Something happened to Bob Racusin a while back that put an idea in our head.
Bob is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Dartmouth. He is also, one morning a week, the station-master at the White River Junction Amtrak station.
Amtrak doesn't staff its stations in Vermont, so volunteers like Bob come in about an hour ahead of the train to open up, answer questions, and lend a hand to travelers in wheelchairs or needing assistance of some sort.
Bob deals with the southbound train. One day, the phone in the office rang, which doesn't happen very often. It was a woman on the train, about 45 minutes north of White River. She was calling because she didn't like the coffee they were serving in the dining car. "She wanted to know," Bob says, "if I could have a Green Mountain Coffee latté waiting for her. I said that unfortunately, we don't have a catering service, but if she could manage to get across the tracks to the Tuckerbox and back within four minutes, that would be her best chance." He didn't see anyone leap out of the train and dash headlong across the street after it pulled in.
But here's the thing. Down south, the Vermonter is pretty much like any other Amtrak train. Once it gets to Vermont, though, it empties out and becomes a little more like a rolling village. Which is why the conductors will sometimes take orders for anyone who's hungry and, a while before the train pulls into Randolph, call in to the pizza place. Which then delivers. To the station.
So you've gotta wonder, right? There are customers rolling through downtown White River twice a day -- once a little before lunchtime, and the second time right when they're thinking about dinner... and a stop ahead of Randolph. Anyone up for a little trackside catering?
-- Rob Gurwitt