NEWFANE—The Historical Society of Windham County will host a grand opening of the West River Railroad Museum on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Three years ago, the Historical Society of Windham County purchased the former Newfane railroad station to save a historic landmark and to preserve a piece of Vermont history that would otherwise be lost forever.
Since that time, the society has been restoring the station, which includes the old Depot Building and its associated Water Tank House, both of which were built in 1880 under the auspices of the Brattleboro-Whitehall Railroad, later called the West River Railroad.
The Historical Society’s extensive collection of West River Railroad artifacts, manuscripts, photographs, and documents will be housed in the new Railroad Museum. The restored Railroad Station will provide a visual and accessible presentation for a broad audience, as well as an engaging teaching tool for educators and parents, according to a news release.
During its operation from 1880 to 1936, the West River Railroad played a critical role both economically and socially.
In 1905, the narrow gauge was replaced with standard gauge tracks and around the same time, the Newfane depot was expanded to accommodate the increase in freight traffic. However, due to frequent accidents and weather related disasters including the Flood of 1927, the West River Railroad became infamous as “36 Miles of Trouble.”
The last train rolled down the West River Railroad in 1936. Since then, the station was in private hands until it was purchased by the Historical Society of Windham County in 2014. The station is a contributing resource in the Newfane Village Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The station property also preserves a section of the proposed West River Rail Trail along the railroad bed that extended 36 miles from Brattleboro to South Londonderry.
The Grand Opening of the West River Railroad Museum on Oct. 14 will begin at noon with a ribbon cutting, followed by tours of the restored Depot and Water Tank House, exhibits of the West River Railroad, telegraph demonstrations, refreshments, and music by Colin Blazej and Friends. The event will honor all those who have generously helped in the restoration of the Newfane Railroad Station and the realization of the West River Railroad Museum.