Thirty-six miles of trouble, the West River Railroad

railroad
West River Railroad, 1907. Photo provided.

S. LONDONDERRY, Vt. – The West River Trail, whose terminus is the Depot in South Londonderry, may well be Vermont’s oldest transportation path. Native Americans called the West River “Wantastiquet” or “waters of the lonely way,” and the Wantastiquet path was an important connection from the West River valley and Fort Dummer in Brattleboro over the Green Mountains to Otter Creek and Lake Champlain.

In 1879, this path was developed into the West River Railroad, originating in Brattleboro and terminating at the South Londonderry Depot. However, not long after the railroad opened, people began to call it “36 miles of trouble.” Its narrow gauge and winding route led to undependable, if not dangerous, service. A 1903 editorial called the trains “trydaily-they go down in the morning and try to get back at night.”

Come to the Landgrove Meeting House Sunday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. to hear Glenn Annis, said to be the living expert on the West River Rail Road, speak about the WRRR and the earlier plan to build a rail road up over Mount Holly to Rutland and then on to Lake Champlain. Glenn’s presentation, which will include slides, is sponsored by the Landgrove Historical Society and the Landgrove Meeting House.

With thanks to The Friends of the West River Trail, a nonprofit dedicated to the establishment of a 36-mile scenic trail through the West River Valley. For historical information, go to www.westrivertrail.org.

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