• Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by eddiebear
The Hurricane Diane topic under the New Haven sent me back to the old days when railroads had available alternate routes to detour traffic when there were blockades or heave M-W work. I worked for the Boston and Maine from 1968 to 1986 and here are some that I remember.

Feb. 1967 a bit before my stint at the B & M. There was a freight train wreck in the Hoosac Tunnel, about 40 cars or so I think. There wasn't much room to work and cars had to be dragged out one by one. Tunnel tied up for several weeks. Detour route up Conn. River to Bellows Falls, Green Mtn. to Rutland, D & H to Whitehall and then to Mechanicville.

Oct. 1970. I was on the fan trip that ran Boston-Greenfield-Bellows Falls, change to GMRC train to Chester and return to BF. A freight following us up the Conn. River derailed at site of freight derailment earlier that week and we eventually got back to the Fitchburg route via Keene and Winchendon to South Ash. and back to Fitchburg main.

April, 1970, couldn't go out for this one because one of my brothers got married that weekend. Dam on private pond in Chelmsford broke and washed out portion of Stony Brook. For a day or two through freight operated from Lowell into Boston and then west.

There were several derailments of gravel trains on NH Route in mid-70s that had Lowell-Boston service run via the Lowell Branch and then via Reading.

After Chelsea fire in October '73, all the Rockport and Ipswich RDCs were coupled together and ran via Saugus Branch.

December, 1970 freight derailment at South Acton. South Acton RDCs were shoehorned around the scene and routed out a hand throw switch by the freight house and run to Ayer. Coupled to Ayer RDCs and routed via Stony Brook to Lowell and Boston. South Acton-Ayer service terminated at West Concord, bus beyond, until track was restored. But wait. No sooner had track been restored when first freight over restored segment derailed an engine. 120-ton capy. Boston wrecker stripped gears trying to lift a GP9.
East Deerfield wrecker was working here but was called to a more serious wreck at Wachusett. Derailing cars damaged an industrial building. Fitchburg Route was now blocked in two places. Detour route was Gardner-Worcester-Ayer-No Chelmsford-Lowell. Meets were at Worcester.
Then either JU-1 or UJ-2 spilled cars at Bath, NH. Everyone went home for Christmas then came back to work and got everything cleaned up. That was probably the toughest month everyone endured on the B & M during the 1970s.
From time to time due to water problems at Union Square, a derailment near Park St. Somerville that was left for a long time while the Trustees pressured the MBTA to do something about buying the railroad assets, and during Red Line construction through Porter Square, the Freight Cutoff was used by passenger trains. One of the most interesting detours had the morning trip to Gardner run via Lowell and the Stony Brook due to single track operation.
April or May '84. Major derailment at West River (Brattleboro). For a few days, Conn. River freights ran via the Northern to Concord, NH and then down to North Chelmsford and west. Only one train at a time was allowed on this segment and speed was 10 mph, I think.
Anyone know of others?

  by tappin
remember the detour over the Northern, it was sometime in the Spring of '84 (the leaves were just coming out). My father and I went over to catch the action. It was what you would have seen on the Connecticut River line at the time, lashups of Central Vermont and Boston & Maine geeps. He told me that we won't see much happening north of Concord again. How right he was *sniff*

Although it was not a pure detour, I did see an ususual move by the then Wlofeboro/Goodwin railroad over the Portsmouth & Manchester branch. We were on our way to the Mall of New Hampshire on what was then 2-lane SR101 in Candia NH when the wig-wag signal on a road adjacent was actually doing its thing (!) We stopped and waied, and sure enough a B&M GP7 appeared pulling Wolfeboro railroad coaches. At the time they were operating the Wolfeboro branch and what is now the Hobo Railroad tourist operation, and from best I can tell they were shuttling equipment back and forth. This was sometime in the summer of 1977, I believe the mall had just opened then. If they used it again I do not know, since their progress was incredibly slow over what was then a seldom used route. It turns out this was the ONLY tain I ever saw over this line before it was lifted. Ah memories!

  by Rockingham Racer
I grew up in Methuen; one year in the late 50's there was a derailment on the Lowell side, so mainline trains to/from WRJ and Concord, NH used the M&L. Lots of activity; they had to bring in crossing tenders for all the crossings on the branch.

If I recall correctly, there was also a detour from Lowell to Wilmington via the south leg of the old wye at Lowell Jct.
  by eddiebear
Here are more comments about detours long ago. As long as railroads had networks of branches which included former through routes or lines built as such, companies had a lot of flexibility when faced with adverse conditions.

After the 1927 floods which crippled the Rutland, wiped out much of the CV, and seriously damaged some of its own routes, the B & M put together some makeshift detour routes in short order. The Northern route from Concord to White River Jct. suffered a lot of bridge damage and washouts at crossings of the Mascoma River. A CP-MEC to Intervale and Conway Branch routing was used for traffic from Canadian routings to the Boston area for a time. The Claremont Branch also substituted for the Northern for a spell. The Northern had some covered bridges up until this time and they were eliminated in the rebuilding of the route. Any of you who have a set of B & M Employee Magazines of that era, find the 1927 flood issue and see how the State of Maine got to New York one memorable night.

In 1936 or 1937 the MEC bridge across the Kennebec River, Waterville-Winslow was damaged badly enough to have a long term detour put into public timetables. Through service was all routed via the Twin Cities (Lewiston & Auburn!) for a number of months. Must have been something to have all that traffic compressed onto the mostly single track Back Road.

In the Fall of 1939, when the Piscataqua River Bridge at Portsmouth failed (because it was being used as a platform for construction of the rail-highway lift bridge) and dumped a B & M Pacific, combine and engine crew into the drink, the B & M set up a long term detour which remained in place until the new bridge was opened. Several passenger trains in each direction had been running to Portland via Portsmouth and they were routed out of Portsmouth to Rockingham Jct. and then via the Western Route main. Back up moves were involved so some trains were towed backwards to the Junction or from the Junction to Portsmouth. If there were significant gaps between trains at the Junction, light engines were run to or from Portsmouth rather than sit around at Rockingham for hours. This was in several employee timetables of the era. Didn't make the publics as the Portland via Portsmouth trains made no intermediate stops between Portsmouth and North Berwick.

  by NRGeep
I seem to remember a very long freight train going up the B&M Ashuelot Branch around the time in Oct 1970 that eddiebear mentioned that there was a derailment on the Conn River line. Seems like it must have joined the Cheshire Branch northbound when it got to Keene? It was quite a site to see on that country branch which usually ran humble SW 1200 locals out of Deerfield by that time.

  by Ron Newman
Somewhere I've seen a 1970s picture of a Fitchburg Line train stopping to pick up passengers in the middle of Davis Square because of a detour. Don't remember if this was due to flooding or Red Line construction.

  by NRGeep
Seems if there were ever any derailments between West Cambridge and Waltham "back in the day" that the Watertown Branch when it was still intact might have been a detour option?
  by eddiebear
The B & M employee timetables probably into the 1950s reference the option of detour moves on both the Watertown Branch and Woburn Loop. I have never come across any notations regarding Watertown Branch detours, but there were reroutes via Woburn and not always for derailments. Extensive rail or tie replacement, ballasting, etc. on main via Montvale also resulted in Woburn Loop detours. There are photos around too.

Up until the end of passenger service on the top half of the Woburn Loop, the line was double-track with ABS, with attended crossings protected for the entire schedule, which would have been about 6 am to midnight on weekdays anyway. This made a detour fairly easy on the Loop. Watertown Branch was single-tracked with ABS removed once passenger service ended. And some xings were stop and protect.

  by ewh
My father worked the RPO from Springfield to Montreal 1958-1966 and said that around 1960 there was a derailment at Brattleboro so the Montrealer went to Keene via the Ashuelot branch, then up the Chesire to Bellows Falls. He said the RPO crew had to hold on tight because going up the Ashuelot felt like the train was going in circles.