White River Junction, Vermont, (population 2,569) is a village within the town of Hartford, Vermont. It was the first and largest railroad center in Vermont and New England north of Boston.
The town of Hartford was originally chartered in 1761 and over time was divided into distinct villages and hamlets. In the mid-19th century, White River Junction, located at the confluence of the Connecticut and White Rivers, became a center for commerce. From 1848 to the 1960s, the village was the most important railroad community in Vermont.
With the introduction of the interstate highway system in the 1960s, the railroad declined, devastating the economy of the village. In the late 1990s, the downtown area began to experience a wave of revitalization as it emerged as a center for community services, commercial offices, visual and performing arts, educational attractions, and specialty shopping.
White River Junction reflects the architecture of the late 1800s and early 1900s and has been designated a National Historic District. A walking tour allows visitors to view nearly two dozen historical downtown buildings, many of which have been adapted for re-use.
One of the town’s most prized historical resources is the Boston and Main Engine #494, originally built in 1892 for the Eastern Railroad Company. Known locally today as Engine 494, it has become a symbol of the heyday of railroad activity, when as many as 50 trains a day arrived and departed from the White River Junction train station.
Between 2004 and 2006, a permanent shelter reminiscent of a train depot was constructed for Engine 494, and today more than 20,000 annual visitors come to the Welcome Center and the Train Museum. Each September, the town hosts the Glory Days of the Railroad Festival, which includes train rides, a classic car show, entertainment, food, music, and crafts.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2007.