When I see remnants of the West River Railroad like I did while camping this week, I think of my dad. About 80 years ago, he was a poor kid from Lynn, MA who signed up for the Civilian Conservation Corps and travelled by train to Brattleboro. There he boarded a small self-propelled train that chugged up the West River Railway to South Londonderry.
Dad was stationed at the CCC camp in Weston and excelled in athletics, particularly local road races. His group built the highway, by pick and shovel and wheelbarrow, now Route 100, up over the mountain to Ludlow. The best thing he did was to meet my mom, a South Londonderry girl, at a local dance and as they say, the rest is history.
The railroad was thirty-six miles long (There is a famous old book on it called “Thirty-six Miles of Trouble) and ran from Brattleboro to South Londonderry.
While camping at Winhall Brook Campground, Penny and I did some exploring of the West River trail. From the north section of the park the trail goes a little less than three miles to South Londonderry. From the south section, you head south for a mile or so and run into the obstacles created by the construction of the Ball Mountain flood control dam.
We ran into bad weather and cut our camping stay short so I never checked out the hike up to an overlook to see the dam. However, there is a lot of information online on the trail which, with some breaks, continues down to Brattleboro.
Even the campground playgrounds have a railroad theme
My grandfather was a railroad engineer living in South Londonderry who was killed in a train accident in Connecticut when Mom was young. He rode the West River Railroad to work for years.
The West River Railway is part of our family DNA. It is great to see the local efforts made to restore the rail bed for horses, cyclists, hikers, skiers and snowmobilers. All aboard!