The railroad that runs through West Boylston does not carry a large amount of traffic. The occasional cargo train will rumble through town at a rather slow speed; if one gets caught by the train at one of the two grade crossings in town, it is best to turn your car’s engine off and relax, as it will be a while before the crossing clears again.
When I am fortunate enough to meet a train in this way, I enjoy the time to take a closer look at what is passing in front of me. There is much to learn by watching a train pass by. The railroad is a veritable history collection on steel wheels. Ranging from the collection of freight cars and their owners to the cargo that they haul, each train tells a story.
The train may be made up from a large variety of rolling stock from carriers, such as Green Mountain Railroad, Boston and Maine, Pan Am Railways, Bangor and Aroostook, Maine Central, Providence and Worcester Railroad, and the list goes on. Each of these railroads has their own background and current state of success or trouble. Some railroads do well financially, but many small railroads’ fate often hinge on consolidation.
The types of the railcars tell another part of the story: what is being carried. Usually, I see a mix of tankers, car carriers and loads of building wood on center beam cars. One part that is always a mystery, is where the cargo originated and what its final destination is.
Additionally, the train is a rolling canvas for graffiti artists. Often just a stylized writing of the artist’s chosen name or some clever message; occasionally, there is a true masterpiece that rolls by and you cannot help, but be amazed by the talent.
By the time the train completes its passage of the grade crossing, I have been entertained, puzzled and stimulated. It’s time to fire up the engine once more and continue the journey.