With Your Coffee [Monday Edition]

Silos at Dealer.com, Pine Street, Burlington, VT. Painted by local artist Mary Lacy.

Good morning! How’s it going? Is September incredibly busy for everyone – what happened to summer days? In need of a preservation conversation spark? Here are some recent finds relating to transportation and place. Read anything good lately? Working on anything fun? Let me know.



Preservation Photos #226

More on looking up: seen any interesting door frames or entrances lately, such as this one from the historic (and former) Brattleboro, VT train station?

Preservation Photos #209

Classic railroad station brackets underneath large overhanging, flared eaves. Chester Depot, VT.

Classic railroad station brackets underneath large overhanging, flared eaves. Chester Depot, VT.

I’d love to be traveling home by train this Thanksgiving, but the Vermont to New York trains only run south in the morning. While I love to drive, the train is a great way to travel, too. How are you traveling home, if you are?

A Bit about Railroad Depots

Waterbury, VT

Waterbury, VT

Vergennes, VT

Vergennes, VT

Randolph, VT

Randolph, VT: two depots in one shot! 

I’m deep into the trenches of a report about rail passenger stations and freight depots, so it’s about the only subject on my mind, besides the preservation conference. In almost every place I’ve lived, I can hear the train, even if it’s only at night when the air is still and the world is quiet. In some of my houses, I’ve felt the entire house shake when the freight trains barreled through town. In other places, the train is a distant rumble and whistle. There’s something comforting about that sound, and something mysterious and so adventurous about the train.

Transport by train for passengers and freight isn’t what it used to be; cars and trucks have misplaced trains for the most part. Still, railroads were the interstates of their time – taking land wherever they wanted it, blasting through mountains, diving farmland, and creating new settlements along the way. And still, railroads replaced canals. Transportation continues to evolve and change our landscape with it (fortunately in a much more conscientious way today than 50, 100, or 150 years ago).

If you grew up around the railroad, you are probably familiar with railroad depots – for passengers and freight. Most historic depots are easily recognizable, just as schoolhouses of the 1920s/1930s are easily identified by their bank of windows. While some might be high style (see Waterbury above) or more vernacular (see Roxbury below) and are constructed throughout the mid to late 19th century, these rail depots all have a few key features in common: (1) Large overhanging eaves; (2) Eaves supported by large, brackets – often decorative; (3) A rectangular shape with the length along the tracks; (4) A ticket agent bay window. Not every building will have all of these features, but next time you see a building that looks like it might be a depot, you’re probably right.

Ludlow, VT

Ludlow, VT

South Londonderry, VT

South Londonderry, VT

Roxbury, VT

Roxbury, VT

Do you have examples in your town? Any buildings you can think of that are probably rail buildings? Want to see a few more? Vergennes, Wallingford, Fair Haven, Swanton.

East Barnet Inwood Station

If you’re cruising along US Route 5, following the Connecticut River on the eastern side of Vermont, you’ll pass by this Vermont oddity: the East Barnett Inwood Station. Apparently saved from demolition and relocated from Quincy, NH, this small depot sits among abandoned train cars and rail side lines, with trucks and a water tower on board. It is private property, but take a look at these images from the road.


Box cars set to appear approaching Inwood Station in East Barnett Inwood Station.


East Barnet Inwood Station rail side lines, in foreground and background.


East Barnett Inwood Station. The building says Inwood.


East Barnett Inwood Station, rail side lines. See the water tower (yellow with conical top).

Despite my best efforts at searching, I cannot dig up any information on this property. Who can shed some light?

Abandoned New Hampshire: Westboro Rail Yard

A quick jaunt out of White River Junction, Vermont brings you to West Lebabnon, New Hampshire on the east side of the Connecticut River. This is the site of the abandoned Westboro Rail Yard, which is designated a brownfield and awaiting redevelopment and migitation. Though adjacent to a large asphalt paved area of land, the buildings themsevles are fenced off and hidden by overgrown trees and brush.

Westboro Rail Yard.

The NH Division of Historical Resources wrote a brief history and evaluated the condition of the site. Read it here.  A 2009 public policy study conduted by students at Dartmouth College includes a brief history of the site:

“The site served as a rail yard from 1847 until the 1970s. It was then vacant until the state of New Hampshire purchased the 19.1-acre property from Boston and Maine Railroad Company and “restored rail service in 2000 under an operating agreement with Claremont Concord Rail Company.”2 The northern acre, the parcel being considered for cleanup and revitalization, was first developed during the mid 1930s and early 1940s to be used as a bulk oil storage facility for Tidewater Oil Company, who leased the land from Boston and Maine Railroad Company. Concrete above ground storage tanks (ASTs), which were removed from the site in the 1970s, contained an unknown amount of an unknown oil type. Tidewater Oil Company shut down in the 1960s. Over the next 25 years, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) removed all remaining concrete ASTs and off-site buildings before using it as a temporary roadwork equipment storage area.”

View towards the roundhouse.

The roundhouse.


The roundhouse showing the fence and many alterations.

Beyond the roundhouse is a building shell; look closely and you can see the exposed roof framing.

Industrial areas – the gritty, blue collar society places of work – are becoming more in vogue for redevelopment. Maybe this site has a bright future. Check out some site proposals here.

Preservation Photos #114

Standing on the platform of the restored Waterbury train station (a transportation enhancement grant project recipient), which is home to the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Cafe, and looking down the tracks. The freight building on the right is in the process of being dismantled and relocated.

Gold in Them Thar Hills: Part Two

SIA 2010 Overview. Part One.

In order to not overwhelm one post with images, there will be three (or four) posts about Gold in Them Thar Hills.

After leaving the Mollie Kathleen Mine, our tour group headed to the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train departed from a historic depot for a four mile round trip to the ghost town of Anaconda, CO. Along the way the train stopped to allow us to gaze at the mountain scenery and experience Echo Valley. Enjoy this flood of images!

Historic depot at the Cripple Creek & Victor Railroad, the former depot of Anaconda.

Leaving Cripple Creek.

Such fun on the steam engine!

View from the train.

Just how many miles is that? Echo Valley.

Ghost town across the way!

The blacksmith shop in Anaconda; it is one of the few buildings that survived a fire.

Highway 67.

On our way back to Cripple Creek.

A water tank next to the train. The steam engine needed a water source!

A better view.

I thoroughly enjoyed this forty minute train ride; what perfect weather!

The Iron Horse

Despite the unpopularity of long distance train travel, I love traveling by train. Maybe it’s how I get caught up in the American west. Maybe it’s because my dad always talks about living with the train tracks right behind his house in Queens, NY.  Maybe it’s those few times I traveled via train back and forth to Mary Washington.  Maybe it’s because Overhills had its own train station and to me it evokes visions of the wealthy 1920s travelers getting off at the passenger station marked Overhills with trunks in tow.  No matter the reason, it feels truly American to me (maybe it should feel European, but I’ve never been to Europe.)  Someday I want to travel cross-country by train. 

There is something classically romantic & nostalgic about train travel.  Maybe it’s because train travel traverses so many generations.  The Iron Horse recalls images of great American progress (also a complicated issue for another time) and the great American west and tales of Jesse James.  People took the train to escape to the ocean beaches and the countryside, to get out of the city for a while.  Movies set in the 1940s have done a clever job of portraying soldiers leaving and arriving from war.  A train ride served as more reliable than car travel and prior to planes.  Trains could be wonderful for mass transit and the environment, if done right.

After a recent work trip by train, I am happy to report another pleasant experience with Amtrak. Normally I fly or drive my own car.  However, a drive alone that extends beyond 4 hours leaves me tired and lonely, so driving was not an option.  If I want to fly, I still have to drive 75 minutes to the airport and then go through the whole process of flying and I’d still have to rent a car to get where I was going.  Instead, I chose to travel by Amtrak.  I could catch the train right in town and then ride up to Washington D.C. with the freedom of relaxing, reading, writing, doing whatever I needed to do on the train.  Granted, I still had to rent a car to get to Middleburg, but the peaceful train ride that didn’t require the use my own car for anything, was very nice.

Traveling by Amtrak is a new experience. I had done so before, but not in a few years.  I had been dying to take the train somewhere.  The benefits of Amtrak are clear: the seats are way more comfortable than a plane with lounging room and leg room. The train cars are not nearly as stuffy as planes and you can get up and walk around, go to the dining car, etc.   Depending on how close to your travel date, you book your train ticket, it can be more expensive. However, if it depends on flying with all of the added costs of gas, parking, etc vs. driving with the gas prices now vs. taking the train, the train is more affordable.  And depending on your destination, it may be a longer trek, but it’s a stress free, comfortable, longer trip. My only downside was spilling coffee on myself, but that was entirely my own fault, not the train’s fault.

Traveling by train is also very environmentally friendly.  I wish that the USA were designed for train travel.   It is also an excellent way to see a good slice of America.  Typically trains travel through towns, for obvious reasons.  Here in these southern towns, the train sometimes travels the middle of Main Street.  You’ll travel by farmland, quarries, industrial areas, and large sections of nothing but natural landscape.  Some towns still seem to value their train stop with pretty, maintained passenger stations.  Others have since gone by the wayside.  Main streets that face the train tracks show what the town was, whether thriving at some point or always a small, two-horse town.  Of course, passing these dying and defunct industries like mills and factories is a sad view of past American lifestyles. 

Take the train somewhere; I guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable ride and get lost in the view of America.