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Refurbished railway motorcars take trek on Vermont tracks

Published: Oct. 16, 2021 at 5:57 PM EDT
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BARNET, Vt. (WCAX) - A 200-mile train trek from White River Junction to Newport, but it’s not your average railroad ride. Dozens of revitalized railway motorcars took to the tracks Saturday and will continue their journey Sunday.

“This is the way we like to see the United States,” said Dale Birx, who traveled all the way to Vermont from Illinois to experience the state via his motorcar, which is more than five decades old.

This is how these rail enthusiasts check out new systems -- by hopping in a motorcar. This trek is a collaboration between the Vermont Rail System and the New England Rail Excursions, or ‘NEREX’ for short. This is the first trip since COVID but the organization’s fourth in total.

Some folks from across the country are seeing the Green Mountain State for the first time. Others hail from right down the road. “See nature, see Vermont, and I’m near railroads -- it can’t get any better than that,” said John Marcotte of Williston. He says trains have always been a passion of his and seeing Vermont along the Connecticut River and over bridge crossings is a spectacular way to enjoy his hobby. “It’s a great reason for us to get off the couch and go do things.”

No two motorcars are the same. Many were created in the 1940s and earlier but have since been revitalized to keep up with technology, while still maintaining their own individual uniqueness.

“Mostly they don’t run when we get them and they’re in really bad shape, but we restore the cars, restore the engine, get them operating again, and then we legally set on the rails,” said Thomas Sopchak, the excursion coordinator. He says refurbishing the vehicles is part of the process and people enjoy tinkering with the cars to get them ready for the rail.

“It took us a year and a half to get it to look how it does now, and we were off and running,” said Birx.

“We used the pieces, which were all rusted and corroded, to create new pieces out of new metal, and then we built the car up from there. I made modifications,” said Mike Heaton of Chester, New Hampshire.

The 45-motorcar parade will stop overnight in Newport and will turn back around and return to White River Junction Sunday, completing the more than 200-mile journey going no more than 25 mph.

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