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About Colchester Railroad Causeway
The Island Line Trail is a 14-mile rail trail located in northwest Vermont. It comprises the Burlington Bike Path (Burlington), Colchester Park (Colchester), and the Allen Point Access Area (South Hero). The trail follows the route of the Island Line railroad, built by the Rutland Railroad in 1901. The history of the Rutland Railroad is covered in Robert C. Jones Railroads of Vermont, Volume 2, and in James Shaughnessy’s The Rutland Railroad.
Passenger service on the Rutland’s Island Line (and on the entire Rutland RR system) ended after a strike by employees in late June 1953. A second set of strikes in 1960 and 1961 brought about the complete closure of the Rutland Railroad. The final trains ran on September 25, 1961. In 1963 the state of Vermont purchased the abandoned, but not torn-up, Rutland Railroad lines from Burlington to Rutland, Bennington, Hoosic Junction, and Bellows Falls, leasing them to the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railway to resume freight service, but the state chose not acquire and reopen the Island Line.
There was little on-line traffic left on that portion of the route and freight for Canada could be routed from Burlington north to Montreal over the somewhat longer Central Vermont Railway through St. Albans, Vermont. After several years of inactivity, restoring service on the Island Line would have required extensive rebuilding, and renovations of the three swing bridges on the line, over various bays of Lake Champlain. Ultimately all of the bridges on the route were removed, but the roadbed on the causeway across the lake survived, as it was heavily built with much use of granite. The alignment along the shores of Lake Champlain from Burlington Union Station north to the causeway was converted to form the Burlington Bike Path, and later took the Island Line name when the causeway was reopened, with a seasonal bike-ferry replacing the swing bridge in the northern portion of the causeway alignment. Due to a 200-foot gap in the causeway, the organization Local Motion operates the Island Line Bike Ferry to shuttle cyclists across the gap.