About VRS

About VRS

Vermont Rail System is an affiliation of six shortlines; Vermont Railway (VTR), Green Mountain Railroad (GMRC), Clarendon and Pittsford Railroad (CLP), Washington County Railroad (WACR), New York and Ogdensburg Railway (NYOG), and New England Southern Railroad (NEGS). Individually, each shortline provides personalized, efficient, and reliable rail freight service to a wide variety of on-line customers. Joined in common ownership the railroads form a strategic alliance that allows for better utilization of manpower and equipment, resulting in an increased level of service to customers.

Approximately 90 percent of carloads handled originate or terminate in Vermont. Some “local” movements, such as consignments of agricultural lime, both originate and terminate within the state. VRS also plays a critical link for international and inter-regional trade by connecting other railroads in Canada and Northern New England with those in Southern New England and the Eastern United States.

VRS Subdivisions

Vermont Railway (VTR)

Acquired August 6th, 1963

Burlington, VT to Bennington, VT & Hoosick Junction, NY

The Vermont Railway (VTR) was the nation’s first privately-owned railroad operating on a publicly-owned right of way. With daily freight trains operating between Burlington and Rutland, and service three days a week between Rutland and North Bennington, the VTR was able to restore freight traffic along Vermont’s Western Corridor with a strong commitment to customer service.

Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad (CLP)

Acquired November, 1972

Rutland, VT to Whitehall, NY

the VTR purchased the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad (CLP) from the Vermont Marble Company. The CLP serves the substantial ultra-modern limestone processing plant on the mountainside above Florence, Vermont, on a daily basis. OMYA soon became (and still is) the railroads biggest shipper. In August of 1983, the Clarendon & Pittsford purchased the Delaware & Hudson line between Rutland and Whitehall, New York. The 24-mile line soon became substantial to the shipping of fuel oil and gasoline through the CLP’s main interchange point in Whitehall, NY.

 

Green Mountain Railroad (GMRC)

Acquired May, 1997

North Walpole, NH to Rutland, VT

The Vermont Railway’s purchase of the Green Mountain Railroad (GMRC) from president and significant stockholder Jerome Hebda in May of 1997, lead to the formation of the Vermont Rail System (VRS). At the time of the sale, the GMRC was well run, was operating with a lean and efficient staff, had a solid traffic base, and was debt free. The VTR was able to provide a strong maintenance-of-way policy with modern equipment and skilled employees to operate the GMRC more efficiently, which helped to improve business on the line.

Washington County Railroad Montpelier & Barre Division (WACR)

Acquired September, 1999

Montpelier to Graniteville

The line was formerly operated by the New England Central Railroad (NECR) and was struggling severely from the loss of so many customers. Today the line serves customers on a regular basis and has made many track improvements

New York and Ogdensburg Railway (NYOG)

Acquired April, 2002

Norfolk, NY to Ogdensburg, NY

The NYOG consists of 31.2 miles of track between Norfolk and Ogdensburg, New York, and was a part of the former Rutland Railroad. Jay Wulfson always had his sights on purchasing this line in the future of his company. When the NYOG joined the VRS, the surviving Rutland Railroad rails were finally reunited under the same operator.

Washington County Railroad Connecticut River Division (WACR-CRD)

Acquired in 2003

White River Junction, VT to Newport, VT

The VRS affiliate immediately went to work providing regular service and making a concerted effort to win back previous customers and gain the trust of new ones.

New England Southern Railroad (NEGS)

Acquired in 2020

Tilton, NH to Concord, NH

Most recently, VRS has expanded operations further into New Hampshire, and now runs freight service north of Concord, NH on the New England Southern Railroad.

 

History Timeline

1961
1963
1964
1965
1966
1972
1978
1980
1982
1983
1997
1999
2002
2003
2011
2012
2014
2015
2017
2020
2021

1961

Rutland Railroad ends all train service and operations. In September, 1962, the ICC ruled that the Rutland Railroad could abandon the entire line. By the summer of 1963, the Rutland Railroad officials were anxious to tear up the rails, sell the right of way, and dispose of the corporation’s remaining assets. The State was under a lot of pressure to find a buyer or operator for the property.

1963

On August 6 Jay L. Wulfson of East Brunswick, NJ, signed a lease agreement with the State of Vermont to begin operations. President Wulfson, along with Vice-President Harold T. Filskov, Charles Bischoff, and an ambitious team of railroaders, set off to run the Vermont Railway (VTR), the nation’s first privately-owned railroad operating on a publicly-owned right of way.  Soon after, Jay’s wife, Joan Wulfson, left East Brunswick with their four kids, and a collie dog in a station wagon to drive overnight to meet him in their new home State.

1964

On January 6th, Bright Red took over the rails as a modest GE 44 tonner and caboose began their first day of operations in the Burlington Yard.

1965

The VTR became involved in the piggyback trailer service (loading truck trailers onto flat cars to be shipped by rail). Ramps for loading and unloading trailers were constructed in Burlington, Rutland, and North Bennington. The company’s piggyback traffic continued to grow, and by 1974, more than 10% of the road’s traffic was trailer-on-flatcar.

1966

Vermont Railway was able to purchase a brand new EMD SW 1500 locomotive No. 501 with the extra revenue generated from their trailer business. Purchasing a brand new engine was nearly unheard of for a shortline railroad.

1972

The VTR purchased the Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad (CLP) from the Vermont Marble Company. The CLP serves the substantial ultra-modern limestone processing plant on the mountainside above Florence, Vermont, on a daily basis. OMYA soon became (and still is) the railroad’s biggest shipper. The local facility produces finely ground limestone that is used in the manufacturing of products such as paint, plastics, paper, automobile parts, and floor tile.

1978

In the fall of 1978, Harold Filskov was admitted to the hospital for what they presumed to be a heart condition. There, he was diagnosed with cancer. Although he pursued this courageous battle for nearly a decade, he was unable to return to work at the railroad. Around that same time, Jay Wulfson was stricken ill while attending a conference of short-line officials. Jay was able to recover enough to return to work for a few more years. 

1980

Jay Wulfson passed away in November of 1980. The VTR board of directors, of which his oldest son David (age 22) was chairman, appointed John Pennington as President, and David as Assisting Vice-President. Jay Wulfson’s unique, innovative, and logical approach to running a railroad has not been lost on his family, employees, customers, state officials, and the railroad industry. He left behind his daughter Lisa, and sons David, Todd, and Gary. Both Jay Wulfson and Harold Filskov made a lasting mark in the railroad industry. Together they accomplished, as Jay used to say, “What the consultants’ reports said we couldn’t do.”

1982

The Vermont Railway fulfilled its 30-year obligation to the State of Vermont by reimbursing the State’s cost of the 1964 purchase of the former Rutland trackage. This enabled the state to retire this bond twelve years early. Considering the 1963 consultant reports that indicated this line would never become a profitable operation, this was a remarkable achievement.

1983

The Clarendon & Pittsford Railroad expanded with the acquisition of the Delaware & Hudson line between Rutland and Whitehall, NY. The 24-mile line soon became essential to the shipment of fuel oil and gasoline to Vermont through the Whitehall interchange. 

1997

Vermont Railway and Green Mountain Railroad (GMRC) merge to become the Vermont Rail System. At the time of the sale, the GMRC was well run, was operating with lean and efficient staff, had a solid traffic base, and was debt-free. Although the company had plenty of capital, there was never enough to keep up with the deteriorating track conditions. Slow train speeds and derailments became a costly and limiting factor to traffic growth. Management of both railways had worked together for many years. The VTR would lend the GMRC equipment and would help them whenever they could. The partnership grew into the opportunity to merge as one. 

1999

John Pennington retired as president. David Wulfson assumed his position as President of the Vermont Rail System and his sister Lisa, assumed the position of Executive Vice-President and Treasurer. In September, the VRS began operations on the Washington County Railroad Montpelier & Barre Division. The line was formerly operated by the New England Central Railroad and was struggling severely from the loss of customers.

2002

The New York and Ogdensburg Railway (NYOG) joined the Vermont Rail System. The NYOG consists of 31.2 miles of track between Norfolk and Ogdensburg, New York, and was a part of the former Rutland Railroad. When the NYOG joined the VRS, the surviving Rutland Railroad rails were finally reunited under the same operator. 

2003

The WACR expanded to another line between White River Junction and Newport, Vermont. The VRS affiliate immediately went to work providing regular service and making a concerted effort to win back previous customers and gain the trust of new ones. This line is now known as the Washington County Railroad Connecticut River Devision.

2011

Hurricane Irene tore across the State of Vermont. This was the most catastrophic storm to occur in Vermont’s history. Flooding destroyed roads and bridges, decimated farms, and forced railroads to shut down. With the hard work and dedication of more than 250 men and women, the VRS, six different contractors and engineering firms, several vendors, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and neighboring railroads, was able to repair over 100 washouts and six severely compromised bridges throughout the system. Their efforts during Irene strengthened their bond tremendously, not only with each other but also with local businesses and the Vermont AOT. The community undoubtedly earned the title of “Vermont Strong”.

2012

The Vermont Rail System was honored by Railway Age Magazine with the “Shortline of the Year Award” for their efforts in helping restore Vermont after Hurricane Irene.

2014

On January 1st  the Vermont Rail System celebrated 50 years of continuous family-owned and operated service. A ceremony was hosted to dedicate the specially painted locomotive #311 to Joan Wulfson

2015

The North East Association of Rail Shippers presented David Wulfson with the “Transportation Person of the Year Award”. The award is a special recognition given to an individual who has made a significant impact on the rail industry, especially in the Northeast region of North America

2017

The Vermont Rail System purchased two SD70m-2 locomotives, No. 431 and No. 432. The highly efficient locomotives are the most modern in the VRS fleet. They have microprocessor-controlled features that allow the VRS to move heavier trains over its lines while using less fuel, ultimately making them more environmentally friendly.

2020

David Wulfson assumed the position of CEO, and Selden Houghton was appointed President of the Vermont Rail System. In the fall, VRS took over operations of the New England Southern Railroad (NEGS), a shortline running between Concord and Tilton, New Hampshire. In September the VRS celebrated the opening of the Middlebury Tunnel. The multi-year construction project was a partnership between the state, the Town of Middlebury, and VRS.

2021

After a long battle with Cancer, Lisa J. Wulfson passed away peacefully in her home on June 17th, 2021 with her two daughters by her side. She dedicated her 39 year career to Vermont Railway, owning and operating and most importantly, continuing the legacy of her late father with brothers, David and Gary Wulfson. Mary Anne Michaels assumed the position of Executive Vice President and Treasurer.

Today, the VRS family of over 150 dedicated railroaders operate more than 400 miles of track and haul over 25,000 freight cars each year. Nearly 90% of traffic is destined for Vermont businesses. The VRS operates passenger services running seasonal excursions and dinner trains. The railroad also hosts Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express which runs daily between Rutland, VT, and New York City. Future plans include extended passenger service to Burlington and numerous infrastructure upgrades. With the same dedication to customer service it has had since its inception, the Vermont Rail System looks forward to expanding its customer base while they continue “Serving America’s Industry with Pride.”

Economic Impact

  • Shipping by rail is the greenest transportation alternative in the USA
  • The average rail can move 1 ton of freight, 480 miles, on 1 gallon of diesel fuel
  • The average train can carry the freight of almost 300 trucks
  • Moving freight via rail versus truck reduces greenhouse emissions by approximately 75%
  • Almost every product used in America is transported via rail in one capacity or another
  • Unlike other modes of transportation, America’s freight railroads operate almost exclusively on infrastructure they build, maintain, and finance
  • Every freight rail job supports another 4.5 jobs somewhere else in our economy
  • Rail is the safest way to transport freight

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