(SOURCE: Berkshire Eagle - Adam Shanks)
NORTH ADAMS — A
federal green light has raised hopes that the Berkshire Scenic Railway's
Hoosac Valley Service could be up and running before Christmas.
A decision issued by the Surface Transportation Board last week
should allow the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to acquire
the 4.6 miles of railroad between Adams and downtown North Adams from
privately owned rail company PanAm Southern.
Scenic Railway operators and state and local officials are working
feverishly to close the deal before the holidays, a prime time for theme
rides that could attract customers.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the Hoosac Valley Service stated that,
despite the federal ruling, PanAm and MassDOT still must close on the
"We remain hopeful this can be accomplished before the weekend of
Dec. 19, but at this time we are not able to offer Christmas trains,"
the post stated. "If that should change, we will immediately announce a
The state is purchasing the stretch of railroad, which had
exclusively been used for freight, to allow the Stockbridge-based
Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum to run its Hoosac Valley Service scenic
train rides between Adams and North Adams.
Unveiled in 2013, the Hoosac Valley Service is expected to draw
thousands of train enthusiasts, tourists, and locals to take a slow ride
between neighboring towns in the Berkshire Scenic Railway's restored
The proposed agreement between PanAm and MassDOT provides the private
company with an easement for continued use of the rails, and the
planned weekend Scenic Railway rides would not conflict with ongoing
MassDOT first applied for approval of the transaction with PanAm on
Aug. 14, according to the decision by the Surface Transportation Board,
which oversees railroad sales in the United States. However, MassDOT
later filed a motion to dismiss that application, claiming that the
board's approval was not actually necessary because MassDOT "would
acquire neither the right nor the ability to provide railroad common
carrier service over the railroad assets, and it would be contractually
precluded from interfering with [PanAm's] operations."
In its decision, the Surface Transportation Board agreed with
MassDOT, stating that the transaction did not require its approval.
Initially, the train will operate between American Legion Drive in
North Adams and Renfrew Street in Adams. The state also has plans to
extend the rail further, less than one mile, from Renfrew Street to a
newly constructed Adams Station on Hoosac Street in Adams.
The state-backed project got off to a well-received, but temporary,
start over Columbus Day weekend thanks to a one-time agreement for use
of the railway. Since then, the railway has been waiting for a permanent
agreement to begin rides again.