Walpole and the Kissing Bridge
by Edward J. Sweeney
Model Railroader, September, 1967


Another railroad you can model.
The crossing of two main lines creates need for a good variety of railroad facilities. Model them in a corner, perhaps.

In my opinion there's an item of interest for every modeler's tastes in the relatively small area which makes up the New Haven, RR's complex at Walpole. Mass.

Walpole is today almost as Walpole was back in the Gay Nineties, although there's a lot less activity and the physical plant is a little less bright. The famous all-white "Ghost Train" of the old New York and New England RR. no longer rushes bankers through Walpole en route between New York and Boston. In its place, heavy tonnage freights and morning/evening commuter trains provide today's action.

Walpole depot is located at the junction of what was once the New Haven's busy main line between Boston and Hartford, Conn., and the road's Old Colony Division main line between New Bedford and Lowell, Mass. This part of the Hartford-Boston line supports no through passenger trains but does have commuter both ways daily from Blackstone, Mass., into Boston. There are several daily freights. The New Bedford-Lowell line, running north and south, has no passenger service today; years ago it was fairly heavily traveled. Now it does see several heavy freights daily to and from Framingham and Lowell, where the New Haven interchanges with the New York Central (Boston & Albany) and the Boston & Maine respectively.

For the model railroad track plan and operation enthusiast, Walpole offers a simple yet interesting layout. There is a crossing at an angle of approximately 68 degrees. On three sides of it are connecting tracks between the two lines. There is a modest classification and storage yard, some single and double trackage, a handful of industrial sidings, and a freighthouse spur.

Standard semaphone signaling is used for the approaches to the crossing; dwarf semaphores control movement in the yard and on the crossovers and junction tracks. The simple, uncomplicated signal arrangement is ideal for adding the detail that is often lacking in model railroad crossings.

A variety of industries are represented in the Walpole layout, all within hailing distance of the L-shaped depot at the crossing. In addition to the freight-house spur, which accommodates three or four cars, there is a large sand and gravel pit on a model of Walpole. It could produce many loadings of hopper or gondola cars. A rather crestfallen but appealing coal trestle still receives an occasional cement hopper. In years gone by it was loaded with copper cars of Pennsylvania coal. Several warehouse spurs receive and originate cars. At the Lowell end of the trackage is a large lumberyard which receives boxcars, gondolas, and flatcars with various loads. Just behind the depot is the large plant of Kendall Mills' Fiber Products Division. Its large modern plant accounts for a number of boxcars every time a switcher gets into action. Part of the Kendall spur is on a trestle equipped to receive fuel oil tank cars.

Because of Walpole's strategic location at the junction of two main lines, a snow flanger is kept on a spur near the depot during winter months.

The variety of structures at Walpole provides both challenge and some interesting designs for the structure scratch-builder. The Kendall plant is modern in construction: brick and concrete, several floors high. The Kendall warehouse, situated near the freight yard, is a large one-floor steel and concrete building easily modeled, and adaptable to any layout.

The L-shaped Walpole depot is a classic of Gay Nineties construction. It was built in 1893 and is of wood frame construction with a slate roof. Although time and the elements have taken their toll, the station still shows many of the gingerbread details which tickle many a modeler's fancy.

The station's L shape is distorted to fit the broad side of the 68-degree crossing angle. The two sections of the L thus join at a 112-degree angle, and at the corner is a second-story tower. Although unused today, it was apparently designed to be a signal tower. At present all signals are remotely controlled from the combination ticket office and block station on the first floor. Today the depot houses the operator, a waiting room for the daily commuters, and space for some elements of the maintenance-of-way department. The baggage rooms at either end are no longer used.

On the platform a short distance away from the main building is a companion structure, a tiny Railway Express building that is abandoned and closed. It still bears many elements of architectural design which made buildings of the 1890's distinctive. Across the crossing from the station are several small maintenance-of-way section sheds where supplies and handcars are (or once were) stored.

The freight station is served by its own siding along the main line toward Boston, a few hundred yards from the passenger station. It has a floor-height freight car loading platform.

Still farther toward Boston another spur serves a diminutive New England-style grain elevator, a reminder of the days when Walpole was a center of agriculture and grain was a far more important local commodity than it is in New England today. The building still functions as a feed store and farm and building supply outlet. Several boxcars are generally spotted beside its trackside loading docks. The building design is simple, and its compactness makes it especially adaptable for a model railroad.

About 1/8 mile toward Boston from the freight station is what is known to many as the "Kissing Bridge." It is actually a tunnel about 100 feet long under Massachusetts highway 1A. It gets its name from a local legend: it seems that back in the nineties, an amorous passenger about to detrain in Walpole would steal a kiss from his commuting sweetheart who got off farther toward Hartford. The tunnel's momentary blackness afforded the perfect cover. One day, the story goes, when the local steamed through the tunnel, the passenger kissed the wrong commuter. The details of what ensued have been lost in the haze of time, but the nickname for the tunnel still remains.

The tunnel was once double-tracked. With the advent of wider equipment, double-track operation was impossible, so a gantlet arrangement served for many years: the two tracks merged and ran interlaced through the bore, then separated. No provision was made for traffic to change tracks. As time wore on, the gantlet was removed and the entire line reverted to single track.

Where can you model such a crossing scene on the average layout? Many of the so-called "figure 8" layouts or their modifications would obviously lend themselves beautifully to building a scene like Walpole, or some portion of it. My own layout plan envisions using the crossing tracks to fill in a dead space at the corner of the layout. The crossing trackage will merely be extended tangents from a large sweeping curve. I'll be able to use the freight yard and the sidings, and switch many of the combinations. I'll still have space to model many of the scenic and structure ideas that my visits to Walpole have produced.

Who knows? My Boston-bound Budd car may have an amorous cast-lead passenger who has fallen in love with a beautiful hand-painted lady commuter - and I'll have to build a "Kissing Bridge."


Last updated 30 October 2000