DIFFERENT ADVENTURE — “RIDING OFF THE RAILS” – 17 OCTOBER 2021

This past weekend I was in Connecticut for a memorial service for someone I have known since before kindergarten. Three days, lots to share from the past, but again you are going to get my trip home first before the first two days (remember I still owe you Lake George – sorry, I am lucky to have too much to do). For the trip home Sunday I planned to visit two railroad museums in Connecticut, and travel up my favorite US Route 7 partially, and then cut back to I-91 and home. I had an adventure, and now some “bragging rights?” I can say I have experienced a train derailment.

My first stop – the Danbury Railway Museum, opening at 10AM – I was there at 9:30. Life in the 50s and 60s was not malls – but Friday nights in the “big cities.” As a family we would travel south to Norwalk or north to Danbury from Wilton. Dinner at diners along the way, miscellaneous shopping, and grocery supplies. On Main Street in Danbury about 1958 or 9 I bought my 3-speed English bicycle. I have not been “downtown” Danbury in maybe fifty years, and not much has changed as far as architecture, but previous stores are now housing something else. The museum in the restored 1903 station is right behind downtown.

Greeting you at the museum is this 38-foot-tall Uncle Sam. ‘Meet me at Uncle Sam’ was a common phrase spoken by patrons of the Great Danbury State Fair during fair week. The fair ran for 112 years, closing in 1981, and I have many fond memories of the fair. From 1971 to the fair’s closing in 1981, Uncle Sam stood on the fairgrounds welcoming all. After the fair closed, he was purchased by the Fairy Tale Magic Forest Theme Park in Lake George, New York, where he resided for 37 years. In late 2018, the park closed, and Uncle Sam was slated to be sold to Troy, New York (legendary home of Uncle Sam). Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton stepped in, outbid Troy, and had the 4,500 pound fiberglass statue trucked back home. In the museum shop I discovered, and immediately bought, the book, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE GREAT DANBURY FAIR.

The doors opened at 10, I bought my ticket to the museum which included a ride on the 10:30 on the “The Husking Bee” train for a ride out to the Pumpkin Patch!

I have big feet, but putting things into perspective here is my size 12 next to Uncle Sam. PS – this is the largest Uncle Sam in the world.

The Metro-North train from NYC terminates at Danbury. There is a new station on adjoining land with a raised platform. The trains however will remain in the museum’s yard while waiting for their next run south.

The museum’s displays, panels, layouts, and collection of toys are not to be missed. On one panel was information on six classic railroad movies – Silver Streak 1976 – Strangers on a Train 1951 (and directed by Alfred Hitchcock at the Danbury Railroad Station in 1950) – Hello Dolly 1969 – It Happened to Jane 1959 – Harvey Girls 1946 (you best know about the Harvey Restaurants at western RR stations) – North by Northwest 1959. You know what I will now be doing. I also felt I need to share the below image. Hooks were made with messages for the train’s engineer clipped to them. The hook would be scooped up by hand when a train passed, message removed, and hook tossed back for reuse. If the engineer did not like a station master the hook would be tossed further than it should have been.

It was then time to get on the train – a set of 1920’s coaches pulled by a 1940’s diesel locomotive.

I was in the rear coach – loved it.

what I learned is that the train trip was only within the yard since the museum does not have access rights to the adjoining tracks. Thus about a half mile (not even) – stop and throw the switch – a half mile down another track to the pumpkin patch. Well, little pumpkins on pallets for the kids to enjoy. But this kid enjoyed the cider and cookies.

coming back – in the foreground below you can see the original turntable which is under restoration (roundhouse sadly torn down) and to the rear “The Tonawanda Valley is the sole survivor of the 16 heavyweight ‘Valley’ series of observation cars built by the Pullman Company and leased by the New York Central Railroad for use on their flagship train, The 20th Century Limited.” Due to COVID the various cars were not open (guess another visit needed some day)

on the grounds I was trilled to see this Semaphore Tower from the Wilton station. I vaguely remember it when as a 12 and 13 year old I would catch the train by myself (in coat and tie) and head to Grand Central Station in NYC for the day.

ALL ABOARD — and time to get back aboard for the trip to the end of the yard, throw the switch, and head back to start. Toot Toot – short haul – stop and throw switch – Toot Toot, and off to start. I am facing the rear, and see smoke coming up through the rear vestibule. Thump – Thump, and louder, and more smoke, and then the coach begins leaning – a leaning more than there should be. And, thanks to slow speed, slow motion sets in with the coach taking a fall to the ground. Conductor begins hanging onto seats working his way back to the engine to halt the train. Ray starts thinking – “do I brace myself in place, or on the downhill side so I do not fall downhill to the other side?” And, then the train stops and the falling shift appears to stop. In the image below the forward car is the level one.

the front car is the level one on the traceks

How to exit? Through our door so the coach can fall on us, or in the forward coach on the tracks? Strangely those not in peril on the level coach exited first. Getting out, this was what we saw – not what you should see.

and, a collection of views which you should realize are not what you should see. The wheels of the truck came off the track, and the track on the other side was twisted in and pulled up from the ties. Not Good.

What can I say? As I was leaving the next group of youngsters was walking to the “pumpkin patch” with no train ride. On the museum’s website they posted – “Due to technical difficulties all operations for today are cancelled. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, all pre booked passengers will be offered a free transfer to another train on another day, or a full refund.

UPDATE – 21 October — I have had some wonderful email exchanges with the Director of the Danbury Railway Museum, Jose Alves, and the Safety Officer, David Fuller. I am so impressed with these folks and their work. Jose emailed again enclosed the below image, and said, “As of Tuesday night, coach “B” was returned to the rails by Winters Rigging (our contractor) and volunteers were able to stabilize the track so that the cars could be moved off, inspected and be ready for departure from another track. The picture was taken last night at the end of the day around 8pm .

(and the Wilton semaphore is lit every night from dusk to dawn).”

If you can, I encourage you to visit the Danbury Railway Museum, and/or make a contribution.

I then hopped on I-84 exiting on US Route 7 north to Brookfield, through New Milford, to the former home of Ray Boas, Bookseller on the New Preston waterfall. As you will read, once I write about the first two days, fortunately once you get north of New Milford not much has changed. Relief for Ray who has little desire to travel again on US 7 south of Danbury – the changes (not nice) and the traffic is not liking to Ray. Cathy and I sold our shop and home on the falls in 2002. The village is as quaint as always, and maybe more posh. The current owner of my home, Anne, advised me a few months ago that water was not going over the falls, but the flow has increased through the dam, owned by the Town. Twenty-five years ago I tried to get repairs initiated. But it is still beautiful.

New sign since my last visiet

even without water over the falls on the left, this is a gorgeous spot – so glad I was its conservator for seven years.

above left you see no water to the right where it used to be. Also the vegetation was not there, nor in the right hand view where my drive was to the underneath of the shop. In what I had as a garage – two Model A Fords inside, of course.

And, the former home of Ray Boas, Bookseller. Anne and Rich have done a wonderful job preserving and enhancing this special place.

I decided it was enough for the day, and headed back to safe, remote and bucolic Walpole. Well, to be safe I will not be flying. If a car breaks down you can pull over to the side of the road. If a ship has mechanical problems you can float. It a train derails it is not too far down. If a plane has problems – well, lets not go there.

Stay safe and be well – back to you soon with the first two days of this adventure, and in time Lake George. As Always, yours, RAY

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“TIMING IS EVERYTHING” – A DAY OUT – 11 OCTOBER 2021

I hope you had a nice “holiday” three day weekend – I did. Saturday I was out early to some “sales” in Guilford and Newfane, Vermont, and found some treasures to place in new homes. Sunday, David and family visited, and we had a leisurely brunch at Stuart and John’s and then walked and picked at Alyson’s Orchard just down the road. We then visited at “44” for awhile. It was a great visit. Here is the family in pictures Mari posted on Facebook:

Today, Monday, I had to get out again, and BLUE BELLE’s headlamps were tearing up. She and I decided we were overdue for a visit Plymouth Notch and President Coolidge. Overcast, not great colors on the trees in town, and amazing traffic heading to Chester (heading back south), but we were on our way. No treasures at Stone House Antiques (getting really hard to spend my money), spot for lunch closed since no kitchen help. Next tried Crow’s Bakery in Proctorsville where I published my first Shunpiking post April 10, 2011 – also closed today. But around the corner is Singleton’s General Store. Never been, but pulled in, and got a great sandwich – to go. The new plan — lunch on a picnic table at Plymouth Notch overlooking the President’s home. We arrived, and the sun came out – “timing is everything.”

Did I say “timing is everything?” Eating my lunch, looking up the road towards the cheese factory and OCT-11-21-cthe President’s home, there was Bill Jenney, the State’s director of this fabulous place. He and an associate were working on a garden area. I watched them as I ate, and when I finished up I walked up to say hi. Bill beat me to it, “hi, Ray.” We chatted about how things have gone the past few years. Bill also shared some of his professional background and education. What a treasure you have Vermont — Bill will be very hard to replace. We parted, but later on I saw him again, and he invited me into the former Tea Room (The Aldrich House) – now his office and other exhibit space – he wanted to share a new exhibit there of dolls. And, sadly, just a warning, Bill said there will be no Holiday Open House this December, again with COVID concerns. But for nostalgia, click here for my report of the December 10, 2016 OPEN HOUSE

Alice based her dolls on real people. Below are some examples. On the left are some of the folks she knew in Plymouth Notch (hope I remembered correctly Bill), and on the right is the last surviving Revolutionary War widow who as a resident here died in 1906. Bill said, “when they married he was really old, and she really young. She kept trying to get as much money from the US as possible.” You know I have to “know everything” so (thank you Google) here are the particulars – the last Revolutionary War pension was paid in 1906—131 years after the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the American Revolutionary War in 1775. to Esther (Sumner) Damon, the widow of Noah Damon. Esther died in 1906 at her home in Plymouth Union, She married Noah 6 September 1835 when he was 75, and she, 21.

Below are two images as I left The Aldrich House. Remember you can click my images or galleries for larger views.

Bill told me I should drive up the road past the cheese factory and see the stone house built about 1840 that is part of the 25 buildings he overseas for the State of Vermont. I did not recall driving up the hill, so off I went. And, at the end of the road at the top of the hill – WOW – my timing to see great leaves was timed with beauty in Plymouth Notch.

And, then I came back down the hill, great dirt road, past the stone house, and back into the “metropolis.”

and, leaving the village, I turned to the cemetery to pay my respects to the President, and see the color there.

Back down Vermont Route 100 – always a treat – I turned east at the Echo Lake Inn onto Kingdom Road towards Reading and Felchville This is another great route I have always enjoyed and highly recommend for the views. But wait, here is Scout Camp Road with a sign to Camp Plymouth State Park. Never been there – seen it from Route 100 across Echo Lake – so left turn.

lots of history here — Vermont’s Gold Rush, and route of the Crown Point Road with a Revolutionary War encampment. These two state signs tell you all — for a start.

so south on Vermont 106, and seeing a road on my old Vermont atlas that I had not explored, I turned left on the first road south of Route 131. Missed a turn I wanted, but all of a sudden stumbled into – what is this. Well, I found the North Springfield Reservoir. Near the airport bet you did not know about this area. Well I will head back for more exploration.

As you can see it was clouding up again. But when I was in Plymouth Notch, the sun was bright and the colors even brighter – TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Hope you had a nice enjoyable holiday weekend. Stay safe and stay well, and I will be back with more soon. As always, yours, RAY

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149th TUNBRIDGE WORLD’S FAIR – SEPTEMBER 16, 17, 18, and 19, 2021

The Tunbridge World’s Fair began in 1867. The first eight fairs were held in North Tunbridge, Vermont, before “moving south.” The fair is currently chaired by Alan Howe,, who took over from Euclid Farnham after the 2009 fair (I chatted with Euclid while watching a hit ‘n miss run). Farnham was president of the fair for over 30 years, changed the fair from a “drunkards reunion,” with “girlie-shows” and unlimited alcohol, to a more family-friendly environment. This is at least the second time I have attended (I have also attended Vermont History Fairs on the same grounds in 2007 and 2014) and I can’t wait to go again, and highly encourage you to take part and experience this truly original country agricultural fair with food, entertainment, and classic carney rides and games. You may know that I have always loved learning about, and collecting World’s Fair items. Why is the fair in Tunbridge (population around 1,100) called a World’s Fair? Help, someone tell me the back story.

The fair is well organized and spread out. So, here goes a photo depiction of this year’s fair to encourage you to make it if you can this weekend, but at least mark your calendar for next year.

Let’s start with an overview from the top of the fair looking over the grounds, and back towards “downtown Tunbridge,” Vermont.

And, remember you may “click” my images for larger views and details

My favorite spot is Antique Hill (more on that later), but this is the path down from that spot looking north to the food area and grandstand.

There are horse events and competitions, trotting races, poultry, sheep, pigs, vegetables, everything from the farm. Here young farmers are having their young calves judged.

and, many, many veggies. Some extraordinary sizes, some decorated by youngsters (hook ’em young, they all got ribbons). The arrangements were creative and colorful.

One reason I will always return is “Antique Hill,” which is billed as “The Fair’s unique agricultural museum with living history exhibits: one-room schoolhouse, printing shop, blacksmith shop, barn & field equipment museum, pump logs, hand-hewn beams, saw mill & cider mill, Civil War camp, and the famous Log Cabin Museum which includes a General Store, Post Office, Weaving and Spinning, Dairy & Household Displays, Farm Kitchen and Hearth cooking.

In the long transportation building you will see the most unique collection of original condition horse drawn vehicles and farm implements. My absolute favorite, which I have to research and write about, is this 1897 hand built Steam Horseless Carriage fabricated by Edwin Flint in Canaan, NH.

This was the first time I really noticed a portable hit ‘n miss driven logging saw — until I got outside and saw one in operation.

now my printing press collection numbers eight, and I have done letterpress for over sixty years. Here is the print shop on Antique Hill.

and to get water from your spring to the barn or your farm house, just drill a hole into a log and make a pipe – and many more.

I showed you one a few posts ago from the Dublin Hit ‘n Miss show, but here is another typical Abenaki engine that was made just over the river from me. Passed the old brick factory building just this morning in BB2.

now here is something “new to me” and fascinating. Never before had I seen (nor thought about) how a log is hand-hewn. Walking along I first saw a log with notches – it made no sense at all. Then two young exhibitors came along, and I asked. By the way, it was so gratifying to see 20, 30 and maybe 40 somethings working the exhibits. Only way to keep things going is involving the next generations.

Well, the notches are cut to the depth for the ultimate width of the beam, and then the log is cut lengthwise from notch to notch, with the excess flaking off in small chips. Makes sense, you could not cut a 40 foot or more beam the entire length at once. So, hope this is a new understanding to you as well, and now all those markings on a hand-hewn timber will make sense to you.

turning around were some hit n’ miss engines in operation – and watch the saw cutting chunks of logs into pieces to later be split into firewood by the machine to the left. Something else I had never seen before was the heater in the cow drinking trough so water would not freeze over in the winter. This is where I chatted with 86 year old Euclid Farnham.

World’s Fairs — Printing Press — and also Country Stores. I have loved, visited, and collected 19th and early 20th century store items for over six decades. Here is the store in the Log Cabin Museum.

in one corner of the building there were these early souvenirs of the fair, and a floral display ribbon winner from 1868.

and, everyone loves babies

it was hard for them all, and one little one was heard to say, “let me in”

well, they had a great deal to say, or squeal about…

I have never seen so many varieties of cows and colorful chickens. Almost want to start a farm out back.

Added Saturday morning, 18 September — click on this link for a nice article on the fair that I just received via VT Digger.

Five plus hours of enjoyment, and time to meander home. Meander I say because I saw I route to take that I had not been on before. After the 144th fair in 2015 I took the back road to Strafford, and cut over to Route 113 to see Thetford Center and Thetford Hill. Looking at the Vermont map I saw New Boston on a dirt road from South Strafford that would eventually get me to Norwich. Off I went. Stafford still great and I need to get back again when the  Gothic Revival home and grounds of Senator Justin S. Morrill, a State Historic Site is open. I stopped at Coburns’ General Store in South Strafford to find out which dirt road went to New Boston which was close by. Four people, including the post master in the maybe ten foot square post office in the general story had not heard of New Boston. Finally I found someone who told me to take Mill Road and stay to the left. I was told I would pass a solar field, and wow – I did.

Twenty-eight acres of solar field I learned upon research getting home. And, in researching New Boston — nothing, no mention other that New Boston Road. But, what I did learn. This was the Elizabeth Mine area. An ore deposit was discovered in 1793, but mining of copper did not start until 1809. There was both open pit mining, and from 1886 underground mining was conducted. The mine site covered 850 acres, and over three million tons of ore were extracted from open cuts and below ground. By 1834 the site included one of the nation’s earliest successful large-scale copper smelting plants. Employing as many as 220 workers, the mine had a major impact on the economic and cultural development of Strafford and surrounding towns. By the 1980s the site was identified as a source of pollution in nearby streams. It was designated a National Priorities List (Superfund) clean-up site in 2001 by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a massive remediation effort followed. For lots of detail, and history check out this article — https://vermontbiz.com/news/2017/september/07/vermonts-largest-solar-farm-go-online-superfund-site

Now, I did not know that, and bet you did not either. The clean-up has taken 18 years and 90 million dollars. The solar field was built over the open pit. There is basically nothing in Strafford and South Strafford — and nothing in New Boston. I did see a Meeting House Road, so have to go back and explore that. But the only indication of the area is Mine Road becomes New Boston Road which in turn ends up in Norwich.

RAY RECOMMENDS
1 – Attend and enjoy the Tunbridge World’s Fair in Vermont
2 – Explore the little towns in the area east and south of Tunbridge, including all the covered bridges in the area. Check out my exploration of those bridges, including a floating bridge by reading this 2019 VERMONT EXPLORATIONS.
3 – And, have fun doing so.

Enjoy and stay safe, yours, RAY

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STAR ISLAND – ISLES OF SHOALS – 6-10 SEPTEMBER 2021

Nine years ago, 3-9 September 2012, I attended a Digital Photography Road Scholar program on Star Island, back in in the 19th century. As tradition says “You Will Be Back,” and I finally got back. The nonprofit Star Island Corporation has owned and operated Star Island since 1916, providing individual and family retreats. Founded by Unitarian-Universalism and the United Church of Christ, people can attend religious conferences during the season. Other conferences (e.g. painting, writing, rug hooking, etc.) are available for a quite focused getaway. Dating from 1874, the Oceanic House is the largest structure on Star Island. Its main lobby, writing room, Pink Parlor, and dining hall provide an unchanged glimpse into the late 1800’s at a Grand Hotel. I choose a “Mid Week” conference. Four nights, Monday through Friday, with no schedule. Rocking chairs were reserved for me, and I had writing and reading to accomplish. True to form, not all accomplished. Remember, you can click any of my images for larger views.

The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company sails from Portsmouth to the island. Besides providing transportation for conferences, you can cruise to the island for a 3.75 hours walking tour. And, if you do that, you will probably plan a stay. You park at the dock, tightly packed in, and board with fellow conferees for the hour plus sail to Star. Leaving the dock we were delayed just a tad as this tanker passed going under the new bridge to Maine (the I-95 bridge is in the distance).

I have decided to make this simply a photo post to give you a flavor of what you will experience, so here we go out the Piscataqua River, passing the Portsmouth Naval Prison, closed since the early 1970s. Going to Navy Supply Corps School, the incentive to not doing something wrong was free room and board here.

Portsmouth Naval Prison

I have (on land) visited Fort Constitution ages ago, and would like to visit again.- it was closed this year. What you see remains from the 1808 construction.

and, ten miles from the mainland, this awaits you — how can you not want to go?

walking along the pier, and then looking back from the porch.

Following the “water and fire” safety talk, I headed to my second floor room.

ambience has not changed much in 150 years, and the dresser, chair and wash stand may be the originals in the room — but the view from my window, even with overcast that snuck in. And, then the sound of the waves and wind all night long —

topped only by the sunset over Portsmouth

There is a tradition in the evenings of a candle light walk to the chapel, built in 1800, for a short welcoming service. One of the few times for an open flame (but in this case protected), participants receive their lantern on the porch, and walk up to the chapel, where the lanterns are hung on the original wall hooks.

and, so ended day one, Monday

TUESDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – I took a walk around various spots, read on the porch, and attended a geology walk and talk at 4PM

A few of this weeks Rocking Chair images will be added to my special page, entitled ROCKING CHAIR STUDIES. But here are some new ones.

from behind the “hotel” I took this shot of the Williams light house

and then I walked up to the Tucke Monument, a 46.5 foot tall obelisk gravestone erected in 1914 to honor Reverend John Tucke (1702 – 1773). On the island Rev. Tucke was a minister, judge, educator, and physician. The Tucke Monument is the tallest gravestone in the state of New Hampshire. Just another “fast fact” to win you more drinks at the bar.

 

new since my last visit is this well hidden Solar Array. Readers of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION, know that I am not against solar, just the inappropriate location on a visible six acres in town. This array is close, but you have to know where it is and go out of your way to see it. Nice going STAR.

and, I found a secret spot with a bench and two chairs on the other side of this “turnstile” under an interesting tree with dark berries (what do I know?). I came back here a couple times to sit, relax, reflect, and read.

and, so ended day two, Tuesday

WEDNESDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise – I took another walk around various spots, read on the porch, and attended a “social hour.”

but first the sun came up and reflected on the white wood of the Summer House, again from my window.

what would you expect to see next?

today’s walk I went east on the island. And, being smart with my balance uncertainty I used my traveling collapsable cane. And, I was smart and did not hike all over the rocks as I would have done, lets say a few years ago. This view is looking out over the break wall (that I was on nine years ago) to Cedar Island in Maine.

there is an art shed open for people to create in. I noticed (you know I do not miss much) that someone enlisted the help of these little guys to help hold the building up and in place.

the path to the eastern most point and the monument to Captain John Smith who set foot here in 1614. The monument was put in place 300 years later.

and on another route back – the “back side.”

I always say there is more than one way to do something – and now you know there is also another way to get over a stone wall. Don’t worry, I did not attempt this. You see, the stone wall ends, and I choose to walk around. In the background of the second images is the sitting area I showed you above. WORTH THE TRIP. Do click and enlarge.

and, WORTH THE TRIP – the chapel from any angle is worth the trip.

and, so ended day three Wednesday

THURSDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise – I read on the porch 

Actually, I do not remember moving from the porch on Thursday. Well I did eat, but brought breakfast out here. A porch mate took this shot of me. Looks like me, but I do not remember dozing off at all. Probably just turning my head a tad.

With COVID, picnic benches have been placed on the porch to help people spread out even more. The vaccination rate on Star runs 98 percent plus, but still masking and distancing is practiced inside, and fans were constantly moving pulling air to the outside.

and, so ended day four Thursday

FRIDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise –but breakfast on the porch, bags out for baggage boat — reading — and with tears leaving at 11:45

seen along the path – a perfect picture

amazing seaweed moving along with the water back and forth

and some views not often seen as we sailed away

and, back in the river passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – which you should know is in Maine.

RAY RECOMMENDS — Learn about Star Island – Learn about the programs available – and, experience life on the island in a Victorian way of the old grand resorts. Any questions, just ask me so I can help you enjoy this amazing place.

and, here are some old (not so great) images from my last trip of the hotel in all its 19th century glory

 

and, this is my favorite image that I took September 7, 2012

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49th ANNUAL DUBLIN GAS ENGINE MEET – 11 SEPTEMBER 2021 – BEST YET 

I have had a full week – and making it even better was going today to the annual Gas Engine Meet in Dublin, New Hampshire. This year the crowd was the largest, many fascinating machines, more cars, unique historic tractors, big flea market, and perfect weather for everyone to enjoy. There was no show last year due to COVID, probably adding to the crowd this year, but also the club has built buildings and are “working on the railroad.” I will share these different aspects below, mainly in images. But, here are links to my other gas-engine show visits.

A NEW DISCOVERY AND “HIT AND MISS” – 10 SEPTEMBER 2016
46th ANNUAL DUBLIN, NH – GAS ENGINE MEET – 9 SEPTEMBER 2017
47th ANNUAL DUBLIN GAS ENGINE MEET – 8 SEPTEMBER 2018 – LOVE IT
2019 I did not attend since I was cruising from Chicago to NYC
2020 – COVID – no show
And you may enjoy these related shows I attended and shared
FAIR – FARM FESTIVAL – AND A FIND – VERMONT – 22 SEPTEMBER 2018
IS ORANGE, MASSACHUSETTS ON THE WAY HOME FROM BOSTON? – 27 JUNE 2015 – Central Mass. Steam and Gas & Machinery Assoc.

I have attended in BLUE BELLE, and showing up I get in free (saves $5 – goes towards lunch or gas), and park on the field in the car exhibition area. This year BLUE BELLE (1960 MGA) played RAINBOW with a 1928 Model A Ford Roadster, and a 1939 Pickup Truck. Not sure what they talked about, I was off for three hours exploring.

I mentioned above that much building and expansion had been done on the grounds. There are three new buildings with club exhibits where I used to park, and a previously wooded area has been cleaned for a sawmill (hit ‘n miss, of course), and construction for the train which will eventually circle the field (I asked).

the train was in limited operation

end of the line – for now – and an overpass that is now in use

These next images are of some engines that I had not seen before and found interesting and/or great “eye-candy”

the machine below was made just two miles from my home, across the Connecticut River in Westminster Station, Vermont, at the Abenaque Machine Works.

Hit ‘n Miss engine made by Abenaque Machine Works

how can you not like this blue? First time I have seen this color. Wonder if original option?

loved this one, and as I was admiring the fellow spun the fly wheel to start her right up so I could see (and share the action) of the worm-gear with you. Do watch the video, and remember you can always click my images for larger views.

Many companies made kits so an old Model T, or Model A Ford could be converted to a tractor. First here is a 1928 Model A that has been converted. The front end was higher than a normal car, and I saw why with extended shafts on the end of the front axel dropping the wheels further from the frame for additional clearance – ingenious, never saw that before – sorry image is dark in that spot.

And this kit was made in Poughkeepsie, NY, for a Model T. They called it a 1916, but Ray knows better. The brass radiator was last used on 1915 Model Ts – hey, my Dad taught me about Ts and As. But still, what a great original find this tractor is. Actually, in my research I just found the company started making these kits in 1916, so probably on an earlier frame. I did not check the engine number or other salient features to be sure – sorry.

below note how a gear coming off the axle drives the gears on the rear wheels. Tires are hard rubber on this conversion.

Here are some machines doing what they do best – WORK – and it is interesting how they have been used to work.

How about CRUSHING ROCKS?

A no hands way to crank your ice-cream freezer – albeit with a tractor take-off, but you can use your hit ‘n miss – I have seen ice cream frozen with a hit ‘n miss here before

the contraption below was designed to crush cans — the sign says, “cans needed”

and a fire-wood splitter is always good to have on hand

I love cars in their original condition. The 1928 Model A Ford four-door phaeton below had all the early features AND the original upholstery. Only two towns away from me, they threw me a number – I was tempted.

across the way from BLUE BELLE was this 1927 Model T Ford (the last year before the A) and a 1929 Chevrolet (hope I remember correctly) with the original paint and interiors.

this was a nice trailer — in 2018 I attended on this same field – A CANNED HAM ADVENTURE – 3 JUNE 2018 – have not seen it repeated, but when, I will be there.

And a Model T “depot hack” and another tempting engine for sale – I thought the $1800 was a good price.

I had a great time. I headed home via Jaffrey back roads, up to a spot I buy books, and then home.

Often BB2 and I will stop at Stuart and John’s for a treat. Sadly she watched, but I did let her lick my spoon.

I strongly encourage you to attend the Gas Engine Show in Dublin, NH. If you cannot make it the last day on the 12th, mark your calendar to attend next year. And, in the meantime, do look at all my posts of this interesting event.

Stay safe and stay well, and thank you for chugging along this far – as always, yours, RAY

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ON THE WAY HOME – 1 SEPTEMBER 2021 – CANAL and MINERAL SPRING

If you have “travelled with me” on “Shunpiking with Ray,” you know that two reoccurring themes for exploration are canals and 19th century summer resorts. Heading home from Granville, NY, the plan was the Champlain Canal to Whitehall, New York, and then find the actual spring in Middletown Springs, Vermont, that I did not locate in August 2013. I am completing this post prior to relating my cruise on Lake George (guess my prerogative as a writer). On the way back from Lake George I stopped at one of the locks but decided to include it here. So here we start with Lock No. 9.

Proposed earlier, in 1819 the Champlain Canal was completed from Lake Champlain to Fort Edward. 35 miles of the total length of 60 miles south of Fort Edwards follows the Hudson River with six locks. Going north from this point are five locks. There is no Lock 10 (I still need to learn why), and Lock 12 is the last in Whitehall, NY.

You can enlarge the map if you wish. This is an interesting area to explore, and I have much to still see.

Below is Lock 9.

Champlain Canal – Lock 9 – looking south

In Comstock, NY, just west of the state prison, you will cross the canal and see the old road (now dead end) which you take north to Lock 11.

Champlain Canal – Lock 11 looking north

Then up US 4 to Whitehall, New York, and Lock 12 which connects with South Bay leading into Lake Champlain.

Turning around and looking south back to the business district of Whitehall, it is sad – vacancy next to vacancy in the old brick buildings and blocks. Almost 20 years ago I knew a couple that kept their boat in the area when it was thriving with restaurants and shops for boaters. In fact they purchased a building on the canal to have an art gallery. When I was through four or five years ago that building was vacant and for sale. Now it is an occasional thrift shop. The problem with so many little towns that are charming and deserve a new life. Below is looking south from Lock 12.

In July 2015 I was in this area in BLUE BELLE, and passed through Fair Haven, Vermont, saying, “Fair Haven I have to learn about – great 19th century brick buildings.” Well, the plan was to stop there (on the old US 4, now 4A). I stopped and walked around. Some vacancies, but not as obvious. Subsequently I read the town is, “noted for its Victorian architecture, considered some of the finest in the state.”

I then walked though the large, lovely treed common.

And the Civil War monument protecting the Common.

And, on the Common, this will have to be a future visit – The Marble Mansion Inn.

The next thing “on the list” for the trip home was to try to find the old mineral spring in Middletown Springs, Vermont (population about 748). So, head back down south, crossing back into NY and 22A, east off 22A back to Poultney, Vermont, to get Route 140 to Middletown Springs – formerly (19th century) Middletown until it was time to promote the Springs. I first drove this route in August 2013, but with my fascination for nineteenth-century resorts, was not cognizant enough to search for the actual spot even though the Town’s name should have made me. I thought the renovated spring house should be in the center of the village, so explored around the former Town Hall, now the historical society, but to no avail. So I headed south at this intersection – yes, South Street

I had read ahead this time, and learned the spring was first developed in 1868 by A. W. Gray, local manufacturer of agricultural machinery, and was part of the Montvert Hotel resort, 1871-1905. On South Street I found this Vermont history sign, and the road to the left – Montvert Road. So down it I went, and through a stone gate. Dead end, possibly private property – but Ray is on a quest, and an honest guy. (click the image and read)

You know my luck and good timing. As I was passing under magnificent 150 year old maple trees with a flower packed field on my right, a car approaches. We stop and talk. It is the owner of the land who is also president of the historical society. I tell him what I am looking for. “Just to your right,” he says, “is the cellar hole of the hotel. The barn you see ahead was the hotels carriage barn, and my home down there was the bowling alley for the hotel. The springs are just beyond over the river.” We talk, he is awaiting a phone call, but he says to meet me back at the historical society museum at 2:15. Below is the cellar hole (well covered with the yellow flowers).From a Rutland Herald article, “When completed in 1871, the $100,000 Montvert Hotel featured three and half stories containing137 rooms, first-class dining and plenty of activities. The new hotel could accommodate 250 guests.” Here is a link to another article on Vermont mineral spring resorts. Below is the site of the hotel, and then the original carriage house.

David told me where the Springs park was that the historical society had established. Going back up north on South Street I saw the sign for it – but alas, the sign was blocked by foliage if coming south. I cannot wait to get back with this spot as a destination for a picnic.

Indians showed the springs to early settlers. Buried by a flood in 1811, they were uncovered by a “freshet” in 1868 and rediscovered by A. W. Gray, whose company owned the land.– walking down the path, the Spring House has been recreated from old photos and sits on top of the original stones for the spring.

Spring House – Middletown Springs, Vermont
original stones for the Spring House with the waters flowing in

At this spot there was a bridge across the Poultney River to the hotel. You can still see some of the stones. Through the trees is David’s home, formerly the bowling alley. The hotel stood on a rise above the bowling alley, but appears much closer to the spring as you will see in the old images below.

Site of bridge across Poultney River to the Montvert Hotel

David joined me at the museum, and opened it up. You may enjoy visiting their website and reading the history of this area – Ray Recommends it, and click on the Town history link.

The entrance to the right is to the Town Clerk’s office, the rest of the building for the historical society, but essentially two main exhibition rooms are downstairs to the left. The first room has so much on the spring and hotel along with broadsides of the Gray equipment.

David let me copy some stereo views of the hotel. This first below is when under construction, and then completed. From the history, “In 1870 the Montvert Hotel was built near the Springs. With rooms for 350 guests, gas lighting, running water “conducted to every floor,” fine food, an in-house orchestra, a bowling alley and other amusements, it claimed to be “one of the most pleasant and comfortable of summer resorts.” The below image looks across the river. The depth perception is deceiving, probably due to the massive size of the hotel.

As I am sitting writing this while on the porch of an 1870s resort hotel on an island, I could have been just as content on the porch above. Again from the historical society’s website, “Perhaps its size and its splendor were the Montvert’s achilles heel for its success was fitful and relatively brief. With high overhead, profits were slim. Managers and ownership changed frequently. The changing taste of the vacationing public may also have been a factor in the Montvert’s decline. It closed just after the turn of the century and the building was demolished in 1906.” David told me that the successful bidder for the building was a Poultney builder. The salvaged materials were used in building homes in Poultney, and a number of homes can trace their lumber back to the Montvert.

We had a great couple hours. David gives a talk on Mineral Springs which I certainly hope to hear some day. Ironically it was just days later I discovered the Guilford Vermont Mineral Springs which I just reported to you. In my personal library a section of my books is devoted to summer resorts, old hotels, and mineral springs. I will be digging into them soon. The quest is on to find more locations and histories to share with you here, so “stay tuned.”

Middletown Springs Mineral Water Bottles

RAY RECOMMENDS
1 – get out and explore
2- when one thing piques your interest, follow that new path – EXPLORE and LEARN
3 – don’t stop exploring
4 – and share what you discover and learn

Yours, as always, RAY

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GUILFORD, VERMONT and GUILFORD FAIR – 5 SEPTEMBER 2021

I had a great day today, and am racing with limited time tonight to get this post done and to you to encourage you to visit the Guilford Fair tomorrow, Labor Day. I passed the remote, rural fairgrounds several months ago, and said, “Ray, make sure you experience it.” This morning with friends we headed down I-91 to Exit 1, South on US 5, turned right at the country store, took the first left, meandered, and arrived to park in the fields. Free to park, and $5 admission for seniors, yes I am.

As you look through, remember you can click my galleries for larger views.

Passing in, at this first ring this young lady was practicing an obstacle course with her horse for a later competition.

After chatting with the folks at the Guilford Historical Society booth (more on that later) it was into the exhibition hall. The veggies are always colorful.

My friends, T and C, plunked down 25 cents a card to gamble with the Guilford Grange. I knew better.

This fair, now its 76th year, is so old fashioned, so classic, so manageable, and just so much fun that I now have it on next year’s calendar. It was fun watching people enjoy the low-key, low-impact midway. And, at the games, everyone won a prize.

Over at the small display of animals I recognized a voice, and heading just outside was this gentleman with a sheep shearing demonstration. The voice? I asked, “did I see you at Plymouth Notch?” Yes he replied and he lives there. I saw him shear sheep there, and he is the raconteur extraordinaire who gives the wagon rides at Calvin Coolidge’s homestead.

This “snake in the grass” won a blue ribbon.

Did I say agricultural fair? Did you know that milk is the top selling Vermont agricultural item? Are these cows or milk maids impersonating cows?

entertainment at every turn, and a daring lady watching the knives carefully.

of course you have to spend time watching the oxen pull

And, there was an ice cream eating contest. It was announced many times over the loud speaker – free ice-cream, and the person who finishes first gets a prize. There were several age groups. I did not sign up. Good thing I didn’t because they neglected to explain one of the rules.

Guilford consists of Guilford, Guilford Center, and West Guilford. At the historical society booth I learned of a 19th century mineral springs and resort hotel in Guilford Center. I did not know about it, but had explored this small (very small) village in the past where Royall Tyler lived in the late 1700s. An important early American writer. Well I have written about him before, and will add links to that in time here, but I have to get this post off to you.

We headed to Guilford Center having completed over three fun filled hours at the fair. The lady at the historical society booth told me where to turn in the village on Carpenter Road. And, we figured which drive to turn into. And, as luck would have it, as folks were coming out the drive (on the way to the fair) they confirmed that this was the original resort, and how to find the springs. The same thing happened to me this past week in Middletown Springs, Vermont. On a dead end private road on private property I met the fellow who shared everything with me – but that post to come next week. Below is the basically unchanged 37 room hotel hotel and the barn.

The map below will put into place the village, the hotel, and the trail to the location of the springs and bottling plant.

and, here is the beginning of the trail to the springs

and a map of the overall location of today’s adventure.

we drove past the springs toward West Guilford, and what an amazing dirt road, trees, and some incredible views. We came out on a paved road, traveled a tad, and I knew where we were – headed toward West Brat. In fact, I turned around on a road BLUE BELLE and I came out of a couple years ago so I could capture this 1928 or ’29 Model AA Ford truck holding down some weeds.

and, when “downtown” West Guilford, you need to take an image to share.

RAY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS
1 – Read this post, plan your trip for Labor Day, get up tomorrow, and go
2 – If you don’t read this in time, mark your calendar for 2022
3 – Make sure to follow my posts for more Mineral Spring history — I am hooked, more is coming.

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BACK TO MOUNT GREYLOCK and WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS – 18-20 AUGUST 2021

I am sure you remember a trip I planned in 2010, and finally headed off for on August 1, 2017, but sadly only made it half way when BLACK BEAUTY decided to shut down and ask for a piggy-back ride home from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. If you don’t, take a look at SEVEN YEARS “ON THE LIST” – NOW HALF DONE – 1-2 AUGUST 2017 — In fact, I encourage you to look at the images from that trip because this trip to Mount Greylock was obscured by constant rain and fog.

It was BLUE BELLE’s turn to make this trip to Mount Greylock, find where I camped August 5, 1963, and spend some time at the Hancock Shaker Village. I tried to book two nights at Bascom Lodge in July, but everyone was finally getting out, and I could not get a room until 18 and 19 August. That was fine, but I did not know that stormy weather would bring tears to BLUE BELLE’s eyes when I left in modern GiGi (Granite Girl). Oh well, an excuse to go again.

There are still routes through Massachusetts that I have not been on, thus have to see. I planned different routes going and coming. Sorry, I-91 to the Mohawk Trail to Shelburne Falls. Then Route 112 (scenic designation) through Buckland, then west on 116 (also designated scenic) through Spruce Corner (yes couple spruce trees and maybe four houses), Plainfield (not much there) and I stopped at Savoy, and the only spot to grab a bite to eat.

It was then up Route 8 into North Adams, and backroad up the mountain. Did I say fog on the 3,491 foot high mountain, wind and rain? If it were not for the light coming on in the Memorial Tower atop the mountain, I could not gotten an image at all.

and, this is what is beneath the light above – the light is in the globe at the top below (not my photo, but from a panel at the Visitor Center)

Do look at my post of my last visit for some wonderful images of the lodge and area, but how can you resist this CCC Arts and Crafts construction?

My plan to complete my last trip was a visit to the Pittsfield State Forest where I camped in 1963, and find my camping spot. My full day (also in the fog and rain) was to start that quest, and then head to the Hancock Shaker Village. I found the forest, drove around, and am pretty sure I found my camping spot from 59 years ago — but am constantly kicking myself that I did not shoot an image. Oh well, reason for another visit. Then among the raindrops, I arrived at the Hancock Shaker village.

I was not concerned about the weather, nor my walking ability, because I showed the NARM sticker on my OSV membership card, and my visit was free. To do the village you really need more than a day, and I have also been fortunate to already have spent full days at the Canterbury Shaker Village and the Enfield Shaker Museum, both in New Hampshire. I headed over to the round barn (remember I was just at the round barn in Shelburne).

the first view below shows the central part of the barn, and then a view out a door.

and, below is how the barn “works” -you can click for a larger readable view

Coming off the barn was a wing for other animals. On the wall was information about Merino Sheep. Awhile ago I wrote about the Sheep Craze in the mid 1800s in New England. But reading the panel, and talking with a great docent (who I chatted with again later) I learned the sheep were bred with those extra folds around the neck so more wool would result. And now you know.

I next headed over to the large brick building, on the map simply as “Brick Dwelling.” A sleeping residence, the rooms had many educational displays.

The large hallway got me curious. As I came down the stairs, the young docent I met before was there. So, I asked why so wide.

actually I was fascinated as to how the oil lamp was vented, thus the image. But the width –  her answer the men walked on the east side of the hallway, and the women walked on the west side. The wide distance so they didn’t touch each other in anyway. The men slept on the east side of the building because they woke with the sun early and went out to work on the farms etc. The women then, when they got up on the west side, crossed the hall to the men’s rooms and cleaned them up for the day. This young lady was well versed, and in our chat I learned she just graduated in museum related work, had worked here as an intern before, and full time this summer before going to work in a NYC museum. Further asking her why the interpreters were not costumed she explained the Shakers asked they not wear traditional clothing, and also no particular time period is being represented, unlike OSV, which portrays New England in the 1830s, thus costuming is focused to that time period.

On the daily schedule at 2 PM was a water turbine demonstration in the Laundry and Machine Shop that I had to see. I have been fascinated with water power since the fifth grade when I built an overshot water wheel for a science fair project. I headed over, and positioned myself in a great spot.

this is the machine shop above, and to my right was this opening in the floor where the 16 inch pipe from their reservoir came into the turbine.

the panel below shows how the Shakers built a reservoir about 50 feet higher in elevation from the village. The water main came down to the village and to several buildings and hydrants for fire fighting and water supply. Click for larger view for easier reading.

When electricity came into use the machine shop was converted over. During a World War II scrap drive the unused water turbine was given to the war effort. In the restoration of the village the original plans for the turbine were found, and the same foundry in Springfield, Massachusetts, that made the original was still in existence, and made a “new” turbine as the original. Here are the molds made for the turbine castings.

and, opening the value, and putting the wheels in motion.

Water Turbine Demonstration – Hancock Shaker Village

The machine shop above was built onto an old residence. The residence portion on the first floor had been turned into the community’s laundry with a washing area, and ironing area.

And, I did not need to do the whole village since I can easily go back (and remember it is no cost for me to get in), so I headed back up into the fog on the mountain to sit and read and visit with strangers. You will not believe the conversation a young nine-year old lady and her mother struck up with me.

I was on the wonderful Arts and Crafts couch with leather cushions made for comfort. “Is that Harry Potter you are reading,” asks the young girl. He mother says,”she is reading one of the books now on her Kindle, and has no idea how thick the books are.” Originally from the area, the mother told me they drove up from Maryland specifically to come to the top of Mount Greylock. You see, unbeknownst to me (and my Potter friends), the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was founded in the 17th century on the summit of Mount Greylock.

Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – Compare to image in the fog above

What a great mother to drive that distance to share an experience with her daughter, even though being Muggles we could not find the entrance under the War Memorial at the top of the mountain. I had so much fun with them – and complimented the young mother on her daughter’s poise and willingness to have a great conversation and share. The full story and history has been published on J. K.Rowling’s Pottermore website. According to the account, part of the backstory to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” now a film about magic in 1920s America, the school has managed to operate concealed from nonmagical eyes “by a variety of powerful enchantments, which sometimes manifest in a wreath of misty cloud.” This is one of the better articles I found on-line once home, When asked about the school, Governor Charlie Baker’s office reacted to the question that the school has avoided state regulation. In a press release, “The governor believes that small businesses are the backbone of the economy whether they are owned by witches or mortals, and because the institution has operated for nearly 400 years without incident, the administration plans to revisit the matter sometime in the next century or two.” Just remember, you learn and learn with SHUNPIKING WITH RAY.

There is a visitor center to briefly enjoy with maps and nature information. Here are two panels I wanted to share – a view and history. (again, click for large size)

Did you read that it was John Bascom who was head of the reservation’s commission in the early 20th century? Thus the name, Bascom Lodge. You know me and timing. Just so happens a great-grandson of John’s had stayed there the night (from NYC), and we chatted in the morning. And yes, directly connected to the Bascom maple sugar operation in the hills just above me. We chatted area history. “Timing is Everything” be it the real world, or the world of wizardry.

There was a reason also for the route home – roads I had not been on, and I wanted to re-visit Williamsburg, which is just west of Northampton. I had visited years ago, but this winter reread IN THE SHADOW OF THE DAM: THE AFTERMATH OF THE MILL RIVER FLOOD OF 1874. I recommend you sit down with this book, well done. So, down off the mountain on the southern entrance, left turn on dirt on West Mountain Road (tricky in places) to Route 8, and left again on Route 143 in Hinsdale. Through Peru (not Vermont or Maine), and not much there, nor West Worthington, but there is a general store in Worthington Corners. Stopped there once traveling on another road to RLI. Chesterfield, and then into Williamsburg (not Virginia – I do not get that lost). If in the Northampton area sometime, do swing up to Williamsburg and Haydenville. Here are the main buildings on the “new” main street.

Williamsburg Historical Society – old Town Hall (1841) in Williamsburg, MA
Grange Community Hall – Williamsburg, MASS – rebuilt 1859

Above on the left is the Williamsburg General Store, which has been the site of a General Store since 1808. From an “uncommon map” I have of this area, “this store has become an attraction to patrons from far and wide.” Here two views.

I then explored the original Main Street area that was hit by the Mill River Flood when the dam broke. Below is the Grist Mill (now a museum) which was built in 1878 replacing the mill that was swept away in 1874 with its proprietor.

The small former downtown area is a “must explore.” Heading out North Street as you approach Judd Road is a trail (right image below) taking you to the remains of the dam. At then end of Judd Road, the road to the dam is blocked off, with a private property sign stopping me.

I then headed to Northampton and I-91 to slide home. No other stops, I was ready to get home. Rain kept me from doing all I wanted to do, fog kept me from seeing all I wanted to see from atop the mountain, and arthritis and bones slowing me a tad. But I love to get out, see, learn and then share. So, thank you for getting this far.

Ray Recommends
1 – Visit and experience Mount Greylock
2 – Tour the Hancock Shaker Village
3 – Read IN THE SHADOW OF THE DAM: THE AFTERMATH OF THE MILL RIVER FLOOD OF 1874 and visit Williamsburg, Massachusetts
4 – Join one of over 1,000 museums at the level that gives you free access to all the museums under the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association® network
5 – Stay safe and Stay well, get your shots and booster

And, a final note. I told you I have found my iPhone so much better for images, but fingers do get in the way. Search on Amazon, and I found this grip for fourteen dollars and change. Thrilled, and thrilled.

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TWO LAKES — MORE RAILROAD — THE LARGEST — 14 AUGUST 2021

I had much I wanted to explore on Saturday – the weather starting was not looking good, and I delayed departure – but, I checked the weather radar map and decided to just jump in BLUE BELLE and go – and go we did for 105 miles. First stop the Windham County biennial history fair in Newfane, Vermont. Yes I still have to write a story about why I seem to always be in Vermont. Also, I needed to finish touring you up the West River Railroad following the first trip on the route I shared with you on 31 July.

Newfane is a lovely village to visit, and you may enjoy this link for a tour. Nice Common, county seat with court house, train station, general store for a bite to eat, historical society – great place to visit even with nothing going on.

One of the things I decided this morning is that the images with my “older” camera are not exactly what I want compared to my iPhone results. But the iPhone is hard to hold – fingers get in the way. Research this AM, a hand grip hopefully will arrive prior to my next adventure. Below a talk was in progress with the court house in the background.

I parked near the Union Hall, built in 1832. Originally a Christian meeting house, after twenty years it was abandoned, then converted to a public hall in 1872. It is now used for meetings, weddings, concerts, movies, auctions, etc.

When I walked in Union Hall I was thrilled to experience another hanging painted theater canvas. I first learned of these (and immediately purchased the book – SUSPENDED WORLDS: HISTORIC THEATER SCENERY IN NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND) about six years ago

UNION HALL – NEWFANE, VERMONT – PAINTED THEATER CURTAIN

I thought these two advertisements on the curtain deserved close-up views.

In July I attended a lecture at the original 1860 Town Hall in South Londonderry, Vermont, where I was able to see their canvas, but with the podium and projector screen could not get a full view to share “on film.” This is a “View on the Rhine.”

Leaving Newfane I continued north on Route 30, but in a split second decision, before arriving in Harmonyville, turned left on River Road towards the State Forest

There I chatted with ranger Crystal who confirmed I was on the West River. She said I should continue on towards the Townshend Dam and Lake – which I did, and highly recommend that you do the same.

Two dams were built by the Army Corps of Engineers on the West River for flood control. The dam above in 1958-1961, and the Ball Mountain Lake Dam (which you will see later below) built in 1956-1961. The brochures I got on both of these projects have images of the dams filled almost to the top. With the recent rains the road I was on had been underwater, and along side on the bank you can see the silt lines high in the trees along with strewn branches.

I then crossed the dam back to Route 30

and, looped back south a tad to experience the Harmonyville General Store, and the Largest sycamore tree in Vermont while I enjoyed my sandwich at a table under the tree. “The last time it was measured in 2009, its height was 115 feet, it had an average crown spread of 28 feet, and its circumference at breast height was 16 feet 10 inches a diameter of 5.5 feet.” Do stop so you can also say “I was there.”

While “picnicking” there I chatted with two bikers who were discussing tires and how long they last on their bikes. Surprised at what seemed just a few miles (7,500 to maybe 10,000) I had to join in. I learned that the rubber is softer on motorcycle tires for better grip on the road since they are small. I love learning, and also chatting with “new friends.” One of the fellows told me he was on the Puppy Dog Trail which I subsequently learned is a series of connected dirt roads that take you from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border, the entire length of the state of Vermont. He said it started in Greenfield, and stops short of the Canadian border, laid out by George Washington who did not want it to reach the British settlements. Good story, we need to learn more, but one website says ” It was put together by the good folks of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Vermont and revised and updated as recently as 2018. It’s about 90% dirt with just enough asphalt to connect the dirt roads. GPX files and turn-by-turn directions are available here.” Road trip anyone? To get you started, here is 650 THUMPER’S blog.

Again I could not find the former station on Depot Road across from the general store, so It was then back north on Route 30 to Jamaica. Again, I could not find the West Townsend station, and I passed by Wardsboro to look for that station at another time (method to that madness). Arriving in Jamaica, I turned right on – of course – Depot St. And, into Jamaica State Park. If my research had been complete, I would have known the tracks ran through here

I was sure I had found the station which is not on the list of the six remaining stations. But this had to be it. Just look at the image complete with a West River Railroad station sign – 24 JAMAICA 12 – 24 miles from Brattleboro and 12 miles to South Londonderry. A park ranger was walking by, and I asked. He said, “no the entrance building was recently built, but the old station is just behind that fence on a drive, you should look there.” I told him the entrance building had a West River Railroad style sign. He asked what the sign meant since people were always asking. He can now share my answer – 24 miles from Brattleboro and 12 miles to South Londonderry. From my collection of information, here is a link to the Vermont State Parks booklet on the railroad going through Jamaica State park – https://vtstateparks.com/assets/pdf/jamaica_36miles.pdf – and the booklet does say where the old station is. I went, talked to the owners, but hard to recognize today comparing to an original photo of the station.

looking to the south from the park entrance, here is the old rail bed, now the West River Trail.

and, looking a tad to the right from above, the bridge on Depot St. over the West River.

Back out to Route 30, I headed north again on a section I may never had been on before. I turned right onto Ball Mountain Lane traveling a distance to the Ball Mountain Lake and the dam. I walked out to the inlet station which is about as high as the 265 foot high dam.

looking to the north you see the old rail bed following the river on the left. Remember, in the booklet on the lake the level has been all the way to the top of the dam in the past – 265 feet – WOW. You must visit these two dams.

and, looking the other way – south – towards Jamaica

and, back to BLUE BELLE patiently waiting.

One more location to find – the no longer extant Winhall Station. Off Route 30 I turned on Goodaleville Road, which on my old map should have (at least once was) Winhall Station Road. Took a chance on next road – wrong, but at the end a nice couple said how to get to Winhall Brook Camping Area, and the area where the railroad was. I arrived there, another Army Corp of Engineers project and facility.

Now this was the greatest stop for me, and again a very helpful couple at the visitor center. I asked if the West River Railroad ran through and where. “Yes it did,” was the reply, “and I have some photos here of what it was like.” He let me copy the three below, and, I was given the map of the campground also. I just had to go down the hill, cross the little bridge over the Winhall River, turn left, and when at the West River turn right. Here is the old photo of that area showing the Winhall River running into the West River.

the bridge (no longer there) crosses the Winhall River, and on the rail bed you can see the station just past the large home which served as a hotel. Here is the station, with the hotel in the background.

and the hotel structure itself.

the open area you see in the first image above is still open for camping now. As the forest closes back in the West River Trail continues.

turning around, in the field would have been the station and hotel.

and, a closeup of the beginning of the trail continuing on to South Londonderry with the West River to the left.

this stop was great, and in my research I am showing you what other websites documenting the West River Railroad, particularly in Winhall, have not before shown. I would love to go back and camp, in fact in any of the camping spots I saw and toured on this excursion

Next stop, the end of the line and the South Londonderry station.

SOUTH LONDONDERRY, VERMONT – WEST RIVER RAILROAD STATION

RAY RECOMMENDS:
1 – Learn what you can of the West River Railroad and the history of this area
2 – Pull off Route 30 and tour the Townshend State Forest, and travel up to the Townshend Dam and cross it
3 – Pull off Route 30 and find the old station next to the Jamaica State Park on the West River
4 – Pull off Route 30 and experience the Ball Mountain Lake and Dam
5 – Stop at the Harmonyville General Store
6 – And, when done, do it again – ENJOY

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A LAKE — A RAILROAD — A FIRST — 31 JULY 2021

I still have places “on the list” to explore just across the river in Vermont, and here is an eighty mile round trip that took 120 miles in seven hours. Reading that Rudyard Kipling and his wife would spend time in a hotel at Lake Raponda, and not knowing anything about the lake, or where it was, I had to see it. And, you know I am trying to travel and explore the “36 Miles of Trouble” route of the West River Railroad. Not having been able to travel with all the rain, Saturday 31 July, looked like the day. I don’t trust my gas gauges, so stopped to top off BLUE BELLE. Five weeks since her last feeding, and only 1.7 gallons. No wonder she was so cranky not having had much to eat. Then off to the Flea Market on Route 9 in Wilmington, Vermont. Nothing begged to be purchased, so it was off on explorations. Think I will mark a map to show you where you need to go.

Lake Raponda is north of Route 9 just east of Wilmington. Coming from the east, turn north on Lake Raponda Road, but from the Flea Market I took Ballou Hill Road intersecting at the south end of the lake, which runs north-south. What a beautiful spot, and 120 acres of water surrounded mainly by trees and a mix of residences. Below is the only spot I could get a picture of the lake.

Lake Raponda, Wilmington, Vermont – 31 July 2021

I wanted to find the locations of the hotels, and had no clue. But many people were out walking, and I stopped and chatted with several groups who shared what they knew. The first hotel was at the south end of the lake, near an “outcropping of rocks” I was told, but I did not find that spot (I have subsequently learned it was west of what is now Stearns Avenue – thus another needed trip). The Hotel Raponda opened to visitors in the summer of 1889. Starting as a large cottage with 50 rooms, it was enlarged in 1892. Here Rudyard Kipling and his wife, Carrie stayed coming up from Naulakha in Dummerston. Also visiting, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the “scenic pulchritude of the place”. The hotel burned to the ground in December 1896.

I should digress and tell you the origin of the lake’s name. In 1788 William and Benjamin Ray bought the property. A swampy area with many springs had been damned, and the Ray brothers increased the size of the dam creating what was then called Ray’s Pond. When a lake association was formed and the Hotel built, a more attractive name for Ray’s Pond was needed, it began to be known as Lake Ra(y)ponda. 

The other hotel I was told was built on what is now Island Road. There is a small island where a dancing pavilion had been built, and the hotel was constructed on the shore in 1899-1900. Open in July and August it could accommodate 100 guests who were charged a weekly room and board of ten to fourteen dollars. The hotel closed and was torn down in the 1920’s and private cottages were constructed in the area. Here is the entrance to the land today.

Island Road, Lake Raponda

and the hotel as it proudly stood

At the north end of the lake is a boat launch area, but I first circled around and to the end of the road on the west side of the lake. Then it was off to Route 30 for the West River Railroad explorations – on back roads of course. Below is a map of my route from the Flea Market to the Lake and then Route 30 – an X with a CIRCLE around it marks a First For Me. (you can click the map to enlarge).

The lake is on the left where I turned north. I turned right on Higley Hill Road, and some fine dirt road views.

Meandering south on Upper Dover Road, I took a sharp left back north on Lower Dover Road, a smaller dirt road, and then decided to take an even smaller dirt road – Stratton Hill Road – thinking I would short-cut east this way. It was narrow, even for dirt.

BLUE BELLE on Stratton Hill Road, Marlboro, Vermont – Yes It Is a Road

It had rained with major wash outs around Vermont and New Hampshire. As the road even narrowed more I encountered some recent rain ruts crossing the road, but nothing more than 7 or 8 inches across and deep. BLUE BELLE said “I can do it.” But then, she stopped not knowing what to do since THIS WAS A FIRST for both she and I.

See that open space on the left? As luck would have it, the tree came down just on the other side of the greatest width I had seen along the road, just enough to jockey back and forth many times to turn around. But as I started, a car pulled up behind me. “There is a tree down,” I called back. “We know, we live on the other side and had to go out the other way. Coming back now, I am going to hike up for my chain saw.” They backed up, I jockeyed, and waved bye as I headed down the hill. Sharing the photo with a couple friends, in unison they replied, “you are crazy.” But I have adventurous fun! Arriving eventually back on Route 30 and West Dummerston, it was time to search for old train stations.

Completed in 1880, the West River Railroad (which underwent many names and ownerships, and affectionately known as “36 Miles of Trouble”) ran from Brattleboro to South Londonderry – never making a connection in Whitehall, NY, as planned. Originally narrow gauge, it was upgraded to standard gauge in 1905. Never earning a profit, the Flood of 1927 signaled its end, followed by the Depression in 1929. It came back in 1931, only to be abandoned in 1936 except for six miles from the quarries to Brattleboro. Six of the ten stations still exist, and sections of the road bed are now trails. What a plan to explore this route which opened up this valley of Vermont to the world.

Here is a gallery of images of the ten stations, which you may click to enlarge. Left to right, top to bottom, and traveling south to north are: The original Brattleboro station; West Dummerston; Williamsville; Newfane; Townsend; West Townsend; Wardsboro; Jamaica; Winhall; and, South Londonderry.

My explorations will take me (and you) in several trips to the remaining six stations and sections of roadbed. Helping me locate the six (of ten) remaining stations is this You Tube Video – Click on the Link. And, for more history try this — A short video about the history of the West River Railroad produced for the Historical Society of Windham County. And, then, there is the second episode of the first video above on the West River Railroad – “Forgotten Rails” – Episode 01 – The West River Railroad of Southern VT. This has portions of the first, but if you need to learn, as I do, enjoy them all.

Now, for the first three of the remaining six stations. Take the bypass off Route 30 into West Dummerston, and at the northern end of the village is Riverside Drive. May have been a private drive sign, but I may have missed it to see the station as it is today.

Heading north, just after the busy West River swimming spot, there is a turn (Williamsville Road – also called Depot Rd.) just before the Rock River. Yards down is Station Road where we parked.

Across the street (paved) to the south is where the Williamsville station was moved to (from nearer Rock River) to this high spot as a residence/camp.

The next station still in existence (and also the next stop on the line) is in Newfane, and you may remember I stopped by in May of this year. But this time when I swung in, the station was open for visitors.

what a treat to get inside this well preserved station that is in its original location. Here is a gallery of interior views.

I then continued north on Route 30. In one of the videos a station is mentioned in Harmonyville opposite the General Store. But on the list of stations there was not a stop there – maybe just a flag stop. The road opposite the store was marked Depot St. but I could not find the building pictured in the video. I continued through Townsend (no station remaining) to get a bite to eat at the West Townsend General Store, only to find it no longer in operation – TEARS. Instead of looking for the West Townsend station I headed north up Windham Hill Road. Phase two of the West River Railroad discoveries will begin at this point. There was a permanent barn sale in Windham – a road you must travel up. I chatted for awhile with the gentlemen. He owned The Mill Restaurant in Londonderry for 50 years before closing it recently. He was fun to chat and learn from, and had wonderful antiques. I double checked with him the turn for Grafton, and he replied, “three miles up ahead, turn on 121 – BUT it is dirt,” he warned, “and with our rains it could be washed out.” I know Route 121, and there were no problems as I sped along the two plus lane wide super dirt highway – remember where we were earlier.

West Townsend store closed, Grafton always a treat to be in, and for the first time I grabbed a wrap at the Grafton General Store – no problem it was almost 4PM – and enjoyed relaxing at one of their tables under the trees.

What can I say? 120 miles — 7 hours — new “finds” nearby — places to explore and re-explore. I will soon get back to the rail route, and I do have some other adventures planned in August – finally — as always, yours, RAY

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