The Grand Trunk Railroad

One result of the mild winter we have been experiencing is I have had more time to spend outside walking through the woods, searching for the skeletons that may be out there. One of our local skeletons is what is called the Grand Trunk Railroad, There are bones everywhere.

The Grand Trunk Railroad is actually not the real name of this railroad. The legal name is the Southern New England Railroad. The reason it acquired this name is probably due to the fact that the man who was behind the building of it, Charles Hayes, was a passenger on the H.M.S. Titanic. As we all know the unsinkable ship sank, and Mr. Hayes was one of those who did not make it. Although the common belief is the dreams for the railroad died with Hayes, this is not necessarily the case. But that is not the purpose of this post. If you would like to read the full story I would recommend the book “Titanic Railroad: The Southern New England” by Larry Lowenthal..

I have been exploring what is left of this railroad. While it has been non-existent for over 100 years, and never actually opened, there are still plenty of bones left to this skeleton. It is surprising how much of the line can still be accessed, some more easily than others.

Recently I explored the section of the line that went through Brimfield, MA or more accurately East Brimfield. A large section of it has been converted into a rail trail. This trail actually follows along two separate railroads; the Southern New England and the Worcester Consolidated Railroad, a streetcar line. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of railroad relics to be seen along this portion. As I said the line was never finished so there were no buildings, crossing gates, signals or stations.

There is one thing the railroad left behind, as all railroads have, they built these railroads as straight as they could, not caring about what they went through to do it. Now I realize that may not always have been the best policy and it wouldn’t fly today, but it did leave us with some breathtaking scenery. The section through East Brimfield for example goes in a straight line along Mill Brook and through what I learned was called the great swamp. Walking along it you will see a watery, reed filled landscape which in a few months will be alive with color from the various marsh related plants, especially the long purple ones (picture above).

Since I have started this exploring thing it is like I am back in school. It has caused me to start re-learning about things like history, plants, animals, weather, astronomy, all things I learned in school. Well honestly I wasn’t really paying attention then. Now I wish I had. But at least today we have the internet making learning easier. And because of this new interest in learning I realize what it took to make this country great.

For example when I come across a stone wall in the middle of the woods I realize how much labor we required to farm the land. The ground had to be plowed. The rocks cleared and moved to the sides of the field. Walls made, crops planted. Just to earn a living.

I have also learned that not all we were taught in school was actually not always the truth. I’m thinking about our treatment of the indigenous people who were here long before we were. We came pretty close to exterminating them completely. This was something I was never told before.

If you get the chance head outside and take a walk. Find an old railroad bed or a trail through an old farm. Go into the woods and see if you can find an old foundation. It will open your mind.

Oh, and by the way those purple flowers are called Purple Loosestrife or for those of you who prefer Latin, Lythrum salicaria.

Here is the video of the above hike. Of course, being somewhat challenged in the video department, I didn’t record the most important part, but that will be coming.

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