Rutland Railroad Sold For $22 In 1855

Early in the history of the Rutland & Burlington Railroad, the corporation became financially embarrassed, and in January 1855, Sheriff George Slate, of this village, sold at auction here 22,000 shares of the stock of the corporation for $22, it being at the rate of one mill a share of $100 face value. The purchasers of the road at this price were William Henry, who was president of the old Bellows Falls bank, and later, a member of Congress from this district; Jabez D. Bridgeman, a prominent local attorney; and Peyton R. Chandler, who was superintendent of the Vermont Valley Railroad between here and Brattleboro. They became owners and directors of the corporation. They managed it but a short time, when a thorough reorganization was effected. In January 1855, this road was running only one train each way. It came down from Rutland in the morning and returned at night.

The first passenger conductors of the road between here and Rutland were the late Josiah Bowtell and Daniel Arms of Bellows Falls, both of whom had been engaged in staging along the line previous to the construction of the road. Elisha P. Reed and Henry H. Howe were other of the earlier conductors residing here. Mr. Bowtell was the last of the old conductors to pass away on May 8, 1890. The oldest engineer was Albert Pratt, who, until 1903, was still running a passenger locomotive between here and Rutland, and who died that year. Charles C. Caldwell began service on trains of the Rutland Road in the spring of 1858, and died in Bellows Falls November 26, 1905, having been in railroad service duxing the entire time.

A peculiar, and seemingly very hazardous, practice 50 years ago in the handling of passenger trains at White River Junction and Bellows Falls was the practice of making “flying switches,” as they were called, in entering the railroad yards at the two stations. At White River Junction, passenger trains coming in from all four directions, while running at high speed, would be cut apart a half mile or more before reaching the station, and each car, with a brakeman on the front, would run to the station by its own momentum, each section separated a short distance to allow the switchman to throw the switches. When the different cars of the train came to a standstill they would be on different tracks to start out over the different divisions.

At Bellows Falls, only trains did this from the north and from Boston, owing to the construction of the yard. Often, the noon mail was made up at White River Junction with the regular car that was to go over the Cheshire Road between other cars that were to go down the river, and the train would be cut into three sections a mile or more north of the station. When the Cheshire car reached the yard on the Vermont side, it would run down opposite the depot on the “Y,” that was then there, and the Boston train would back onto it, while the cars behind would be guided on the main line and coupled to the forward part of the train to continue to Springfield. It was always a hazardous practice, but no serious accident ever occurred from it at either station, although it was done at a high rate of speed.


Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

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