West River Railroad
Construction of the narrow gauge road began in 1878, initially financed by bonds issued by the West River valley towns. Completed in late 1880, the track ran from Brattleboro to South Londonderry, with the passenger trip scheduled to take 2 hours, a vast improvement on the 2 days by horse. However, known locally as the 36 miles of trouble, the train was frequently delayed, by wrecks or derailments, snowdrifts, washouts or boulders on the track. J. J. Green's first diary entry for 1885 reads:
"This has been a beautiful mild New Years day. It has been so warm that the river broke up and cloged above the salmon hole bridge: so as to throw the water across the road in front of Rutters & stop the travell between there and Townshend."
On July 30th 1905 the road was converted to broad gauge in a single day by a workforce of 350 men. But, with cost-cutting on the roadbed, and equipped with inadequate old locomotives and rolling stock, the improvement was questionable. As complaints continued and patronage declined, service was reduced by 1920 to a mixed passenger and freight train only. Then the flood of 1927: 3 bridges and large sections of roadbed were washed away and the track was twisted or buried under
Essentially this was the end of the railroad; however, valley residents were not prepared to let it go. In 1929 they went to the legislature and secured a $200,000 loan to rebuild under new ownership. It was not a success. The line limped on with few passengers, little freight and sporadic service until 1936 when it was finally abandoned, torn up and its assets sold at a great loss.
We always have on display signs, hardware, documents and photographs of the West River Railroad. Additional material is available for research.