By Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger
Unusually heavy rain has washed away the railroad bed of a stretch of track in this southern Vermont town, spurring a construction crew to scramble to rebuild the area before the scheduled return of Amtrak service to the state on Monday.
A worker for the New England Central Railroad first noticed a burst culvert Tuesday along the Mill Brook tributary of the Connecticut River near the Dummerston fishing access area, leading parent company Genesee & Wyoming Inc. to close the line to its usual two to four freight trains a day.
Employees and equipment from Bazin Brothers of nearby Westminster arrived Thursday to replace the concrete culvert, surrounding embankment and stone roadbed underneath the track that had been left hanging, with a goal of finishing by Sunday.
The tracks are used mostly for freight, but also carry a daily Amtrak Vermonter train.
Windham County has received “particularly heavy rainfall” in the past week, according to the National Weather Service, with upward of 3 inches of rain recorded from Sunday night into Monday alone.
Beavers constructing a dam around a culvert at the nearby Dummerston-Putney town line had almost canceled everything.
By last Tuesday, the New England Central Railroad spotted how a blocked culvert on the Mill Brook tributary of the Connecticut River caused almost 100 feet of foundation to wash away under railroad tracks left hanging in midair.
Construction crews from Bazin Brothers of Westminster worked nonstop day and night since then to replace the culvert, surrounding embankment and stone roadbed so the Vermonter train could head north Sunday night for its first Monday stop in St. Albans.
That work was challenged when heavy rain Saturday caused an estimated $200,000 in damage in neighboring Brattleboro. But the Vermonter and several daily freight trains rolled through Monday, even if passengers could see construction crews still on the scene.
“The guys worked 24/7 to get it done safely,” New England Central Railroad spokesman Charles Hunter said.