Palmer, MA is located 70 miles west of Boston in the central part of western Massachusetts off the Mass Pike I-90. The town of Palmer is rich in railroad history and is known as “The Town of Seven Railroads”
Today Palmer is still a busy railroad town with three freight railroads: CSX, Massachusetts Central Railroad, and New England Central Railroad. No passenger railroads service the community but Amtrak’s Lake Shore travel through Palmer twice daily.
Having so much railroad activity makes Palmer one of the top places in New England for railfans. Located in the heart of downtown Palmer is Union Station designed by architect H.H. Richardson. This is one of the nine railroads buildings he has designed. Today Union Station is now the home of the Steaming Tender Restaurant. Owners Blake and Robin Lamothe worked hard to restore this historic landmark to its original glory. Railfans including myself often make a stop here to photograph the trains passing right by the restaurant.
Steaming Tender Restaurant
My wife and I booked a room at the new Trainmaster’s Inn for Valentine’s Day. Before we settled into our room we had dinner at the Steaming Tender. We enjoyed a great meal from their special Valentine’s Menu. I also couldn’t pass up one of my favorite dessert items, their amazing Whiskey Bread Pudding. If you haven’t been to the Steaming Tender, I strongly recommend having lunch or dinner there. They have amazing Sunday brunch as well, and any time I’m in the area I always stop. On the weekends you may want to call and make a reservation because they can get quite busy.
The Steaming Tender Restaurant is located at 28 Depot Street Palmer, MA and its open
Sundays 9AM – 8PM
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Open Wednesday & Thursday 11AM – 8PM
Friday & Saturday from 11AM – 9PM
Call for reservations at 413-283-2744
Online – http://steamingtender.com/
Last year the Lamothes opened the Trainmaster Inn, located up the street from their restaurant. This railroad themed inn features 19th century charm with modern facilities. Each room has it own private bath and railroad memorabilia throughout. Guests step back in time yet have all the modern amenities like free wifi and cable television.
Once we had dinner we drove over to the Trainmaster Inn and were greeted by owner Robin Lamothe. She give us a brief tour and pointed out the two large paintings by Averil Cronwell. The sitting area outside of our room had a few railroad related games and all types of railroad books. We settled into room number 3 on the second floor. It was a beautiful room with a king size bed and private sitting area. I set up my scanner so I could listen to the area railroad activity, it was pretty busy for Tuesday night. If it wasn’t such a cold February night I would have tried to get some night shots of the action. I was quite content with listening to the activity from the comfort of our warm room. During the night I could hear train horns in the distance and a few trains rumbling past. We woke up the next morning to fresh juice, coffee, yogurt, and muffins downstairs in the common area.
We will definitely be staying at the inn again in the spring or summer when it’s warmer. I hope to get some photos/videos of trains traveling through Palmer at night.
To book your stay at the Trainmaster’s Inn, call 413-531-3281 and read more on their website – http://www.trainmastersinn.com/
While you’re in Palmer be sure to stop at Palmer Hobbies located at 1428 Main Street. This train shop has a full line of N and HO products. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10am – 5pm (until 6:30pm on Friday nights) and closed on Sunday and Monday.
Tips for Railfanning in Palmer
I have found the best time to railfan in Palmer is during the week. There is a lot of activity near the Steaming Tender with the New England Central Railroad yard adjacent to the restaurant. This was the first time I was able to get photographs of every railroad that operates/travels through Palmer; CSX, New England Central Railroad, Massachusetts Central Railroad, and Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.
When railfanning in Palmer or anywhere, please use common sense, stay off the railroad tracks; the tracks on both sides of the Steaming Tender are active. Train crews are quite used to railfans being like the paparazzi for trains here, but don’t get in their way and let them work.
Bring your scanner, you’re going to need it. Listed below are the frequencies I have programmed into my scanner. Be sure to listen closely to both New England Central and Massachusetts Central Railroads to stay ahead of yard moves and where they are traveling to next in and around Palmer.
If you like to photograph the trains be sure you carry some extra batteries, tripod, and have a fresh SD card on hand. If you have a digital SLR camera you many want to pack a long range lens. I typical use my my 18-200 lens.
Massachusetts Central Railroad
160.4250 – Yard
160.4700 – Road
160.5750 – Operation
New England Central Railroad
161.4150 – Road and Switching
160.7700 – Road
160.9350 – Yard
160.2050 – Old Road
161.1750 – Yard (CT)
160.8000 – Road
160.5600 – NB Dispatcher
160.7100 – Maintenance of Way
160.0700 – Yard