Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington Railroad (HT&W)

a.k.a. "Hoot, Toot & Whistle"

Although the Hoosac Tunnel is quite a famous milestone in U.S. railroad history, very little is widely known about the small narrow gauge line that was in the area. This narrow gauge line has an interesting story—reflective of the pioneering spirit of the lumbering business in the late 1800s—and a fascinating tale of metamorphosis and survival in changing times.

Quite a few years back, I explored the Wilmington area with my young son. Foundations of an abandoned town called Mountain Mills can be seen and we rode a bit of the abandoned ROW southward as well. Memories of that trip prompted researching and compiling the assorted info posted here. Currently most of the abandoned right of way (ROW) from the former site of Mountain Mills Village to Readsboro is now officially opened and part of the Catamount XC Ski Trail.

M

History

The Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad (HT&W) was a narrow gauge railroad created in 1892. The HT&W was a consolidation of the Deerfield River Railroad and two other smaller lines in both Massachusetts and Vermont. It was about 24 miles and extended north from the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts to Readboro,VT and then on north to Wilmington. The railroad was converted to standard gauge in 1913.

HT&W map

Initially created as a lumber source to supplement the dam and paper pulp mill in Readsboro, Vermont; the line north from Readsboro grew to operate two passenger trains per day to accommodate vacationers destined for Wilmington and the mountain resorts in the summer season.

HTW map
Source

Big Changes

The New England Power Company purchased the railroad in 1922 and began construction of a dam across the Deerfield River. This required relocation of the ROW north to Wilmington over to the west side of the river.

MTW map

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Historical Photos

It is kind of uncanny to realize this once thriving town of Mountain Mills no longer exists. Be sure to visit the link in the Further Info section below ("What's left of Mountain Mills today") which has quite a few photos of the overgrown foundations scattered in the woods.

These Historical Photo thumbnails are sourced from Center for Digital Initiatives/University of Vermont - Porter C. Thayer and calenders offered by the Deerfield Valley News. Click on image to go to source (enlargement). Fair Use Notice

7   1
Mountain Mills   Mountain Mills
3   2
Mountain Mills   Readsboro’s Newton dam
8   4
1902 Railroad Map   Wilmington Railroad Station
5   6
Deerfield River Railroad   Logging Train
Readsboro
Readsboro
(looking north)
If you click on the image for an enlargement,
scroll down to read further details
  Snow Train
    Snow Clearing

Revival and Demise

Did you know that the world's first organized railroad fan trip was held on the HT&W? Members of the Railroad Enthusiasts chartered a train ride the length of the line on Sunday, August 26, 1934. They were the first rail passengers on the line since bad floods in 1927.

Despite setbacks due to the 1938 hurricane damage and dam and power plant construction along the line, in the late 1950s the HT&W received a new customer in the form of a nuclear power plant at Monroe Bridge. HT&W hauled in much of the material for construction on the plant. Sadly the construction of yet another power plant further south—the Bear Swamp Hydroelectric Power Station, would have required extensive relocation of the HT&W and resulted in abandonment of the railroad line on October 13, 1971. The power plant was finished in 1974.

Deefild River Power Plants

Retracing the ROW

Marc Howes has done a wonderful job photographing the complete abandoned ROW end to end. Below are a few thumbnail-sized images of highlights of the trail heading south from the Mountain Mills ruins to the Harriman Dam. Be sure to visit his site to see all his photos and commentary.

Mountina Mills embnkment remnants   Mountina Mills embankment remnants
above on the right - Remnants of the embankment/trestle that once crossed the Reservoir.
The trestle was built on the site of the former Mountain Mills dam. Two trestles were built but broke from floods...
The ROW south from Mountain Mills to Harriman Dam
1 2 3
4 5 6
At the dam   Switchback

At the Harriman Dam
The Trail continues across the Dam and ascends the hill to the right in a series of switchbacks. Details (photos and map) on Marc Howes' Excursion site.

Logging Railroads and Today's Trails...

Deerfield Logging RailroadsIn addition to the HT&W, many logging railroad lines existed further northwest of Wilmington. They branched into all the surrounding towns such as Stratton, Glastenbury, Dover and Searsburg to gather, harvest and transport lumber.

This online PDF (link sourced from Marc Howes' Excursion site) is a wonderful source of photos and historical info on the logging railroad's operation. Click map thumbnail on the right for enlargement of the map.

- Trails-
Many of today trails retrace the abandoned railroad grades of the old lumber lines.

Further Info

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