ST ALBANS CITY -- Dozens gathered outside of St. Albans City’s Amtrak station on Federal Street in St. Albans for the highly anticipated return of the train on Amtrak's 50th Anniversary.
“This has proven to be a huge asset for St. Albans City,” said Mayor Tim Smith aid of the train. “They were staying at the local hotel or a bed and breakfast, and they would spend a weekend here. We saw that more and more...prior to the COVID.”
Congressman Peter Welch joined Vermont’s Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray and Senator Randy Brock among the crowds to celebrate the engine pulling into the Northern Station from Montreal, and Gray even joined residents onboard the train to take a ride down to the Essex Station.
“The impact (of the train station) has been very close to my heart over the years,” Smith said. “A good friend of mine, a second father was a clerk here for many years…(and) during a gap year in college, a friend of mine and I took it to Florida.”
Smith reminisced about the fond memories that he had a child riding the train, and what a huge impact it had, especially for the younger generations of the City and the places they could travel.
“If we can promote Amtrak to get back to Montreal...it would be huge for St. Albans and their businesses,” Smith said. “The whole team in St. Albans is very, very excited about this. We’re very supportive of this moving forward.”
Guests were welcome to a banquet spread of eats while they waited for the train to come rolling down the tracks, and families waited in excited anticipation for their next ride.
“I know I join many Vermonters in celebrating Amtrak’s return to service in Vermont," said Lt. Governor Molly Gray. "Not only does today’s return to service mark an important milestone in our successful fight against COVID-19, but also the renewed opportunity for Vermonters to travel the state, region and nation by train."
Gray recalled her first trip aboard an Amtrak when she was 22, and had just begun work in Washington as one of Congressman Peter Welch's team.
"I remember standing at Union Station and hearing the ‘all aboard’ for ‘the Vermonter’," Gray remembered. "Although I was far away, I felt close to home knowing I could always take the train home to Vermont or all the way to St. Albans."
Then suddenly with a mighty horn, the train loomed into view: glinting in her familiar chrome, blue and red glory, the Amtrak train screeched to a standstill aside the crowd to the cheers and applause from onlookers and their families.
Then began the great migration: hauling bags, suitcases, strollers and with children in tow, residents and Lt. Governor Molly Gray took their first steps onto the cars to settle in for a ride on the leather seats, the first one they’d taken in years.
Now laden with her passengers, the mighty vessel embarked on the next leg of her journey and once again disappeared into the trees after sounding off her farewell having returned to her northern-most city once again, a welcome sight after so many years.
"I also remember the first time I traveled to New York City," Gray said. "I arrived by Amtrak. As a farm kid from Orange County, I will never forget arriving Penn Station and taking those first steps up on to the street near Times Square."