News and Announcements
Whistler’s Survey Reenactment a Success!
December 26, 2005 — Geoff Alson of Alson Video Productions had his work cut out for him on this rainy, cold & dreary day of filming along the Westfield River in Chester, Massachusetts. This was just a small part of filming a documentary; “Railroad to the Moon” funded in part by the Highland Communities Initiative, a program of the Trustees of Reservations. “Railroad to the Moon” tells the story of how America’s first mountain railroad was created by an ingenious engineer of his day; Major George Washington Whistler, a graduate from West Point.
The weather on this harsh winter’s day in 2005 seemed to capture another aspect of the whole experience which demonstrated just how hard things really were back in the 1830s. Men dressed in heavy woolen clothing of the Federal Period surveyed the treacherous terrain on horseback. They were slogging ever so slowly through slushy snow covered landscapes which are deemed “uninhabitable” (to this day!) to get to the river.
Clips from the documentary “Railroad to the Moon” will be featured this spring at the Westfield River Symposium on Saturday, April 1, 2006 at Westfield State College.
Please visit the link below for more information:
The stories below are older news announcements that were on the website in years past.
Keystone Arches Restoration
October 10, 2005 — Mass Highway abruptly canceled the contract for restoration of two abandoned stone arch bridges along the former alignment of the Western Railroad of Massachusetts, now CSX. Reasons given were the near year-long negotiations with CSX to gain access along the right of way with stone and equipment and the inability of contractors and regulators to settle on a plan for de-watering the National Wild & Scenic Westfield River during the work.
While Mass Highway professes support for the project, they have indicated that these problems must be overcome before the contract is re-bid. Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, administrators and Friends of the Keystone Arches, an advocacy group, may have to raise as much as $20,000.00 from outside sources to complete this phase.
Funding for the restoration was granted during the ISTEA era in the early nineties, giving an indication of how long people have worked toward this goal. At least, while the contract was in effect, replacement stones of Chester Blue granite were cut for the project and are stockpiled at Chester Granite Co., awaiting delivery to the site.
The two bridges are part of the first series of stone railroad bridges built in America (1839) to complete the then world’s highest and longest railroad, the Western, later Boston & Albany. While remarkably sound, they have sustained flood damage, most recently during the torrential rains of Oct 8 in the Northeast and from vandals who have pushed one-ton free-standing capstones into the river below.
On the positive side, the volunteer-built trail to access the Arches, while avoiding railroad property, was completed this summer with the addition of a 65’ long pedestrian bridge, an entrance sign and metal trail markers. This made possible through a Dept. of Environmental Management grant.
Donations toward the $20,000 goal to re-start the project will be gratefully accepted.
Please make donations to
“Friends of the Keystone Arches”
Friends of Keystone Arches
P.O. Box 276
Huntington, MA 01050
Benton Homestead, Tolland, CT,
“Railroad To The Moon”
March 25, 2006 — Our trip to the Benton Homestead to shoot the “Tavern Scene” was a surprising success! We were very pleased with the resulting video to be added to the ongoing documentary, Railroad To The Moon. First off, we couldn’t believe how many kind folks showed up to volunteer their time and create a fantastic “period” setting of an tavern set in the year 1835. The house itself has a wonderful charm of its own, built well before the birth of our nation circa 1720. The wooden floors have bent and bowed over time as the house has settled with the earth. The twelve over eight pained window glass is slowly “melting” since it was originally fired well over 200 years ago. Add the costumes, Irish guitar & fiddle songs, and the smoke from two cozy stone hearth fireplaces, and you felt indeed that the year was 1835.
The shoot was amazing and was hurriedly added to the growing documentary just in time for the preview showing at the Westfield River Symposium just one weekend later!
Special thanks to Gail for offering the use of the Benton Homestead, and to Caren for rounding up volunteers & wonderful authentic costumes —including those used in the Whistler shoot last December. Of course, thanks to all of the volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning and afternoon to make this filming such a success.
Please Visit: The Benton Homestead Website
Please Visit Our Photo Gallery:
Hundreds of photos can be seen in the
Keystone Arches Gallery.
New Sign At Hebert Cross Road Entrance
August 4, 2005 — K.A.B. Trail entrance finally got its much deserved sign after years of delay. Many groups made this sign possible including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Gateway Regional High School, and the Friends of the Keystone Arches.
The sign is well protected with bullet-proof glass-like material made of Lexan which was generously donated by General Electric Advanced Materials Division, Pittsfield, MA.
Keystone Arch Bridges Trail Formally Opened
May 22, 2004 — the trail to the historic Keystone Arch Bridges of Becket, Chester and Middlefield officially opened with a celebration on the grounds of the new Chester Elementary School, off Rte. 20, Chester, MA.
The trail has been a project fraught with delays and carried out by a number of organizations over a five year period. Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has overseen the project for about nine years. AmeriCorps volunteers and students of the Gateway Regional District worked to cut the trail and clear brush and debris from existing portions. Gateway students from the Tech and Welding programs are responsible for the informational signs one sees along the way.
Friends of the Keystone Arches, Inc. was formed during this period to help fill the gaps between organizations and perform services which would otherwise fall between the cracks. They are now proud to see the task nearing completion. The summer of 2004 should see erection of the 65′ footbridge crossing a small gorge, and the award of funding to repair the arches themselves, effectively completing the construction phase of this endeavor.
The inaugural program attracted a wide variety of participants including stone cutting and railway worker re-enactors from Storytown Village, a blacksmith from Hancock Shaker Village and the Mass 10th Civil War living history exhibit. Displays by Fish & Wildlife, Dept. Of Environmental Management, Westfield River Watershed Association, Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, Wild & Scenic Advisory Committee, Chester Gardeners, Gateway High and Middle Schools environmental and Salmon fry projects, crafters, a number of area cultural and historic organizations, backpacking groups and at least one model railroad were also there.
Recreational viewing included kayakers on the river all day, as well as fly fishing and tying demos. The 100 year partnership between railroads and the Postal System was recognized with a special Postal Cancellation at the temporary station and another commodity which played a part in the laying of this rail line, wine, was represented by Chester Hill Winery with a commemorative label blueberry wine.
All this framed the official ribbon cutting which will took place at 1PM. Miniature Theater founder Vincent Dowling added his particular charm with a salute to the hundreds of laborers who launched the transportation age here by completing this first ever railroad mountain crossing.
Parking & Access Policy
Parking in the lot at the top of Hebert Cross Road at the Walnut Hill Conservation Area has been re-opened to the public and the claim to deny access by the abutting owner dropped, resolving the access questions previously encountered.
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P.0. Box 276
Huntington, MA 01050