Most futile railroads in New England

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Re: Peterborough & Shirley RR

Postby B&Mguy » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:07 am

NashuaActon&Boston wrote:The Peterborough & Shirley RR was quite a turkey. Early in RR construction for central MA, the P&S, begun around 1848, would never serve it's namesake towns - Shirley, Massachusetts & Peterborough, NH - neither ever graced by P&S rail. The MA segment of the line struck north from the Fitchburg at Ayer, MA and ran through rural W. Groton and Townsend, MA. North of the NH border the RR took a bizarre swing in it's course, made a fishhook turn away from Peterborough and settled it's northern terminus at the unlikely hamlet of Greenville, NH. Never a financially bountiful line, the P&S eventually became a B&M backwater branch that somehow managed to remain intact into the 1970s. But floods, washouts, poor ROW, etc. had by the mid-1970s reduced the active rail to West Townsend, and around 1981 Townsend also lost it's local turn. Today, only two customers and a mile of active track remain on what PAR calls their Greenville Industrial Branch.

The P&S never had a chance - even at it's height it was still a dead end branch line into rural NH hill country; no other RR connections, zero long term viability.


Very true. Although this branch was never successful, I have always found it to be one of the more interesting ones on the B&M as far as remains and history. Greenville alone has a really neat old depot, that is now being used as a Chinese restaurant. You can also still see the massive stone piers from NH route 31 while heading north out of town. I heard a story once that the bridge was so high, someone was able to fly a small plane under it! Much of the right of way in NH is intact and serves as a nice bike path through the woods.

To add two more lines to the discussion:

The Boston and Maine Belmont branch ran about four miles east from the White Mountains Division in Lochmere (Tilton), NH to the small town of Belmont. Even when it was being constructed, many people were already questioning the practicality of this line, and asking how it would ever make money. Belmost was (and still is) a small rural town that didn't generate much traffic be it passenger or freight. The line was abandoned in 1929, with the exception on the first half mile or so from Lochmere which serves the last fright customer north of Concord on the line to Lincoln. You can still trace parts of the right of way on Google maps, and see just how rural this line was.

The B&M Bristol Branch which branched off the Northern Line in West Franklin was also a line that never had a chance. It was thought that maybe the White Mountains Division could be routed through Bristol and follow the Pemi the whole way north as opposed to the route through Laconia and Meredith. This idea was dropped, however, as Laconia was the industrial center of the area and had a higher need for train service, thus the Bristol Branch just dead-ended in Bristol. Even if the small town had provided enough business to keep the line afloat, it had the problem of flooding out almost every springtime since it was primarily built on the Pemi's floodplain. Because of that, this right of way is much harder to find today, and the site of the Bristol depot is impossible to access.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby MaineCoonCat » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:01 am

On Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:07 am, B&Mguy wrote: You can also still see the massive stone piers from NH route 31 while heading north out of town. I heard a story once that the bridge was so high, someone was able to fly a small plane under it!

Ayuh! See: http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=77&t=67544#p748863
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby NashuaActon&Boston » Wed Jan 25, 2017 3:44 am

Here's a breathtaking capture from the 1979 Greenville trestle aero stunt. A near-mythic event in Greenville history.

GreenvilleCub.jpg

Caption:
"Bronson Potter of Mason, NH flies his plane, with a 35 foot wingspan, through a 74 foot opening on the Greenville, NH high trestle in 1979. He had his pilot’s license revoked."
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby trainsinmaine » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:50 am

GOOD HEAVENS!!! I'll bet there are movie stuntmen who wouldn't attempt that.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:55 pm

Holy crap! Where did you find that photo??? The infamous Greenville stunt has been recounted numerous, numerous times over the 13+ years of the RR.net forums, but I don't think anyone's ever managed to track down and share real photo evidence of it before. :-)
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:11 pm

Yeah, I have to say this is the first I have ever seen of any photo. I found it odd that there weren't any, since I've heard it recounted that there was a crowd present. I was doubtful of it having actually happened!
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby Mikejf » Wed Jan 25, 2017 6:41 pm

I have seen that picture, online someplace, but where?..
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby caduceus » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:07 pm

Mikejf wrote:I have seen that picture, online someplace, but where?..


All hail Google Image Search: http://newhampshirerail.tumblr.com/post ... plane-with
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby B&M 1227 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:20 am

Has the Boston & Lowell's Lawrence branch been mentioned yet? It closely paralleled the B&M's route to Lowell and was abandoned for the most part in 1936.

Reformatory Branch west of Bedford- very little online traffic, and a connection to the NA&B/NYNH&H west of Reformatory Station that may have never even seen train traffic. In terms of passenger traffic, Concord was already served by a more convenient station on the Fitchburg, with a much more direct route to Boston, the thriving city of West Bedford (sarcasm) was not far from Bedford Depot, and Reformatory Station served a weird niche of ridership.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby whatelyrailfan » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:55 am

Ridgefielder wrote:
joshg1 wrote:I think we can divide the duds into the never-operated and struggled-with-futility.

Definitely. And in the struggled-with-futility category: how about the Shepaug, Litchfield & Northern? Bethel to Litchfield, Conn., via Hawleyville and Washington Depot. Forty-odd miles of incredibly slow and curvy track to avoid a 4.5 mile drive from Litchfield Center to the East Litchfield station the Naugy opened in 1849.

One important thing to remember: In the 19th Century, this was Litchfield's only real access to the outside world, it only became redundant in the mid 20th Century as the road network improved and more cars and trucks were on the road. I'm only surprised that it lasted until almost 1950 (Abandoned 1948).
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby Ridgefielder » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:44 pm

whatelyrailfan wrote:
Ridgefielder wrote:
joshg1 wrote:I think we can divide the duds into the never-operated and struggled-with-futility.

Definitely. And in the struggled-with-futility category: how about the Shepaug, Litchfield & Northern? Bethel to Litchfield, Conn., via Hawleyville and Washington Depot. Forty-odd miles of incredibly slow and curvy track to avoid a 4.5 mile drive from Litchfield Center to the East Litchfield station the Naugy opened in 1849.

One important thing to remember: In the 19th Century, this was Litchfield's only real access to the outside world, it only became redundant in the mid 20th Century as the road network improved and more cars and trucks were on the road. I'm only surprised that it lasted until almost 1950 (Abandoned 1948).
Peace,
Jonathan

You know, I thought that too when I first learned about the Litchfield Branch as a kid. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that wasn't true. On horseback you should be able to cover the distance from East Litchfield to Litchfield in about a half-hour at a trot, and even a horse drawn stagecoach would probably take less than an hour. And as for a rail linkage-- why not just build to Torrington? It's only 8 miles, and the difference in elevation is ~400 feet. The Danbury & Norwalk gained as much in half that distance on the Ridgefield Branch. The only reason to go the long way 'round would be to avoid giving business to the Naugy.

And I think that's borne out by the fact that the SL&N was never able to turn a decent profit even in pre-automobile days. As far as I can recall the New Haven wound up with the line more or less by accident-- the Housatonic had leased it in order to use the Hawleyville-Bethel route for their joint service with the NY&NE, and it came with the package when the NYNH&H got control of the Housy in ca. 1893.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu Jan 26, 2017 6:57 pm

Yes!, I remember the derailment of 372 on that branch many years ago. Different folks have said over the years that the Litchfield
Branch never paid its way and I know the New Haven Railroad felt that way as well. There was a soft cover book done on that branch a few years ago and it is good reading too. I think one thing that kept that line at least during WW-II was a defense industry in Bantam called Warren McCarthur I think. There was often a good number of cars spotted in Bantam during that time. As far as East Litchfield was concerned it would have been very difficult to build a railroad up that hill out of the Naugatuck Valley. Litchfield is on pretty high ground. Someplace in my collection I have an old bill when somebody in the Weaver Family shipped a table and a chair from someplace on the Litchfield to Merwinsville (Gaylordsville) way back when. To say this line should never have been built might be stretching it a little bit but again long before my time or anybody elses on here as well so who knows. I am glad I have some timetables showing this one too.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby Ridgefielder » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:35 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:Yes!, I remember the derailment of 372 on that branch many years ago. Different folks have said over the years that the Litchfield
Branch never paid its way and I know the New Haven Railroad felt that way as well. There was a soft cover book done on that branch a few years ago and it is good reading too. I think one thing that kept that line at least during WW-II was a defense industry in Bantam called Warren McCarthur I think. There was often a good number of cars spotted in Bantam during that time. As far as East Litchfield was concerned it would have been very difficult to build a railroad up that hill out of the Naugatuck Valley. Litchfield is on pretty high ground. Someplace in my collection I have an old bill when somebody in the Weaver Family shipped a table and a chair from someplace on the Litchfield to Merwinsville (Gaylordsville) way back when. To say this line should never have been built might be stretching it a little bit but again long before my time or anybody elses on here as well so who knows. I am glad I have some timetables showing this one too.
Noel Weaver

Noel- If we're thinking of the same factory in Bantam-- between US 202 and the Bantam River, at the intersection with Bantam Lake Rd.-- it lasted into at least the 1980's. I have a memory of my father pointing it out and saying it made light switches. No clue if that was right or not.

I don't think it would have worked to build up the hill from East Litchfield-- that would be way too steep. What would make more sense to me would be a route following roughly the line of US 202 into Torrington; or, alternatively, following Northfield Rd. to a junction with the Naugy at Thomaston. Something tells me though that the whole point of the SL&N was to draw traffic *away* from the Naugatuck RR.

As you say, though, there is nobody around today who even spoke to the people that built the line, so who knows.
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby NashuaActon&Boston » Thu Feb 02, 2017 6:58 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Holy crap! Where did you find that photo??? The infamous Greenville stunt has been recounted numerous, numerous times over the 13+ years of the RR.net forums, but I don't think anyone's ever managed to track down and share real photo evidence of it before. :-)


Linked below. Was a thrill to find! :-D (Site has some great abandoned NH RR images. I particularly like those of the (former Guilford) Milford & Bennington switcher rusting away up on the Hillsboro in Greenfield). I hiked up the Souhegan with a buddy a few years back to check out the still-standing piers of the old bridge. Quite impressive. Not a recommended amble for the faint of heart though, yikes. High cliffs on both sides down to the banks, no way to stroll the shore. Had to hop from rock to rock, directly up the stream..

http://newhampshirerail.tumblr.com/post ... plane-with
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Re: Most futile railroads in New England

Postby NashuaActon&Boston » Sun Feb 05, 2017 4:23 am

GreenvilleCub.jpg
NashuaActon&Boston wrote:Here's a breathtaking capture from the 1979 Greenville trestle aero stunt. A near-mythic event in Greenville history.

The attachment GreenvilleCub.jpg is no longer available

Caption:
"Bronson Potter of Mason, NH flies his plane, with a 35 foot wingspan, through a 74 foot opening on the Greenville, NH high trestle in 1979. He had his pilot’s license revoked."



Some background on the late Bronson Potter of Mason, NH, daredevil Greenville branch pilot. His final story seems to have been one for the ages in local NH news. And he remained quite proud of the Greenville trestle feat. See below..

"Last month, the conservation commission in Mason held a yard sale, disposing of Mr. Potter's personal belongings to raise money for a grave marker with an etching of his flight beneath the trestle. His family did not provide a tombstone, the Telegraph article said."

Quiet user leaves library $206,000


Quiet user leaves library $206,000
Tuesday
Posted Nov 27, 2007 at 6:00 AM
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By Mary Jo Hill TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

Bronson Potter was a quiet man who kept to himself when he visited the Fitchburg Public Library to check out books, but in the end he left his imprint there.

Mr. Potter, an inventor and children's book author, bequeathed more than $206,000 to the library when he died three years ago, said Chief Librarian Ann Wirtanen.

Since his death, Mr. Potter's two children -- who weren't included in his will -- have contested the will in court, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court confirmed a ruling by the state probate court that the document was properly executed, according to a Feb. 17 article in the Nashua Telegraph.

Along with leaving money to the Fitchburg Public Library and another bequest to the Mason, N.H., Fire Department, Mr. Potter left all of his real estate -- more than 500 acres -- to Mason's conservation commission, the article said.

Last month, the library received two checks covering the bulk of its inheritance, Mrs. Wirtanen said.

A longtime resident of Mason, Mr. Potter was described as someone who worked at being a character by doing such things as leading a bull by a rope down the street, according to the Telegraph. He died at age 74, on Aug. 2, 2004.

He was a smart man who had lived and worked in Iran, Zaire, Angola, France and Portugal, according to the article.

A pilot, Mr. Potter drew hundreds of onlookers in August 1979 when he flew his plane under a railroad trestle in Greenville, N.H.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1952 and also had attended the Sorbonne University in Paris. He served with the U.S. military during the Korean War.

After working as an electronics engineering consultant in the Boston area, Mr. Potter became a freelance engineer and inventor in the field of electronics. He invented the "Sonalert" with P.R. Mallory and an oil spill detection device, among others, according to an obituary.

He also wrote several children's books published by Atheneum Press.

Last month, the conservation commission in Mason held a yard sale, disposing of Mr. Potter's personal belongings to raise money for a grave marker with an etching of his flight beneath the trestle. His family did not provide a tombstone, the Telegraph article said.

An old player piano, a barber's chair, a boomerang, musical instruments, axes and log hooks were among the objects up for sale.

Judy Courtemanche, who retired as the head of circulation at the Fitchburg library in April, remembers Mr. Potter as a patron over the years.

"He was not personable but he was not rude, and I could get a smile out of him every now and again," she said.
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Mr. Potter never gave the librarians any trouble, didn't speak much and was a nice patron, she said. She described him as a woodsy person who wore work boots and flannel shirts.

Mr. Potter used the Fitchburg library quite a bit, but Mrs. Courtemanche said that for confidentiality reasons she couldn't comment on the types of books he selected.

Mrs. Courtemanche said she was surprised to learn that the New Hampshire resident was a published author of children's books.

After more than 28 years working with the public at the library, Mrs. Courtemanche said, she believes she has a talent for knowing people and a knack for working with them. She wasn't surprised to learn that Mr. Potter left money to the library because, she said, a lot of people are wealthy but don't look it.

The librarian, known to her patrons as "Mrs. C," said she can still remember what Mr. Potter looked like.

"I remember all my people," Mrs. Courtemanche said. "I loved my job and I loved people."

Mrs. Wirtanen described the money left to the library as "a very pleasant surprise" and a large sum compared with the typical donations to the library.

A library never knows how its services are valued, Mrs. Wirtanen said.

"We mean a lot to people ... you don't know how valuable you are," she said.

As part of Mr. Potter's estate, a check for $188,947.78 was received by the library on Oct. 24 and another for $17,572.68 on Oct. 11, Mrs. Wirtanen said. A third, smaller check -- a residual from the estate -- is still to come, she said.

The library trustees have deposited the checks in the New Century Fund, earmarked for building renovation and future needs, she said.

A feasibility study to determine the best use of the library building and its adaptability is getting started, she said.

The $68,000 feasibility study is being covered by a $40,000 grant and other money secured by the trustees, she said.
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