NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – Passenger cars and a locomotive have arrived at the site of Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's planned "Hoosac Valley Service" at North Adams, Mass., and the organization hopes that trains will begin to run over the former New York Central branch next spring.
The Berkshire Scenic, based in Lenox, had carried more than one million riders over a nine-year period on trains running over nine miles of Housatonic Railroad. The host railroad chose to not renew the operating agreement three years ago, and since then the all-volunteer Berkshire Scenic has worked closely with state officials and leaders in North Adams and Adams to begin running trains between those two communities, located about 30 miles north of Lenox. The trains will use tracks currently owned by Pan Am Southern, which were once part of a NYC line that connected Pittsfield with North Adams.
Berkshire Scenic Vice President Jay Green tells Trains News Wire that plans call for the railroad’s excursion trains to have access to the line from Friday evening through the weekend, and on Federal holidays. Pan Am Southern will continue to serve two freight customers on the tracks at other times. Negotiations are underway for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to purchase the rail line from Pan Am Southern, he says.
Green says that Berkshire Scenic will offer frequent downtown-to-downtown service, allowing riders originating at either end of the line to shop or have lunch during their layover at the other end.
In the past two weeks, Berkshire Scenic Railway's former New York Central SW8 No. 8619; a former Baltimore & Ohio combine; and a former New York, New Haven & Hartford caboose moved from the headquarters at Lenox to North Adams. The move used a circuitous routing including the Housatonic Railroad, CSX Transportation, and Pan Am Southern. Pan Am later delivered a former Boston & Maine Budd RDC-1 and a onetime Pennsylvania Railroad baggage car that had come from Maine and Boston, respectively. Two refurbished former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western coaches owned by the state are to be trucked or moved by rail flatcar to the site, according to Green.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation's engineering contractor is working on a refurbishing plan for the current four miles of track, and is developing a joint use design with an existing bikeway in order to re-install an additional mile of track at the south of end of the route. Most funding has come through the state, and all track improvements will also benefit freight, Green says. The town of Adams has purchased a former carwash adjacent to the end of the tracks that are to be restored. It will be used as a station, featuring local historical rail-themed exhibits. The city of North Adams has plans to install a pedestrian tunnel under Pan Am's freight main to connect the local boarding area with the North Adams Heritage Park.
The caboose has been repainted in NYC Century Green, and is lettered "Hoosac Valley.” It will serve as a crew office at North Adams. The combine, which previously served as Berkshire Scenic’s Gilded Age exhibit car at Lenox, has undergone a complete exterior renovation to become Hoosac Valley No. 1444, named North Adams. It will serve as a welcome center, housing a ticket office, gift shop, tourist information, waiting room, and an educational theater. The exterior and some interior work was funded by a $200,000 Developing Western Massachusetts Tourism & Cultural Facilities grant. The electronics for the theatre and a new point-of-sale system for tickets and merchandise were funded by a $25,000 Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. Technology Grant, Green says.
Berkshire Scenic's restored New Haven Railroad station at Lenox, as well as the yard and display tracks that have been constructed over the years, will remain the organization's headquarters. Depending upon volunteer availability, the museum hopes to continue to offer weekend jitney rides and yard tours at Lenox. The museum's other property, the former New Haven station at Stockbridge, is leased to the Stockbridge Public Library.
FROM THE BERKSHIRE SCENIC'S WEBSITE:
Fun and educational train rides will return to the Berkshires! In cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, City of North Adams and Town of Adams, Berkshire Scenic will be offering train rides once again!
Located in the beautiful footprint of Mount Greylock, BSRM's Hoosac Valley Service will offer weekend downtown-to-downtown service with convenient train schedules for visiting both historic communities by train and special events for the whole family!