• South Deerfield to Buckland branch

  • Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
  by trainsinmaine
 
I just tried to trace the former NH branch from South Deerfield, Mass., northwesterly toward Buckland on a c.1945 topo map. I could find the abandoned ROW as it headed out of South Deerfield, but as it wound its way up the river I completely lost it --- it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack among all those hills. Can anyone fill me in as to the approximate route it took? Did it join the B&M at the Buckland station, across the river and up the hill from Shelburne Falls?

  by Engineer Spike
 
The line went up through Conway. There used to be a trolley line between the town center, and the station. I forgot the exact directions to Conway Station, but since you have the topo maps, follow your nose. The road to the station may be off of Bardwell's Ferry Rd. My uncle used to take me to explore abandoned rail lines. Noel Weaver may know the directions. He and my uncle used to take many trips exploring.
The junction onto the Fitchburg/B&M was at Shelburne Jct. This was just across the bridge, on the B&M, from Bardwell's Ferry Rd (Right by Bill Cosby's).
  by hrrphil
 
Check your maps for South River state forest (or park).
the road is on the trolley line, and goes right to the Deerfield river crossing on the high bridge. might even be station road
once you are at the end of the road, it's very easy to locate the railroad and trolley lines, south of there it IS a bit overgrown.
this time of year, the road is closed, but it's an easy walk to bike ride in.
an added bonus, is following the stairs down to the power plant and dam for the trolley power. don't go alone, it's wild and if you fall, there is no one to help carry you out, and likely no cell service.

Phil
  by trainsinmaine
 
Thanks for the info.!
I understand that somewhere along this branch there was an enormous trestle that was, at one time, the highest rail bridge in New England. Where was it, and are there any remains?
  by hrrphil
 
Yes, this is the location of the highest RR bridge in Mass.
at the north end of that road inside the state forest.

Hampden RailRoad Phil
  by Cosmo
 
Ok, now I'm intrigued!
From the reply post it sounds like you're saying the bridge is still there!
Is it there or not, annd if so can anyone post/point to any photos of it that may be online?
I'd love to find this spot once I get back from Iraq.
Thanks,
Pete
  by trainsinmaine
 
I was intrigued by the way Phil worded his post, so I did some serious Internet digging. A site on the Conway Electric Railway (yes, there was a trolley line in those rather remote hills!) reveals that the New Haven's famous "High Bridge" over the South River was, unfortunately, torn down just after the line was abandoned. Very near it was another, smaller trestle that carried the CER over the South River as well. The abutments of both structures are still intact and reportedly are in almost pristine condition. A local group has cleared all the brush and small trees around the westerly abutments of the High Bridge so that they can be more readily seen by the public.

There are photos of all this (but not of the High Bridge itself, sadly); I'll provide links tomorrow.

The bridge was 175 feet high and over 500 feet long --- in its day, the longest and tallest rail bridge in all of southern New England. (The Lyman and Rapello Viaducts weren't as long, and if memory serves, the Wachusett Dam trestle wasn't as high.)

  by ewh
 
If you drive north of Yankee Candle the roadbed for the Northampton to Deerfield branch will be on your left. The junction with the B&M Shelburne connection is about a mile north of Yankee Candle, close to a now defunct fruit and veggie stand.
  by hrrphil
 
the junction at South Deerfield was south of the new fire station, sharing a yard with B&M. This line broke off the NH Conn River line to Turners Falls.
you can still see remnants of stone work over a small stream just north of the fire station on route 5, on the west side of route 5.
As you travel south on route 91, you can see the embankment on the west opposite Yankee Candle warehouse, north of a green highway sign, no safe place to stop and observe.

In the Greenfield Recorder Tuesday, some hiking trail folks are begining to study using the NH stone abutments at South River foe a new hiking bridge. this wil take a very long time to complete.
they said the abutments were put in the 1880's.
we'll see what develops over time
  by unichris
 
To clarify after cycling out there yesterday, Conway Station Rd is an unpaved public road (though currently missing its street sign) running about 1.6 miles from Bardswell Ferry Rd out to towards the confluence of the South River and Deerfield River.

The NH crossed the South River on the high trestle as it ran along the West Side of the Deerfield river opposite the still-extant B&M line on the east. The electric railway ran out from Conway village probably fairly close to along the route of Conway Station Rd, though towards the end it's clearly just below as it prepares to curve under the trestle abutment and descend to its crossing of the Deerfield River on a lower bridge in order to connect with the B&M as well. When originally conceived the idea was as much about hauling a standard gauge freight car up 6% grades into the village as about passenger service. The Conway Historical society online collection has things like the engineer's cost estimate to build it.

So the NH line only crossed the South River, and the Conway Electric Railway only crossed the Deerfield River. Both railway bridges are long gone with only the piers and abutments surviving.

The planned hiking bridge using some of the piers of the trestle to cross the South River has been built; part of the Mohawk-Mahican trail follows the right of way along the Deerfield river, crosses the South River on this new bridge and then continues up to Bardswell's Ferry (which today is a bridge). Unfortunately the route is then apparently posted or fenced by private landowners north of the ferry.

Nice area to explore, though worth noting that there's a huge hill from the hilltop farms down to Bardswell Ferry and back up the north side.