On the Road in the Hilltowns: Chester Railway Museum | Connecting Point | Mar. 11, 2015
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On the Road in the Hilltowns: Chester Railway Museum | Connecting Point | Mar. 11, 2015

December 12, 2019


>>NOW WE’RE HEADING BACK OUT ON
THE ROAD AGAIN IN THE HILLTOWNS. WE TAPED A NUMBER OF OUR
HILLTOWN SEGMENTS AT THE CHESTER RAILWAY STATION AND MUSEUM, AND
WE THANK THEM FOR THEIR HOSS — HOSPITALITY.
WE DISCOVERED THE STATION IS A GREAT STORY AND A BIG PART OF
HILLTOWN HISTORY. DAVE PIERCE, PRESIDENT OF THE
CHESTER FOUNDATION, WHICH OPERATES THE RAILWAY STATION AND
MUSEUM, TOLD US ALL ABOUT IT.>>FOR A LOT OF YEARS IN THE
EARLY PART OF THE COUNTRY, THE TOWN HALL, THE MEETING HALL, THE
CHURCH WAS THE CENTER OF ACTIVITY, BUT PROBABLY FOR A
LONGER PERIOD THAN ANY OTHER BUILDING.
THE RAILROAD STATION WAS THE CENTER OF TOWN, YOU KNOW, NOT
ONLY DID PEOPLE COME AND GO HERE, BUT IF FARMER BROWN GOT A
NEW TRACK, AND EVERYBODY KNEW EVERYBODY, YOU COULD SIT ON THE
STATION AND JUST SEE EVERYBODY THAT CAME AND WENT IN TOWN AND
DIDN’T HAVE ROUTE 20. PEOPLE WERE JUST DRIVING THROUGH
LIKE TODAY.>>LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT IS
REALLY KIND OF UNIQUE ABOUT THE RAILROAD HERE, BECAUSE, AND I AM
NOT GOING TO SAY IT RIGHT, AND YOU WILL FIX IT UP AND EXPLAIN
IT. BUT, THE RAILROAD HERE, HAD TO
GO UP AND OVER THE BERKSHIRES TO GET THROUGH TO ALBANY.
THIS WAS IN THE 1840s, AND IT WAS LONG BEFORE WE HAD THE HEAVY
EQUIPMENT THAT MIGHT MAKE THAT AN EASY JOB, AND THIS IS REALLY,
AND WE COULD TAKE DAYS PROBABLY TO TELL THE STORY, BUT BRIEFLY,
THIS IS AMAZING THAT THE RAILWAY WENT THROUGH HERE, UP AND OVER
AND SUCCEEDED.>>RIGHT.
YEAH. THEY, ACTUALLY, STARTED IN
WORCESTER. SO IN THE 1930s, WHEN THEY
WERE DOING MOST OF THE CONSTRUCTION, AND STUFF, AND THE
IMPETUS WAS BOSTON WANTED TO REACH THE EERIE CANAL.
THE TRAFFIC WAS COMING IN FROM THE INTERIOR AND THE CANAL AND
THEN GOING DOWN THE HUDSON AND TO NEW YORK, AND BOSTON WAS IN
DANGER OF BECOMING AN ECONOMIC CUL-DE-SAC SO THAT WAS WHAT
DROVE THEM TO DO IT, SO SOME PEOPLE WANTED TO BUILD A CANAL
ACROSS THE STATE AT THE TIME. THAT WAS REALLY THE DOMINANT
FORM OF TRANSPORTATION. BUT, THEY WENT WITH THE
RAILROAD, AND THEY BUILT THE WHOLE THING THIS 2.5 YEARS, BUT
YOU TALK ABOUT TODAY WITH ALL THE EQUIPMENT AND THE GPS AND
STUFF, BUT IT’S — IT COULD BE 20 YEARS JUST GETTING PERMITS
AND MAKING IT THROUGH THE COWER CASE AND IS STUFF BEFORE YOU GET
STARTED TODAY. YOU KNOW.
>>CHESTER BECAME, REALLY, KNOWN AS A RAILROAD TOWN.
THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN USUALLY UNLESS IT’S A JUNCTION TOWN,
WHERE THREE, MAYBE FOUR RAILROADS MEET AND COME TOGETHER
AND THERE ARE CHANGES, AND BUT, BECAUSE OF THE NEED TO GET UP
OVER THE HILLS, THERE WAS AN ESTABLISHMENT AROUND THE HOUSE,
RIGHT?>>RIGHT.
THEY KEPT SIX TO TEN ENGINES STEAMED UP, TAKES ABOUT EIGHT
HOURS TO GET A STEAM ENGINE UP TO PRESSURE AND STUFF, SO THEY
KEPT THEM FUELED AND ALWAYS STEAMED, AND EVERY TRAIN, EVEN
THE HEAVY PASSENGER TRAINS HAD TO GET PUSHED UP THE MOUNTAIN,
AND THE NEXT 13 MILES, FROM CHESTER TO WASHINGTON, IS
83 FEET PER MILE. YOU ARE CLIMBING.
AND FOR US, 52% CURVE CLURE, SO THAT’S AS MUCH RESISTANCE AS THE
HILLS, SO IT WAS A BATTLE, AND PROBABLY 150 GUYS AT THE PEAK
WORKED AT THE ROUND HOUSE THAT RAN AROUND THE CLOCK, THREE
SHIFTS, SO THEY DID NOT SELL TOO MANY TICKETS HERE AT CHESTER
STATION. EVERYBODY HAD A PASS IN TOWN.
>>WORKED FOR THE RAILROADS, YOU GOT A PASS.
>>PRESIDENT, YOU ARE ASSOCIATED WITH FRIENDS OF THE KEYSTONE
ARCHES, WHICH IS AN AMAZING STORY, REALLY MAGNIFICENT
STRUCTURE AND AN EXAMPLE OF CONSTRUCTION AND ENGINEERING,
YOU ARE NOW IN THE EARLY STAGES. WORKING TO GET HISTORIC LANDMARK
STATUS FOR IS THE RAILWAY STATION, AND BUILDING THE
MUSEUM, AND THE TWO STATE OWNED ARCHES, AND THAT, YOU TELL ME,
WILL BE A LENGTHY AND INVOLVED PROCESS?
>>YEAH. THE WAY IT’S SET UP, IT COULD BE
THREE YEARS, IF THE, YOU HAVE TO HIRE A PH.D.
YOU JUST DO YOUR OWN NOMINATION, AND SEND IT IN, AND GO THROUGH
THE PARK SERVICE, AND IT HAS TO HAVE NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE, SO
THERE IS PROBABLY 60,000 THINGS ON THE HISTORIC REGISTER, AND
ONLY LIKE 2,800, THAT ARE LANDMARKS, AND THE ARCHES ARE A
SHOEIN, AND IT’S PRETTY WELL DOCUMENTED, THE FIRST SERIES OF
STONE ARCH RAILROAD BRIDGES BUILT IN AMERICA, AND THE
STATIONS ARE MORE OF A BATTLE BECAUSE IT WAS BUILT A LITTLE
LATER THAN THE RAILROAD. THERE WAS ANOTHER STATION HERE
AT THE BEGINNING. BUT, HOPEFULLY, WE CAN GET IT
DONE.>>I GUESS GETTING THE NATIONAL
HISTORIC OR LANDMARK STATUS DESIGNATION WOULD BE PART OF THE
ANSWER TO WHAT I’M GOING TO SAY NOW, BUT, YOU KNOW, REMINDING
PEOPLE OF THE HISTORY HERE, THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO LOSE, IT SEEMS
TO ME SO OFTEN IN AN AREA LIKE THE HILLTOWNS, AS IT BECOMES
ATTRACTIVE, FOLKS FROM THE CITIES, THEY SAY, YOU KNOW, A
RESORT OR WEEKEND PLACE TO GET AWAY AND THEY GET THERE AND THEY
WANT THE THINGS THAT THEY HAD IN THE CITY, AND THEY WANT THE
RESTAURANT, AND THE STARBUCKS COFFEE PLACE, AND WHATEVER, DO
YOU BELIEVE AS PEOPLE COME IN TO THIS AREA, YOU CAN LOSE SOME OF
THE SPIRIT, SOME OF THE ESSENCE THAT MAKES THE HILLTOWNS THE
PLACE THAT IT IS?>>WELL, WE’VE BEEN LUCKY SO
FAR, IN A WAY, IT’S FUNNY THAT THERE’S THE 30-MILE STRETCH ON
THE TURNPIKE WHERE YOU CAN EXIT, AND THAT’S DONE A LOT TO
MAINTAIN THE RURAL CHARACTER HERE, ESPECIALLY IN CHESTER,
OTHERWISE WE WOULD HAVE A 30-FOOT MOBILE SIGN LIKE
EVERYBODY ELSE AT THE TOP OF THE MAIN STREET, AND MOST OF THE
BUILDINGS ARE ALL WOODEN, ON MAIN STREET AND MOST OF THEM ARE
OCCUPIED BY BUSINESSES, AND YOU CAN BUY A PAIR OF PANTS WITH
THREE MARKETS AND STUFF, SO WE’VE BEEN LUCKY SO FAR, YOU
KNOW, THAT EVERYTHING IS STILL KIND IN TACT.
WE JUST ARE DOING OUR PART AND HOPEFULLY, YOU KNOW, THINGS WILL
GO ALONG WITH US, BUT IT’S ENCROACHING, LIKE YOU SAY, AND
YOU GO STATE TO STATE NOW AND THE HIGHWAY SIGNS, ALL LOOK
ALIKE, AND HOME DEPOT, BURGER KING, AND WAL-MART, AND, YOU
KNOW, IT’S HARD TO TELL WHAT STATE YOU ARE IN, SOMETIMES, YOU
KNOW.>>YOU PUT A LOT OF YOUR HEART
AND SOUL, AND OTHER PEOPLE IN THE AREA, TOO, INTO THIS
BUILDING. IT REALLY REMAINS, IT SEEMS TO
ME, AN IMPORTANT REMINDER OF WHAT LIFE WAS AND HOW HARD
PEOPLE WORKED HERE IN YEAR’S PAST.
>>OH, YEAH, PEOPLE COMING IN, AND OH, YEAH, MY GRANDFATHER
WORK FOR THE RAILROAD AND PEOPLE BRING US THINGS ALL THE TIME,
AND I FOUND THIS IN THE ATTIC, AND A GOOD PLACE FOR IT, SO WE
GET — WE DO HOST THE CHESTER HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNI HERE EVERY
YEAR, FOR EXAMPLE, AND JUST LISTENING TO THE OLD TIMERS, THE
STORIES AND STUFF, HOW THEY USED TO TAKE THE TRAIN TO SCHOOL IN
WESTFIELD, AND HALF OF WHAT I TALK ABOUT, ON MY MUSEUM TOURS
IS STUFF THAT’S BEEN TOLD TO ME BY, YOU KNOW, OTHER PEOPLE.
TRIED TO KEEP IT ALIVE, AND IT REALLY WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT
WORLD BACK THEN. NOT THAT LONG AGO.
>>DAVE PIERCE, THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY AND A DAY IN
THE HILLTOWN, AND THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.
>>YOU ARE VERY WELCOME. THANKS FOR COMING.

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