Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Railroad Lines Not Trolleys--Correction!

I have had an interesting email correspondence with Bernie Drew, a Great Barrington historian, newspaper editor and columnist, and author of many books on the history of our area. He found my blog while doing some research online. His email:
Hello, Bess Dillman. I'm practically a neighbor. I live in Great Barrington. I'm researching a section of East Mountain State Forest in Great Barrington, and in particular a Berkshire Street Railway transmission line (not a rail line, a wire line) that brought electricity from Pittsfield over the mountains to a substation in Sheffield. I've been Googling "Berkshire Street Railway" in various combinations and your recent blog came up. 
I've hiked the section of old Williams River roadbed you describe, but it is not Berkshire Street Railway. It was an actual rail line that went from VanDeusenville to West Stockbridge. Nor is the roadway you describe near Mohawk Lake a Berkshire Street Railway line. 
It was the planned Lee & Hudson Railroad, that was to provide an alternative to the high rates of the New York, New Haven & Hartford line that went from VanDeusenville to Stockbridge and Lee and Pittsfield. The L&H was never finished, but there's the segment you found, and another in West Stockbridge. 
My wife, Donna, and I hiked the L&H segment near Mohawk Lake years ago, and yes, the cuts through the ledge are impressive. The name Mohawk Lake, as you may know, comes from the 18th century when Mohawks encamped there so their children could attend the Mission School with the Mohicans in Stockbridge. 
Bernie Drew
The difference between trolleys and railway lines is significant. Railways use heavy locomotives, first powered by steam and then diesel, to transport many freight and passenger cars. Trolleys were usually one car, first drawn by horses and but soon switched to electric power. They carried passengers and some light freight. Trolley rails often ran along roads; railways needed extensive track construction.

There were many miles of trolley lines in the Berkshires but they were not the trails that I have blogged about. As Bernie explains further:
Berkshire Street Railway mostly carried passengers; NY,NH&H carried freight and passengers. Berkshire Street Railway was electric; NY,NH&H was steam. Berkshire Street Railway in 1910 was acquired by New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Trolley service continued until 1930, when the company switched to buses.  
The Housatonic Railroad, operated by NY,NH&H from Van Deusenville to West Stockbridge/State Line, connected with the east-west railroad from Pittsfield, going to Albany. This is the old line you picked up in Houstonic or Williamsville. We've cross country skied parts of it. (This is now the trail in Housatonic along the Williams River.) 
The Lee & Hudson Railroad would have come from Lee and made the same connection in West Stockbridge to the east-west railroad—but it was never completed. Organizers ran out of money. It was meant primarily to carry freight for the paper mills, machine shops and the quarry. (This is now the trail next to Mohawk Lake.)
It's also very interesting to learn where the name Mohawk Lake came from.

Thank you Bernie Drew!

An electric-powered trolley car.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mt. Greylock in January With No Snow!

Sunday I hiked up Mt. Greylock with a few friends. We parked on Hopper Road in Williamstown and started up the Haley Farm Trail promptly at 9:30. We immediately met three weekend backpackers who advised us to put on our Microspikes which we did. We wore the Microspikes all day and appreciated them most on the way down the Hopper Trail which was covered in ice.

It was hard to believe that even on the top of Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet, the snow was just a dusting. This is so different from last year which was the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. Our main problem was trying not to get uncomfortably hot from the exertion of the uphill climb! 

We hiked a little over 10 miles with temps in the 40s. Not bad for January 31st!

The view from Stony Ledge.

How fun is that to be hiking in the snow in a tank top!

It's amazing how much heat the body generates while climbing.

It's always a great view from the top.

It was dark and gray at the tower but it is Greylock after all. 

I loved the bright open woods with views
not obscured by leaves, as we made our way down the Hopper Trail.

This section of the Money Brook Trail was new to me. Sweet!

After all the grayness at the top, these colors were almost dazzling.

The sun came out as we returned to our cars. It actually felt like April.