Several years ago while driving through Hopedale, Mass., I happened to see a sign on the
    side of a small building that read "Grafton & Upton Railroad Company." Never having heard
    of any railroad with this name, I returned a few weeks later and determined that there really
    was a small 15.5-mile-long industrial railroad running from Milford, a large town in
    southeastern Massachusetts, through Hopedale, Upton, West Upton and Grafton to North
    Grafton, a town located a few miles southeast of Worcester.

    Shortly after I became involved in the study of the Grafton & Upton (G&U), it became
    apparent that this rail line was unique.  Probably the most unusual reason for this was that
    the railroad had been operated and controlled by its original owners for almost 80 years.  It
    is most remarkable to find a road of such length in New England today, linking such large
    areas as Milford and Worcester, which has not been acquired by larger railroad interests.  
    The G&U is of particular interest to students of shortline railroading.

    In addition to its mainline, the railroad has nearly five miles of yard trackage; and although it
    is basically an industrial line, it has had a varied history.  The G&U has survived strikes,
    storms and various economic recessions.  From a pair of narrow-gauge steam combination-
    type vehicles in 1874, through a progression of gauge widenings and line extensions, along
    with a complete rebuild, it was one of the few railroads to go from steam to electric operation
    before changing to diesel power.

    For more than a century, change and progress were a G&U trademark, but at the same
    time its owner, the Draper Company, tended to keep publicity at a low key.  Draper was
    interested in maintaining an efficient railroad with which to haul its products, and not in
    gaining renown for its shortline.    The G&U provided freight service from 1896 until 1967 for
    the Draper Company, a large textile manufacturer, and for several smaller companies.  In
    1967 the railroad was acquired by Rockwell International's Weaving Machinery Division and
    was purchased in 1979 by Torco, a firm specializing in the leasing of piggyback trailers for
    rail movement.

    The southern terminal of what is now the Grafton & Upton Railroad is a point in Milford
    where the tracks join with a CSX (Conrail) branch line.  Offices and main yards of the G&U
    are located in Hopedale, adjacent to the buildings once associated with the Draper
    Company.  Other yards are located at Milford, West Upton, Grafton, and at the northern
    terminal where the tracks join with CSX (former Boston & Albany) at North Grafton.

                                    In the Beginning: The Grafton Center Railroad

    As early as 1873, a need was felt for a railroad to operate over the three miles between
    Grafton Center (now Grafton) and New England Village (now known as North Grafton).  
    During that same year, approximately 50 residents banded together and initiated the birth of
    a local rail line -- the Grafton Center Railroad.  These citizens, along with many others, felt
    there was a real need for a railroad in Grafton.  Consequently they proceeded with the

     In addition to financial backing provided by the incorporators, Grafton residents were
    canvassed in an effort to obtain more project funding.  Many donated money and this was of
    considerable importance to getting the road started.  On September 17, 1873, it was
    reported that the entire $30,000 in stock had been subscribed for, and on October 22,
    1873, the Grafton Center Railroad was incorporated under the general laws of
    Massachusetts. Survey work and construction were started immediately on a three-mile
    narrow-gauge line to run from the Boston & Albany (B&A) Railroad depot at New England
    Village to Grafton Center.  Eight gravel cars and a second-hand steam locomotive were
    purchased for a work train.  Grading of the new road by laborers receiving $1.25 per day
    was completed by February 1874 with the exception of four rods.  Second-hand wooden ties
    were purchased from the B&A.  These ties were turned over, laid 2,600 to the mile, and
    used to support 30- to 40-foot lengths of rail weighing 35 pounds to the yard.  The latter
    were in place by April.  Foundations for a depot at Grafton Center were laid by May 21,1874,
    and the building completed three weeks later.  It was located in the rear of the Grafton town
    hall near Jordan's garage. One end of the station was used for express service, while the
    structure otherwise had two doors and stalls for housing two locomotives overnight.  Each
    door had its own set of tracks leading to the mainline.

     A railroad station, together with a freight house, was owned by the B&A at New England
    Village.  Parts of each building were used by the Grafton Center for several years. The
    earliest equipment on the new railroad consisted of a self-contained vehicle for passengers
    and baggage.  This "dummy" car weighed eight tons and was powered by an upright steam
    engine positioned inside the car.  Painted yellow with red and brown trimmings, it came
    equipped with crimson velvet cushions for the convenience of passengers.  The engine was
    separated from the rest of the car by a partition, while passenger capacity was between 25
    and 30 people.  Its crew consisted of two men: a conductor who sold tickets and an engineer
    who also acted as brakeman.

    Great excitement prevailed at Grafton Center on July 14, 1874, as residents anticipated the
    initial arrival of the "dummy," scheduled for about 7:30 p.m.  However, because its pump
    broke down "on the flat," the vehicle did not arrive until 10:30 p.m.  Its whistle woke the
    sleeping populace even though it had to be towed to the depot by horses.  The pump was
    replaced and several test runs were made the following day.

    The County Commissioners accepted the railroad in August and regular operations started
    on August 20, 1874.  Total cost of its construction was $10,274, while the dummy cost
    $3,725.  At first, the road was primarily a passenger carrier and it conducted a good
    business from the Grafton Center depot.  During the first 40 days of operation, the
    passenger service netted $728.13. Although the car was built to seat about 25, it is known
    that, on one run, 59 people were packed in by a derby-hatted conductor.  The car traveled
    at a speed of between seven and 15 m.p.h. while the conductor collected the five and one-
    half cent per mile fare.  Trains left the Grafton Center depot four times each day to make
    connections with Worcester-bound B&A trains, and five times each day to make Boston
    connections. A count taken around September 1, 1874, indicated that 180 passengers had
    been carried on the railroad during the one day that was checked.  The average daily
    number of passengers carried was 100.

    The annual report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of Massachusetts for 1874
    made the following observation: "Excavations and embankments are light, the road following
    the surface of the ground pretty closely, with sharp curves and heavy grades." The sharpest
    curve was 23 degrees and the grade was about two percent both north and south due to the
    descent from the B&A to the Quinsigamond River and the ascent from the river to Grafton

    There were occasional problems.  For instance, on January 16,1875, someone placed a rail
    across the tracks which the dummy was able to dislodge.  On about January 21, the
    engineer discovered another rail laid across the track near "Carroll's Crossing." During the
    winter of 1875, ice froze so thick on the rails that the engineer and conductor had to chop it
    away with an axe.

    Receipts for the first six months of operation were $2,794.03, while 16,839 passengers were
    carried during this period. Near the end of December 1875 several private individuals
    purchased a second dummy which they loaned to the company whenever the occasion
    required it, and by March 1876 the railroad had settled its land claims. Records for 1878
    showed gross receipts of the railroad to be $3,995.07, with total operating costs being
    $3,202.45.  Net income was $792.62 and 22,327 passengers were carried during the year.  
    Actually, the profit ratio was high, being in the neighborhood of 20 percent.  A freight
    department had been established that August at a cost of $375.39 and its earnings at the
    end of the year amounted to $511.90.  The cost of fuel used amounted to $1.38 each day.
    The first superintendent was J.  H.  Wood, followed by Winthrop Faulkner.  The success of
    the road was due very much to the personal care Faulkner exercised over its interests.  
    Edmund Capron, Faulkner's successor in 1879, had been the efficient conductor from its
    beginning and his experience helped promote the future efficiency of the enterprise.  It was
    reported in 1884 that the original dummy car had been sold for $77.42.

    The Grafton Center Railroad was operated successfully for thirteen years by its owners,
    and it did its share toward keeping the town in touch with the business world.  However, the
    need for a railroad with a larger capacity and a different terminal had been noticeable from
    the start.  Furthermore, the cost of its management had been an important question to the
    investors.  The administration had been economical and adequate, doing much with the
    small resources of a small railroad.  However, the tracks were in poor condition after many
    years of use and the entire system needed reorganization. Edward P.  Usher, a lawyer and
    town counsel of Grafton, secured control of the railroad's stock in 1887 and he was elected
    president of the company on March 26, 1887.  Original stock-owners, having little faith in
    receiving returns on their investments, were willing to sell the property for almost anything
    they could get for it.  The last train operated over the Grafton Center Railroad on July 9,
    1887.  Thereafter, under Usher's direction, the three-mile line was rebuilt to standard gauge.

                                                            Building the G&U

    With the Grafton Center Railroad having been taken over by Edward P. Usher in 1887 came
    a decision to extend the line to West Upton, a distance of 4.5 miles.  This was of much
    interest and concern to the several local businesses, including the Wm. Knowlton & Sons
    straw hat shop in West Upton and the Benson & Nelson straw hat shop in Upton.  Knowlton
    needed the transportation in order to ship its hats to all parts of the United States and
    Canada. Changes came quickly under Usher's management.  The 60 foot long bridge
    across the Quinsigamond River was replaced and in July of 1887, the depot at Grafton
    Center was moved to the ball grounds and modified to include a passenger room, a ticket
    office and a lounge room.  A new engine house was also erected nearby.  Several
    passengers and freight cars, along with a snowplow and a new steam locomotive, were
    acquired.  A railroad yard extending from Westboro Street to a point near Waterville Street
    was built at North Grafton.  Additionally, a turntable was installed near the junction of a new
    connector track and the original track that already ran to the B&A depot on Westboro
    Street.  Steam locomotives, when placed correctly on the North Grafton turntable, were
    turned manually by two men until its use was discontinued in 1919.

    In 1887, when the new Grafton Center depot was erected, sidings were installed to reach
    the depot and the engine house, as well as a coal yard.  The track running to the North
    Grafton depot was used for passenger service, while the connector track served as an
    interchange with the B&A.  A 300 foot long track in the North Grafton yard, designated as
    the "Allen track," was used as a public siding. Structures in the Grafton Center yard included
    a small freight shed behind the depot, later replaced by a boxcar body, and a tool house
    located near the switch that controlled the yard entrance.

    On January 1, 1888, the County Commissioners held a hearing at Worcester on a petition
    to extend the line to Milford. [No holiday on New Year's Day back then, evidently] By a
    special act of the state legislature on February 17, 1888, the name of the railroad was
    changed to the Grafton & Upton Railroad Company.  C. H. Wellington was contractor for the
    extension. Owners of the Wm. Knowlton & Sons hat factory were instrumental in having the
    tracks extended to West Upton and in 1889 carried 1,000 tons of coal to the large hat firm.  
    The first passenger cars were run over the new railroad early in February 1889 for the
    convenience of the road builder, several stockholders and directors.  George W. Knowlton
    joined the company on the return trip.

    On March 12, 1889, a day long celebration at West Upton for the railroad included gun
    volleys and salutes by Battery B of Worcester, as well as concerts by the Upton band. A
    contract to build the eight-mile long extension between Upton and Milford was awarded to
    Newell & Snowling of Uxbridge, Mass., during May 1889. Construction work on the railroad
    between Benson & Nelson's shop and the Upton depot was pushed by the contractors
    working on this segment, Dunbar & Crockett.  During the construction period, when workers
    were near what is now called Brown's Road crossing, it's believed that part of an Indian
    burial ground was uncovered, with several bones, arrow heads, shell beads and an entire
    skeleton being found.  By the end of December 1889, the road had been ballasted between
    Upton and Hopedale and there had been an excursion for officials and directors.  The train
    halted at various points of interest while the work was examined.

     At this time, 300 men and 75 teams of horses were working in three separate gangs at
    Milford, Hopedale and Upton.  These crews worked for 13 months hewing through massive
    rocky barriers along the crooked roadbeds between each town.  No power equipment was
    available and the labor was done the difficult way - by man and beast.  Early in January
    1890, construction had reached the Milford-Hopedale town line, with 150 men and a dozen
    or more teams still engaged in the work. Switching tracks were laid at the Draper Company
    in Hopedale during January and a bridge over the rollway of Dutcher's Pond (I suppose this
    must have been the 'Lower Pond' a bit downstream from Freedom Street, where the Dutcher
    Temple Company was located for many years.) was rebuilt in order that freight cars could go
    directly to the foundry.

    Also in January, the first carload of freight arrived in Milford and went to the elastic fabric

    Within one month of completing the railroad to Milford, an injunction was served on
    President Usher by the New York & New England Railroad, preventing the G&U from joining
    the NY&NE near Depot Street.  Differences between the two roads were resolved by early
    May, whereafter workers finished laying a switch and side tracks in the Milford yard.  One of
    the switch tracks led to the turntable and engine house, while another was a 500 foot-long
    "turnout" and a third was a 300-foot siding. A party of about 35 people made an inspection
    trip over the road on May 14.  The trip started at the Milford terminal, with others picked up
    at stations along the line.  This train was in charge of Superintendent Charles B. Powers,
    while President Usher and General Manager Frank W. Morse were in the party.  Railroad
    Commissioner Kinsley, after boarding at North Grafton, inspected the road and stations.

    An official opening of the entire line took place May 17, 1890, with several ceremonies.
    Seven trains ran each way on the first day.  A round-trip ticket admitted the rider to a
    Worcester theater to see the early moving picture, "Little Lord Fauntleroy," or to the Music
    Hall in Milford where Annie Ward Tiffany starred in "The Step Daughter."  Another feature of
    the day was a baseball game between Milford and Natick.

                                                        Growth and Changes

    Freight service was initiated the day after the line officially opened.  Shortly thereafter, 200
    cans of milk from outlying farms in Upton were being shipped daily from the Upton depot to
    Milford.  One hundred twenty-eight cases of hats from the Benson & Nelson hat shop were
    also shipped daily from the Upton depot, while the Knowlton hat shop was shipping about
    212 cases of hats each day from the West Upton depot.  The Milford Daily News was carried
    from Milford to Upton and West Upton by rail for many years and, after setting the fare at
    three cents per mile, passenger service was retained on the G&U for nearly 40 years.

    At this time, the management policy was that the initial construction debt should be
    eliminated as soon as possible.  Business was good and instead of projecting the earnings
    and working on a long-term debt, earnings of the railroad were utilized for the next five years
    to obtain complete freedom from all encumbrances.  During this same period, the heavier
    engines being used, along with heavier loads being carried, made it necessary to replace
    the 35-pound rails used on the original three-mile-long road with more durable 50-pound
    steel rails.  The 40-pound rails used on the original extension between Grafton Center and
    West Upton were also replaced with heavier 50-pound rails.

    Business during 1894 was poor, resulting in part-time operations and the elimination of one
    train crew.  This year also marked the entrance of the Draper firm into the perpetuation of
    the G&U.  W.  F.  Draper, head of the Hopedale firm, was appointed to the railroad's Board
    of Directors in November 1894.  The Draper Company was one of the largest manufactures
    of textile looms in the world and its plant was located adjacent to the station and large freight
    yard at Hopedale.  The bulky machinery produced did not lend itself to other forms of
    transportation and the management knew the value of having a railroad connection.  
    Consequently, control of the line by the Draper Company was planned and gradually
    accomplished by the purchase of stock.

    A 2.75-mile-long electric car loop designed to carry passengers between Brooks and
    Williams streets in the Uptons, which had been built during 1901 and 1902, was purchased
    by the G&U on June 19, 1902.  At the same time, electrification of the railroad's mainline was
    progressing. On June 23, 1902, electric streetcar service was inaugurated by the railroad
    between Milford and North Grafton by way of the loop, thus ending the passenger service
    which had been provided by steam train since 1890.   Steam freight trains used the mainline
    at night to avoid delays to the daytime passenger operations.  Trains left Hopedale at
    midnight each day, went to North Grafton, then to Milford and returned to Hopedale before 5:
    30 a.m.  in order to allow the electric cars uninterrupted use of the line.  Two electric
    converters that were required to furnish power for the new service were installed inside the
    Grafton Center depot during June 1902.  Station Agent Albert Goddard was the first G&U
    employee to operate the new equipment.  

    Many of the 700 guests at the wedding of Dorothy Draper (daughter of ex-Governor and
    Mrs. E. S. Draper of Hopedale), who became the bride of Thomas B. Gannett, Jr., on
    November 21, 1911 at the Hopedale Memorial Church, arrived in two special trains from
    Boston. They ran over the B&A to Milford and then transferred to G&U iron at Milford for the
    remaining journey. The cars of the first special were attached to a regular train as far as
    Milford, where a special locomotive took the cars through to Hopedale without change. The
    second special included three cars.

    The Milford engine house was completely destroyed by fire on March 14, 1914. The No. 5
    steam locomotive, which survived the fire, was entirely rebuilt by John F. Damon, owner of a
    Milford machine shop. It was at first believed that the locomotive would have to be shipped
    back to the factory where it had been built, but Damon took the job and finished the work in
    record time. After receiving a test and inspection, the engine made a trial run to Hopedale
    and back with everything working smoothly.

    Former Massachusetts Governor E. S. Draper's body was brought to Milford after he died
    unexpectedly in Greenville, S.C., on April 9, 1914. Upon its arrival at Milford, the funeral train
    was transferred to the G&U in order to reach Hopedale.

    Freight service using steam locomotives was continued until April 22, 1919, at which time
    two steeple cab electric freight motors (Nos. 7 and 8) were purchased and the steam
    engines were sold. Use of the North Grafton turntable ended at this time and on June 1,
    1919, electric car service through Upton and West Upton was shifted to the mainline. Rails
    on the "Loop" were taken up late in 1920.

    From the inception of electric use on the G&U, power had been supplied from a converter at
    Grafton and from another one at Draper's engine room at Hopedale. During April of 1923,
    the Draper plant was so busy that it became necessary to stop supplying power to the
    railroad and for the G&U to purchase power from the New England Power Company at
    Millbury, Mass. A 13.2-Kv feeder line was extended from the power company's No. 1
    substation at Millbury via the Fisher Manufacturing Company at Fisherville to the Grafton
    Center depot.

    Passenger and express trolley service over the mainline was discontinued on August 31,
    1928. Carrying of the U.S. Mail, which started on September 15, 1890, along with the
    Railway Express service, was discontinued in 1952. A used Wason electric express car,
    purchased from the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway Company in May 1930,
    continued to carry hats from the Knowlton shop to an express building at North Grafton until
    the mid-1940s. By 1932, the railroad's schedule had been cut to three days a week. Freight
    revenue had decreased considerably during the Great Depression and the railroad
    struggled through the 1930s with no relief until after the start of World War II. This brought
    an increase in traffic and revenue to where all of the rails had been replaced with 85-pound

    Following the end of the war, it became necessary to cut operating expenses, so the line's
    electric operation was terminated. Electric power was shut off on July 3, 1946, and a B&A
    steam engine, No. 300, was put into service on July 4, 1946. On July 11, two GE 44-ton
    diesels (Nos. 9 and 10) were purchased. Around the 25th of the month, the steam engine
    was returned to the B&A and the diesels took over freight operations. Following this, the
    copper wires, poles, guy wires and trolley hangars that had been part of the electric
    operations were removed and sold. The obsolete express car was scrapped by a Hopedale
    salvage dealer in 1949.

    In September of 1948, the directors voted to rehabilitate the road by using new ballast and
    ties as needed, by resurfacing and relining the tracks and correcting bad curves, sags and
    grades. The roadbed was completely reconstructed during 1950-1952. At North Grafton, the
    yard was rebuilt to hold 110 standard 40-foot-long cars and the old passenger track from
    the mainline to the B&A depot was removed. The longest crooked sections of track
    remaining from the original Grafton Center Railroad were straightened during this program.
    Revenue was down in the late 1950s and the stations at West Upton and Grafton Center
    were closed on February 15, 1961. Previously, a petition to close the station at Upton was
    filed on January 2, 1953, and the old building was removed by a group of Hopkinton Boy
    Scouts in 1956. Its lumber was used later in the construction of a Boy Scout camp in

    With the sale of the Draper Company in 1967, ownership of the G&U was taken over by
    Rockwell International. By 1970 about eight cars were handled each morning between
    Hopedale and North Grafton. A trip would be made to the Milford interchange later each day.
    During July 1973, the Penn Central Railroad stopped serving the southern terminus of the
    Grafton & Upton. This was done strictly as an economy measure because of financial
    problems besetting the PC. For the next six months, the southern interchange was not used
    although the roadbed, the tracks, the Milford yard and the actual interchange were kept in
    excellent operating condition. Service to this yard resumed on January 21, 1974. This was
    done as another economy measure by the Penn Central because of a critical fuel crisis.
    Several years later, Milford was closed down again and, during the mid-1980s, trains were
    prevented from reaching the Milford yard from Hopedale because the Route 16 highway
    crossing was covered with blacktop.

    A business recession in 1975 signaled the beginning of several events which gradually led
    to a reduction of revenue services and a general deterioration of the roadbed and various
    pieces of equipment. Deliveries to the Draper Company facility came to an end. Its foundries
    were closed and no looms were shipped over the railroad. Deliveries of coke for the Whitin
    Machine Company also came to a halt as that company's foundry had been converted to
    electric operation. No trips were made to North Grafton for several months, but 170 carloads
    of road salt were delivered to the Upton Fuel & Construction Company that year. Operations
    struggled along and the North Grafton interchange was reopened in mid-1976 after a long
    period of inactivity. Rockwell International turned off the heat in several buildings, causing
    the Hopedale depot to close in December 1977. Railroad office operations were shifted to
    the former foundry area, and later, to an area located in the engine house. At the end of
    1977, salt and coke cars were still being delivered to the Upton Fuel Company and runs
    were still being made when needed to the Washington Mills facility at North Grafton.

    In more recent years, several gas turbines had been brought to the North Grafton yard for
    delivery to a power company in Shrewsbury. Early in November 1978, Rockwell International
    representatives announced that the company had entered into an agreement for a transfer
    of common stock shares in the Grafton & Upton Railroad to Torco, Inc. of Worcester. Later
    that same month, it was announced that four of the eight remaining employees would be laid
    off due to a lack of business. The cost of an earlier major tie replacement project is believed
    to have approached the selling price of the railroad-reportedly about $100,000.  The sale
    included all of the G&U holdings, including buildings.  The North Yard at the former Draper
    plant and two large rail cranes stored near the engine house were not part of the sale.
    Torco assumed control of the railroad on January 29, 1979, with the owners stating that they
    expected to continue freight service.  Torco was a division of Central New England
    Consolidated, located at 40 Pullman Street in Worcester.  One of its primary businesses
    involved the leasing of railroad piggyback haulers.

    At this point, operation of the Grafton & Upton Railroad Company took on a grim outlook.  
    Only 391 cars were hauled during 1983.  About 30,000 tons of calcium chloride and salt
    were brought to West Upton during 1986 and revenue service by 1987 was intermittent.  
    Freight service to West Upton ended in mid-1987 due to the loss of its major customer and
    to the unsafe condition of the roadbed.  However, service was continued at different
    intervals to the Washington Mills Abrasive Company during 1988. The Upton Fuel &
    Construction Company came back to the railroad in October 1993 as a customer after an
    absence of about seven years, and carloads of road salt are again being delivered to this
    company.  (The unloading trestle at West Upton was rebuilt in 1993-1994.) G&U's 44-tonner
    is stored outdoors in the West Upton yard.  It is used to haul salt cars to the unloading
    trestle from the G&U yard at North Grafton.  Many ties between West Upton and North
    Grafton have been replaced and the road is again in pretty good shape.  However, the line
    between West Upton and Hopedale is out of service. Rails are still in place at the Milford,
    Hopedale, West Upton, Grafton and North Grafton yards.  The interchange with CSX at
    Milford has been disconnected and some of the rails removed. At Upton, the single yard
    track has been disconnected and some of its rails have been removed.  The interchange at
    North Grafton has been rebuilt and remains in use.  The salt building track at West Upton
    and the nearby unloading facility also remain intact. Depots at Hopedale and Grafton still
    exist but are no longer used by the railroad.  Tracks at the former Draper Company's north
    and south yards remain in place.

     The Lucey family of Worcester now controls the railroad and continues the operation as
    the G&U observes its 125th anniversary. Recent history of the G&U is reflected in the
    physical changes at the Draper plant which caused a drop in the amount of freight handled
    by the railroad.  The number of revenue customers otherwise decreased over time as trucks
    succeeded in taking away business.  However, management and direction of the railroad
    was excellent and the wise judgments made throughout the years reflect the important fact
    that -- despite modern-day difficulties -- the railroad remains in business as an important
    entity and not as a tiny speck in the web of a giant railroad system. Editor's Note: The
    author, Gordon Hopper, intended to write a book about the Grafton & Upton, but passed
    away before completing the task.  James Reisdorff, of the publisher South Platte
    Press, David City, Nebr., condensed and completed the manuscript for this article.
    National Railway Bulletin, Volume 64, Number 4, 1999

     While the editor's note above states that Hopper never completed the book, actually he
    did, but it was never published. I was given a copy of the 142 page manuscript by Paul
    Curran. I've made copies for the Upton Museum and the Bancroft Library in Hopedale.
    Some of the G&U pages on this site are from Hopper's work. DM  

    Several years after writing the paragraph above, I completed scanning Hopper's G&U
    book and added it to this site. Here it is.

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Demolition of the G & U Station in Hopedale        HOME     

The Grafton & Upton Railroad

by Gordon Hopper


    The  G&U yard in Hopedale in May 2017,after it had been sold several years earlier and revived.
    See a 2010 Milford Daily News article on the rebirth of the G&U near the bottom of this page.

                                    Holmes: The rebirth of the G&U Railroad

    By Rick Holmes, Milford Daily News - January 3, 2010

    New England’s textile industry followed the straw hat industry into oblivion, and the G&U slowed to
    a stop. Trees grew between the ties. Rails were torn up and grade crossings paved over on the
    stretch between Hopedale and Milford. Homeowners treated the G&U’s right-of-way as extensions
    of their backyards. Conservation-minded people in the towns along the tracks talked about
    converting the railbed to a rail trail. But now, the G&R is coming back.
    By Rick Holmes/Local columnist

    When I first moved to Upton back in the mid-1980s, the train still rattled through town once a
    week. I remember walking my kids, just toddlers then, through the woods at the end of our street
    and down to the tracks to watch the little engine chug by.

    The owner and main customer for the Grafton & Upton Railroad, the Draper Corporation of
    Hopedale, had by then pulled up stakes and moved to North Carolina. The new owners, I
    remember being told, had to run a train down the track from time to time to keep the railroad from
    being classified as abandoned. They owned a trucking company and there were tax advantages
    to owning a railroad, even one that wasn’t taking anything anywhere. Federal law is riddled with
    special treatment for railroads, a legacy of the political clout of the 19th century railroad barons.

    The G&U was built in 1873, at the height of the age of rails. It brought straw to the Knowlton mill
    in West Upton and hauled out straw hats for the nation. It brought raw materials to the sprawling
    Draper factory in Hopedale, which made the looms at the heart of America’s textile industry.

    But New England’s textile industry followed the straw hat industry into oblivion, and the G&U
    slowed to a stop. Trees grew between the ties. Rails were torn up and grade crossings paved
    over on the stretch between Hopedale and Milford. Homeowners treated the G&U’s right-of-way
    as extensions of their backyards. One man built a pool in the railbed. No one much missed the
    railroad, and people bought properties with tracks on their lot lines, blissfully unaware that the old
    G&U was sleeping, not dead.

    Conservation-minded people in the towns along the tracks talked about converting the railbed to
    a rail trail. At the railroad’s West Upton hub, a 22-acre site that is home to a former landfill, gravel
    yard and construction company, developers a few years ago proposed a mixed-use village, with
    boutique stores, townhouses, a ballfield, a town common and a new town library. People talked
    about putting an ice cream shop over on the railroad side of the property to cater to the hikers
    and cyclists riding the rail trail.

    Then the economy crashed, and funding for the village development dried up. Upton voters had
    approved a new bylaw for the village, but they balked when the developers proposed the town
    buy the land.

    Now, what’s old is new again. The G&U is coming back.

    The rails have been straightened, and thousands of new ties installed. The first of several
    sidetracks has been built at the now-capped Upton landfill, where containers will be offloaded
    onto trucks bound for all corners of New England.

    “It’s 19th century technology with a 21st century business model,” the new owner of the G&U, Jon
    Delli Priscoli, told me during a recent tour.

    The G&U is a “short line” a term familiar to railroad enthusiasts and Monopoly players. It
    connects to the main CSX line in North Grafton on one end and the Franklin rail line in Milford.
    Think of CSX as the wholesaler, interested in moving product in large quantities, Delli Priscoli
    explained, while short lines like the G&U take the freight to a distribution point.

    One of Delli Priscoli’s first customers is an outfit that makes wood pellets for stoves. Now, the
    pellets are shipped to New Jersey, and trucked to New England. Any day now, they’ll start arriving
    by freight car in Upton, and be trucked from there to retailers throughout the region.

    It’s cheaper, he said, and greener. CSX says it can haul a ton of freight 423 miles on a single
    gallon of fuel. Fuel efficiency is the main reason the nation’s rail traffic is expected to double by
    2030, Delli Priscoli said.

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