Last weekend was the Quonset Air Show in Rhode Island, a big event that draws in many people from around the state. This year, RIDOT decided to pilot a train service to the event, which included a section on track not used by passenger trains! My friends Nathan and Sam and I knew we had to take a trip down there.

SO MANY PEOPLE. We took the 11:15 short-turn trip from T.F. Green Airport to Quonset.

The crowds at T.F. Green Airport were absolutely insane! There were all these soldiers going around telling people to get off the yellow line (even if they arguably weren’t on it), and we all had to get our hands stamped when we entered the station. The train was eight bilevel cars, luckily, so it managed to fit everyone alright.

This is the start of the unique section – the train breaks off from the Northeast Corridor between T.F. Green and Wickford Junction.
Another view of this weird old freight yard.
Some construction vehicles.
A warehouse, I guess?
That’s a huge…something!
Another spur line.
Some magnificent grass.
There was a lot of security for car traffic, too.
By this point we were running right alongside a road.
A railroad crossing.
That’s a large building…
Some more buildings.
And more.
Some kind of scrapyard?
We’re starting to see planes!
Some airport scenery.
The train rounding a curve.
Right along a fence.

I was also impressed at the amount of infrastructure they set up at the makeshift Quonset station. On one side, they had driven concrete blocks into the ground and put stools on top of them to give people less of a step to the ground. On the other side, even though it was just for one car, they had installed a ramp to make a high-level entrance!

People going down the ramp.
The train looking out toward the water.
People going around to the other side.
Gosh, that track is decrepit. It was a slow speed limit, that’s for sure.
People coming down the steps.

Unfortunately, the walk from the train to the show was pretty annoying. It took us about 15 minutes, and they had all these ropes everywhere to prevent people from cutting through a parking lot. Instead we had to go all the way around, and it took forever! Also, the signage here really could have been better, at least for people coming back to the train.

That’s a large crowd…
The “mezzanine”? There most certainly were not enough porta-potties. This area also had some drinking water.
The train again.
Heading towards the show. 
Looking back towards the train.
There were a lot of Ocean State Job Lot trailers…
This sign is so bad!

On the way back, however, we ran into some trouble. We left the show around 1:15, which felt pretty early, since we were getting the 2:00 train. But when we arrived at the boarding area, a huge crowd had already formed, and it was only getting bigger. Everyone was incredibly antsy, including many children who were digging around in the dirt in anticipation.


2:00 came and went. This was a problem, since we wanted to catch the 2:56 Commuter Rail train to Boston – 10 minutes after the Quonset trip was scheduled to arrive. By the time the train came in around 2:15, we knew we weren’t gonna make it. Oh well…at least we could get lunch during our two-hour wait in Providence.

Took you long enough!
The crowd at Providence took another 20 minutes to feed out of the station.

Route: Commuter Rail to Quonset

Ridership: HEAVY. There were a lot of people who used this train, but that was to be expected, since it was an event train, The eight bilevels seemed more than capable of handling the massive crowds. Apparently on Saturday, though, they used single-level cars, which must have been insane!

Pros: Offering free train service to the airshow was a great idea, and it seems like a bunch of people took advantage of it. The facilities at Quonset were better than expected, what with the steps and the makeshift mini-high. Also, the crowd control was generally pretty good on the way there, especially at Quonset. And of course, running on unique track was a blast.

Cons: The train being late was definitely an annoyance. I also wonder if they could run the service a bit more frequently to space out the crowds a bit, although that would require a second train. Signage at Quonset could have been a lot better, and generally the walk there could have been shortened by just cutting through the parking lot instead of going around.

Nearby and Noteworthy: The air show was pretty interesting! The crowds were huge, and it seemed to be catered more to little kids than to plane buffs, but it was still a fun experience. I can post pictures from the show if you guys are interested.

Final Verdict: 7/10
There were definitely a few hiccups here and there, but considering this was the first time they had run the service, they did a really good job. I really hope they run the train again next year, because it seemed to be a huge hit in terms of ridership. Hopefully signage and scheduling can be improved, but overall, the Quonset service was pretty good!

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates