Author Topic: Franklin Somerset and Kennebec / Southern New England-Both Titanic Railroads?  (Read 9250 times)

Glenn Byron

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New Experience- Played on the WW&F Chat Room for the first time last nite and met an interesting playmate, Bill Fortier. My usual Thursday nite Steam Team Session at The Stanley Museum was cancelled, so tuned in, just he and I were hanging out.  Among our several topics Bill introduced me to The Southern New England Railroad, a never finished venture between Providence, RI and Palmer, MA. In so many ways this story matches the FS&K tale of woe. Bill told me of a book, "Titanic Railroad" by Larry Lowenthal that tells the story of this failed venture. I am under the impression it was to be a narrow gauge line, or maybe even just a ruse to get The Grand Trunk interested and involved.  I'll be looking for this book, maybe at a library, as the ones I've found so far are about $40.  Looks like both of the railways were sunk before they started for whatever reason, and I'd like to know more. Does anyone know if a print out can be done on The Chat Room stuff?  We discussed several items and my memory misses a bunch of details. Try the Thurs. night Chat Room Session, fun even if you can't type fast.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2010, 12:42:46 PM by Glenn Byron »

Duncan Mackiewicz

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I have that book, Titanic Railroad - The Southern New England. It is not small. A printout would be substantial in size. It's quite the informative book about a full size railroad that never was, at least not completely so. Many, if not most, of the earthworks and bridge piers/abutments were made and ready for rail. Unfortunately, as the story goes, the railroad was sunk when the top guy, who was returning from a fundraising trip to Europe on the Titanic, was also sunk. Interesting book and interesting that, like the WW&F, many of the earthworks, remains of rights-of-way and some bridge abutments/piers can still be found where the rr was intended to be. The book is readily available on Amazon.com in both new and used condition for around $30 to $33.

Ed Lecuyer

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To clarify: the Southern New England was (to be) a standard gauge line. Earthwork was 100% completed in Mass, much less so in Rhode Island. No rail was laid nor any steelwork constructed. Also, while the Grand Trunk president was, in fact killed on the Titanic, construction of the SNE did not begin until AFTER the tragedy. No one to this day is sure why this happened - and why the construction paused for a number of years.

(Many more details can be found in Lowenthal's "Titanic Railroad" which is a fascinating read... which I keep right next to my copy of Moody's "The Maine Two Footers".)

The chat room does not have any sort of archive function; once the text scrolls off the screen, it's gone for good.
Ed Lecuyer
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Glenn Byron

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Thanks Ed,  We'd better pay attention to remembering details when playing on the Chat Room.  Lots of fun anyway.  I'll look further for a copy of this book.  Sounds great. Meanwhile, I found a great review titled "The Railroad That Sank with the Titanic"  http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,1114101   
« Last Edit: October 29, 2010, 04:07:29 PM by Glenn Byron »

Pete "Cosmo" Barrington

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Ahh yes. I've oft thought of the FS&K as "The SNE of the North" ;) but from a much earlier date than the Titanic.
While the reason is not stated quite so directly in Lowenthal's volume, (which I am currently enmired in at this time,) the reason for the stoppage of work less than a year after it began was more to do with economics and back-room politics than anything else. The man who perished on the ill-fated liner was Charles Melville Hayes, and he was succeeded by a man named Chamberlain who had acquaintance with Charles S. Mellen of New Haven, B&M and Maine Central fame some time before he (Chamberlain) rose to control the GT. Seems they were close to making a deal for traffic rights over each other's lines just about the time Chamberlain called a halt to the SNE's construction.
The reasons for the subsequent continuation of construction nearly a year later was purely political! While Mellen's reign as the Rail Lord of New England was rife with scandal, the GT sought to distance itself from such and set out to complete the project rather than be drug down with  Mellen and the New Haven et all.
It was WW1 and subsequently the Great Depression that finally killed the project.
I have, as I've been reading, been out to many sites along the SNE, as well as it's twin cousin the Hampden RR which also started from Palmer but went toward Springfield to parallel the B&A and funnel traffic from Western New England over the NH and the B&M into North Station. This line was made 100% complete and even had an inspection train run over it's entire length before it was abandoned, never to turn a wheel of revenue. The similarities and coincidences of the two lines are amazing, and it is easy to see why even today one is mistook for the other.
Case in point, I was walking the old OOS Central Mass line in search of the spot where the Hampden would have crossed it and encountered a woman leading a girl on horseback along the track. She referred to the Hampden RR as "The Grand Trunk," even after I had told her the GT/SNE was in the next valley over toward Brimfield.
It has been an amazing journey of discovery finding and photographing the old concrete monuments to engineering and faded dreams. They are truly remnants (as Mr Lowenthal himself put it,) of a lost civilization like unto the pyramids.

Pete "Cosmo" Barrington

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Oh, there is one other thing I wanted to make note of, a correction actually.
Apparently some steelwork was completed, not just in road bridges crossing the ROW, but also in some of the RR bridges on the Southbridge segment of the line. These were short spans across narrow streets, but completing the spans was instrumental in facilitating the work trains constructing the fills through that town.
 Also, it turns out the reviewer in the link posted above is an old buddy of mine! He was my instructor in "C" School for Submarine Electronics in Groton.
Small world!

Zak LaRoza

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The F&SK perished because of the Maine Central not letting them get the right plot of land for a Sandy River joint station, right?  ???

James Patten

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The Maine Central told the Sandy River RR, if they ran trains or continued with the construction of the FS&K, the MEC would kick the SRRR out of the Farmington yard.  Since the MEC got there first, they owned it and SRRR was essentially a tenant.  But it was the only connection they had with the world, so it would have doomed the SRRR.  Farmington's not exactly flat, so it wouldn't have been easy to bypass the MEC yard to go south.  The FS&K connection to the WW&F would have had to have been finished quickly in order to survive, but they still had a number of bridges to build including a large one over the Kennebec river.

Glenn Byron

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Update:  The Maine State Library has a copy of "Titanic Railroad" in Augusta. It is available (After I return it) at any UM Library, ( I picked it up at UMF where most FS&K lore reposes)). It can also be done by mail, I think, especially if your town does not have a library.  Wouldn't be surprised if other librarys also had a copy, although I think the original printing sold out quickly.

Pete "Cosmo" Barrington

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I just finished reading mine,... (wow...) if anyone ( within an easy hour of CT) wants to borrow it. ;)

Glenn Byron

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Wow!  I've just finished "Titanic Railroad"  and will be returning it to the library shortly. I could study details here forever.  Anyone who enjoys railroad history, and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't, will be imursed in the extent of Mr. Lowenthal's research, all well footnoted and documented.  Though many details of this failed venture remain a mystery, this volume examines every aspect of the facts surrounding The SNE.  My mind frequently wandered to The FS&K and found comparisons  galore.  Only the difference in landscape and populace seperate the two stories.  I can't wait to find newspaper accounts of the MCRR threat noted by James P. above. One passage by Mr. Lowenthall really stood the hair up on my neck: Pg. 82 (About Mr. Hays, President of the GT, death on the Titanic).  "Hays was not one of the celebrities who crowned the passenger list of the Titanic---------Many of the darlings of the society columns were essentially idlers, or beyond their productive years, so their deaths, however poignant, had surprisingly little impact."  Imagine a Titanic decendant reading that!  Find a copy, you'll not put it down.