Rail exhibit at Skene Manor

B y Derek Liebig

An exhibit showcasing the history of trains in the area and how they expanded the life and livelihoods of local residents is currently on display in Whitehall.

The Skene Manor will be displaying the exhibit, entitled “The Iron Rail,” during its regular public hours, noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 17.

The “Iron Rail” is a multi-media exhibit that has been developed by Salem historian Al Cormier and the Salem Courthouse Community Center using archival materials from the Town and Village of Salem.

It uses historic photographs, magazine articles, books and two interactive CD’s to tell the story of trains in Salem specifically and the region in general.

“The exhibit focuses on the rail industry in this area and tells the story of progress that was made,” explained Courthouse Community Center executive director Donna Farringer.

On display at the Skene Manor are nearly two dozen historic photographs and a pair of paintings by Evelyn Scism McGuire donated by Diane Rice.

The pictures show images of the D&H Railroad in Salem, Shusah, West Rupert, Troy and other locales.

“This whole area was just alive with trains,” said Skene Manor volunteer Joanne Kessler.

Some of the photographs are more than a hundred years old.

The oldest photograph, taken in September of 1865, shows a train sitting in the waters near Green Island in Troy.

The train had plunged into the water after Salem engineer Ira Broughton couldn’t stop the Taunton 4-4-0 from plunging over the side of an open drawbridge.

Other images show a milk train collision in Rexleigh in 1926 and a refurbished Metro North passenger car in Salem in 1995.

Other images show the Round House in Salem, which was a freight house in service area for local rail lines.

There are also two CD’s: “Real Trains for Kids,” and “Railroading in Salem,” that visitors can view via computer.

Kessler said they received a letter from the CCC asking them if they would consider displaying the exhibit and since the D&H ran through Whitehall it was a natural fit.

It also fits their goal of using some the space in the Skene Manor to display different exhibits, an ongoing goal.

Kessler is also hoping to find additional images of the D&H in Whitehall.

The local area was home to several rail lines around the turn of  the century including the R&W, R&T and the D&H, which was commonly referred to as the “The Bridge Line” for all the bridges it crossed.

Because the line ran from Troy to Rutland, VT, Salem became the a busy railroad center because of its location halfway between its beginning at ending points.

Besides people, the line was used to move a wide variety of goods, including milk, animals, farm produce such as potatoes, hay, wagons, automobiles, buggies and household appliances.

The last passenger train to Salem was on June 24, 1934 and D&H abandoned the Troy to Rutland freight business in 1982, at which point the Batten Kill Railroad took ownership of the remaining 37 miles of track.

Today, D&H tracks are operated by Amtrak.

The Iron Rail exhibit was funded by LARAC, The Dr. Asa Fitch Historical Society and The Shoppe of Broadway.

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