Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Railroad in the Swift River Valley


 
North Dana RR Station (Image Museum site)

Continuing our look at the history of the "lost" towns of the Swift River Valley, now the site of Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, as well as a nod to National Train Day this coming Saturday the 11th, we feature the railroad that once crawled along the valley floor and connected the dots of isolated small towns.


Linking isolated towns through the U.S. continues to be a major accomplishment of Amtrak today, and no small value can be set on the commerce, and freedom of travel, that a railroad represents to many parts of this nation.






Unidentified men with handcart.

In the old Swift River Valley, the line was the Athol Branch of the Boston & Albany Railroad.  It linked Ware and towns and cities south of the valley to Athol and points north.  In between were the tiny village and whistle stops where farmers, especially dairy farmers, depended on the daily trains to take their product to market in the larger cities.

Greenwich depot.

The rail line left Athol and crossed into New Salem, through a corner of Petersham, then to North Dana. There was a depot at Soapstone in Prescott, and one train was called the "Soapstone Limited".   Another train was more famously referred to at the "Rabbit Run". The line then crossed into Greenwich, past the villages of Morgan's Crossing and Greenwich Village, crossing the East Branch of the Swift River, and then into Enfield, by Smith's Village and finally snaking around the Great Quabbin Hill before it left the valley for Ware.

The train first came through in 1873.  The last trains were run in June 1935.  Afterward, the depots were dismantled, and the tracks were pried up.

Enfield, MA depot - postcard.

It its day, the train traversed the villages mentioned that no longer exist, as well as geographical features like Thompson Pond and Neeseponset Pond, Turtle Pond and Greenwich Lake that also no longer exist.  The train passed in between Curtis Hill and Parker Hill, Mount Pomeroy, and Mount Lizzie.  The tops of these hills remain today--as islands.

That a railroad brings character to a community can be romanticized, but what is clear is that it brings life to a community.

Note: All photos are from the Image Museum website.

***
 
This years marks the 75th anniversary of the dissolution of the Swift River Valley towns of Prescott, Enfield, Dana, and Greenwich in central Massachusetts for the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir.
 
My novel, Beside the Still Waters, is a fictional account of the people in the “Quabbin towns.”  I’ll be posting more about that next week.
 
 

 ***
I'll be speaking at the Chicopee Historical Society, meeting at the Chicopee Public Library on Thursday, May 16th with a PowerPoint presentation about topics from my recently published States of Mind: New England. That book will be available for sale at this event.


No comments: