• R.O.W. Realignment at Birch Hill Dam on the Fitchburg

  • 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 Engineer Spike
I have been planning a layout based on the Fitchburg between roughly Willows to E. Portal. Using Google Earth, I was looking at the line. I noticed the line was changed near the dam. When was this project done?

While we're in this area, why did they put in Wright's interlocking where it is? It is in the middle of nowhere. Any problems would require the maintainer to drive a long way on the R.O.W., or hi rail in? How do they fuel the switch heater? Does the propane truck drive in, or is there a long pipeline?
  by jaymac
The Millers River was flood-prone, as major events in 1927, 1936, and 1938 and lesser but still destructive floods demonstrated. After the 1936 flood, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked to provide flood control, and a principal impoundment was the Birch Hill project. A stretch of the Fitchburg Division ROW was realigned a bit to the south and at a bit higher elevation so first a carry and then an access road -- Birch Hill Dam Road -- could serve the dam. The present alignment is the third through the area, the ghost of the first, boggier and curvier and to the north, showing on some old topos. 1941 was the official opening year of the dam, but the ROW realignment would have happened earlier.
A trip on the road gives a chance to non-trespassingly drive between concrete signal bases, the signal bridge having long since been removed, perhaps for the realignment itself or for a later WW II scrap drive.
If the roadway is followed, just about where it takes a sharp left to go to the dam headquarters, a horizontal LPG tank -- presumably for RR service -- is seen up grade and adjacent to the ROW unless it's been relocated in the last year. Maybe it was placed there to prevent snow berms from making inaccessible, but the driver must curse his fate every time he has to drag himself and the hose up to and down from the tank, especially at this time of year.
As far as the location of Wrights/CPF-354, I can only guess that it was to provide sufficient length for a freight to hold east of Baldwinville Road to be either passed or met.
  by trainsinmaine
As suggested, check out old (or even current) topo maps. About a mile of the prior (second) ROW can be easily walked from the Baldwinville side, up to the point where it crossed the Millers River. The bridge is long gone. If you can get to the other side, that can be hiked as well. Moreover, the original alignment --- replaced in 1874 --- can be located fairly easily by car on nearby roads, and goodly parts of it can be traversed on foot. Part of the old trolley ROW from Baldwinville to Winchendon is walkable from near the point where the first and second alignments come together, a short distance west-northwest of the PanAm Southern-Route 202 overpass. In fact, the road leading to that point is also a section of the trolley bed.

There is lots of very interesting RR history in that area. And then there are the remains of the nearby village of New Boston . . .
  by trainsinmaine
I passed this conversation along to my friend Chris Coyle, who lives just a few miles from Royalston and is very knowledgeable about the history of the B&M in that area. He gave me permission to share his response. Brackets and parentheses surround slight editings of mine:

"The 3rd alignment, i.e. the current alignment was of course originally double track. The particular portion from Wright's to Parker's was single-tracked long before the 4R rehab project around 1978, at which time the portion of track from Tyter Interlocking west through Orange to Erving Paper Mills was made single iron. I agree that the placement of Wright's Interlocking is far enough east of Route 68 so that trains wouldn't foul the crossing. However, there [also used to be] a siding there on the south side of the line which at one time I am told was used for trains doubling Royalston Hill. The track was lifted at some point during the early Guilford era. Presumably when Wright's Interlocking was installed it was deemed logical by the B&M Engineering Department to have the interlocking plant and siding all at one convenient location. There was and may still be a dwarf signal governing the so-called westward track in the eastward direction onto single iron.

And yes, during his tenure at HomGas (the propane company in Athol) Bob Chace (a friend and local fellow-railfan) used to lug the fill hose up the banking to the propane tank for the switch heaters. However, he didn't particularly complain, as he got to stand near the tracks for quite awhile during the filling process. You may recall that at one time there used to be a little loop of roadway where the road turns 90 degrees onto the dam on side of which were several picnic tables. When the loop was still in place it would have been a shorter hike for the propane driver to haul the hose to the tank."

Hope this is helpful!
  by jaymac
To add even more infobits, the track chart CD available from Scott Whitney has detail on the older Fitchburg Division section with an update to at least a near-area 1955 resurfacing that shows twin crossovers named "Wrights "Xovers" just east of a WB signal bridge at MP 72.66. Doing the usual Old Mileage + 280 = FML Mileage West of Willows, that would put the signal bridge and crossovers at 352.66 and less, just a bit west of the Otter River UGB and to the east of the current Wights/CPF-354 at 353.56.
Anyone know who Wright was, meriting a namesake crossover pair?
  by Pat Fahey
1-B&M older mainline.jpg
1-B&M newer mainline.jpg
Hi engineer spike
Here is a copy from the maps of Scott Whitney , the first scan is the B&M older main line , and the second is B&M newer mainline , Pat.
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