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Railfan Trip Reports > Pre-Labor Day Guilford District 3

Date: 09/05/07 18:32
Pre-Labor Day Guilford District 3
Author: AJT

Spent the day before Labor Day on the road many love to hate, Guilford Rail System.

Train frequency on most of GRS isn't conducive to just setting up and waiting, so I was prepared to be mobile. The plan was to head to the former Boston & Maine East Deerfield MA yard and keep an ear on the scanner, prepared to chase or intercept.

I wasn't 10 minutes short of Deerfield when I heard the GRS District 4 (west end) dispatcher talking to the 'empty coal train', so I knew something could be in the picture. By the time I reached the yard EDNM (East Deerfield-Northern Maine Jct) was talking about making an air test on a 6 car pickup. Maybe two trains, hoppers and EDNM? In short order EDNM sounded like they were ready to go, and the District 3 DS told him he'd be running #1 track from CPF381 (Montague MA; functional east end of the East Deerfield yard) and CPF370 (Erving MA). The District 3 DS handles CPF381 east to the Lowel area, I believe (about mp300).

I hopped over to the signals at the grade x-ing at Lake Pleasant, about mp380 (GRS mileposts start at 0.0 Mattawankeag ME on the old Maine Central). EDNM shows up about 845am with GP40 333 plus 2 others, with 6 gons ahead of a string of empty hoppers heading for the Providence & Worcester interchange at Gardner MA. My two trains were actually one, this one.

The sun was out and the eastbound EDNM was heading the right direction, so the chase-n-wait was on. GRS running speeds allowed plenty of time to set up at Millers Falls (mp377), Miller River bridge outside of Erving (372), Erving depot (370), Wendell (369), east of Orange (approx 365), and on the double track between CPF363 and Athol at about 362. This 19 mile chase took close to two hours!

The old B&M is inaccessible between Athol (362) and South Royalston (355). I Hadn't shot at Royalston, and figured I'd head up there with the hope of getting a scene at CPF354 where the two tracks from Athol go to one. While the trusty DeLorme failed me - twice - on back roads which should have gotten me to Royalston (both unexpectedly ended at somebody's driveway!), I was still able to get over to South Royalston in time to shot EDNM, although the CPF was somewhere to the east a couple of miles and I never did see it.

From Royalston I highballed to Otter River at mp348, and didn't have long to wait. EDNM next arrived Gardner mp 345 at about noon. The hoppers for the P&W were left on the #2 track between CPF346 and CPF345, the 6 gons pulled ahead. The power reversed on #1 to retrieve the EOT, then moved to the rear of the gons, power back on, and the train pulled up to CPF345 where the crew took lunch.

It was now approaching 1pm, and the radio silence of all morning was on my mind. On most GRS trips I hear a constant stream of talk between District 3 and trains at Ayer and Fitchburg, trains which by dint of distance, train speeds and sunset times I never get to see. But here I've been in the area all morning, and no talk! EDNM was venturing east as the sun was moving west, limiting future photo ops to the east. I had hoped to catch a westbound at Gardner, or at least to have heard about a westbound to intercept or wait for. Could GRS already be rounding things up for the Labor Day holiday?

The choices were to go east to Ayer and keep my fingers crossed that a westbound would appear, or to highball west back to East Deerfield and keep my fingers crossed that a westbound would originate there. I chose Deerfield, and retracing my 4 hour chase of that morning would take less than an hour at state highway speeds!

Driving west near Farley at mp373 - less than 15 minutes from Deerfield - I heard very close radio talk between an engineer and conductor. A turn down to the crossing at Farley revealed the stopped hind end of another eastbound. While I would have preferred a westbound, on GRS you take what you can get, when you can get it, so it would be another eastbound chase, this time EDWA (east Deerfield-Waterville ME) with GP40 301 leading 2.

Set up again at the Miller River bridge outside of Erving at about mp372 for a shot at about 230pm, and an overhead at Wendell (369). Sun angles would permit something passable at Royalston (now that I figured out how to get there) and Otter River would be great mid-afternoon.

EDWA stopped for lunch at Athol (362) and I jumped ahead to Royalston. As I got there District 3 told EDWA he'd be meeting two westbounds at Royalston, the first just leaving Gardner (345), the second at South Ashburnham (340). TWO westbounds, and not a peep about them on the radio until now! Having already gotten a couple of nice views of EDWA, I decided to make a run to Otter River (349) to catch at least the second westbound.

Made Otter River in time for high hood GP40 379 alone leading a short RUED (Rumford ME-East Deerfield). There was some report of a brush fire west of Gardner, but east of here. Not knowing whether this was the first or the second westbound I reversed back to Royalston, and got both the RUED and EDWA. I suspected RUED was the second train, so I headed back to Athol. If the running times of that morning's EDNM and the present EDWA were any indication, I figured I might be able to catch the 'first westbound' at Athol.

I just made Athol when District 3 told 507 west he was being held at Gardner for a brush fire. Now the pieces fell into place - RUED was the FIRST westbound, and NMED with GP40-2W 507 leading 2 others was the second train. RUED looked too much like a local with its single unit, so I elected to go back again to Otter River to catch NMED.

Easily made it to Otter River, and heard D-3 cut NMED loose after the firemen cleared up. At this point it's like 330pm. Caught the NMED in fine light at Otter River, South Royalston, coming around the curves just east of Athol, at CPF363 west of Athol, passing the lady-in-the-silver-box (talking detector) at Wendell, and coming into Millers Falls at about 530pm.

The sun was getting low as I squeezed off a couple of frames at the railfan bridge over the west end of the East Deerfield yard as NMED arrived - they went to the west end and backed their train in. There I caught up with the RUED, which just finished putting their train away. The chases were over at about 6pm.

It was a great day - not a cloud in the sky all day long, warm temperatures, great scenery of central Massachusetts, and multiple photo opportunities. GRS may be the line people love to hate, but I think I'll be back.

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