December 1, 2012
Selling Draper’s Railroad
Hopedale in November
During the past two weeks I’ve made additions to pages on Now and Then, Patrick’s Corner
Store/Stone’s Furniture Now and Then, the Watering Trough Now and Then, the Post Office
Little Red Schoolhouse Dave Atkinson Draper family feud/Hopedale Manufacturing Company
Now and Then, Hopedale Airport Now and Then, Draper Field Bristow and Queena Draper
Donald Midgley William Lapworth
Hopedale and other communes - Auretta Roys Aldrich and the (probably) banned chapter of
Reunion photo - Hopedale High Class of 1946.
Memories of Meredith Kennedy – summers in Hopedale with her grandparents, the Bells.
Bird’s eye view of Hopedale, 1899
Hopedale – Boston American, 1910
Otto Beiersdorf – Gun collector, nephew of Paul von Hindenburg, once lived at Bancroft Park.
Twenty-five years ago – December 1987 – Plan for 1200 condo units at Draper plant area held up by
bankruptcy court action involving Draper Renovation Associates.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict - First Intifada begins in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Fifty years ago – December 1962 – Myron’s Wayside Furniture opens at building that for many years
was the home of Patrick’s Corner Store.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield became the first American official to make a non-optimistic
public comment on the progress of the war in Vietnam.
Below is a condensed version of Hopper’s article. Click here if you'd like to read the entire story.
Selling of Draper’s Railroad – End of an Era
By Gordon E. Hopper
Recent news reports in the Milford Daily News have stated that the industrial railroad owned by the
Rockwell International Company has been sold to TORCO, a Maine firm specialized in leasing
trailers for rail movement.
Looking back over the years that the Grafton & Upton Railroad has been in existence, facts are
revealed to show that it was an unusual railroad. First of all, being 16 miles or so in length, makes it
one of the very few short lines in the United States to have remained in business. The railroad runs
between Milford and North Grafton, and is headquartered in Hopedale. Presently, the office is located
inside the Draper complex.
Engine house, two diesel locomotives, maintenance equipment, gasoline car, and a large yard are in
Hopedale. In addition to the Hopedale yard, there are smaller yards at each end of the line.
In the past, the Milford yard made connection with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad,
while the North Grafton yard connected with the Boston & Albany Railroad. Today, both yards connect
with Conrail, the government operated railroad freight service. Original depots remain at Hopedale,
West Upton and Grafton Center.
The Grafton & Upton Railroad is more than 100 years old. It originally was three miles long, narrow
gauge, and utilized a self-powered (steam) car which carried passengers and baggage between
Grafton Center and North Grafton. In the beginning it was called the Grafton Center Railroad and it
went into service on August 30, 1874. During 1877, it was widened to standard gauge. On February
17, 1888, the name was changed to Grafton & Upton Railroad Co.
The Knowlton family who operated the large hat factory at West Upton aided Edward P. Usher, the
owner of the line, in extending it to West Upton. This was accomplished by May 12, 1889. The line
reached Milford and service was inaugurated on May 17, 1890. Steam engines provided the power for
early freight and passenger service.
Electric cars belonging to the Milford & Uxbridge Street Railway Company ran for more than 25 years
on the G&U tracks between Hopedale and North Grafton. Passenger service was discontinued on
August 31, 1928. There was a loop circuit for electric cars on Main Street between Brooks Street in
Upton and Williams Street at West Upton. It provided local service from 1902 until July 1, 1919.
Steam freights which ran at night were discontinued on April 22, 1919 and replaced by two electric
freight motors. (electric engines) The freight motors were replaced on July 11, 1946 by diesel
engines. Today, two diesels provide freight hauling service for its owner and several customers along
the line. Two of the larger customers are the Upton Fuel and Construction Co at West Upton, and the
Washington Mills Abrasive Co. at North Grafton.
The railroad owned an electric express car that carried boxes of hats from the Knowlton hat shop to
the interchange with the B&A Railroad at North Grafton between 1930 and the mid-1940s.
Two turntables were used as long as the steam engines operated. One was at Milford at the rear of
the Pheasant Run apartments and part of its foundation is still in place. The other was in the North
Grafton yard and has been eliminated completely.
The G&U is very picturesque. Its tracks go through congested areas of Milford and Hopedale as well
as the fields and woods of Upton and Grafton. Except for the long grade between Upton and Grafton, it
runs fairly level but its path is very crooked. It passes several lakes and crosses numerous brooks.
Highways, streets and even back yards are crossed by the wandering steel rails; pastoral beauty is
evidenced along a large part of the distance covered by the right-of-way.
Few railroads are as steeped with history as is the G&U. From a pair of narrow gauge steam
combination type vehicles in 1874, through a progression of widening to become standard gauge
and followed by extensions and a complete rebuild, it was one of the few (if any) railroads to go from
steam to electric operations before changing to diesel.
Historically, the railroad is approaching the end of an era. Eleven years ago, when it was purchased
by Rockwell International, only a change of ownership was signified. This was because both owners
had the same product, textile looms, plus the fact that the Draper name, although small, continued to
appear on the machines after the change of ownership.
After 73 years of affiliation with the Draper Company followed by 11 years with Rockwell International,
84 years of service to the textile industry is the enviable record now coming to a conclusion. The new
owner, by not being in the textile business, will create a new theme in the operation of the railroad.
New methods are bound to be inaugurated in the handling of a different product, but customer
operations should remain unchanged.
It is hoped that the success of the new owner will be such that the Grafton & Upton Railroad will
remain part of the four towns that it serves. Milford Daily News, January 15, 1979.
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