Relics of a Past Life


The colors are of the old Boston and Maine Railroad, but the caboose is marked only with the logo of the Assabet River Rail Trail, a discontiguous series of trails crossing five towns along a former railroad right of way. Some sections are paved, others still dirt, and the line is apparently broken by privately owned sections. Two rivers lack bridges. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and one that seems to be making progress, albeit slowly.

I walked a section through Hudson last weekend, from the center of town east to the end of the currently paved portion. It was a lovely day, unseasonably warm, and many others were out for a walk. Along the way, I passed this old caboose, which seems to capture the history of rail trails in a nutshell: once an industrial lifeline to smaller mill towns that lacked water access, now a recreational facility serving the suburban commuter families who have revitalized those old mill towns.

This one is particularly nice, with some public sculpture in the center of town, in addition to this, plus a scattering of  benches for less energetic walkers. Although this stretch runs alongside a busy highway, it still felt somewhat isolated from the traffic by the wide margin of grass, and once it ducked away from the road and ran through the woods, you could forget it was even in suburbia.

At one point the old Mass Central right of way crosses overhead. The bridge is long gone, but the steel rails still stick a few feet out into space from the top of the stone abutments. That line, also owned by the B&M by then, was abandoned in 1980 but trains hadn’t run on it in 15 years, and lifting the rails would likely have cost too much so they’ve remained, rusting away in the woods. As, I suspect, the rails were here until work started on the trail in 1997.

This section of the rail trail’s line was also abandoned by the B&M in 1980, but the portion just east of here, beyond the end of the paved trail, was abandoned in 1943, probably one reason stitching it back together has been a slow process.

I like this photo for its juxtaposition of old and new, and for the way the trail curves and vanishes over the crest of a small hill, near where it crosses over the Assabet River, both leading the eye away from the caboose and then throwing it back.

This image is, as usual, an HDR made from a bracket of five exposures. This was centered at 1/160th-second exposure, at ISO 800 with f/11, and with the lens at 55mm. Processing was relatively minor, with a touch of saturation and contrast, and a slight boost to both overall exposure and to blacks. The color seems right for the time, the sun low and providing a somewhat diffuse light with some shadows, but not low enough to have yellowed significantly.


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