by Philip Johnson
The Connecticut River Railroad opened to passenger service between Springfield and Northampton in late 1845; trains reached Deerfield in August 1846, Greenfield in December 1847, and the junction with the Central Vermont Railway in January 1849. When the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad reached Brattleboro in 1850, the Connecticut River Railroad began running through service from Springfield to Brattleboro.
The first railroad train arrived in Amherst in 1853, from Palmer, over the Amherst and Belchertown Railroad. Then in 1871, the Athol & Enfield Railroad (also known as the Rabbit Line, Bunny Road, and the Soapstone Limited) began operations through the Swift River Valley, eventually connecting Athol to Palmer and Springfield. And then there was the Hampden Railroad – “the Greatest Railroad that never ran.”
Philip Johnson grew up in Springfield, but has roots in Amherst area. His mother’s family comes from Leverett and they went to high school in Amherst. He has been a lifelong railfan and has researched many lines in Western Mass. He is a railroad photographer, model railroader, and author of The Hampden Railroad, The Greatest Railroad that Never Ran. Philip is also a member of several railroad groups, including a 47-year member of Amherst Railway Society.