Last weekend I met a
cool dog.....and his owner. :-)
I was driving around, with no destination or schedule, when I came to
the town of Chester, MA. It was already midday and I'd only stopped a
couple of times so far to take pictures. Then I passed a sign. Not a
sign giving directions, but one announcing that I'd just passed a
potentially fun place to check out. Sweet, a tourist trap! At least
that's what I thought in this microscopic little town when I saw the
"Chester Railway Station Museum" sign.
On the road to this potential tourist-trap I found "Classic Pizza Blue
Note Café." The potential tourist-trap would have to wait as I was
hungry! They had a sign in their front window reading: "Sorry, We're
Open" I knew this place would be cool before I even walked in the
door. After an overdue feeding, in a bucolic pub, accompanied by a
gaggle of "locals," I wanted to be that trapped tourist. I asked my
server about the Railway Museum that was supposedly just down the street
a bit further. She called out the cook (whom I thanked honestly for a
great sandwich) who sat down to fill me in. He told me the place wasn't
open on Sunday's, but there was still some interesting things to see.
Tab paid, hands shook, and thanks given all around....I was off to see
what I could see.
Around the corner, under the single-lane railway bridge, and just up to
the left was the [closed] Chester Railway Station Museum.
With patriotic colors hung from their gutters, and a large American flag
flying out front, it was a beautiful station.
There were a few rail cars in the yard too.
As I walked off the end of the platform an Australian Shepherd came up
to me---then dropped a soggy tennis ball at my feet. What was I
supposed to do? Of course I picked up the ball and chucked it out
toward the yard of rail cars. I kept chucking and this lovable dog kept
retrieving. If I'm honest, it was the most fun I'd had all day...so
Just then, a gentleman came up and said "I see you've met 'Durango'."
He reached out a friendly hand for me to shake and introduced himself as
"Dave, the Curator of the Railway Station Museum." At that point
Durango had returned again and proceeded to lean against me. If I had a
dog I'd want it to behave exactly like this one. Dave asked if I'd ever
been to the museum before. I admitted that I'd only just found out
about it an hour earlier when I saw the sign along the main road and was
here on encouragement from the folks at the local pizza joint. He
offered to show me around the various cars and the museum itself.
Durango must've learned his friendliness from his owner. These two were
quite a pair!
Dave's knowledge of the local rail-history as well as how it related to
Massachusetts' own history was encyclopedic. He spewed off names/dates
of key moments in local history as if they'd happened weeks ago, not
centuries. It was obvious by his tone that he was more than just the
curator--he was a genuine fan of everything that had to do with this
station. He was teaching me history of the station being built in
1835. Yes, the building we were now inside was 177 years old. That
means it's one of the oldest stations in our country. It's quite
possible the oldest one that still exists. Dave's knowledge of railways
outside of New England, and my near-complete lack of any, meant we'd
both just have to ponder that possibility. Regardless, it was still
here and I was getting a private tour of everything it now housed. I
found out Dave utilized his talents in model-building to create all the
miniatures on display in the museum. Fantastic!
He told me about this being the first mountain railroad in the United
States. He told me of the amazing keystone-arch bridges that were built
to carry the rails over the local cart-paths, etc. (some of which were
still in use today without having to be modified in any way!) He told
me about how Massachusetts had the most diversity in ores found/mined in
the country. (Granite, Emery, Copper, Mica, etc. etc.) He told me about
how busy the area was and that they even had their own round-house at
one time. As I was checking out a picture on the wall he said something
that really piqued my interest. "The remnants of that round-house are
about 3/4 of a mile down the tracks." I turned around fast and said
"You mean it's still there?" "Oh sure," he said, "but it's in pretty
bad shape now." I asked if it was accessible and he assured me it was.
I let Dave continue his fabulous story telling that surrounded each fact
of the Chester Station. It was an unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable
way to pass part of the afternoon.
Now I had to take a walk down the tracks to see what I could see.
Gotta watch for train traffic in both directions as these are still
active rail lines! It was very hot out and I was cursing the fact I'd
chosen my Converse All-Star's over my Timberland hiking boots. <sigh>
(Some of these pictures are panoramic so don't forget to scroll to the
right to see the complete image)
Yikes! That really is close!!
And there it is. The old round-house.
It was irresistible! I simply HAD to know what it looked like inside.
Neither of those doors were locked, or even closed.
Well, it looks like any remnants of railway business has long since been
forgotten in this particular building. :-\
Perhaps it was time to check out that funky looking tower just down the
tracks a ways. Maybe that would be more interesting.
Since there wasn't any easy/safe access to the tower itself I turned
around and walked back to my car.
I wanted to try to find at least one of the keystone arches that Dave
had told me about earlier. Even if I didn't, it seemed like more fun to
keep driving than to continue walking on these sharp stones while
wearing the world's flimsiest sneakers.
Success! After taking what had to be the most roundabout route to it, I
found the keystone arch I was most interested in seeing.
It was the one they built over a particularly popular cart-path that
paralleled the local stream. Since modern roadways were much wider than
cart paths of the mid-19th century it would've required massive
reconstruction to allow a paved road to go beneath this still-used
arch. No way they were going to divert the stream which had been there
long before the arch, cart path, or any thought of a railway. The only
solution was to make a single lane roadway that didn't interrupt the
stream and didn't touch the arch.
It had been a great day of exploring. I'd met a cool dog......and his
owner. I'd learned a great deal about New England's railway history and
seen some beautiful sights. The only thing left to make this perfect
would be to share it with all of y'all.
This is the route I took:
I hope you enjoyed my day's adventure. I hope you have many, many
adventures of your own!