By KELLY SULLIVAN
HOPKINTON – It’s been a century and a half since ties and rails were laid out to create the Wood River Branch Railroad. Like arteries connecting tiny local villages to the heart of the city, the tracks brought passenger trains, mail trains and steamboat trains. Beginning at around 7:00 in the morning, the sounds which would be familiar for decades to come, created a feeling of comfort and convenience; the haunting cry of a steam whistle in the distance, the metallic clang of bells and the slowing respiration of a train pulling up to the depot.
No past or future history of the Wood River Branch Railroad will ever surpass that compiled by the late Joanne (Boothroyd) Kennedy. “Two Tickets On The Wood River Train” was published by Kennedy’s brother, Stephen Boothroyd, in 2018. The book contains 124 pages of rare photographs which illustrate the complete story of the local railroad, from its exciting beginning to its melancholy end.
Along with technical information and company records, the book holds a spyglass to the past, making us aware how much of a role the Wood River Branch played in the lives of those who once lived here, riding upon its cars, watching the belching of steam clouds into the sky over our villages and valleys, and becoming used to a rhythmic clacking we will never know.
Twenty-seven-year-old Minnie Baggs sued the railroad for pulling up beside the platform in Woodville in such a way that dirt and grime was splashed onto her dress. She was awarded ten dollars.
Conductor Frank Edwards, who usually wore a mustache, endured so many teasing remarks when he shaved, that he decided it was necessary to grow the facial hair back.
Local store-owner William Segar, who claimed he would never use the railroad because it failed to go into Wyoming, relented and sent his hogs via train to be converted into bacon.
Teacher Albert Brown jumped off the train before it stopped and landed face-first in the dirt.
These stories and more are shared in Kennedy’s book, which will be discussed by her brother Stephen at Langworthy Library on July 24 at 12:00. Boothroyd will take audience members back to the days of the Wood River Railroad to discuss the fires and floods that threatened it, the wreck at Richmond Switch, and the local legends and curses that were attached to the line.
Langworthy Library is located at 24 Spring Street in Hope Valley. There is no cost to attend the lecture.