When it comes to Rails to Trails most rail-fans dislike this.
Here is some background:
Here in the Northeast, there are a lot of abandoned railroad right-of-ways. Most haven’t seen service since the 1930’s. With better highway structures, more people and trucks would hit the highways rather than the rails. Railroads consolidated by eliminated secondary routes and branches that lacked use over a period of time. This railroad abandonment spanned from only few miles to hundreds of miles.
In the mid 1980’s, a group called “Rail to Trails” formed to convert these abandon right-of-ways so the public could use this lines for bike riding, walking, running, rollerblading, and even commuting. Most of these rail lines have been abandon and dormant for years, even decades.
As a little boy, I was fascinated with rail lines; including the ones that are just mere paths in the woods.
I feel this is great way to find a use for these long forgotten right-of-ways, but I wouldn’t agree with removing an active rail line, for a bike trail.
I’m an avid cyclist, always looking for a place to ride, so I was able to check out a few of the rail trails near Attleboro. Most trails are done very well; highlighting the rail line’s history with plaques along the way. Sometimes you can spot an old depot or even cross over an old railroad bridge or two. While I’m riding, I wish I could take a trip back in time and see the right-of-way in its heyday.
I hate to see any railroad line become an abandoned one. I think rails-to-trails can be a good idea, considering rail fans such as myself never like to see a right-of-way becoming overgrown and forgotten.
The current Wickford Junction MBTA station celebrated its grand opening back on April 23nd, 2012. This is currently the end of the line for the MBTA Attleboro/Providence line, with 10 trains stopping weekdays at this multimillion-dollar station. The station includes a four-story, 1,100 space parking garage along with an indoor waiting room and a small coffee/snack shop. The station is located on the Northeast Corridor at mile post 165.8; 16 miles from Providence and 63 miles from Boston. Trains stopping on this station pull off to a siding track.
The original station was built in 1844, and unfortunately burned down around 1890. The station was replaced by a smaller station later turn down in 1969, leaving only the barren station platforms. Just beyond the station off the main line is the 3.5 mile Wickford Branch, which was built in 1871 heading out to Wickford Landing. The Wickford Landing portion was abandoned back in 1938, and the rest of the branch was abandoned in 1962. Some parts or the branch can be seen, but most of the track is gone.
Listen to Amtrak, MBTA/MBCR on 160.9200 MHz
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If your travel ever takes you to the Carolinas, be sure to stop in Spencer, NC; the home of the North Carolina Transportation Museum. You will find everything from planes to cars and yes, trains; in this over 57-acre facility. I was amazed at how much they had on exhibit, from locomotives to rolling stock in its 37-bay roundhouse. The Museum is located at the former Southern Railway’s Spencer Shops, which includes a 37-bay roundhouse, 100 foot turntable, and repair shops. My dad and I enjoyed all of the exhibits and even took a train ride around the museum, pulled by engine #2601 of the Southern Railways.
Right across the street is the Little Choo Choo Shop Model Train shop. Great place to visit while you’re at NC Transportation Museum.
Listen to all the activity on 160.695 MHz
Here are some photos taken last July from our visit.
Visit to New Bern, NC
Over the 4th of July holiday, my family and I spent some time in the Carolina’s. On the coastal leg or our trip we spent some time in New Bern, NC, a small tourist town, and is located in Craven County where Trent River merges with the Neuse River. As we pulled into the campground in New Bern, I heard some train horns from a distance, and I was very excited. Over the weekend we found two drawbridges; one crossing the Trent River and another crossing the Neuse River. Not being familiar with the area, it was hard to pin down when the freight trains cross the drawbridges. A few of the mornings, I heard Norfolk Southern crossing the Neuse River Drawbridge around 3 or 4 AM.
One afternoon my wife (Jodie) and I explored New Bern railroad roots. We found New Bern Union Train Depot, which was being restored, a railway shop, and the Norfolk Southern Rail Yard. We also scoped out some spots for taking photos, if the opportunity aroused.
Crossing the Neuse River
There is a great little park with a small parking lot on the Bridgeton side of the Neuse River. You can get close up shots of NS crossing the Neuse River, in the park or on the dock. The drawbridge is on the New Bern side of the river, the bridge is left in the open position unless a train is crossing. This track leaves New Bern and runs to points North and east of New Bern.
Crossing the Trent River
Great spot for crossing the Trent River is behind the Bridge Pointe Hotel & Marina. The drawbridge is on this side of the river. Like the Neuse drawbridge, it’s left in the open position unless a train is crossing. This track leaves New Bern and runs to Morehead City, NC.
New Bern Railroad Yard
The yard is located only minutes away from downtown New Bern off of Dunn and George Street.
Downtown New Bern
Single track runs right down the middle of Hancock Street then crossing Trent River Drawbridge.
New Bern Union Depot & Railway Shop
Built in 1910 the New Bern Union Depot sits at the corner of Pasteur and Queen Streets. Just 100 yards from the depot is the Railway Shop.
The city of New Bern, NC Public Safety is on a digital trunk system. As for the Norfolk Southern Railroad you can hear all the active on 160.9500 from the yard moves to communications with the dispatch.
Mystic Depot opened in 1905 located on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor(NEC) at 2 Roosevelt Ave (Route 1) in Mystic, CT. Two tracks pass this historical depot, not all trains stop here because of its ground level platforms.
In the early 1960’s the train station was closed due to its poor condition. In 1976 a group of local citizens started a conversation to save the building. A year later a committee was formed and money was raised by volunteers with support from Amtrak and the state of Connecticut. In the spring of 1978 the depot was fully restored and opened to the public.
Today the depot is the welcoming center for Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce.
Rail Scanning – Amtrak Road 160.9200MHz
What to do on National Train Day?
This past National Train Day (Saturday, May 11, 2013) my wife Jodie and I were looking for a rail adventure. While I was looking for great news stories to share, I found out about the Amtrak’s Downeaster $5.00 ticket days. Saturday, May 11 was one of those days. I thought “this could be a fun adventure.” So I went on the National Train Day website to find that they had an event at Brunswick station. I booked the tickets for our rail adventure on National Train Day, all for $20 for two around trip from Haverhill, MA to Brunswick, ME. Normally the Downeaster services North Station in Boston, but due to track work service started in Haverhill, MA this weekend.
When we arrived the platform at Haverhill station was getting pretty full with families and rail buffs. Amtrak Downeaster train #691 pulled into the station right on time and we left right on time. We made our way through northeastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire, for the first leg of the trip is very much wooded. As we made our way into Maine we made our way thru coastal towns like Wells, Saco, and Old Orchard Beach. The station platform at Old Orchard Beach is only steps away from the ocean and everything OOB has to offer from quant shops to beach side amusement rides. As we made way north we passed thought Rigby Rail yard the home of Guilford and PanAm Railways. Our next stop was Portland station, which is off the main line. After stopping at Portland station to pick-up/drop off passengers and changed crews we were back-up on the main line to continue north to Freeport and Brunswick stations.
We arrived at Brunswick station to find rail/travel related vendors and a couple of operating train layouts. Parked on the secondary track by Brunswick station was two engines from PanAm. I broke out the camera and got tons of photos of Amtrak’s Downeaster and PanAm equipment. Jodie and I spent the day in Brunswick checking out the many shops along their Main Street. After a 5 hour layover we made our way back on sold-out train #698 heading south back to Haverhill.
Great ride, I would definitely do this again. The Amtrak’s Downeaster is perfect for a day or weekend get-a-way, with all the great destinations along the way. The Downeaster is great for a get-a-way but it is also used by many for commuting for college and business.
Rail Scanning on Amtrak’s Downeaster
Crew Communications 161.5200MHz
Haverhill, MA to Portland, ME Road Dispatch. 160.1600
Portland to points north Road Dispatch 160.6200
Passenger Rail Service to Return to Cape Cod
The MBTA, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and MassDOT are teaming up to bring commuter rail service back to Cape Cod. There hasn’t been a passenger train service to the Cape in nearly two decades. Back in the mid-1980’s to mid-1990, Amtrak provided a weekend service called the CapeCoder. This summer weekend train would make its way to the Cape from New York City every Friday evening and return on Sunday. As for the passenger train service between Boston and Cape Cod, it’s been over 50 years. I’m happy to see passenger rail service returning to Cape Cod.
Starting this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer, the CapeFlyer will provide service between Boston and Cape Cod. The CapeFlyer will run out of South Station and make its way to Hyannis via the Middleboro/Lakeville Old Colony line. Trains will run round trip on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Last weekend I was able to attend the trial run of the CapeFlyer. I haven’t been on the Middleboro/Lakeville line since my college days and the on track beyond Middleboro/Lakeville station since the days of Amtrak’s CapeCoder. On the head end was MBTA MPXpress Engine #010, one of two new engines in the MBTA commuter rail fleet. Behind Engine #010 was a customized coach with storage for bicycles and a concession counter with drinks and snacks, followed by MBTA passenger coaches.
We made our way out of the busy city of Boston, though the suburbs, then into Cape Cod via the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge. As we approached Buzzard Bay, the scenery was so picturesque, just to think little over an hour ago we were in the state’s largest city, Boston.
Learn more about the CapeFlyer at http://www.capeflyer.com
Rail Fanning with a Scanner
Approaching and leaving South Station
- Amtrak Road Channel 160.9200MHz CSQ
Quincy to Middleboro/Lakeville
- Old Colony Road Channel 161.4900MHz CSQ
South of Middleboro/Lakeville Station to Hyannis
- Mass Coastal Railroad Road (Dispatch) 160.4250MHz CSQ [Repeater]*
- Mass Coastal Railroad Road (Train) 161.3850MHz CSQ [Repeater imput]*
*Make sure you program both channels the repeater signal is week west of the Cape Cod Canal
The Canton (MA) Viaduct is one the world’s tallest and longest railroad viaducts ever built. Built in 1835, the 0.3 miles, two tracks, railroad viaduct carries freight, Amtrak, and MBTA Commuter rail passenger service. The Viaduct goes over the Canton River and Neponset Street, only minutes away from the Canton Junction Station.
My daughter Kortnie is an excellent writer, so I asked her to write a short story for my blog. So she wrote this fictional story about Marcy & Caboose. I hope you enjoy it!
Marcy & Caboose
Written by Kortnie Wheaton
The warning blare of an impatient locomotive stirred Marcy from her slumber. She stretched from the cold and aches of sleeping in a cement pipe and shouldered her pack. Marcy surveyed the oncoming black engine from afar and smiled to find the many boxcars it lugged behind it. She waited until the engine had chugged by before emerging from her hideaway; the last thing she needed was for the engineer to see her. Child Services was the last place she wanted to be.
Her sea green eyes scanned the boxcars, finding a bright red one with the door ajar. Marcy took advantage of the slow speed of the train and ran alongside it, her pack flapping against her back, adrenaline coursing through her veins as it always did when she was about to jump into a train.
Just as the train passed the abandoned station, Marcy grabbed onto the swinging door, praying it wouldn’t slam and break her fingers. She hopped up, legs flying wildly for a few terrifying seconds before she scrambled inside, the gritty floor prickling her scratched palms. Panting, she slipped the pack from her back and slid next to the door, watching the world speed by in smearing colors and textures.
At every picket-fenced-children-chasing-their-dog-around perfect home, a pang hit Marcy’s heart like a firework of hurt. She missed her mother terribly, wishing she hadn’t given her up so long ago, wishing she didn’t sacrifice her for that creep of a boyfriend. “It was either the kid or me”, her mother’s boyfriend had told her mother. Marcy had known she was a mistake, had known that her mother was too young to be a mother, but she was sure that her mother would never give her up for someone else.
Until the day she threw her out with only a pack of some belongings and the clothes on her back.
Marcy was lulled to sleep with the gentle, familiar chug of the train, the rocking shielding her from the nightmares she always had when she wasn’t on a train. Her only home she had ever really known was on the rails, even with the loneliness and the harsh, metal-cold winters.
As dawn broke, orange sorbet stains splattering the sky, Marcy woke from her boxcar slumber to the staccato yips of a puppy. She peered out from the boxcar, seeing a little puppy running beside the train. Without thinking, she secured her pack and leaped from the train into a mound of grass, her shoulder weakening the rough blow. The golden, innocent creature bounded up to her, licking her face in big sloppy slurps. Marcy laughed and sat up, the puppy leaping into her arms. His fur was speckled with remnants of dirt and grime, evidence of a short life of abandonment, just the same life she had been condemned to. Marcy unzipped her pack and used some of her precious water to clean the little thing.
“What’s your name, puppy?” she asked, the puppy just answering in an excited tail wag.
“Well, I guess I’ll just call you…..” Marcy thought for a moment. “I’ll call you Caboose.” The puppy licked her face in apparent approval. “Okay, then, Caboose. Let’s go get some food.”
After scavenging shamefully behind a bakery and a grocery store and filling up her water bottle in a creek, Marcy lugged Caboose and her pack to the tracks, ran with the train, placed Caboose inside as carefully as possible, and then hopped in herself. She settled in the corner, curled up with adorable little Caboose and pulled out an apple and a chunk of bread. She ripped off a piece of bread and gave it to Caboose, who scoffed it down hungrily, followed by a half of the apple. Satisfied, the pair of orphans snuggled together and fell into a deep sleep.
“Hey, wake up. Whoo-hoo, little girl? Wake up.” Marcy cracked her eyes open to find a striped-suited, red bandanna-ed man peering, concerned, at her. She shot up, clutching Caboose to her chest.
“Who are you?” She asked. The man laughed. “I’m the engineer of this train. Who are you? Where are your parents?” Marcy frowned sadly, her stomach dropping. This man was probably going to ship her off to Child Services. “I’m Marcy, and…..I…I have no parents. The trains are the only places I live.” The engineer’s face softened. “You have nowhere to go, at all?” Marcy nodded and the engineer helped her to her feet and off the boxcar, Caboose still safely in her arms. He led her to the front of the locomotive, hoping into the cab. “How much do you know about trains?” he asked. “Well, almost my entire life has been on the rails, so, I know a little bit.” The jolly man laughed again.
“You’re gonna make a great engineer.”