Thomas Edison during the 1880s. Edison, however, apparently wasn't interested in electric traction technology so Sprague went his own way.

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Re: MassDOT Acquisition of Adams Branch

Post by newpylong »

http://www.stb.dot.gov/decisions/readin ... enDocument" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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