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

Posted in Star Island - 2021 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


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.

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
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.


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

Posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips, Miscellaneous Musings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment


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

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

Posted in ROADS and ROUTES | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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.

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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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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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


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 – – 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.


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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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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Recently I have been staying closer to Walpole, but there is still much to see and experience exploring nearby ROADS and ROUTES. The impetus for my trips comes many ways, and there is constant learning that (hopefully) is keeping me young. I started this post on 21 June.

This route had its genesis following my being the first visitor “in the door” on the 75th anniversary of the opening of Old Sturbridge Village (OSV), June 8, 2021. Both the Asa Knight general store, and the Covered Bridge at OSV come from Dummerston, Vermont, just across the river. I enjoy talking with the interpreters at OSV, and my mission that day was to learn the exact original locations of the store and bridge. I was successful, planned a 60 mile round trip, and headed off.

This is an easy trip with picnic and hiking opportunities, not to mention the history. Head south on US Route 5 from Westminster or Bellows Falls (forget the superslab). Turn right on School House Road in Dummerston, or better yet go a tad further and turn on East-West Road. Then you get to pass the VT-NH Veterinary Clinic which originated as a tavern in 1802. East-West Road brings you up to Dummerston Center Common – a nice triangular piece of land – with the Grange Hall, a Church and several houses. It was here I learned Asa Knight’s store stood at the south end of the Common. The home is still there, well hidden now behind trees, but it looks just like my home on the Common here.  The store stood to the left, just behind the current picket fence.

The house, built in 1810 by Asa Black (and so similar to my home built in 1806) was the home of Rutherford Hayes from 1812 to 1817, father of President Rutherford B. Hayes who was born in Ohio in 1822, but did visit back to his Vermont roots in the area.

an early image of the Asa Knight store on the Dummerston Center, Vermont, Common

shown below, turning around from this spot, and looking north across the Common to the Grange Hall

Dummerston, Vermont, Common

Now continue west on East-West Road, being careful descending, and cross the West River on the covered bridge, the longest covered bridge entirely within the state of Vermont. Head south on VT 30 (if you wish, detour up into West Dummerston saved by the re-routing of Route 30), and watch for the iron bridge. Yards south is the “new bridge,” crossing Stickney Brook, that replaced the covered bridge that was then sold to OSV for $1 and moved in 1951.

Old Iron Bridge in West Dummerston crossing the West River

nothing exciting to look at today, but from the east on the quarry on Black Mountain, this is what you would have seen in the 1880s looking over the stone sheds at the bridge, and the mill on Stickney Brook. The covered bridge is roughly in the center a tad to the left, with the mills on the brook above it to the west.

and, two real photo postcards – RPPC – of the 65 foot covered bridge now at Old Sturbridge Village.

And … Now getting back to this tale on 27 July 2021, the image below is the bridge as it is today at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

West Dummerston Covered Bridge at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachussetts

From where the bridge was, below is the little stream the covered bridge would have crossed as it flows east into the West River – barely seen through the trees.

In looking at a real paper map preparing for this trip, just to the west of Route 30, on the stream above, was labeled Old Jelly Mill Falls on Stickney Brook. Now, that I had to see, and I had to learn what a Jelly Mill is. First here is part of this fantastic spot – beautiful falls cascading over slanted granite bedrock, with a number of nice shallow wading pools. The total drop about 30 feet, but no individual fall is greater than 8 feet. A favorite wading and hangout spot of local residents – think picnic spot, and bring your blanket and/or chairs.

A favorite wading and hangout spot of local residentsOld Jelly Mill Falls, West Dummerston, Vermont – June 2021

In my research to understand, there may never have been mills built specifically as a jelly mill. In Brattleboro, L. J. Johnsori, in 1880, built a cider-mill and jelly manufactory. Jelly is not milled. Both jelly and jam are made with fruit mixed with pectin and sugar. The difference between them is the form of the fruit that goes into them. Jelly is made from fruit juice and jam uses both the fruit pulp and juice. Jelly is a clear fruit spread made with sweetened fruit juice. Jam has both fruit juice and fruit pieces in the spread. I believe that cider mills often also made apple jelly — thus the term corruption of “jelly mill.” But the falls are named after a “jelly mill” and if you may recall, in Manchester, Vermont, was a grand shop called “The Jelly Mill.” I had to dig deeper.

And, in an obituary I learned, “Clinton G. Lewis (1930 – 2009) and his family moved to Vermont in 1964, settling in Brattleboro. He soon established the The Old Jelly Mill, an abandoned jelly and cider mill in Dummerston established by John Taft, and transformed it into a truly unique retail store. The mill burned down in 1969 and they relocated to Manchester the following year and renovated the old Munson farm dairy barn into what was the Jelly Mill on Main Street. Clint operated the business until November 2005 when he had to retire for health reasons.” Below is a postcard from Lewis’ Old Jelly Mill on the falls here, and do click for large views.

May I encourage you to visit and picnic. Next on this sojourn I planned to head down Route 30 to US Route 5 in Brattleboro, and then head up to find one of the ferry crossings on the Connecticut River that I have been reading about — and must write about. I wanted to find the old stone building that served the Norcross Ferry behind the C&S complex. It was not until June 7, 1889, that a bridge crossed the Connecticut near here – (now NH Route 9 to Keene). Down a dirt and private road, I quickly snapped this image of Norcross Ferry building.

I crossed over into New Hampshire, and worked my way over to River Road (checking a few more ferry locations to still be studied), onto NH 63, and stopped at Stuart and John’s for an ice cream cone treat. BLUE BELLE jealously looked on as I sat in the shade at a picnic table.

Reading DUMMERSTON” AN “EQUIVALENT LANDS” TOWN 1753-1986, I am finding many more places to explore just across the river in this area which also has the great Landmark Trust USA properties. Additionally, I have several ROADS AND ROUTES explorations planned in following the old West River Railroad from Brattleboro to South Londonderry, Vermont. So, sign up to receive notifications of my posts, gas up, pack a lunch, and get out and “shunpike.”

Enjoy, thank you, yours, RAY

PS – to set your stage for trips focused on the West River Railroad, here are two resource links:

Friends – West River —
YouTube introduction to railroad and trail —

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It has been awhile since I have been out. As you know I will head out on a whim, and sometimes have a reason. The past two weekends I had reasons. First to spend two nights in a tent with my son David and grandson Alex while they raced at Canaan, NH, and then I spent two nights in Waterbury, Vermont, to catch a few hours visit with my daughter and her family while dropping their daughter off at camp. So, here are my explorations in Vermont from July 22-24.

On Thursday, 22 July, I headed up I-91 exiting at Fairlee to visit the Chapman General Store which I had always enjoyed. Operative word here, “had.” New owners, different stock, and sadly no need to stop again. Just one more past enjoyment gone. I continued up US 5 to Wells River to head west on US 302, not having been on that route before. Now that I have, no need to do so again. In Montpelier I continued on US 2 to Waterbury where I was again staying at the Old Stagecoach Inn.

Waterbury is an interesting and vibrant town on both VT 100 (the State’s backbone) and US 2, just south of Stowe. I talked with locals who were visiting friends staying at the Inn and learned this is a town sandwiched between ski areas, and near a 1930s CCC constructed reservoir and mountains for enormous outdoor opportunities for hikers, boaters and mountain bikers. A large group staying at the Inn was up from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania biking each day.

on an early rail route, what a great station.

Richmond is a small and interesting village, and I need to stop next time to go back and take the several turn of the century blocks in, but what was amazing (and the only one in the country) is what I discovered south of the Town (where the original settlement was) that I did not know about at all. You may click on the sign for a larger view to read.

Following you will see why I truly love back roading and discoveries on those paths.

The Old Round Church in Richmond, Vermont

here is the story on the plaque outside

The windows were high up, and I do not know why. But conveniently there were a couple granite stones placed making a step so you could peer inside – and I did so I could share.

The exterior is sixteen sides, but as you read above, the interior was constructed to appear more round. Four years ago I told you about another round building in Brookline, Vermont – A Round Schoolhouse, and the only one in the US. Further below I will share details on round barns. Can it get much better than living in New England? The image below shows a close up of the exterior.

I then arrived at the Shelburne Museum. I have made many visits, and did not have to do it all. Also making it easier to not feel pressure to “do it all” is getting in for “free.” You see, I have a membership level at Old Sturbridge Village that gives me the benefits of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association – NARM. The association is network of 1,166 art museums and galleries, historical museums and societies, botanical gardens, children’s museums, zoos and more. Just about anywhere I would want to visit, is a member. Do join your favorite organization at the ARM level — more than worth it, just with this visit here.

The Shelburne Museum is always a nice place to visit, with great art and buildings (some closed due to COVID restrictions) do plan a visit. And, just inside the entrance to the left is the Round Barn.

There are many round barns still in existence, often at Shaker villages. Here is what you want to know about them.

Inside the barn are some horse drawn vehicles. This is an early Popcorn Wagon, and you know about CORNELIA, my popcorn wagon. But I want you to note the “pan” hanging on the front side on the right with the piping coming down.

Now for your history lesson of not so useful information. I would not have known what that was until I found one in 1974 under the eaves of a Victorian cottage I purchased in a Camp Meeting Ground – it is a pan lamp.

Here is mine (right), and below an image I found decades ago showing a group of them being prepared for a show or carnival. Mine was probably used for illumination in the Tabernacle at the camp meeting ground.

The museum began as founder Electra Havemeyer Webb described it, a “collection of collections.” Her husband was in the Vanderbilt family, thus they had houses, and a lovely life style. She must be praised for her preservation efforts and collections. But, traveling to the city, etc. their private train cars stopped at this elaborate station that Webb built, and was moved to the museum.

and here is the station master’s office – so nicely original and preserved.

The real prize at the museum is the Ticonderoga – a restored 220-foot steamboat and the last walking beam side-wheel passenger steamer in existence. In was moved in 1955 two miles overland from Lake Champlain.

I again enjoyed touring around the vessel taking in this enchanting old mode of travel. The video of the overland move is also special. Here are some views of the vessel you may enjoy. First is the forward deck, then a side promenade, a luxury cabin, and the dining room aft.

This panel I found interesting. Just like Old Sturbridge Village being interpreted in the 1830s, The Ticonderoga has been interpreted to present life in 1923.

I find the souvenir stand at the entrance to the dining area fascinating with vintage items of the period.

I would love to add this image to my “Rocking Chair Studies” page. A great place to relax and enjoy the water, but alas, no rockers to save the aggressive rocker from going over the side.

and, you should know that I have loved old 19th and early 20th century country stores for many, many decades. I have my country store collections and my bookshop is decorated as a country store would have been. Here is the store at Shelburne, followed by a slide show of interior views. Knowing many of the items, the interpreted time period is mixed – but how many people know what I know?

The museum has created an “escape game” on-line for the country store. I have not yet tried it, but here is the link – give it a try, and let me know.

Emailing with my daughter, with traffic they were running late getting north. We planned to meet at a restaurant on Route 7, and upon their arrival had a nice couple hour visit over dinner on an outside patio. Then they had to run to shop for some missing camp items, and I headed back to my inn in Waterbury.

Last year for my trip meeting them when they checked out the camp, Dr. Dewey told me I had to see Waitsfield and Warren, Vermont, as well as cross the Lincoln Gap (closed in winter). I enjoyed that trip through those two towns, but did not cross the Gap – so that was the plan heading home Saturday morning. So down Vermont 100 I went, and you can follow my route highlighted in yellow – and can click on it for a larger image.

I can now say I crossed Lincoln Gap and then traveled south through the Green Mountain National Forest on forest dirt roads over five miles, but about 25 minutes. I am glad I was going west over the gap. No scenery since in the forest, but you could not have looked anyway since room for less than two cars on a twisty steep road, and no shoulder to the down hill side. Down Hill? No, mountain side, and a car would roll many times probably before being stopped by trees. Lots of cars for hikers parked all over the summit, and a less dangerous drive, albeit steep, going down the west side.

Finally arriving at Ripton, I headed west to my favorite US Route 7 to head south and home. It was fun passing Waybury Inn in East Middlebury where I stayed in April 2018 – this inn provided the exterior shots for The Bob Newhart show.

I have been traveling US Route 7 for decades, and know all the changes. Busier, towns with vacant buildings, Rutland congested. All the fun stops I have made over the years, gone or changed. I really do not like change. Is that a sign of age? And, change. WordPress made many, many changes for subscribers to write posts easier and better –NOT SO WordPress. It is taking me more time, mistakes made, not intuitive, but I love my writing to you. It will just take longer to compose and create.

Not sure what traveling I will be doing as much as I would like to get back out — tad afraid as the Delta variant is kicking its feet around. If you have gotten this far down in reading and looking at my images – thank you so much. More to come soon, I hope, love, RAY

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and, I had to be there, and first in line. June 8, 1946, my Dad was still in Germany. My mother was in the Bronx, and at just shy of three months old I was not able to convince her to take me to Sturbridge. But 81 visitors did attend that day, paying a dollar each for admission. Did I ever tell you I love spending time at OSV?

You may enjoy looking at (and I encourage you to look) at this email the Village sent with the early history leading to the opening of this wonderful place. Click on link below –

Not one to take chances I decided to position myself on Monday the 7th. With OSVs lodging at the Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges still closed, I decided to stay at the Publick House on the original Sturbridge Common. I stayed there over 12 years ago, dined there many times, but booked a room in the original building – 1771. My room is above the front door.

The Publick House faces the Sturbridge Common which was laid out probably by 1738.

I have a “history” with the Common. In 1963, and maybe 1964, I traveled to neighboring Charlton, MA, with high school friends to paint Leland’s Dad’s Black Angus herd’s barn. I traveled back once on my own (sleeping in the barn) and went to an antique show on this Common (notice a budding pattern?). At that time I was already fascinated with early Country Stores, and at the show’s auction did not get the nickel plated curved country store showcase I wanted (think I only had $25 extra – a great deal then), but got a large wooden one. With help, and the top down on the 1960 VW convertible I drove up from Wilton, I loaded the case for the trip home. While loading I was parked in the spot this silver car is in looking through the gazebo. See why I needed to stay here, over 55 years later?

another view of the Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Common looking from the gazebo to the Inn. You can “click” for an almost full screen view.

and, then I had dinner in the Inn’s Tavern – very nice and enjoyable.

But, remember the plan was to be first at OSV for the 75th anniversary of its opening. Up early, pastries and coffee at the Inn’s bakery shop, and a drive around the corner, so to speak. I arrived at 9:10, twenty minutes prior to opening – I WAS THE ONLY ONE THERE, AND FIRST TO ENTER FOR SURE.

About ten minutes later another woman arrived. I jumped up from the mill stone heading near the door. We chatted. I explained that I was a gentleman, should let her ahead of me, BUT, I had to be first in the door for “bragging rights.” She acquised, but in the conversation we talked about the limited edition souvenirs, and our plan was to immediately head to Miner Grant’s Store to buy ours. After that, I headed to the Center Meetinghouse for the “Common Curiosities” tour. Tom was amazing with his historical information. A great memory and a wealth of information from his 38 years at OSV. I later learned he is a lead interpreter that everyone looks up to. Tom, I am ready to volunteer, if only to stuff envelopes. Here is Tom as he began for (sadly) only three of us.

I had some questions, and was thrilled with his answers. I needed to know the original location of the Asa Knight store, and the OSV covered bridge, both from Dummerston, Vermont, a stone’s through from me. Thank you, Tom, I now know where to look, and will post an update here following my discoveries soon to come. To the left of the above image, is the old Country Store, relocated from Dummerston. Did I tell you I have loved old country/general stores since my early teens?

When Tom was done, we headed into the store because he said there were pictures there of the store’s original location. Here is a gallery of those images, and looking at Asa’s house, you can see the similarity of my home at “44” (down to the lantern style and location) and my need to find the location.

and turning around when in the store, there was Susan – docent extraordinaire, who I first met while “Boarding with the Bixbys” and I have enjoyed chatting with on all my return visits. One of the reasons, I am sure, that many folks return to OSV.


Today BLUE BELLE and I needed a break so we made a 57 mile circle to Dummerston, Brattleboro, Chesterfield, and home. AND, thank you Tom, with the information you provided I can now share the former locations of Asa Knight’s store and the Dummerston Covered Bridge, both now at OSV. Make sure you compare the store images below with those above. Just south of the triangular Common in Dummerston Center, the south end of the Common has a border of trees. Possibly a century ago a road ran in front of the store to the lower road. Have to find maps to see. But here you are:

above is Asa Knight’s home so you can compare with the images above. Again, just like my home at “44” down to the lamp and lamppost position. Below there is now a garden area behind the picket fence where the store was located.

I shot the above through the tree line, and then turned around to take the below shot north of the Common. That is the Grange hall to the right. I have gone to events there.

I continued west on East West Road and crossed the West Dummerston Covered Bridge and headed south on Route 30. The bridge now at OSV crossed Stickney Brook just below the old Iron Bridge. I parked, looked north for this image of the Iron Bridge, and then south to the “new” Route 30 bridge across the brook.

here is an early (late 1940s?) real photo postcard of the bridge in this location above. Postcard image is probably looking north based upon tree line – image above is looking south

below is an image of the bridge I took in 2017 at the village. There is a great story of how it was tied down and saved during a hurricane and flood, Ride with George for details.

on the east side of the “new” bridge you can look down to Stickney Brook as it enters the West River.

From the maps I saw Old Jelly Mill Falls a short distance to the east. And a short distance it is — and so well hidden those out-of-towners heading up Route 30 have no idea it is there. Carved down to the rocks it is amazing. Many people were enjoying the water and surroundings. All I need is a “date” and a picnic basket and head back. Now I need to learn about the old Jelly Mill. There were some old foundation stones along the banks. AND, after a couple hours search on 14 June I found history of the “Jelly Mill” and will begin a ROADS AND ROUTES page with its history – check back for the link when added here.

Now back to the original post.

Now, another reason I return? To ride with George, of course, on a cart or stage with his horses around the village. George is an unsurpassed raconteur relating village history. And, early on in my visits we learned we knew the same people, and his nephew lives near me and works in town here.

on this tour into the farm area we first stopped and chatted with the potter who told us about this 12 cent jug – utilitarian, but not expensive. And then George explained the piggery under construction. With a piggery, the little ones had a better chance to survive the elements and eventually become a meal.

After riding with and enjoying George’s stories I got off at the Bullard Tavern for lunch. I had a shepherds pie (somewhat traditional in the 19th century) and a Mud Cup desert. Much to my surprise there were worms in my desert. YIKES – but on close examination, an extra treat – “gummy bear” worms. Do click image for a squirmy view.

Finishing my enjoyable and peaceful lunch at a picnic table outside the Tavern in the shade, I strolled the bucolic Common before heading over to the print shop. Below are the Center Meetinghouse, looking across the Common to the Thompson Bank and Miner Grant Store, and to the Salem Towne House.

I got my first printing press in 1957, been fascinated with printing, and have a number of presses and equipment to this day. With hobbies of printing, photography and collecting US Commemorative stamps beginning in my pre-teens, it all led to Ray today – publishing and writing history articles, and life is good. The interpreter in Isiah Thomas’ printing office filled me in on much more than how a press operates since I told him my background. A great time. I learned that this press was among the items first purchased by Wells as his collecting mania began.

I had seen on the OSV website that special commemorative items had been made in a limited number for the 75th anniversary. Limited to 75 of each item. Once entering the grounds I headed right to the Miner Grant Store to purchase my treasures (as did the woman I did not let in front of me). I thought that the miniature punched tin lanterns would be small, but just a tad shorter than the real ones in the museum. And, my wood-fired pottery pitcher was a must have. The plates are not yet ready, they want me to come back for one. I left my purchases there to retrieve when leaving.

Now, limited number of items, you want a low number, if not Number One. The lanterns were not numbered, but the pitchers were. I searched for Number One, but was told that one of the clerks when unpacking them found Number One and scooped it up. But I found Number Three. I have enjoyed chatting with many people, as you have come to learn, and once outside a fellow followed with his purchase. Ends up he was the volunteer potter who made the pitchers while at home. We had fun chatting about lots of things (including spinal stenosis). He told me that as he laid the pitchers out for numbering he was pretty sure mine was the first made, but placed where it got numbered three. Well, makes a good story, I was first in the door, and have great souvenirs. I lit my lantern that evening when home using a tea candle.

Back at the Visitor Center was “Curator’s Pick: A Look into the Institution Archives.” This young lady was sharing some of the great ephemera documenting the early years at the village, including a paper board game.

Almost five hours there (includes my early arrival to be Number One for sure) it was time to head back north. Back roads of course, Route 32 into New Hampshire always enjoyable. I will be back several times this year, and someday hope I can contribute (more than dollars) time in some way. Old Sturbridge Village is a national treasure for all to enjoy. What I really enjoy seeing is youngsters being exposed to history, the early way of life, and as a result possibly develop an infinity for and get involved in history.


Visit OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE and get involved and contribute in some way

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