Island Line History
Tell-Tale Productions' long anticipated documentary covering the history of Vermont's Island Line route. This this is a two hour documentary featuring the history of the Island Line from its 1899 construction to a world class recreational trail today. This full-length film features interview segments from former railroad employees, historians and local people who interacted with the railroad during its sixty years of operation (1901-1961). Old-time film of steam and diesel-powered trains, photos and ephemera are joined by contemporary views and news.
Click here to watch the entire documentary (20% of sales of this film are donated to support Local Motion's Island Line Bike Ferry).
In 1899, the Rutland-Canadian Railroad built the Island Line - one of the world's most spectacular stretches of railbed. The incentive behind the extraordinary effort was the connection between the bustling New England seacoast and the Great Lakes. After 50 frustrating years of placing train cars on steamers to cross the lake and trying to get access to competitor's rail lines, the Island Line finally provided a direct Rutland-owned connection from southern New England to Lake Ontario.
The construction of the Island Line across the lake - including 41 miles track, six miles of marble causeways and trestles, and four drawbridges - was completed in just over one year's time! "Milk Trains" hauled fresh butter and milk from the farms of Grand Isle County to Boston, Albany and New York. Cars were cooled with ice removed from the lake in the winter and stored in icehouses through summer.
The Island Line served the Rutland-Canadian Railroad and the communities well until moving freight by other means became cheaper. The last passenger and freight trains ran in 1955 and 1961 respectively.
A few years ago, we were on the cusp of launching a capital campaign to raise the remaining funds for our new Bike Ferry infrastructure out at The Cut. Then In the spring of 2011, Lake Champlain rose to an all time record high, the damage making it likely that the whole capital campaign would be put on hold indefinitely. We thought it might never get rebuilt. Then an extraordinatory thing happened -- all the towns came together and FEMA determed the Causeway was eligable for disaster releif funding, covering 80% of the reconstruction costs.
Local Motion decided that instead of cancelling the campiain we would go forward and raise our needed funds plus the matching fnuds for the town of Colchester and the City of Burlingotn...and that successful campaign was the Big Fix. This campain created a solidarity among the municipalities and a new awareness of the value of the Island Line to the whole region...
After 15 years of planning, spirited community discussions and construction, the Burlington & Colchester Trail Bridge officially opened on August 1st, 2004 with hundreds of enthusiastic trail users. The bridge, and its associated ½-mile elevated boardwalk, is the keystone that has permanently united the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway into a stunning 14-mile regional trail.
The former railroad bridge over the Winooski River was dismantled in 1972 – only 8 years before citizens organized to redevelop the rail line into a trail. Pictured here is the main span of the beautiful new bridge.