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Preserving the rail trail that - wasn't

The twisting tale of what is now known as the Grand Trunk Railroad

Workers are seen in this 1914 photo building the underpass under Main Street in Southbridge, with a trolley car waiting to continue on Main Street. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
August 09, 2010
HOLLAND — It is without a doubt one of the most well known institutions of local history that never existed.

The Grand Trunk Railroad, also known as the Titanic Railroad, and oficially called the Southern New England Railroad, has seen a resurgence in interest over the last few years due to the efforts of the Grand Trunk Trailblazers, an outdoor group working toward development of an intermunicipal walking trail utilizing now-defunct rail beds.

For as widely recognizable as the term Grand Trunk has become in the area, the reality is the railroad that would have borne that name never once carried a single Massachusetts passenger.

Brimfield historian Larry Lowenthal, author of "Titanic Railroad: The Southern New England," discussed the history of the railroad that never was at the Holland Senior Center Monday, Aug. 9.

"The odd thing about it, is it's not really called the Grand Trunk Railroad," Lowenthal said.

To understand the different monikers by which the rail company was known, Lowenthal said it helps to understand the importance of the railroad in the early 20th Century and the impact railroads had on the still-young nation's financial stability.

"They don't effect our lives the way they did back then," Lowenthal said of railroads, which were at one time the primary mode of transportation for people and goods.

As such, railroads were big business with affluent fiduciary support. With the possibility of big payoffs around every bend, entrepreneurs did their best to monopolize sections of the country.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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