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Berkshire Scenic Railway Offering Round-Trip Rides From Adams
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:43PM / Friday, October 09, 2015
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Berkshire Scenic Railways' Budd Car will be rolling along the tracks between North Adams and Adams on Saturday.

ADAMS, Mass. — Toot! Toot!

It's been a long time coming but the scenic railway is about to start chugging.

Train enthusiasts will get a chance to ride the rails this weekend as the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum tests out its new Hoosac Valley Service.

But this is just a pilot program, cautioned Jay Green, the museum's railway director.

"It's designed to test out the service, to test the design, to test the track and the operations," he said on Friday. "This is a soft opening."

It's a big step forward in getting the scenic rail moving after the museum was forced to close down its highly popular tours on the Stockbridge/Lenox line three years ago. During the summer of 2011, some 16,000 people had boarded the train. Over its 30-year history, the museum had been estimated to carry more than 100,000 passengers and contributed $4 milllion to the South Berkshire economy.

The railway museum looked north to find a welcome in Adams and North Adams, which saw a chance for an economic boost. It seemed especially appropriate for North Adams, whose location at the west end of the Hoosac Tunnel had once made it a significant rail hub for the region.  

An announcement of the partnership between city, town and museum was made in 2013 but delays largely revolving around the legal and operational issues of the track pushed the anticipated opening off by at least a year.

That ended on Friday when word came that all the agreements had been approved.

"MassDOT knew that we needed to run for the fall foliage," said Green. "We just got word this afternoon."

Trains won't be leaving from the main station in North Adams, however, because that isn't completed yet. Instead, the pilot excursions will depart from the old Renfrew Station, now owned by Burke Construction.

The restored 1955 Budd car will transport riders from Adams to North Adams, but riders will not be able to get off. The round-trip will take about 50 minutes, although some delays may occur.

"The first is at 10 a.m. out of Renfrew, that's anticipated and expected but you never know," Green said. "It's all testing."

The Welcome Coach and gift shop will be parked on the track where you can tickets for $10, $6 for children; North Adams and Adams residents, and military veterans and senior citizens with proper ID will receive a 10 percent discount.

Times of departure are 10, 11:30, 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Parking is available across Route 8 at Renfrew Field; volunteers will be on hand to direct passengers.

Green said land owner John Burke has been helpful in allowing the train to leave from his property. "We ask that people respect his property," he said.

The cars and a locomotive arrived in North County nearly a year ago. They've been refurbished and the state Department of Transportation has spent some $2.8 million rehabilitating the five miles of tracks.

Green said it was a collaborative effort between the city, town and museum, MassDOT, and the owners of the Pan Am Southern track — Pan Am Railways ad Norfolk Southern — to make the trains roll.

"We're excited and we're ready to go," he said. "All the moving parts fell into place ... it all came together."

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