Scenic Rail Expected To Be Running In Northern Berkshires This Summer
Another Berkshire tourist attraction hopes to up and running by Memorial Day weekend in North County.The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum expects to be running four to six trains a day from Adams to North Adams starting in just a couple months. Work on the Hoosac Valley Service is full steam ahead after Governor Charlie Baker’s administration reviewed and approved spending $4.5 million to improve rails needed to support the project. The Republican took office in January. President and general superintendent Jay Green says the railway prides itself on offering a fun and educational experience for all.
“We expect our passengers to have a fun train ride,” Green said. “Ride on a vintage piece of equipment that used to operate on that very line. New York Central ran Budd cars on that line. They were called B-liners. So you’re going to have that experience that folks who lived there in the early to mid-1950s had on those bud cars and you’re also going to learn a little something about it.”
Initial plans have a self-powered two-diesel engine passenger car holding about 90 people run along four miles of north-south track on weekends and holidays. Down the line, Green says the railway hopes to partner with theatre groups or local historians to offer specially themed and informative rides.
“Some people from the area say it isn’t scenic,” he explained. “We say you have to take a step back and look up a little bit. We think the entire surrounding Hoosac Valley Range is absolutely beautiful. When you go in there, no matter what time of year it is, it’s actually breathtaking. So a passenger is going to see some industry. They’re going to see a scrap yard and Specialty Minerals. Well those places built North Adams, Adams and North County. Those places employed grandfathers, great-grandfathers and uncles. We want to let people know what that place was, what it is and what its impact was on the county. It may not look nice, but there’s a reason why it’s there. We want to tell that story.”
Green says the long-term idea is to extend the trip one more mile south into downtown Adams and a planned train station.
“We really want to get to downtown Adams so that people can land right there,” Green said. “They can take their bike on the rail trail, we’ll be able to offer bike service, and come back and take a later train. They’ll be able to visit the visitors’ center and go downtown. This project has a tremendous amount of potential. It’s just a matter of everyone being patient, rallying behind the concept of the project and seeing it through. It’s taken a while, but that’s the nature of not only the railroad business, but it’s also the nature of community development projects.”
When Berkshire Scenic ran between Stockbridge and Lenox, Green says ridership grew 10 percent annually capping out at roughly 16,000 in 2011, its last year in operation. Using $10,000 of its own money, a $200,000 state grant and countless volunteer hours, the organization has been working to meet regulations and spruce up its passenger car and locomotive that have sat dormant for the past few years.
Since freight will continue to run on the line during business days, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says the petition for state-funded track improvements was billed as an economic development necessity.
“We have an industrial park in North Adams, they have the industrial park in Adams and in between we have Specialty Minerals and Holland Company,” Alcombright said. “All of those places either utilize freight or have access to the rail.”