The following is a guest post by Dan Snow.
Excellent cross-country skiing conditions can be found these days on the newly established West River Trail. The former rail bed along the east bank is ideal for gliding over the snow pack. Glimpses of the frozen waterway and woodlands are peaceful today but the stillness is deceiving. It masks a time not so long ago when the air was full of anticipation. The driving wheels of a steam locomotive made the iron rails sing underfoot and soon a thirty-car train would come chugging by.
Evidence of the days when trains passed through West Dummerston twice a day have mostly disappeared. What’s left to see is an old station house in the village and the granite piers at the river’s edge that once held up a bridge. Fortunately, a lively remembrance of the Brattleboro and Whitehall Rail Road Company was written by Victor Morse and published by Stephen Green Press in 1959. 36 Miles of Trouble: The Story of the West River R.R. chronicles the slow rise and long decline of the line. Morse earned college money on the West River line. As an adult, he operated a saw mill in Brattleboro that made railroad cross-ties. Growing up, I knew him as my father’s no-nonsense friend who’s wool pants were permanently caked in sawdust. His wry sense of humor only came out full-force on the pages of 36 Miles of Trouble. By turns, a historical document and a personal remembrance, the slim volume is a testament to the first, and last, time that the citizens of West River Valley were hitched, for better or worse, to a mode of public transportation.
“The West River Railroad’s best years were its first. In the two decades before the turn of the (20th) century it enjoyed its greatest patronage, which was nothing to rejoice about and gave its best service, which was nothing to excite praise. Unreliable as West River trains came to be, it was never strictly true that they would wait at the station for a hen to lay another egg so the farmer would have a dozen to send to Brattleboro.” (From 36 Miles of Trouble)
AN INVITATION TO AN OPEN HOUSE
Doings at the Depot!
The public is invited to attend an Open House and social hour, with refreshments provided, hosted by the Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT), to be held on Tuesday, February 12, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, in the South Londonderry Depot on Route 100.
At the Open House, visitors will be updated on the current projects involving both the West River Trail (South Londonderry to Brattleboro when completed) and the Depot itself. Recent significant advances in trail development in the Brattleboro area by the Southern Section of the Friends will be recognized.
During the social hour, the latest prize of memorabilia at the Depot will be formally introduced: a locomotive bell generously donated by William and Agnes Peele. It is believed that the bell came from one of the last regularly operated steam locomotives on the Santa Fe Railroad.
Tim Lawrence will also be on hand to present a narrated video depicting his recent experience hiking on a rail trail, one of a series he is producing, and will also, as a rail historian, update us on the status of his “Forgotten Railroads” project. Timothy W. Lawrence is Founder and Videographer, I.M.R. Films, created in 2003. Since that time, he has worked on numerous projects from online advertising for Coca-Cola and Comcast to corporate videos for companies such as Skyhorse Publishing, Living WRAP and more. He resides locally, in Windham, VT.
The Open House will be preceded at 5:30 PM by a short business meeting of the FWRT Board, which visitors are welcome to attend if they choose.
Please plan to join your friends and the Friends of the West River Trail for an enjoyable and informative evening.
Our “Lower Section” newsletter is coming soon from Board member & editor, Kathleen White.
Kathleen White, Board member & Newsletter editor, working hard on the Lower Section of the West River Trail!
Here is a great photo of Kathleen during the Lower Section “Clean-Up Work Party,” where she obviously was getting deep into the mud, so to speak! Cheers to Kathleen, and check back here to read the newsletter on-line.
Alex Wilson’s fundraising letter was put in the snail mail last week . . . if you’d like to receive a copy via email, contact us! We have a challenge grant from the Thomas Thompson Trust, and we really appreciate the donations coming in to our Lower Section initiative, via our new Donations page!
We received a great tip today, from someone out on the trail, that a tree was down just north of the I-91 Interstate bridge. That has been cleared and thanks to the person who let us know about it! (This note is from board member, Jason Cooper, via our Facebook page)
Thanks to Alex for his great work on the fundraising letter—Thanks to all!
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