On July 19, 2021, Amtrak restarted passenger rail service on its Vermonter line after a 16-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You wouldn’t necessarily think that this would be all that big of a deal. The Vermonter runs just one train per day in each direction between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans, a small town near the Canadian border. This train is kind of slow, frequently late, and only serves 100,000 passengers a year — a drop in the bucket compared to nearby Interstate highways. And yet, in the village of Bellows Falls, the return of the Vermonter was cause for major celebration and an outpouring of civic pride. Why does intercity train service mean to a small town like Bellows Falls? And what is it about the train that people love so much?
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