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Topics - Ben Rockney

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On Saturday morning April 13th, a few of us are planning a free and informal walk in Billerica, MA along some of the remaining portions of the right-of-way of the Billerica and Bedford Railroad – the 2' gauge railroad that started it all.  A who's who of railroad and local historians will be joining us: Don Ball, the author of George Mansfield and the Billerica and Bedford Railroad, is flying out from Kansas City and Ronald Karr, author of The Lost Railroads of New England will be there.  Add to that Jim Shea, President of the B&B preservation group Friends of Bedford Depot Park, and our own Dave B. and Philip Marshall.

The 8 mile B&B was built in 1877 and went bankrupt only nine months later.  Its two Forneys, rolling stock, and rails were moved up to Franklin County to jumpstart the Sandy River Railroad.  Back in Massachusetts, most of the B&B ROW was built over in 1885 by the standard gauge Boston & Lowell Railroad, obliterating the original narrow gauge roadbed. But three miles of the original B&B that looped around Billerica Center were bypassed in the construction of the more direct Boston & Lowell. Much of that bypassed section was buried under housing developments in the 20th century and lost to history, but there are still a handful of interesting sections where a hundred yards or more of the original B&B can be clearly seen running through quiet woods. 

Those are the sections we'll be exploring – think suburban archeology rather than a rail trail walk.  We've cleared out some of the underbrush on these sections so the sight lines are good.  A photo of the NG ROW at its southern point of divergence from the SG is shown here to give you an example of what things look like today.

If you would like to join us that day, please let me know at ben.rockney@gmail.com .  I'll send you further details on our meeting place and send along some Google Earth files so you can see where we'll be walking and even follow along on your cell phone as we walk.

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Bridgton & Saco River Railway / Bridgton Junction on Google Earth
« on: September 02, 2013, 10:56:27 AM »
Hi all,
I've seen quite a number of posts dating from a few years ago under the topics "Locating Bridgton Junction" or "Visited the Junction."  I too visited The Junction in mid-July with my brother. Not having done a lot of research in advance, we were able to locate the main line, the turntable pit, the foundation of the Engine House, but really had no idea of how things were once arranged there and how the raised NG main line related to the rest of the yard.

Since then, I have received from the Bridgton Historical Society a good photograph of the original B&SR RR ROW and track map dating from 1916.  (Rob C. posted a similar photograph on February 22, 2013.)  I have superimposed the track, road, and building outlines on Google Earth.  The match with the terrain today is really striking.

A .kmz file that can be opened in Google Earth can be downloaded here from the Google Earth Community server:

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gec-history-illustrated/Yyn8xeBjeM8

The view shows the narrow gauge main line looping around from northeast to southeast to parallel the standard gauge line where freight and passengers could be transferred.  In the yard, note the turntable pit, the single stall engine house where engines were refilled with water, and the coal shed where they were refueled.  The original path of the highway was parallel to the yard and survives today as the dirt road named "Train Junction" on Bing Maps and Garmin GPS systems.  As trains left The Junction heading north, they crossed the highway and entered a steep uphill grade through what is today a gravel pit.  That rising grade along the road can easily be viewed in Google Maps' street view.  Mike F. and Duncan M. have photos of many of these places on NERAIL but this GE file should help getting oriented.  

After our July visit to The Junction, we followed the ROW up to Bridgton and then headed over to Weeks Mill and then down to Alna where we met my granddaughter and her parents for a first visit to the WW&F.  I can't tell you how impressed I was with the work you all are doing there and am looking forward to returning with them for the Victorian Christmas.



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