April 15, 2016
A Ride on the G&U
Hopedale in April
grew up in what was Mendon at the time. The location was near what is now the Hopedale-Milford border,
roughly at the site of what was once known as The Larches.
Recent additions to existing hope1842.com pages include: Kids at the Pond (Added to the bottom of a page
with another picture of kids standing on the raft at Hopedale Pond that has been on the site for several
years.) Nipmuc at the Clark Tournament (Articles from the tournament in 1993, 1997, and the last game at
the Wilho Frigard Gym.) Deaths
Hopedale, Mass - To be let for the summer or longer - A fine estate consisting of mansion house of about 15
rooms, completely furnished; stable with 4 stalls, carriage and man's room and about 10 acres of land. The
house is large and airy, has 2 baths, open fireplaces in all the rooms, excellent furnace, gas, electric lighting,
hardwood floors and broad piazzas. The grounds are well laid out with fine lawns, well-kept garden, fine trees,
shrubs, etc. Hopedale is about an hour's ride from Boston via the Boston & Albany R.R., and is considered
one of the most charming and healthiest towns in the state. Rental moderate. Further particulars of Henry D.
Bennett, 7 Exchange Place, Boston - Ad in a Boston newspaper, 1898
The former Sylvanus Madden house on Upton Road, the oldest house in Hopedale, which was recently razed,
was on the site of a former sawmill. The mill was operated by a Robert Saunders. According to the Ballou
History of Milford, the house was built about 1756 and was occupied by several members of the Saunders
family. In excellent condition, the house was most recently occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Merrill. There were
no modern conveniences. Milford Daily News, Dec. 23, 1958. Click here to see the remains of the house.
Despite trucks and airplanes, the railroads still have a place in this country. For many, it is a place in the heart.
Just 75 years ago, rail service began between Milford and Hopedale, Upton, West Upton and North Grafton on
the tiny Grafton & Upton Railroad.
On the anniversary of that beginning, May 17, 1890, Henry Billings II, treasurer and general freight agent of the
15-mile line, arranged for a group to take a ride.
Along with Fred Kardon of Athol, a photographer, and railroad buff Alfred Arnold of Holden and his son, Tad,
we boarded the caboose and pulled out of the Hopedale depot at 11:35 am. Trainmaster F. Wilder Temple
waved the signal and engineer Walter Beauchamp and conductor George Belcher started the daily run.
Edward Aslanian, Robert Boudreau and Stanley Ferr completed the crew.
Behind the big locomotive rolled eight carloads of Draper Corp. looms, some headed for Mexico. Paul
Roberts joined the passengers as the train rumbled past the new Draper foundry.
There was no club car and certainly no diner, but the smooth, slow ride and the passing scene made our
bagful of sandwiches a refreshing lunch. The trainmen knew every inch of the way (a few words missing here)
deer and cattle crossings at Brook's Farm, the green acres of Old Cemetery, then Brooks Street, where in
1927, and again in the early 1930s, flood waters from traversing streams washed out the tracks for more than
Then the train passed the Grove Street crossing and the site of the old Upton depot which no longer exists.
Milk from local farms and hats from local factories were loaded years ago at this station.
Remarking on the fine condition of the roadbed, we asked Roberts what kink of timber they used for ties,
since native chestnut is no longer available. He told us that native hardwoods, usually oak, had replaced the
Picking up speed, we headed on. There were many crossings, and at each, bells and whistles signaled our
approach. The Arnolds were taking full advantage of the unusual ride, each replacing the other at various
vantage points. Al Arnold is a dyed-in-the-wool rail buff; no mistake about that, since he was making the trip on
his vacation. He had recently returned from New Hampshire where he had ridden the rails of some long-
As the train climbed the gradual grade toward Grafton Center, Roberts told us that the line's freight has
changed a lot over the years. No longer is it milk, hats, grain and lumber. The main part is Draper supplies
and manufactured goods, but Washington Emery Mills of North Grafton is still a good customer, and Jesse
White's Lake Nipmuc boats arrive in G&U cars.
Freight handling, too, has changed in Waterville, as Grafton's north end is often called. Our diesel quickly
dropped its eight-car load for New York Central pickup later, coupled up two cars of assorted hardware and
our caboose, and started the homeward run. No turntable was required. The modern diesel-electric
locomotives, unlike the old-time steamers, run just as well either way. Only 15 minutes was needed for the
The return trip disclosed many places where curves had been straightened in the roadbed, the old bed still
visible as an occasional cartpath. Dunn's crossing in Grafton, we recalled, was a cattle crossing even in the
old trolley days.
Keeping the roadbed and right-of-way in good condition, we learned, is no easy task, even for a small line like
the G&U. There is brush to be cut and burned, many culverts to be cleaned, warning signs to be repaired, and
numbers of other tasks to keep a section hand busy.
Flocks of sheep and grazing cattle still populate the fields we passed, but cowcatchers are not standard
equipment on modern locomotives.
Back in West Upton we stopped at the depot, not to take on mail or freight, but to take a few pictures. Then
back into the caboose and on to Hopedale.
Seventy-five years ago Upton made quite a thing out of the opening of the new railroad. There were speeches
and brass bands and girls carrying what was described as a "mammoth" garland of evergreen boughs. The
citizenry paraded down to the now vanished Upton depot where two trains, one from Grafton and one from
Milford, met in classic fashion. The next day the freight began pouring in, and the passengers also.
Divided into three gangs, a force of 300 men and 75 teams of horses toiled for months to cut through the rocky
barrier that blocked the rails' passage between the twin villages of West Upton and Upton Center, Hopedale
on the south and Grafton to the west. (In Gordon Hopper's history of the G&U, he wrote that the 300 men and
75 teams were used when the line was extended from West Upton to Hopedale and Milford.)
Agitation for a rail line had been in the air for several years, notably from 1879 when William Knowlton served
as senator from the district at the State House in Boston. He became a director of the newly-formed line and a
locomotive was named for him.
No longer does the G&U carry passengers as a regular thing, of course. Now there are swifter modes of
transportation between Hopedale and North Grafton. None, we'll vow, are more interesting than the "old
reliable" G&U, still going strong after 75 years. Worcester Gazette, date unknown, but based on the first two
paragraphs must have been in 1965.
G&U Railroad Menu Ezine Menu
The locomotive on the trip described below must have been G&U No. 1001. The picture above was
taken in May 2008. No. 1001 was scrapped a few years later. Here's what Gordon Hopper had to say
about it in his History of the Grafton and Upton Railroad.
service and it was put into use on July 1, 1952. The new locomotive weighed 121 tons and it was
identified as number 1001. When it was acquired, the cost was approximately $120,000 and it served as
the road locomotive for more than 30 years.
with traction motors were installed on the locomotive in the Hopedale yard by G&U personnel.
|A Ride on the G&U Railroad
By Chester W. Walker
Worcester Gazette Staff Reporter