WA - Newburyport RR rails-to-trails

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WA - Newburyport RR rails-to-trails

Postby #7470 » Tue Oct 23, 2007 3:33 pm

This is a thread to discuss the rails-to-trails proposition for the Newburyport Railroad in Wakefield MA.

I had a lengthy thread here, before I edited it, bashing rails-to-trails but I regret that now. Even though the rails are gone the history can still be preserved. The new bike trail will be on a railroad ROW that was put down on 1849.


Matt
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Postby RussNelson » Tue Oct 23, 2007 4:09 pm

I read your posting.
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Postby #7470 » Tue Oct 23, 2007 7:47 pm

I will try to find the article online somewhere.
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Postby Cowford » Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:45 pm

Matt, keep in mind that the peak railroad mileage in the US was ~260,000 route-miles... it's now ~140,000 route-miles. You can't be suggesting that the 120,000 miles of useless trackage should have been preserved. What do you suggest is done with all of these redundant lines?

Railroading is steeped in history, but at its core, railroads were- and are- businesses. A lot of lines were built purely on speculation, or for even less-than ethical reasons. And many more were built for competitive reasons (to your point about the branch in question)... evolving demographics, new technologies, rail mergers, etc. have made these lines uneconomic/unneeded. Rails-to-trails is a sensible use of property that can no longer serve in its original capacity.

Hate to see a nostalgic old branch line torn up? No doubt. But maybe the answer is getting involved with these groups to ensure that the railroad history (stations, mileposts, etc) is not lost with the removal of the track.
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Postby #7470 » Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:57 pm

Cowford wrote:Matt, keep in mind that the peak railroad mileage in the US was ~260,000 route-miles... it's now ~140,000 route-miles. You can't be suggesting that the 120,000 miles of useless trackage should have been preserved. What do you suggest is done with all of these redundant lines?

Railroading is steeped in history, but at its core, railroads were- and are- businesses. A lot of lines were built purely on speculation, or for even less-than ethical reasons. And many more were built for competitive reasons (to your point about the branch in question)... evolving demographics, new technologies, rail mergers, etc. have made these lines uneconomic/unneeded. Rails-to-trails is a sensible use of property that can no longer serve in its original capacity.

Hate to see a nostalgic old branch line torn up? No doubt. But maybe the answer is getting involved with these groups to ensure that the railroad history (stations, mileposts, etc) is not lost with the removal of the track.



Yeah I am just upset that the Newburyport Branch is just going to be gone. I used to love to watch the old freight trains rumble across my street and blow their horns. It was a childhood memory for me. What really upests me is how in the newspaper artical they just refer to the line as some freight train railroad. I want people to understand the signifigance of what it was. I mean 1849. Its incredible, the United States wasn't even 100 years old, before any World Wars. I think that theres some signifigance to go along with that. To look at those tracks and to think they've been there that long and now they're just refered to as some freight railroad. Thats what really got me. Its true that it was a business and now has no use. I guess its ok to preserve what little history is left.

Thanks Cowford,
Matt
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Postby icgsteve » Tue Oct 23, 2007 10:13 pm

You could make this about history, but you could also make it about the future. The rails to trails organization is fully on board railbanking, which is to say they believe that if ex rail corridors are needed for rail that they should go from trail to rail. This organization is helping to leave open the possibility that your fav unused ROW's will in the future have trains on them again.
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Postby RussNelson » Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:45 am

Matt, before you come down too hard on rail-trails (or the spandex wearing bicyclists, ouch), you should look at the railroads which were abandoned before 1983 (advent of railbanking). Not only are they not railroads anymore, in some cases, there is NO TRACE LEFT. Not even a footnote on a bronze plaque. For example, in my area, there is almost no trace left of either railroad going to Sacketts Harbor. http://russnelson.com/SHnE/ or http://russnelson.com/CWnSH/ "No trace" as in "nothing". In some locations there isn't even a hump in a farmer's field.

Rail-trails are worse than a railroad, but less bad than abandonment.
-russ
p.s. thanks for editing your post.
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Postby RussNelson » Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:51 am

Oh, and as Cowford notes, you should work with the rail-trail committee. Offer them a history of the railroad. Locate interesting railroady bits along the ROW. Suggest that they preserve the original mileposting. In my area, the Rutland Railroad's MP0 is in Ogdensburg, but there's 18 milles of trackage between there and the trailhead. The Rutland Trail starts at something like MP18.3, and when I erect mileposts, that's where the numbering will start.
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Postby #7470 » Wed Oct 24, 2007 1:35 pm

Theres not much of anything left on the Newburyport Branch, like mileposts and whistle posts. Come to think of it, I don't think there ever were any. Does rails-to-trails preserve RR grade crossing protection signs? How about the points for the switches?

Thanks Russ,
Matt
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Postby Cowford » Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:37 pm

I think typically they'll look at preserving what is already there. I don't think you can expect them to preserve crossing protection, as it could be considered a hazard to drivers. And most track, switch points, etc would be tripping hazards. In addition to what Russ mentioned, there are plenty of other great examples. Running east of Schenectady, NY along the Mohawk River is a great old NYC line. It's paved, but still has a restored station, mileposts, retaining walls... you definitely can feel the history while on this trail. Or go west to Colorado - dozens of old road beds turned into bike, hiking and jeep trails take you to old trestles, water tanks, train wrecks and tunnels (Alpine Tunnel still has the remains of its enginehouse that featured an INSIDE turntable! Has to be seen in person to be believed. Check out the link)

http://www.croydons.co.nz/the5thdimensi ... 184454.JPG
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Postby #7470 » Thu Oct 25, 2007 7:49 pm

Wow thats cool! At least these things are preserved, an overall good job by rails-to-trails. I wish there were more than switch points on the Newburyport line, I still have not yet seen any mileposts or whistle posts. I am going to make my last few rounds of the line to see whats worth preserving. Thanks for the info.

Matt
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Postby RussNelson » Fri Oct 26, 2007 10:23 pm

Y'know, I was thinking (while out riding on four rail-trails Thu and Fri) that you might be able to preserve a section of rail with the date stamp on it. You should definitely approach the R2T committee about preservation of a sample of historical materials. Also, go looking in the weeds alongside the ROW. On the Ballston Lake Rail Trail, I noticed two concrete trolley poles just thrown on the side of the trail. And on the Walkill Valley Rail Trail, there were some concrete whistle posts still standing, and one hiding in the weeds. I also found four mile markers: two rails pounded into the ground, with a board screwed to the two of them. I've also found a yard marker on the Rutland Trail, again, off in the weeds.
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Postby #7470 » Sun Oct 28, 2007 9:12 pm

Thanks for the advice Russ. I will definately do so. I am a little nervous right now however because someone has spotted some odd freight cars parked on the Newburyport Branch. Do you think this has to do with rails-to-trails? Also, how would the tracks be removed. Am I correct that some MOW equipment would have to travel down the rails to take the rails out? THis would actually mean that the tracks would have to be corrected especially at the washout.

Matt
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Postby RussNelson » Sun Oct 28, 2007 11:35 pm

Within my limited knowledge, yes, specialized rail cars are used to remove the rails. If you think time is of the essence, then you should keep a weather eye out. If you see them removing rails, then you should try to talk up the crew. Get them to leave a pair of rails. It's also important for you to attend the rail-trail committee meetings, to make sure that your historical preservation point of view is heard and respected. In a group like this, things get done by the people who show up, and if you can translate your passion into action, then you have a chance of accomplishing your goals.
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