Remembering the Rutland

Rutland Railroad Historical Society
2003 Annual Convention

Editor's Note: Former railroader (New Haven, Penn Central, Amtrak) and raconteur Ben Perry ventured up to Chester, Vermont and environs over the first weekend of May for the the annual convention of the Rutland faithful. Upon arrivng home Ben recounted the events in an email to his friends. Ben has graciously granted permission to publish his account of the journey here for RtR readers.

Greetings All;

Last weekend (May 3-4) I traveled to Chester Vermont for the annual meeting of the Rutland Railroad Historical Society. Started from Providence Rte 146; Mass Pike (W.SPG), I-91 to the Vermont Welcome Center. The clerk on duty was shaking his head when I walked out. Highballed to the Putney exit to check out a "cheap" motel. There is no such animal in Vermont. At Westminster crossed over to tax-free New Hampshire to do a bit of shopping and promptly got soaked by heavy rains.

At the south end of North Walpole yard there is a heavyweight passenger car on the ground leaning to one side. Found out the next day that several months ago a green conductor released the hand brakes before the engine attempted to couple on. The pin did not drop and the car rolled away. It is now a tourist attraction of sorts in plain sight by Rte 12.

On to the Miss Bellows Falls Diner to dry out with a hot bowl of clam chowder (only one kind there, John). Checked out the [Caboose Corner] hobby shop on Rte. 5 north of Bellows Falls. It's built to resemble a Rutland RR station and has a Rutland caboose on display. Checked into the Clarion Hotel south of Ludlow, then back on the road to Springfield, VT. Part of the former Springfield Terminal RR right of way is a bike/hiking trail. It's hard to believe there was a railroad there.

During the night the rain stopped and it was bright and sunny on Saturday morning. Couldn't help but notice in Proctorsville Gulf ("Notch" to NH people) that there were patches of ice and snow and that the ski trails at Okemo Mt were still snow-covered. The streams were high and flowing swiftly, but the Green Mountains were still gray.

A small group was on had at Chester Depot for the arrival of the deadhead move of five passenger cars to be used in connection with the weekend's activities. On the point was the freshly painted ex-Rutland RS-1 #405.

The morning activities consisted of the business meeting (next year's convention is to be at Rouses Point) and a mini-train show with dealers with mostly HO [sorry, Ben, not much S scale -ed] stuff of northern New England roads. A nice HO green Rutland RR 4-8-2 with a passenger train was on display, plus display and dealer tables of Vermont railroadiana.

A Green Mt RR employee [Steve Mumley] spoke of possible forthcoming track changes and construction of a new yard in Rutland.

Jim Murphy, an ex-Central Vermont/New England Central train dispatcher, was there. Jim said that the CVR Historical Society will be holding their annual meeting on the first weekend of October in Willimantic, CT.

All of this was held on the second floor of the Chester Depot Town Hall just across the street from the station. About noon time we broke out of the building to watch and photograph the southbound VRS Rutland-Riverside freight pass.

The next scheduled event was a 2:00 p.m. tour of the Green Mt RR shop in the former B&M roundhouse at North Walpole. While driving there I heard the sad news that the Old Man of the Mountain had crashed. I was stunned and sad, and I thought to myself they will never believe me when I tell them at the engine house. I was right. In fact Jim Dufour sternly said to me "That's not funny, Ben". When I told them that the whole face had dropped off, Scott Whitney of the Green Mt RR and a New Hampshire resident said "Don't worry Ben, they can do wonders nowadays with plastic surgery."

On the turntable #405 was spotted for pictures, having returned light from Chester after setting off the passenger equipment. The shop was very busy, even on Saturday, repairing covered hoppers. They also do tank cars and box cars.

After the tour was over I headed west to my favorite Vermont town, Saxton's River, and to Grafton with a stop at Grafton at the cheese factory.

That evening the dinner was held in the two coaches that have been turned into dining cars. The bar was in operation in the VERMONT, the Green Mt RR "office" car. The bar was doing a good business.

My tablemate was an employee of the Sperry Rail testing company. He was leaving on Monday for Washington state. He told various horror stories about working for Sperry and of the vast turnover of employees. He expects to resign soon and go braking for the New England Central.

After dinner, there was a slide show back in the town hall.

The next morning dawned chilly bright and sunny. The 405 came up from the Falls light and it did some switching of our train. When they spotted it in the station it had restored Rutland combine [261]; restored wooden Rutland coach [551]; 2 former CNJ steel coaches; and the VERMONT (hic). The restored Rutland coach is the oldest coach in continuous service, over a hundred years. It was never retired and was always rostered.

We departed north at 1020 a.m., 20" late for Summit. The group had provided a reproduction of a Rutland RR Employees Timetable showing the times and events of the weekend and a reprint of the pages of the Bellows Falls subdivision from the 1930's.

Made a number of photo stops en route. They would have two runbys: a "slow" one for still photos and a "fast" (ACELA has nothing to worry about) for video cameras. Scott Whitney was at the controls and of course he did a great job.

We had a lunch stop at Ludlow. After runbys at the station Scott spotted the train on the high bridge over the river, then later spotted it at the bridge just north of the station. The bridge still has RUTLAND painted on the steel work.

It was something to see that RS-1 rock from side to side. We got back 1'40" late, but nobody seemed to mind. For the most part it seemed we were doing about 30-35 MPH. With no leaves on the trees I was able to see a lot more than what I saw last fall riding from BF to Rutland.

After the trip was over a number of us visited one of the member's home that has a former Rutland caboose [#27] in the back yard. This caboose was used as a bunk car when F. Nelson Blount had Steamtown in Vermont. It was also used as crew's quarters and moved to Boston with steam engine 15 and former B&M coaches to be used filming the movie "The Cardinal".

Next morning drove to Healdville to check out the Crowley Cheese factory. Tom & Kathy, go for it. Let me know and I'll bring the cheese for the house warming. Pushed on to Rutland. Vermont Transit has moved out of the new transportation center and it is only open part time for Amtrak's Ethan Allen. Saw no sign of any rail activity, so headed south via the Cheshire [B&M Cheshire Branch]. With no leaves on the trees, was able to see quite a bit of the right of way of the line between North Walpole and State Line (Mass-NH). Station still left at Troy and Fitzwilliam, NH.

Got off the beaten path to drive through the center of Gardner MA. The former Heywood-Wakfield complex has been turned into mixed use, but near the center of town there is still a bridge connecting two factory buildings. The bridge still has large white letters, HEYWOOD -WAKEFIELD, on it. I thought back to riding the restored Rutland combine and sitting on the seat that had been made in those buildings many years ago.

Who said that you can't go back?

Ben Perry

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