Castleton has a new resident- the Amtrak Ethan Allen Express, which has begun making its first stops in town after more than half a century.
The Castleton Depot, reopened on Jan. 2 after 55 years of slumber, has been renovated and is ready for a new slew of passengers.
The depot was built in 1850 and has been privately owned by the Jakubowski family since 1966. Mary Ann and her husband, Val, who began renovations on the building in 2005, are now the caretakers for the newly re-opened station.
“A lot of people were coming to us when they knew we were renovating the building asking, ‘Why don’t you have a train-stop again?'” said Mary Ann.
Upon realizing the town’s desire for the station’s restoration, Mary Ann gave a presentation to the Vermont Agency of Transportation rail committee to garner support for re-opening the station. A year and a half later, the station has been revived while retaining the original wainscoting and historically rich aspects of its previous life.
Castleton State College also provided its support for the endeavor – with officials saying they believe train service will offer students a more convenient way to travel to New York and beyond.
“We are working toward running a shuttle on the night we close the halls, and the night we re-open the halls on breaks,” said Dean of Students Dennis Proulx.
Proulx said he hopes that the train station willallow students another option for traveling to and from their homes to the college.
Ines Gimenez, a Spanish teaching assistant at Castleton State College, took the Ethan Allen Express from Castleton for the first time on Jan. 30. The station’s close vicinity to the college – less than three-quarters of a mile from campus – allows her to walk to meet the train.
“I am excited and thrilled because before, I had to have my house parents pick me up in Fair Haven. Now I feel more independent and don’t have to bother people because I don’t have a car,” she said.
Making two daily stops in Castleton, the Ethan Allen Express will provide service to Penn Station in New York City with nine stops along the way. From Penn Station, passengers can catch trains traveling throughout the United States.
“I once took at trip from Rutland, stopped in New York, and went to Florida. So conceivably I could (now) walk to the station and end up in Florida,” said Robert Gershon, professor and chair of the communication department.
The owners of the Green Mountain Country Depot, the deli, bakery, and coffee shop that resides next door to the station, have noticed the positive effects the newest Amtrak stop has had on business and the community.
“There’s a lot of interesting people coming in to watch the train stop and some mornings there are six, seven, or eight people getting on the train,” said co-owner Lynn Kratochvil.
“Some people come in and they’ll sit down, have coffee and a pastry or something before the train comes . There are more cars out front, more people. People attract people, you know?”
The ease of access between Castleton and New York City will provide students and community members alike, a chance to experience the vast culture less than six hours away.
“I like the train,” said Castleton sophomore, Nettie Prescott. “It should be advertised more – get away from Castleton, go to the city for a weekend, get a dose of culture you can’t get here.