Westfield, MA – Then and Now

You may have noticed by now that I have an interest a weird fascination with railroad tracks. Most of the tracks that once made up the old New Haven line that I explored as a kid are now overgrown or gone. And much of what remains will soon disappear.

I managed to dig up some old photographs of the line. And when I was back East this Spring, I went on a photo adventure with my dad. We tried to recreate some of these photographs before the last remnants of the line fade away. Unfortunately my camera battery died about ten minutes into our journey… But I still managed to snag some shots with my phone.


Great River Bridge

The Great River Bridge runs parallel to the Route 10 and 202 bridges that cross the Westfield River. Freight traffic across the railroad bridge gave way to foot traffic years before I was born. I traversed it myself many times. But I wasn’t the first to cross this rusty jungle gym on foot.


High Water

Here’s another angle of the same bridge. The concrete support in the middle more than once provided a place for me to hide out before crossing into the freight yard on the far side.


Elm St. Bridge

The Elm St. Bridge allowed me to remain hidden as I cut through downtown Westfield past curfew. And I shot my first attempts at long exposure photography from this bridge with my old Canon AT-1.

I wasn’t able to find a year for the original shot, but it shows the trolley tracks that vanished decades ago.


Milepost 108

At its zenith, the Westfield Train Station served as a connection between the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and the Boston and Albany Railroad. And when I was young, it was a place for me to watch trains with my dad.

There is no longer passenger service in Westfield. But Milepost 108 still serves as a freight connection between CSX and the Pioneer Valley Railroad. The train station is now an insurance building, but the red brick structure itself has for the most part remain unchanged.


Westfield Train Station

This shot was difficult to reproduce. In recent years, the train tracks have been elevated, and No Trespassing signs have popped up all over the place. So, the angle is off… But I didn’t get arrested, so I’m going to call this a success.


The Tin Bridge

This towering old railroad bridge was one of my favorite spots to explore when I was a kid. There were holes between the railroad ties, and nothing on the sides to keep you from falling. A mixture of fear and excitement rushed through my veins every time I carried my bike across, hopping over the gaps where railroad ties had ceased to exist.

This was the most difficult shot to replicate. The original picture was low quality, and the area is quite overgrown. The bridge will soon be part of the bike trail, and you can see that construction has begun.


The Tin Bridge – The Dry Bridge

A few hundred feet north of the Tin Bridge is a dry bridge. It isn’t as tall or scary as the Tin Bridge, but it does a great job of framing the tobacco field on its far side. This one is also being resurfaced, and will be part of the bike trail as well.


I still have a lot of shots to go through. And I’ve only just begun digging up old photographs. Next time, I’ll make sure I charge my camera beforehand…

A huge thanks to the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail. I found several of the original photos on their website, and they provided me with helpful information about the trail.

7 Comments

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  1. Nice compilation of pictures. Too bad old bridges can’t talk and share their stories. Really been gone from Southwick and Westfield for almost 50 years. Might want to see if any pictures were taken of these bridges in the 1955 floods. Believe the flood impacted this area quite heavily. Hope you will continue your quest of sharing railroad stories on your blog. Imagine the rail line thru Southwick that paralleled the Farmington Canal might make for some good stories as well. JPutnam – high school classmate of your Dad.

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  2. Nothing wrong with liking the railroad tracks or trains. Glad I found this post!!

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  3. So great to read about these adventures and seeing the changes that even I wasn’t aware of. Enjoyed reading this…..especially “after the fact!” 😉😉😉

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  4. Leonard Warner July 17, 2017 — 7:04 am

    Nice work…

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