Island Line History

The Island Line -- Rail To Trail

train_on_causeway_smIn 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.

In the mid-sixties, Governor Hoff commissioned a study to look at developing the line into a recreation trail. The study did not generate sufficient enthusiasm and sections of the railbed were sold off. It was not until the early 1980's in Burlington that citizens began to rally around the idea of a trail on the abandoned line.

Click here for the remarkable history of the Rutland Railroad Island Line - its construction, operation, and eventual abandonment.

Click here for the original 1965 "Champlain Pathway" study that proposed transforming the abandoned rail line into a trail.

Log Schoolhouse Information Center and Museum: Restored and relocated to Airport Park in 2007, this historic one-room schoolhouse dates back to 1815. Today, visitors can stop in to learn about the construction of the Colchester Causeway and watch an informative video. The museum is open Memorial Day thru Labor Day on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11:00AM to 3:00 PM. Learn more at www.colchestervt.gov/historical

 

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