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.
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.
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.