A mystery photo

At the Chester Historical Society, we have many unknown photos. The photo with this article is one of those unknown photos.

Steam boiler in an old newspaper clipping. Photo provided.

I had seen an old newspaper clipping years ago regarding this mystery photo. All I could remember was mention of Brattleboro. In the past year, Ted Spaulding has donated many old Chester photos to the historical society. This photo is one Ted donated. I asked Ted what he knew about. Ted didn’t know anything about it.

One question that needed to be answered was what was the huge tank on the wagon? Where was it coming from and where was it going? And what purpose did it serve? I can now answer some of these questions. The only information we had was a note on the reverse of the photo: “Arthur Chamberlain, Driver about 1900.”

“I contacted the Brattleboro Historical Society to see what they might know. Lee Ha soon replied with information she found in old newspapers. Below I copy those newspaper articles from 1900.

“Moving a 15 ton boiler was quite a feat in the early days as this picture of the late Arthur Chamberlain driving a team of 10 horses in Chester about 1900 shows. Mr. Chamberlain, foreman for Gilman’s Livery Stable in Brattleboro, seated atop the boiler, drove the team to Chester, where the boiler was loaded and carted to a soapstone mill above the village. The photo was submitted to the Sunday Phoenix contest by Mrs. Arthur Chamberlain of 46 Western Avenue, Brattleboro.”

In another newspaper article Lee sent:

“G.E. Gilman recently sent a force of men and horses to Chester to draw a 12 ton boiler from the railroad station at that place to the mine of Vermont Talc & Soapstone Company at Maple Orchard in Windham. The work was successfully accomplished in a single day, although it was necessary to place extra supports under several bridges which were crossed.

Arthur Chamberalin sitting on the boiler with his 10 horse team with steam boiler. Photo provided.

“The main building at the mine is up and closed, No. 1 brick building is completed and No. 2 brick building is nearly finished. All of the machinery and equipment is on the ground. The engine and boiler are each of 200 horsepower. The smokestack, which is four feet in diameter and 100 feet high, is on the ground in four sections of 25 feet each, but has not been raised.

“Twenty men are now employed in finishing the building operations at the plant. A representative of Raymond Brothers of Chicago will come to superintend the erection of the machinery for crushing and pulverizing the talc and putting it in marketable condition. Raymond Brothers are under contract to install the machinery so that 99 percent of the talc will pass through a 200 mesh screen to the amount of 50 tons daily. The talc in this powdered form will be shipped in 200 pound bags.

“It is expected now that the work of marketing will begin early in the new year. During the winter and spring months the product will be drawn to Chester for shipment. A.L. Stone, president of the company, was in Brattleboro Monday on his way for a week’s business trip to Springfield, Hartford and New York, accompanied by Mrs. Stone.”

While this information answers some of my questions I still have a couple. I wonder if the boiler came into South Londonderry on the West River Railroad rather than the Rutland Railroad in Chester. In Bellows Falls there is a tunnel through which the trains travel. I question if this boiler on a flatcar could have made it through the tunnel as it is so high.

Coming up Huntley Mountain would have required 10 horses. To that theory, add the fact that the boiler is coming down Main Street in front of the Baptist Church. Had the boiler come into the Chester Railroad station why would it be on Main Street in Chester? It’s headed the wrong way.


Instead of an old saying I offer a humorous story. A few years ago Tom Hildreth and I decided to climb Shrewsbury Peak. I have climbed it many times, beginning when I was 10 years old with my father. Shrewsbury Peak is just over 3,700 feet and in places quite steep. I had told Tom about the climb and he wanted to try it. So off we went.

We were over half way up the mountain when we met a couple descending the mountain. We stopped briefly to exchange hellos. The woman then asked us, “Did you start from the bottom? My reply, “No, a helicopter dropped us off half way up the mountain.” Tom and I still chuckle when we think of that day.

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