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The Hampden Railroad built by the Boston and Maine Railroad and New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The Hampden Railroad was chartered in 1910 and leased to the B&M in 1911, as a route from the Central Mass east of Bondsville west-southwest to Springfield, Massachusetts to connect to the NYNH&H's Hartford and Springfield Railroad or known as New Haven-Springfield Line .
Palmer, Massachusetts is affectionately known as "The Town of Seven Railroads", and is still one of the favorite spots of rail buffs to come see the trains on Depot Street. (The old depot is now a restaurant called the Steaming Tender.) However, there is one rail line in Palmer that never got a chance to make a name for itself.
The Hampden Railroad ran between Bondsville, Massachusetts and Springfield, Massachusetts at Athol Junction. It was built to be an inland connector between the New Haven line and the Boston & Maine (Central Mass. division), shaving 3 miles (4.8 km) off the usual trip from Springfield to Boston. The Hampden rail line was 14.8 miles (23.8 km) of high class rail that never felt the wheels of a single revenue train.
The Hampden Railroad was incorporated in July 1910 as a subsidiary of NYNH&H. By 1912, 90% of the grading had been finished and 5 miles (8.0 km) of heavy line rail had been laid. By June 23, 1913, the Hampden RR was practically completed (all that was left was to connect to the Central Mass), but the lease of the property was not approved by the Public Service Commission, and the rail was never opened for operation.
The rail line was relatively straight, with at most 4 degree curves and a steepest grade of 1.23% which was over Minnechoag Mountain in Ludlow. In addition, there was not a single grade crossing. To achieve these feats required 28 bridges over the 15-mile (24 km) route, in addition to several huge grade fills and cuts. The Minnechoag cut itself was 4,800 feet (1,500 m) long and 70 feet (21 m) deep.
The longest bridge on the Hampden was at Bircham Bend over the Chicopee River which ran 85 feet (26 m) above the river, and was 1,098 feet (335 m) long. The bridge over the Swift River in Palmer was 400 feet (120 m) long and ran 61 feet (19 m) above the river and continued over the Central Vermont tracks. Despite being built as a freight line, there were four passenger stations built along its route: East Springfield, Ludlow, Three Rivers and Thorndike.
In 1921, with more than $2,000,000 in notes overdue, and no revenue to offset them, the Hampden Railroad went into receivership. It was sold for scrap to the Roxbury Iron & Metals Co. for $30,000. The total price tag for the construction totalled $4,000,000. However, prior to the sale to Roxbury, the government commandeered the surplus rail for use in the Watertown Arsenal during World War I.
There is little evidence left today of the Hampden Railroad, and little to no information as to the history is available online. You can however see several remaining bridge abutments while tracing the route between East Street in Ludlow and the junction with the Central Mass. Branch of the B&M in Palmer near Forest Lake. Thousands of people drive over the Massachusetts Turnpike just east of 291 which uses the Hampden RR alignment. Just south of the interchange one can see the concrete piers of the long Bircham Bend viaduct while riding the ramp onto the MassPike to head east.