Current Waybill: Summer 2018  Click here to download!


*August 1, 2018*


 Lines from Ireland


The RoundHouse


International News

Tracks We've Crossed

   Letter from the Editor

The Waybill is for you the members and our friends to enjoy. If there is something you would like to see in the Waybill then please contact us by email at or by mail.

We are always looking for stories to include, as we have many members who are no longer able to go on any trips and they get great enjoyment out of reading about them.

So if you have ever wanted to be a Newspaper reporter now is your chance…

Group Sales Policy: 10 or more tickets purchased in ADVANCE by the SAME PERSON will be entitled to a 10% DISCOUNT subject to availability.

BLOCK SPACE may be arranged on any non-restricted event with Ticket Coordinator or Tour Director (when assigned) at least 50 days prior to departure. For further information, please contact the Mystic Valley Railway Society, 617-361-4445 or e-mail at


 From the President

by Theresa E. Rylko

Happy New Year as we start our 47th year.
There have been a lot of changes, but one thing stays steady. That is your love for traveling with the club. Thank you for your help in passing the Waybills out in your area. Please let us know if you have a place that you would like the club to visit. If you have a note you wish to put under Member-o-Gram please send it in, marked Attention: Member-o-Gram, and I will forward to the Waybill editor to include in an upcoming edition. Remember this is your Waybill and the best way to communicate with other members. Thank you for your comments concerning your membership. Our membership year runs from April 1 to March 31. We use the first year of the membership for coding the Waybill, so this year will be coded M18.


From the Vice President

by Jeff Costello 


You know April showers bring May flowers and a fresh crop of interesting, fun trips from Mystic Valley Railway Society. The trip team has worked diligently to organize new trips as well as old friends. For the summer and early fall they have planned a mix of favorites such as Cabbage Island with new offerings like Newport RI to view carriage horses and “green animals”. If you know of any interesting places and favorite restaurants that the members of MVRS would enjoy then the trip team would appreciate your input. We have a June weekend trip to the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne VT, our 2016 Russell Rylko Memorial Grant recipient. They used the money to help fund refurbishment of the Grand Isle, a private passenger car, and re-ballasting the trackage it rests on. We are traveling there to view it and many other interesting exhibits. And again, the Mystic Valley Railway Society Grant Committee, consisting of Joe McDonough and I plus our newest member Dirk Hertel, have reviewed grant requests ahead of announcing the winners at the MVRS Annual Meeting and Appreciation Banquet held on Saturday May 5, 2018. As ever, in preparation for our annual appearance at the 2019 Amherst Railway Society’s Railroad Hobby Show in West Springfield, the trade show coordinators are seeking train-related items to sell for fundraising. If you are spring-cleaning or downsizing and can bear to part with anything, contact MVRS and we will make arrangements to obtain those treasures. At this year’s Amherst Show I delighted future train enthusiasts with starter train sets at low cost. Biggest smiles on the faces of two young boys and their Dads. We can continue to do our best for our members and most certainly appreciate your input for future adventures. Come on board!


From the Membership Chairman

by Nancy Jeanne Martin


Greetings to all members. It was pretty chilly on the April 14 Springtime in Vermont trip, but now it is getting warmer. I took Amtrak to PA to visit with my son and it is little warmer here. I have been busy sending out membership letters and cards after Tracey Rylko put the information on the computer. For the year beginning on April 1, 2018 we have 323 life members. At the Saturday May 5 Annual Meeting I reported that so far this year we have 245 regular members and an additional 184 family members. Last year’s total membership was 322 life members, plus 802 regular and 745 family members. Remember, signing up as a life member saves you time, trouble, and postage with no need to renew each year. We are encouraging people to sign up for the trip to Vermont in June. The Shelburne Museum is a great is a place and I am looking forward to visiting it again. I also have three teddy bears from the Teddy Bear Factory. Maybe they need some new clothes!


From the Waybill Editor

by Roma Hertel
What is the Massachusetts Homestead Law? This is a statute (G.L. c. 188) that became effective on March 16, 2011 and is designed by means of a simple step to protect up to $500,000.00 of the equity in your house, condominium, or mobile home from certain creditors. If you have refinanced your mortgage since then, if you and your spouse are legally disabled or over the age of 62, if your home is owned by a Trust, or if you have never filed a Declaration of Homestead with the Registry of Deeds in your county, you should consider doing so and secure the protection the law provides for your hard-earned home equity. Detailed information about the Homestead Law, including how to file a Declaration and the form(s) that you will need to do so, can be easily found at the website for the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office at Please also remember to review both your homeowner’s and motor vehicle insurance policies each year to ensure that you have adequate coverage for any liability claims that could arise against you or your family members from activities at your home or from driving a motor vehicle. If you have a swimming pool, often have guests visiting at your home, or frequently drive with passengers in your vehicle(s), then you should also consider purchasing an umbrella policy to increase the liability limits on your home and motor vehicle insurance. It’s much better to be prepared.

From the MVRS Legal Counsel

by Brad Pinta

We’ve had a Letter to the Editor! Member Oliver Lafitte from Paris, France wrote: “I read in the ‘Roundhouse’ that Penn Station was the largest station in the western hemisphere with 430 000 passengers a day. It is extremely large, but it seems that Gare du Nord in Paris handles more passengers: the figures for each weekday in 2015 (from Wikipedia) seem to be 550 000.” Further proof of readership came when contributor Dirk Hertel suffered the chagrin of being told that his Frank Sprague column was wrong to mention “regenerative breaking”. Neither he nor the editor had spotted Word’s incorrect auto-correction from the intended “regenerative braking”, but both were mighty pleased to learn the column had been read. Then I had an interesting exchange with columnist James Scannell about differing attitudes to public transportation. He had written “Lines from Ireland” as a break from preparing a talk for Dublin’s annual Local History Group Day on the Harcourt Street, Dublin to Bray, Co. Wicklow railroad line which closed on December 31, 1958. (James was in Bray station with his dad when the last train arrived and still has the engineer’s autograph.) He mentioned that now most of the track bed is in use by the Luas Green Line. I was curious to know how the reopening of long-disused tracks was viewed, since here stations and rail tracks are sometimes considered in an unfriendly light and meet opposition. Abutters feel as if they are being robbed of something not technically theirs. However, James related that although the rails and ties were removed, the undeveloped track bed remained the property of CIE with little building allowed on it. Within a decade that part of south Dublin became high developed with housing and industrial parks. From 1970 there were regular calls to reopen the line and in 1995 plans for the Luas were announced. It currently uses 80% of the former line. People who bought property beside the route were always warned the line could be re-opened so they could not bring legal action for compensation if it did. One Dublin property owner who brought an action against the Luas for noise had his case rejected by the courts. Government policy in both Ireland and the UK is to try and encourage people to use public transportation but getting people to give up their automobiles is an uphill struggle. Remarkably, both the British and Irish governments separately have decided to try and eliminate gasoline powered automobiles by 2045 in favor of electric cars. Closer to home, my wish list includes a rail link between South and North Stations, a subway link from the Red Line to the Blue Line, and the Green Line extension into Somerville. And more Letters to the Editor, please!

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The Ashburnham Railroad – 2.7 miles to the world

by Dirk Hertel

Sometimes we spend a weekend in Ashburnham, nestled in the hills of central Massachusetts beyond Fitchburg. There are rail trails and a Depot Street, but no depot. Did trains ever run here? I found the answer in the book “Ashburnham, Massachusetts 1885 - 1965”, written by Raymond and Barbara Holden to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the town’s incorporation. It starts with a delightful bird’s-eye view, drawn in 1886 by Lucien R. Burleigh, where a short passenger train steams at great speed – judging from the horizontal trail of smoke – towards the “R. R. Depot” at Central Street, marked as No. 15. The train consists of a classic 4-4-0 iron horse with cowcatcher, ornately painted tender, combine and passenger coach, and the depot has sidings leading to a turntable, woodshed for fuel, a two-stall engine house, and the large Boston Chair Manufactory identified by No. 9. Chair-making, using New England hardwoods, was once a significant industry here; nearby Gardner still calls itself Chair Capital of the World, and according to the Holdens, Ashburnham was a major player between 1885 and 1900. The Boston Chair Company ranked amongst the top three chair manufacturers, employing more than 200 workers. However, periods of economic downturn called for diversification and by 1892 the wooden bodies of electric street cars replaced chairs as the main output. In 1894 the company was sold, and workers laid off. Electric car production then continued on a much smaller scale under the Massachusetts Car Company, and trolleys were shipped from Ashburnham as far as Texas. Financial problems continued, and in 1898 the last electric streetcars left the dying giant. Bird’s-eye view of Ashburnham MA with the railroad depot (15) and the Boston Chair Company (9), by L. R. Burleigh, 1886. Industry can only flourish when connected to a transport network, and Ashburnham was no exception. The Fitchburg Railroad, built from Boston via Concord, finally reached Fitchburg in 1845 but continued westward expansion hit difficult hilly terrain. When the line reached the tiny hamlet of South Ashburnham, it could go no further but had to turn and head towards Gardner. In 1875 that switchback was replaced by a horseshoe curve. In the early 1870s a group of Ashburnham citizens had organized the Ashburnham Railroad to build a 2.7-mile short line from the South Ashburnham switchback to Ashburnham Center. Capital of $100,000 was raised from stock, individual subscription, and a local tax surcharge. The line was completed in January 1874, and the depot built the following year. Unfortunately, after three years of operation it became clear that, as the Holdens put it, “however sharp the management’s pencils might be, the books of a $100,000 corporation operating 2.7 miles of track serving a population of less than 2,000, could not be made to show a profit.” In 1877 the Ashburnham Railroad defaulted on a financial claim of a private citizen, with the result that Mrs. George Winchester found herself owning and running the railroad while the stockholders were left holding an empty bag. She rose to the challenge with great resourcefulness, keeping the trains running until 1885 when she managed to sell out to the Fitchburg Railroad. This gave the troubled line a new lease of life, because in the high-revenue golden age of North American Railroading that followed no board of directors could be bothered whether a tiny branch line such as the Ashburnham was making money. In 1900 the Fitchburg Railroad was gobbled up by the Boston & Maine, and the happy days of running trains on the “toy line” continued. However, after World War 1, when inflation put a squeeze on the Boston & Maine, their accountants found that passenger traffic between the two parts of Ashburnham did not pay its way. According to the Holdens “the time had not yet come when railroads could show complete disregard of the convenience of the public,” and in 1922 the little steam train was replaced by a single-unit self-propelled car. However, after struggling through one year of service that broke down irrevocably, and the steam train was back again. The Fitchburg press remarked that “the railroad was forced back to steam due to heavy passenger traffic.” This high-handed initiative did not sit well with the Boston & Main who responded by closing down passenger service on September 28, 1923. Some freight traffic continued until 1936 when a great flood washed out stretches of track which were never rebuilt. Today 1.3 miles of the old Ashburnham line is a rail trail, and the South Ashburnham horseshoe, hidden in dense woodland, is part of the Guilford line. Ashburnham Depot with engine shed in 1930 (Boston & Maine R.R Historical Society). Ashburnham has survived the loss of its rail link to the outside world. When we first visited in 1998 we took a taxi from Fitchburg commuter rail station. Little did we know that 100 years earlier we could have continued to our destination by train.

A Little Bit of Oz

by Geoff Wright

G`Day. Here’s a bit about myself. I started on the railroad as a cleaner then after a few months moved on to trainee. Passing exams allowed me to become a driver (Editor’s note: driver = engineer). There were three different types of roster working. My first was a freight training roster, with the driver beside you in the cab as your regular mate: mine was giving me up to six hours a day with rules and regulations for approximately five years. Next came B roster where I spent eight-to-nine months on passenger trains, a collar-and-tie job. Then I was taken off and went into class again to learn the brakes, engine defects, rules and regulations, plus roads and signals. On April 14, 1976 I became a general class driver and after a few months stepped onto general class passenger trains.

From the steam days to the 1990s the railways were the backbone of Victoria. There were hundreds of locomotive drivers, shunters, and guards, with depot maintenance for over four hundred locos. All have been scrapped. When I joined in April 1971, Victoria had still several mainlines plus quite a few branch lines and fifty locomotive depots. I did a lot of relieving in Victoria as a driver and enjoyed it. By 2010, as I retired, I found the railways to be at rock bottom. There were just a few small depots remaining such as my old depot at Portland with ten drivers.

A company, National Rail, took over the administration but, in my opinion, got it all wrong. It should have been hook-andhaul. However, they carried on and that is why the depots and locomotives have all gone. This was done not only to Victoria but also New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.


April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019

President - Theresa E. Rylko (Tracey)
Vice President - Jeffrey Costello (Jeff)
Treasurer - Judy Berson-Hoyt
Recording Secretary - Nancy Roney
Lillian Garvey
Eleanor Manning
William Manning
Nancy Martin
Joseph McDonough
Marcia Pennington

Positions They Fill:
Roma Hertel - Button Maker
Dr. Dirk Hertel - Photography/Calendar
Billy Manning - Mailing Chairperson
Nancy Jeanne Martin - Membership Chairperson
Sally Avjian & Ellie Manning-
Trip Team (Planning Trips and Social Event Co-Chairs)
Roma Hertel – Waybill Editor
Dan Ouellette - Web Master/Computer
Joe McDonough & Jeff Costello – Trade Show Coordinators
Jeff Costello – Communications Radios/Defibrillators
Marcia Pennington & Jeff Costello – Boutique
Mary & Jay Verner – Waybill Mailing Coordinators
Albert W. Avjian - Treasurer, Emeritus
Sally M. Avjian - Recording Secretary, Emeritus


You will see many of these volunteers as tour leaders on your trips.

It takes a team effort to have a successful volunteer organization. Please share your talents as a volunteer with MVRS and be

rewarded by seeing your work in action.  Call 617-361-4445 and a volunteer form will be sent to you.



Previous Waybills: 

Spring 2018

 Winter 2017  Fall 2017    Summer 2017    Spring 2017   

Fall 2016   Summer 2016    Spring 2016    

Winter 2015   Summer 2015     Spring 2015     

Winter 2014     Fall 2014





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Revised: Apr 2018