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In the Beginning

The completion in 1875 of the Hoosac Tunnel, one of the worlds greatest engineering feats, provided an east – west  railway along the northern tier of Massachusetts. However, the mountainous regions of northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont remained isolated and poor.

The upper Deerfield River valley, from the east portal of the new tunnel northward, was  a land of spectacular beauty, with cliffs rising more than 1,000 feet on both sides of the river. Further north, the mountains were covered with virgin hemlock, pine, and spruce with maple and beech mixed in. The river itself was a raging torrent in spring and a boulder strewn stream in August. In winter the snowfall approached 200 inches and temperatures of 20 degrees below zero were not uncommon.

The Newton brothers, industrialists that were instrumental in developing the paper industry in Holyoke, Massachusetts, saw the potential of the region and were undaunted by the obstacles. In 1880 they began construction of a dam and paper pulp mill in Readsboro, Vermont, eleven miles north of the Hoosac Tunnel’s east portal. In order to get the new mills product to the Holyoke paper mills, the Newtons began construction, in 1884, of the railroad that would operate along the upper Deerfield for 86 years and become affectionately  known by the residents as the Hoot Toot & Whistle.

By 1890, the residents and businesses further up the valley, in Whitingham and Wilmington, were clamoring for an extension of the railroad. The Newtons  knew that existing freight and passenger traffic  from those towns would be insufficient to justify the cost and they initially opposed the extension. However, a combination of public and private capital was raised to partially offset the cost of construction and in November of 1891 the rail line was extended along the Deerfield to its final terminus in Wilmington.

On January 1, 1892, the various companies used by the Newtons to construct the railroad were combined into one, the Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington Railroad Co. Along its approximately 24 mile length there were eventually stations at Hoosac Tunnel, Monroe Bridge, Sherman, Readsboro,  Whitingham, Jacksonville, Mountain Mills and Wilmington.  There were also flag stops at Heywoods, Logans, and Castle Bridge.


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