Saturday, May 3, 2008

Trains, Trestle and Rails: Westfield's North-side

With rail beds running in all directions, 'twixt farm and field, town and country, Westfield residents have long felt underfoot daily the shake and rumble of heaving locomotives as they tug their freight through the city and onward to points beyond. Those who have lain awake in the quiet of the Westfield night know the sound of the trains rolling out of the western hills, hear the rhythmic clickety-clacking of steel wheels approaching in the darkness - dully roaring their presence - and then slipping and fading away. It is a sound both lonely and reassuring.

Though the South-side tracks have been abandoned for years (now slated to be converted to a rail trail), the tracks on the city's North-side are still actively utilized. Here are some photographs of the area.

An icy Westfield River flows beneath the railroad trestle. Many days have passed since a train has ventured across this span, but the bridge may be given new life come the fruition of the rail trail plans. (March 2, 2008)

Waiting for the train... (March 23, 2008)

The Pioneer Valley Railroad yards from the Prospect Street bridge looking North. With the price of petroleum-based fuels continuing to rise, railroads are seeing a resurgence of popularity with shippers. Nationally, UPS is the biggest customer of freight-hauling railroad companies. (April 20, 2008)

Graceful arcs and parallel lines shine silver in Spring's morning light. (April 20, 2008)

Railroad Avenue is once again in the midst of great changes, with construction of a new bridge across the Westfield River linking Union Avenue and the Elm Street Spur currently underway. Around 1900 or so, the viaduct was raised a bit and the soil underneath dug out to allow traffic to pass freely without having to wait for the many trains passing through Westfield at the time. Traffic will be much busier under this area of the railroad viaduct when the three-lane bridge is complete. (November 17, 2007)

Progress is messy... (December 1, 2007)

The end. (November 17, 2007)

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

For more images, check out the related posts Westfield Massachusetts Railway Station Photos, and Photos: Trestle and Tracks, Images of Westfield in a Thanksgiving Fog.

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Kim said...

Through out my time in school I have done extensive research on Westfield. Did you know there is an ordanance in city record that requires train tracks within a certin distance from the center of town to be raised off the ground? The ordanace was first installed due to several tragic accidents with horse pulled carrages where residents had been killed by trains.

Mark T. Alamed said...


No, I didn't know that. Thanks for the info. I've been ruminating over doing a story focusing on the altering of the North-side landscape at the time the excavation of the soil beneath the tracks took place, around 1896, and every lead helps.

It is my understanding that excessive delays in streetcar and horse-drawn traffic at train crossings was also a major impetus for raising the tracks.

I wonder if the ordinance was passed to force the railroad companies to act? Even today it is like pulling teeth for municipalities to get the railroads to change anything.

Thanks again!