Friday, March 5

the nantucket railroad

B&W photos via Nantucket Historical Association flickr.

The defunct Nantucket railroad. That sounds like a band. Someone should open a store located on the site of the Nantucket Railroad repair shop. You know the sort of stuff I like... Hickorees on crack. I'm giving these ideas away here...

Anyway, the long-gone Nantucket Railroad was a narrow gauge rail; went from Nantucket (town) to Surfside and eventually to 'Sconset. Began in the 1880's, the line closed around 1917. Some cars sent to Europe in a war effort, one is buried where it stopped on the tracks and one is still around as the Club Car bar. Further reading.

Apparently the definitive history of the railroad is in the book The Far-Out Island Railroad: Nantucket's Old Summer Narrow-Gauge, 1879-1918 by Clay Lancaster (who was also instrumental in kickstarting the 1960's preservation of buildings in Brooklyn, further reading). The Far Out Island is rare, but available from some New England libraries. There is something intriguing about these small time railways (like the 36 Miles of Trouble) with all the boosters, and investors and failures... Also something odd about seeing a train on a (small, but almost deserted at that time) island when you know they had to import the engines, rails, railbed ballast probably... everything.

From 1907 until 1913 a tiny gasoline-powered car and its companion baggage car (affectionately known as the "Bug" and "Bird Cage," respectively) plied the rails to 'Sconset, including winter service.

Color photo via USGenArchives.

Related: Some friends did a fake Nantucket subway map that might amuse. Link.
Also, the Special Collections Dept. of the Massachusetts State Library is now working to digitize their 19th and 20th century railroad maps... then we will see hand-drawn plans and profiles, works of art really, of this railroad system. #ftw.