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Once upon a time there was a Boston & Maine Railroad.

Boston & Maine diesel survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad
This early diesel survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad

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Our feature article: Once Upon a Time There was a Boston & Maine Railroad
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Rutland to Troy

New England Gateway: the New Alphabet Route

B&M Shops at Billerica, Massachusetts Today

Boston and Maine to Saratoga

Short Lines
All about short lines we have not covered elsewhere.
Some in Connecticut, others in New York.

Interesting Railway Stations

Building a scale model of Boston's South Station & the history of the railroads who called it home for the last 112 years.
B&M Shops at Billerica, Massachusetts Today
B&M Shops at Billerica, Massachusetts Today
On June 13, 1845 the Troy & Greenbush Railroad opened between Troy and Greenbush, NY. It is the last link in an all-rail line between Boston and Buffalo. See more random dates in railroad history. Rotary plow

Railroads and Snow

See some historic photographs of the railroads in snow. Rotary plows in snow! Great stories of railroad action in Winter!
Railway Enthusiasts Around the World
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No Way to Run a Railroad

The Valley's Pan Am Railways Is An Example Of All That's Wrong With The Way America Moves People And Freight.

By Eesha Williams

January 25 2007

There is just one passenger train a day that runs down the length of the Valley. Assuming the train is on time, which it often isn’t, it takes two hours and nine minutes to get from Brattleboro, Vt. to Springfield, Mass. That’s an average speed of 27 miles per hour. (The train makes just one stop, in Amherst.) Driving from Brattleboro to Springfield usually takes under an hour.

On the Boston to New York City Amtrak line, trains travel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and average about 60, including stops. To understand why Amtrak is so slow in the Valley, one must travel down the river from Brattleboro to Deerfield, Mass., home of Pan Am Railways’ sprawling freight train parking lot and repair facility.

Pan Am Railways (until recently known as Guilford Rail System) runs freight trains on about 1,600 miles of track that it owns in New England and New York. Pan Am is privately held, not publicly traded, so executive compensation and other information is unavailable. The company’s spokesman, David Fink, did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.

Timothy Mellon of Old Lyme, Conn. owns most of Pan Am and controls the company. Mellon bought the railroad in 1981 for $24 million cash. In 1998, he spent $30 million to acquire the bankrupt Pan Am airline, which now operates flights between Florida and cities like Elmira, N.Y. and Bedford, Mass. Mellon later merged the two companies. Mellon, heir to one of America’s biggest fortunes, has been a major donor to President Bush and Republican members of Congress, and was a founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.

Pan Am is a big part of the reason Amtrak takes so long to get from Brattleboro to Springfield, and why there is no longer passenger rail service in Northampton. Until 1987, Amtrak took the direct route down the Valley, on Pan Am’s tracks alongside the Connecticut River through Greenfield and Northampton.

Because Pan Am did such a poor job maintaining its tracks, trains were required to go so slowly that it became faster for Amtrak to switch to a more circuitous route over tracks owned by New England Central Railroad. This new route, which is still used today, sent trains traveling from Brattleboro to Springfield on a detour through Amherst and Palmer. Today, Pan Am’s track in the Valley is in such bad repair that its trains typically average five to 10 miles per hour. When Pan Am workers want to stretch their legs they will sometimes get off the train they’re on and walk alongside it as it travels up and down the Valley. So you don’t have to be an economist to see why most companies that need to move freight up and down the Valley put it on trucks that go 70 miles an hour on I-91, rather than on Pan Am’s tortoise-like trains.

Even at the glacial speeds they travel, Pan Am’s trains sometimes derail. A Pan Am freight train derailed in Deerfield in September. Several of the heavy cars ended up lying on their sides, perpendicular to the tracks. (Witnesses to another recent derailment on New England Central tracks near Brattleboro compared the sound to an earthquake.) Deerfield police, fire, and ambulance personnel rushed to the scene, fearing that federally-designated hazardous material on the train had spilled. It turned out that the cars carrying hazardous material did not derail.

In October the town sent Pan Am a bill for $6,915 for the emergency services it provided. The Advocate obtained a copy of a Nov. 22 letter from Pan Am lawyer Clinton Wright to the town. In three pages of highly legalistic prose written in tiny type, Wright refused to pay the bill, writing, “It is Pan Am’s position that it is not liable to the Town or Fire Districts for costs associated with emergency response actions as there was no release of hazardous materials warranting such response action.”

Carolyn Shores Ness is a member of the Deerfield selectboard. She has worked aggressively to get Pan Am to pay what it owes the town for the derailment. She also wants Pan Am to pay a whopping $228,078 it owes Deerfield in back taxes. “The railroad has not been a good neighbor,” she said. “When a major taxpayer doesn’t pay its taxes, it impacts the ability of our small, volunteer-run government to deliver services like schools and police.”

Deerfield police chief Michael Wozniakewicz recently expressed concern about Pan Am’s plans to remove the security guards it had provided at the Deerfield rail yard. Wozniakewicz said local police will have more calls to answer without the two officers Pan Am had previously stationed at the yards. Last year the company cut 60 percent of its police force system-wide, though in the post-9/11 world both passenger trains and freight trains carrying hazardous cargo are considered potential terrorist targets.

In 2004, a Pan Am train carrying sulfuric acid derailed in Greenfield, according to the Greenfield Recorder. The year before that, another Pan Am train carrying propane and chlorine derailed in Charlemont. No spills were reported either time. But in 1999, a Pan Am train derailed and spilled 6,000 gallons of latex into the Deerfield River.

“It turned the whole river white,” Charlemont selectboard member Chuck Bellows told the Advocate recently. “It wasn’t paint. We weren’t sure what it was. They said it wasn’t hazardous. At the time, we talked about sending them [Pan Am] a bill for around $2,500 for our people’s time, but I don’t think we ever got around to doing it.”

Warren Flatau is a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). He said Pan Am’s safety record is “pretty average” compared to other mid-size railroads. Flatau refused to say how much Pan Am has paid in fines for violating safety rules. After the Advocate filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the FRA disclosed that in the 10 years ending December 22, 2006, the FRA fined Pan Am $482,500 for 71 violations. The company paid just 57 percent of that amount, because FRA lowered the fines to avoid having to take Pan Am to court. When the Advocate asked the FRA for the average total fines for railroads the same size as Pan Am for the same time period, the FRA claimed it has no way to provide that information.

Andrea Donlon of the Greenfield-based Connecticut River Watershed Council has worked for years with Deerfield Planning Commission member Lynn Rose to try to get Pan Am to clean up the mess at its Deerfield yard. “The company’s technique for dealing with the groundwater pollution under the Deerfield rail yard is basically to not do anything and hope it goes away,” Donlon said. “We don’t know how serious the pollution is because the state and federal regulators haven’t done enough oversight of the yard.” Donlon noted that Pan Am’s rail yard is located at the juncture of the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers—a spot that a recent study concluded was the most important section of the entire Connecticut River for the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species of fish.

Pan Am has about 1,000 employees, according to George Casey of the United Transportation Union, which represents about 175 Pan Am conductors and engineers. (Workers who do track maintenance and other jobs belong to different unions.) Casey said Pan Am treats its workers the way the Army treats soldiers. “They’re pretty discipline-oriented,” he said. “Our guys are expected to be available for work 24/7. They don’t get as much time off as they’d like. The average workweek is probably 48 hours.”

There is some good news when it comes to rail service in the Valley. The state of Connecticut recently announced it will extend frequent, low-fare commuter rail service from New Haven to Hartford, at a cost of some $300 million. It would cost Massachusetts about $30 million at first, then around $1.25 million per year, to extend and operate commuter rail service from Hartford to Springfield, said Tim Brennan, director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “The odds of commuter rail getting to Springfield are better than 50-50,” he said. “It depends on the legislature and the governor. In the best case scenario, commuter rail to Springfield could open for business by 2011.”

If that happens, Brennan added, it’s likely that commuter rail would eventually be extended from Springfield to Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. Brennan praised Congressman John Olver for his efforts to improve rail service in the Valley and urged people to call governor-elect Deval Patrick and their state legislators to urge them to support the Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project.

Commuter rail ridership in eastern Massachusetts roughly doubled between 1991 and 2004. That’s according to “Shifting Gears,” a 2006 report by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG) and other environmental groups.

Meanwhile, the state of Vermont is “very keen” to get high-speed rail service restored along Pan Am’s more direct tracks from Brattleboro to Northampton and Springfield, Brennan said. Yet to be determined is whether Vermont will be willing to pay the cost of buying the rights to have Amtrak use Pan Am’s tracks in the Valley, and the cost of maintaining the tracks so trains could go more than 10 miles an hour. (After much resistance, Pan Am recently agreed to such a deal with Maine, allowing Amtrak service to resume between Boston and Portland.)

The Vermont legislature is expected to vote by the end of January on whether to spend $18 million on three high-tech, fuel efficient “self-propelled” train cars and two passenger train cars. Amtrak would contribute $2 million to the project. Vermont subsidizes the daily roundtrip Amtrak service that runs from Washington, D.C. to Burlington via New York City, New Haven, and the Valley.

Moving people and freight by train instead of by car and truck cuts global warming and acid rain, reduces suburban sprawl, and saves lives. Some 43,000 people are killed in auto accidents every year in the U.S. And, says Amtrak rider Carrie Dawes, trains are more fun. “Taking the train is more relaxing than driving,” Dawes said as she stood in the sun with a dozen or so other people on a recent Sunday afternoon waiting for a southbound train at the Brattleboro train station. “You get a nice view.”

Between 1992 and 2004, passenger rail ridership in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor grew by 40 percent. That means fewer people are dying in car accidents. In 2005, the most recent year for which data were available, 43,443 people were killed in auto accidents in the U.S. On a “passenger-mile” basis, trains were 38 times safer than automobiles, according to the National Safety Council. (Local buses were 15 times safer than autos; long-distance buses and scheduled airlines were both 150 times safer than private automobiles.)

Trains are also cleaner. Some 70,000 Americans are killed annually by air pollution, more than one-third of which comes from transportation (almost all the rest comes from heating buildings and generating electricity). Shipping a ton of freight by rail uses less than half the fuel a truck would use, according to the MassPIRG report. The environmental benefits of moving people by train are similar. One “passenger-mile” takes 1,600 BTUs of energy on a commuter train; 2,100 on Amtrak; 3,600 by car; 3,800 by domestic airplane; and 4,000 by SUV.

MassPIRG notes that local, state, and federal governments spend far more on subsidies for driving—cheap gas, road construction and maintenance, cheap or free parking—than they do on trains, buses, bicycle paths and sidewalks. Because the gas tax is so much higher in Europe, and because money from the tax is used to lower the cost of train travel, it is often cheaper and faster to travel by train than by car, even in rural Europe. So far, public support for raising the gas tax in the U.S. to improve Amtrak and commuter rail has been unable to overcome lobbying by the auto, oil and road construction industries. The way things are now, if a state wants to build a highway, it gets 50 to 90 percent of the money from the federal government, says Ross Capon, director of the National Association of Rail Passengers. “If a state wants to spend money on making Amtrak better, they get zero from the federal government,” he said. “People should call their representatives in Congress and tell them that has got to change.”•

Copyright © 2007, Valley Advocate

Billerica Name Game
What is "PAR"? My understanding of various names of "Guilford". Guilford Transportation Industries owned Guilford Rail Services which owned the Boston & Maine, Portland Terminal, and Maine Central railroads. Operations over these properties is conducted by the Springfield Terminal Railway. The B&M, MEC, and possibly the PTM remain in existance primarily as property owners. The name "Guilford" came from the Connecticut town, which was the residence of majority owner Timothy Mellon and David Fink, who became the chief operating officer. The railroad never operated there, as close as the company probably ever came was having some flyovers by their various air line operations. The Perma-Treat railroad tie plant in nearby Durham CT was owned by GTI, and is now AFAIK owned by Pan Am Systems. GTI is now Pan Am Systems, GRS is now Pan Am Railways. The airline operations, Pan Am and Boston-Maine Airways, have met with rather limited success and I believe the Pan Am operation is dormant. I believe that owner Tim Mellon is a licensed pilot and an airline enthusiast, probably is why he acquired the rights to the Pan Am name.

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Railroad Station at Troy, New York

Railroad Station at Troy, New York

The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy. See Penney's blog for more information (and a great movie from the 1950's).

The station consisted of 6 thru tracks and towers at each end. But B&M passenger trains had a LOT of street running coming and going thru Troy.

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Just Around the Corner by Bertrande H. Snell

Bertrande H. Snell, author of the following article, a native of Parish, Oswego County, N.Y., was a telegrapher all his working life. For many years he was employed by the New York Central Railroad, and for 33 years was a telegrapher for Western Union in Syracuse.

Bertrande Snell commenced his writing career with the Syracuse Syracuse Post-Standard in 1945 and continued it until shortly before his death in 1949. His columns were primarily of a reminiscent or historical nature, which included railroad stories.

If you like his column, we have more.
Syracuse Post-Standard, Nov. 16, 1947

Just Around the Corner
By Bertrande Snell

Fifty years ago, the lowest-paid railroad traffic employee was the telegrapher. The section hands, unshaven and unshorn, were just a notch ahead of the professional brass-pounder in point of salary. On most eastern railroads, a half century back, the average telegrapher's pay was $30 a month - and, in those days, a month's work meant 30 or 31 days of 12 hours each. Did I say 12 hours? That, friends, was the minimum.

At one-man stations, your agent-telegrapher was lucky if he ever got away from his job with less than 14 or 15 hours behind him. Let's take the Syracuse - Watertown division of the old Hojack as a pertinent example. The agent at Mallory was required to be on duty there at 6:30 a.m. - a half hour prior to the arrival of the first passenger train. He was then supposed to be constantly on duty until the departure of westbound No. 8, which was due there at 8:40 p.m. (and was generally from two to three hours late).

It is a fact that the regulations permitted our hero - that's what he was - time off for lunch or dinner, but this period. Its time and its duration, was strictly up to the Oswego train dispatcher, who allowed him to eat "whenever it might be most convenient for the company's interest." And right here was another catch - if it happened that the dispatcher had miscalculated and really needed the services of the agent during the time he was absent, said official, in his explanation of whatever delays may have been caused, always solemnly averred that he had granted no absence permission to the agent.

Now, please don't assume that this diligent employee's troubles were all over for the day when he locked up and went home about 10 p.m. Not so - the rule book, under "Duties of Station Agents," contained the following paragraph:

"On closing the station at night, the agent in charge will post a card in the office window where it will be plainly visible from without. This card shall give complete information as to where the agent may be located during the night, in cases of emergency."

And such occasions, Mister, were by no means uncommon.

During the whole of a 12-to-14-hour day, the gentleman I am describing had been more or less actively engaged in a whole galaxy of jobs - agent, telegrapher, baggageman, express agent, Western Union manager, ticket agent, accountant, bookkeeper, cashier, janitor, and roustabout - to mention a few.

He was required to wear his pretty, blue uniform, with the brass buttons at all times, while on duty, and the "tailor car: cam through twice a year to take his order for a new suit. As these outfits set him back 419.75 apiece, there were always two monthly pay days during the year when he walked into the paycar and drew the princely sum of $10.25 for 30 days of toil.

Yes, friends, we had to have a sense of humor in those days. However, it was well to keep most of this strictly under tour hat - as witness my own experience in 1904. For my own amusement, I concocted a set of "Rules," and distributed them rather widely among my associates. I will bore you with a few fragments of this masterpiece, just as illustrations:

Rule XII - Telegraphers and Station Agents report to and receive their instructions from the superintendent, the chief dispatcher, the section boss; or any one else who pretends to have any authority.

Rule XVIII - Telegraphers will receive sufficient remuneration to purchase uniforms and chewing tobacco. If they have families, they must remember that the Lord will provide.

Rule XXI - The Company as such, has no conscience and cannot, therefore, be responsible for that of any employee.

Some of the boys got a big laugh from this bit of persiflage - but me - I stopped laughing when trainmaster Jimmie Halleran came down from Oswego and fired me for "insubordination."

Why, then, you may well ask, did anyone ever become a railroad telegrapher? The reasons varied, I suppose, according to the characteristics of each individual; but there's a certain fascination about the business that gets you, even before you start. The great majority of the old-time telegraphers were graduate students of certain veteran station agents who knew a good thing when they saw it.

Take, for instance, Bill Shaver of Parish. He was Hojack station agent there for some 12 years prior to 1900. Bill was a great fellow - a pleasant, jolly man with a great fund of humor and a ready, infectious laugh. He always managed to have three students at the office in the following order:

No. 1 - pretty well trained in office work and a fair telegrapher; No. 2 - intermediate in these subjects and supposed to be under the tutelage of No. 1; No. 3 - a "freshman" just starting in, who was also the janitor and errand boy. No. 1 was never certified to the Superintendent as ready for work, until Bill had a prospect ready to take No. 3's place. You see, No. 1 was the man who took over the job when Bill wanted to go uptown for an hour, or so - which happened not infrequently.

Shaver kept this up for many years, and turned out a large number of telegraphers, among them I might mention: Loyal McNeal, at present a Hojack train dispatcher in Watertown; the late Earle Benson of Pulaski; Frank Alsever, now with the N.Y.N.H.& H. at Worcester, Mass.; Roy Nutting and Burnell Miller, both now deceased; and a host of others, including this scribbler.

Bill was just one of a great many who made use of this plan to render life a bit easier for themselves, while at the same time offering the youth of the community an opportunity to learn a profession. Yes - a profession that exerted a strange, not always beneficent influence on its followers. A profession that wound its magnetic tentacles around the very hearts of the old-time brass-pounders. You will note that I here use the past tense; since the key and sounder of the Morse code are now in the very last process of becoming museum pieces.

It is related that, after a long life spent amidst the clickety-clack of the busy sounder old Hermann Veeder died, and his soul was wafted through the ether in ever-widening concentric circles of light, which finally dumped him gently at the Pearly Gates. As he gazed upward where the shining towers gleamed in the supernal glory of Heaven's eternal light, his courage almost failed him and he felt a bit sick. But at last he made shift to knock gently, Oh! So gently, on the gold-and-nacre panel of the closed door.

At his second or third timid attempt, the might gate opened a mere crack to reveal the severe features of St. Peter, who gruffly demanded:

"Who are you; and why come ye here?"

"I'd like to come in, please, if you don't mind," quavered Hermann, "I just died, you know."

"Your name," snapped the Guardian. Hermann gave the required information and another question followed instantly:


"I was a telegrapher, your honor, and I've come up here for my overtime - you see, I -"

With a mighty heave of his sturdy shoulders, the good saint opened wide the massive twin-gates so swiftly that their gem-studded surfaces shimmered like flying rainbows in the ineffable radiance of the sun of Paradise.

"Enter, my good man, enter," he invited as a broad smile illumed his features, "long have we waited for one of your tribe to seek admittance here - and, verily, you are the first of them all. Come, friend, you'll enjoy it here - for it is written that, on earth, you surely led one hell of a life."

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And as for Boston & Maine milk service the last of the service ran from Eagle Bridge, NY to the Hood plant on Rutherford Ave., in Charlestown, MA ca. 1972.
Contributed June, 2006 by Mal Houck

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Railroads On The Rebound

Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.

It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.

Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
Carbon Calculator
What's the most environmentally-friendly way to transport goods? The answer is freight rail. The EPA estimates that every ton-mile of freight that moves by rail instead of by highway reduces greenhouse emissions by two-thirds. But what does that really mean? Our easy-to-use carbon calculator will estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that can be prevented from entering our environment just by using freight rail instead of trucks. We'll even tell you how many seedlings you'd need to plant to have the same effect.
Graeme McDowell wins US Open Golf in Nice and the French Riviera
Golf in Laurentides / Laurentians Region of Quebec
Golf in the Montréal area
Golf in Northwest France
The U.S. Open
Golf Courses on Google Earth
WOW, you have come to the right place to buy golf equipment!!!
AND, we have the best prices too!

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We are working on our list of Golf Hotels and Resorts

Some of these are well known because of PGA Tour events held there. Pinehurst; The Greenbrier; and Pebble Beach certainly belong in this catagory. Others are located in towns with even more than golf as an attraction. In this Category is The Otesaga in Cooperstown, New York; Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain.
Snow Belt in New York State Boonville Station There is a "Snow Belt" in New York State that runs above Syracuse and Utica. It goes East from Oswego to at least Boonville. Here's the station at Boonville.

Find out more about Weather around the World

Ominous Weather is about more than weather. Its about our environment. Its about our social issues that need to be surfaced if we want to save our environment. See Champions of our Environment like Al Gore SAS le Prince Albert II de Monaco John R. Stilgoe Ralph Nader. We have addressed several railroad-related projects that will conserve fuel and lessen pollution. Our Window on Europe spotlights projects that can help the rest of the World.
We have other environmental sites on garbage trucks and Rapid response temporary shelters / portable housing.
Public Transport Around the World Webring
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Public Transport Around the World Webring by k_kinlock
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