Railroads Come to Vermont

Compared to the rest of the northeast, railroads came late to Vermont. Vermont chartered railroad corporations in the early 1830s but construction didn’t start until over a decade later. Competition between the two major lines, the Vermont Central and the Rutland Railroad, blocked and delayed attempts to develop direct connections to the east coast and the west. Many capitalists saw the state only as a pass through and invested in Vermont railroads primarily to connect Boston and New York to the Great Lakes and beyond. But Vermont’s most prominent businessmen, politicians, and industrialists understood the importance of railroads and worked hard to get them built.

Construction of the Vermont Central Railroad running from Hartford to Painesville (present day Essex Junction) began in 1845. A short time later, construction started on the Rutland Railroad, which terminated in downtown Burlington. Both were completed in 1849. Many smaller lines were proposed but not constructed and the business of building railroads was fraught with bankruptcies, corruption, and mismanagement. Even so, by the end of the nineteenth century most Vermonters lived within close proximity of a railroad, and the Iron Horse had a pro-found impact on every aspect of life in the state for decades.

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