Grafton and Upton Railroad
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Grafton and Upton 1750 in North Grafton, MA.
|Locale||Worcester County, Massachusetts|
|Dates of operation||1873–present|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Grafton and Upton Railroad (reporting mark GU) is a Class III short line railroad in east-central Massachusetts. This 16.5 mile line connects runs from Grafton to Milford and connects to CSX Transportation lines at both ends. Following a period of decline and neglect, maintenance and repairs began on the line in 2008 in order to return the line to operable condition.
The Grafton Centre Railroad was chartered October 22, 1873 and opened August 20, 1874 as a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge connection from Grafton to a junction with the Boston and Albany Railroad at North Grafton. The last narrow gauge train ran on July 9, 1887. The line was converted to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge on September 1, 1887.
On February 17, 1888, the name was changed to the Grafton and Upton Railroad by an act of the state legislature. An extension to West Upton opened on March 12, 1889, and an extension to Milford opened on May 17, 1890, connecting to the Milford and Woonsocket Railroad, later a line of the New Haven Railroad.
The Upton Street Railway was absorbed in 1902 and named the 'Electric Loop' or 'Upton Loop'. Passenger service on this loop and the main line was provided by cars leased from the Milford and Uxbridge Street Railway.
Electric operations typically took place during the daytime, while steam locomotives used the tracks during the nighttime hours. The G&U ceased passenger service on August 31, 1928. U.S. Mail service along with Railway Express service ceased in 1952. Electric operations ceased on July 3, 1946 and the railroad dieselized during the 1950s. It was at this time that the whole line was upgraded to a heavier grade of track, the first overhaul since the narrow gauge was replaced in 1887.
The Draper Company sold the G&U in 1967 to Rockwell International. Rockwell sold the G&U to a trucking company, Torco, Inc. of Worcester on January 29, 1979. Traffic has fluctuated over the years of Torco ownership.
The last train to Hopedale was in 1988 and for the next 5 years activity was localized solely to the Grafton yard. In 1993 the G&U bought their current engine, the St. Louis Union Station 212 and began hauling salt to Upton once again. This activity lasted until the late 90s.
Torco, Inc. eventually sold the G&U to the Lucy Family. In 2008 the G&U passed hands once again to Jon Delli Priscoli. Delli Priscoli has made clear his intentions to revitalize the railroad in its entirety from Grafton to Milford, and work began in earnest in early 2008.
In 2004 a test run was made on the track from North Grafton to West Upton. The track was determined to be in usable condition, however track beyond this point was so deteriorated that it would have been dangerous to operate a train.
In March 2008, 50% of the largely dormant G&U was sold, with the option to purchase the rest. Some in the town of Upton opposed any re-opening or increased use of the railroad line but were unable to have any influence. "We can't stop the railroad," said Selectmen Chairwoman Marsha Paul, "It is going to open. It will be about two years. It's something we'll have to monitor and watch." The new owner, Delli Priscoli, claims that "Railroads are coming back."
In October 2008 the North Grafton depot was expanded to accommodate two cars instead of one.
As of December 2009, the following is in progress or complete:
- The Milford yard, as well as the ROW up through West Upton has been completely cleared of trees.
- The Hopedale yard has been completely cleared and the land has been prepared for future development. The old engine house, scale, freight depot, and most of the yard's track have been removed.
- The line from West Upton to North Grafton has received major upgrades with new ties, relayed stone ballast and extensive ditch work.
- The West Upton yard had its switches and track refurbished with fresh ties and new stone ballast. Two new spurs were also built
On December 31, 2009, a test run was conducted, and it was announced that the portion of the line from North Grafton to West Upton was operable. This is the largest rehabilitation the line has seen since the 1950s.
Several local residents in both Grafton and Upton have expressed concern regarding the railroad's ecological impact on air quality, as well as water integrity as a result of intensive development.
An article in the Milford Daily News dated September 11, 2012, stated: "State and local officials drove a ceremonial spike into a South Main Street railroad crossing Monday, signifying the start of reconstruction of the Milford and Hopedale portion of the Grafton and Upton Railroad... Work on the Milford and Hopedale stretch is part of the second phase of getting the railroad back in shape... The first phase of the work was the stretch of track from Grafton to West Upton... [Railroad spokesman Doug Pizzi ] said that he expects crossing construction in Milford will begin within the next month and hopes the entire track will be completed by the end of the year." 
- Grafton & Upton 7, a GE 35-ton electric locomotive
- Grafton & Upton 9, a GE 44-ton switcher - Scrapped in May 2008
- Grafton & Upton 10, a GE 44-ton switcher - Currently stored on the Seaview Railroad?
- Grafton & Upton 12, a GE 70-tonner
- St. Louis Union Station 212, an Alco S4 - Scrapped March 2010
- Grafton & Upton 1001, an Alco S4 - Scrapped May 2008
- Grafton & Upton 1500, an EMD/ATSF (rebuilt) CF7
- Grafton & Upton 1501, an EMD F7A - Awaiting repairs at Seaview, currently in Upton (May 2016)
- Grafton & Upton 1750, an EMD GP9 - Awaiting repairs at North Grafton Yard, currently in Upton (May 2016)
- Grafton & Upton 1751, an EMD GP9R
- Grafton & Upton 1800, an EMD GP7u - Slug
- Grafton & Upton 1801, an EMD GP7u - Mother
In the early days of the route, electric locomotives operated passenger services during the day and steam locomotives moved freight at night. After the wires came down, a variety of diesel-electric locomotives were used. No. 9 was the first diesel purchased by the railroad in 1946. These were followed by 10, 12, 212, and 1001. Most of these were scrapped, minus #10. After years of quiet, in 2008 the G&U purchased former Bay Colony sisters 2443 and 1702 (now 1500 and 1750). In January 0f 2010, 4634 (now 1751) appeared on the route. 1751 is the most frequently used locomotive due to her reliability as the newest unit on the roster (built 1958). In August 2011, 1501 was introduced to the fleet. Unlike the other locomotives, painted with black and yellow safety stripes, 1501 sports a streamlined yellow nose modeled after that of the 44-tonners. In 2013 GP7u mother-slug pair 2210 and 2167 (now 1801 and 1800) were added to the roster. For a few years the sported the title "GP18" until decal touch ups in 2015.
In late 2015, MBTA F40PH "Screamer" 1013 made a visit to provide head end power for the second annual Polar Express. 1013 is famous for being the last original F40PH in service with the MBTA that did not receive a rebuild and separate HEP generator. Ironically she was removed from service after crankcase failure, but out of 17 available F40PHs was selected for this special service. 1013 was used for the Polar Express and a small amount of freight service before returning to the MBTA storage in early 2016.
With a lack of any method to flip the direction of equipment, locomotives are permanently facing either north or south. 1501, 1750, 1751, and 1800 face south; 1500 and 1801 face north. 1013 faced north. Despite having to operate long hood forward when traveling north, 1751 remains the most frequently used locomotive. Other equipment is used infrequently. Between 2013 and 2015 most locomotives cycled through service regularly, however in 2016, 1751 is the primary power.
Locomotives on the G&U are recognized by their horns. 1500 has two, an A200 mounted on the right of the cab and a P5 mounted on the left. Each is individually controlled, with the P5 as the primary horn and the A200 typically used only when railfans are present. 1501 has an RS3L. 1750 has a P5? 1751 has an electronically controlled K3H mounted in the middle of the locomotive. 1801 has an unidentified 3 chime horn mounted in the middle of the locomotive. It is unknown if 1800 has a horn.
In February 2016, suspicion arose among the community that 1501 and 1750 would be permanently removed from service. It was later confirmed that these two would be receiving repairs. 1750 will be repaired on site in North Grafton, 1501 will be sent to the Seaview Railroad for repairs.
- "Delli Priscoli: Tree clearing was needed for railroad improvements". The Daily Grafton. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- Sixth Annual Report of the Massachusetts Board of Railroad Commissioners, January, 1875, p. 53
- Wasserman, Aaron; Daily News Staff (2009). "Local man sees business opportunity with Grafton & Upton Railroad". The Milford Daily News. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
- Crocetti, Paul; Daily News staff (2008). "Upton residents worried about trains". The Milford Daily News. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
- Wasserman, Aaron (2008). "Upton parcel may be developed by railroad". The Milford Daily News. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
- Perry, Krista (3 February 2010). "Railroad owner says part of line is up and running". Milford Daily News. Retrieved 28 October 2011.
- "Polar Express consist arrives at Grafton... - Friends of the Grafton & Upton Railroad | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-05-18.
- "The lone survivor on her last legs". rrpicturearchives.net. Retrieved 2016-05-18.
- "Friends of the Grafton & Upton Railroad... - Friends of the Grafton & Upton Railroad | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-05-18.
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