Blog #8: Edaville Railroad, Gone, but Never Forgotten.

Now, if you know anything about Edaville Railroad in South Carver, Massachusetts, you’re probably thinking, it’s still open, at least for now.  You’re right of course.  Maybe what I should have said is that my Edaville is gone.

Last night, I drove down to South Carver.  Edaville will be sold next year, either to someone who wants to operate the park, or the land will be sold off, and Edaville dismantled once and for all.

I went to Edaville a lot when I was a kid.  I always loved trains.  My dad was a big train buff.  We had model trains in the basement when I was a kid.  I remember the setup we had in our old house before we moved.  My dad had cut holes in the wall, so they ran out of the main train room, all around the basement along the walls.  It came out of the wall at the bottom of the stairs, ran around the room, in front of the door the garage over the removable bridge, behind the bar, through the laundry room, sloping up and over the boiler, then down, and back through another wall into the train room, where it wound it’s way down along the walls back to the main level of the tables, removable bridges crossing the door to the room.  After we moved we had a much bigger room for the trains.  I remember spending hours with my dad and grandfather as we built new tables and laid out the track.  We had five trains running at once I think.  Eventually we pulled it all up years later to put down newer track, but then my dad lost his leg to diabetes, and the work all stopped.  We got some of it put together over the years, but nothing is really operational any more.  I have knee and back problems, and I can’t get under the table to do the wiring anymore, but I digress.  I was talking about Edaville.

There were summers when we went to Edaville nearly every week it seemed.  My grandparents had a summer home in Onset, MA about twenty-five minutes from Edaville.  We had a yearly “Friends of Edaville” Membership, so we just had to show the pass, and we got in whenever we wanted.  Somewhere in the attic I have some of the old passes.  I loved it there.  I could never go there often enough.  When I was a kid, in the fall, my dad and I would go down and stay at the house during Railfan Weekend, and for three days go to Edaville.  Except for at Christmas, when they had all the lights on, it was the busiest time of year at Edaville, at least that I remember.  They’d run double steam engines, usually #7 and #8, and they’d bring out the diesels.

I remember many times riding in the engines.  I loved the steam engines, even as hot as it was.  I remember this one time my dad and I rode in the diesel engines.  They were running them doubles, so it must have been Railfan weekend.  My dad road in the front engine while I road in the rear one.  Apparently, and my memory is a little fuzzy, one of the part owners of the park and his son were in the front engine with my dad.  Part way through the five and a half mile trip, the second engine was doing all the work not only pulling the cards, but also pushing the engine in front.  They figured out later that the kid in the front engine had hit some lever, and effectively stopped it from doing any of the pulling.  Good times, but there was never a bad time at Edaville.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about Edaville, with it possibly closing for good soon.  I was trying to remember the last time my dad and I went to Edaville.  He passed away in June 2008.  It might have been the previous summer, 2007.  I’m not sure.  It was sometime in the last five years though.  How do I know that?  I’ll get there.

Since the closing, and then two re-openings, Edaville has changed a lot.  I can remember once inside the park, all the old equipment they had that you could climb on and go inside.  One of the first things you’d come to after you had gone through the ticket office and down the cement walkway towards the cranberry bog was a big orange tank engine.  I don’t know what kind, but they had an even bigger one of a similar design in the museum.  There was some kind of old truck after that, along with some other farming and cranberry harvesting equipment.  Then you came to the first steam engine.  I think it was a three-foot gauge, not the narrow two-foot gage that ran at Edaville.  I remember going up the wooden stairs and inside to look around every time.  It was right across from the petting zoo, where I put in an incalculable number of quarters in the feed dispensers to feed the goats and sheep.

Past the zoo was the entrance to the Model T Turnpike.  They were miniature gas powered Model T’s that ran on a track.  You could steer them a bit, but the track kept you going the right way.  Past that entrance, on the right along the side of the cranberry bog was a gristmill.  It was fake, with statues inside and the mill wheel being turned by electricity, but it looked cool.  Past that was an old handcar you could climb on, though it didn’t go anywhere.  Then to the left was a hill.  There is a gazebo on it now, but I don’t think that was there way back when.  Past that sat an outdoor stage where they had various events.  Past that on the left was the museum, which housed an extensive collection of model trains as well as several real train cars and a lot of equipment.  I still can picture some of the displays in my mind as clear as the last time I saw them.

Across from the museum on the right were the kiddie rides including the large ornate carousel.  Beyond the carousel was the station, which housed the restaurant and gift shop.  To it’s left was the office, where you could arrange engine rides for “Friends of Edaville” members.  Anyone could do it Rainflan weekend, but only members the rest of the year.  In front of the office and station was the platform, where you’d board the train.  If you turned left and followed the tracks, you’d pass the engine house where they worked on the engines, and some more nonfunctional engines beyond that.  I’m leaving out some of the details that have become fuzzy with time, though I can picture it in my mind as clear as day.

Most all of that is gone now.  Where the petting zoo once sat there are carnival games.  Most of the engines on display that you could go inside are gone.  The station is now just a restaurant and the office transformed into a gift shop.  The museum building is still there, but the collection of model trains is gone alone, it now houses another gift shop and an indoor area for events.

Now, I knew most of this had changed from previous visits, but it was always okay.  Many improvements were for the better, and I understand that some things had to change.  There was still the train ride.  Even though the steam engines were gone, I could live with that.  Last night I got on the train.  My mother, brother, sister in law, sister and 1-year-old niece were there.  The ride started, and fifteen minutes later it was over.  Now, I’m no train expert, and it was dark, but I was pretty sure he hadn’t traveled 5 and a half miles.

After taking some pictures of the diesel, I asked one of the employees what happened to the ride, and was told that five years ago, the land the rest of the ride was on was sold.  They only had the short track ever since, and my memory returned.

I remember my dad and I going the last time.  I was sitting on a bench and he was in his wheelchair and one of the employees was telling us about it.  I felt awful for weeks afterwards, and apparently, it was so traumatic that I’d buried it completely.  That sounds ridiculous, even to me, but I don’t have any other way to explain having completely wiped it from my memory like that.  I guess I just couldn’t accept that my Edaville was gone, and chose not to know.

I had been considering going back again this season on the last day of the winter season.  I was going to take the last train, just in case it was the last train ever at Edaville.  I thought about it a lot.

The train would pull out of the station, past the water tower and the engine house, then between the Flying Yankee and the Boston & Maine Steam Engine #1455, which I remember marveling at as a kid, at the wheels that were so much taller than I was.  Past the Chicken & Cranberry Barbeque venue, and the engine shed.  Past the storage area where the Christmas displays were stored.  Down the track and to the right, was a big green plastic frog on a lily pad in the river, and the man sitting in his boat fishing.  On further, we pass the man made reservoir and get our first glimpse of the large cross that appears to move depending on where you are on the trip.  Then you’d see the small lighthouse up on a hill, signaling you were approaching the Whistle Stop where you could once disembark for a paddle boat ride, or a trip out into the reservoir on the miniature ferry boat, or maybe spend a while wading into the cool water at the beach.  After the Whistle Stop the train would move into the woods past the saw mill, where a cardboard worked would wave at you as you past, then out of the woods and along the reservoir again, passing the little church where the whistle would blow three times in memory of Ellis D. Atwood, Edaville’s founder.  The ride would continue up Mt. Uran, the highest point about sea level of the trip.  You’d see the abandoned mine that would reveal itself at Christmas as Santa’s candy mine.  Eventually you’d get to the nearest point to the cross you saw earlier, a big curve out in the open.  During Railfan Weekend when they ran the double steam engines, they’d stop here, let everyone out, and then back the train up beyond the trees.  A few moments later, it would come screaming around the corner, steam and smoke pouring out, the bell ringing, the whistle screeching giving everyone with a camcorder or still camera one hell of a photo op, before slowing down, and backing up to pick everyone up.  The ride would continue past the little castle, and the location I was told that Edaville’s original station once sat long ago.  Then we’d slow down through Peacedale, the miniature town.  On the first train of the day, they would stop so the conductor could raise the flag in the town center, and on the last, he’d take it down, this being the last ride, he’d take down the flag for the last time.  Then onward, you’d pass the old woman who lived in a shoe heading back towards the park, and beside the bogs where the fire engine ride would go past you with it’s blaring horn.  You’d pass the little pond that was always full of lily pads, and see the horse draw trolley clopping along.  As you’d reach the parking lot, you’d see the cat and the fiddle, the dish running away with the spoon, and of course the cow, still jumping over the moon after all these years.  You’d cross the main entrance with the parking lot on the right, and the main entrance building on the left, with the little gift shop and the bakery that made the best cranberry nut bread ever.  You’d pass the field where they’d set up the tent on Railfan weekend and dealers would sell model trains and railroad memorabilia.  I still have the Lionel O27 Blue Comet Observation car my dad bought me one year.  Then the trip would conclude with the long curve around the bogs, and back into the station.

That’s the last ride I wanted.  Unfortunately, I’m about twenty years too late.

I sincerely hope that they keep Edaville open, and if they do, I will go once every summer, as hard as it will be.  I’ll go there and get on the train and close my eyes, and remember what was.  Last night, with my eyes open, I could only see shadows and blurry memories, and the old ghosts of trains that left the station a long time ago, never to return.

Much of the original Edaville equipment went to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum in Portland, Maine.  I know steam engine #8 went there, and according to their web site, #7, which was Edaville’s first steam engine, is being restored.  I have a photograph tacked to the wall in my bedroom that my dad took on one of those Railfan Weekends, of #7 and #8 coupled together, ready to pull a train out of the station.  Maybe next year I’ll take trip up to Maine for a visit.

Thanks for reading!

About lmb3

I’m 36 years old, and I work in network tech support for a public school system. I am a huge fan of Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter, and Marvel Comics as well as numerous other fandoms. I’m a big sports fan, especially the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I collect toys (mostly Transformers but other stuff too), comic books, and Red Sox baseball cards. I watch an obscene amount of television and love going to the movies. I am hopelessly addicted to Wizard Rock and I write Harry Potter Fanfiction, though these days I am working on a couple of different original YA novels.
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2 Responses to Blog #8: Edaville Railroad, Gone, but Never Forgotten.

  1. Scott says:

    In the good old days before it closed in 1992 you would leave Cranberry Jct station after buying your ticket. You would walk along a path towards Eda Ave. On your left was the first steam engine, it was number 6, a 3 foot gauge engine. It is now out in the midwest somewhere. When you got to Eda ave across the way was another engine. I believe 3 foot, it’s now in CT. There was also a Wiemar 2 foot tank engine. I remember the electric truck, the hand cart as well as the orange engine that ran on compressed air. I remember the petting zoo and there was also a trolley car from Germany that was behind engine number 6 and near the track for the little gas cars you could ride.

    Railfans weekend was in June. Usually around the 20th. It was a great time to go to Edaville because everything was running.

    The Flying Yankee is up in NH. The 1455 is in CT.

    I don’t recall seeing the cross when I was down there in the late 80’s. I remember it in the 70’s.

    I was disappointed that when I went back in the late 80’s most of the model trains in the museum were gone.

    A friend of mine went down to Edaville after 2005 and was quite surprised when he saw Atwood Jct and the train went left instead of the old route. He asked for his money back but they wouldn’t give it to him.

    Putting the pieces together from different sources on the internet, it appears that the present owner went in around 2000 with guns blazing. With little thought to what he was doing he tore down Cranberry Jct station, the machine shop, and a bunch of other things we loved about Edaville. He put an inordinate amount of money into the Cranberry Screen House. A few years later a company called Ledle recalled a note which it held. The owner couldn’t pay and went bankrupt.

    Thus the land was sold up at Mt Urann, the land on the west side was sold to AD Makepeace and the track was torn up. The large string of cabeese was sold as well to pay the creditors.

    I think that if they can been more cautious and didn’t spend money like it was water on things that they really didn’t need, they may have been able to pay off the note and thus not lost the original mainline.

    That’s a deal breaker for me. I could live with just about anything that they wanted to do with the exception of altering the mainline track. I have no plans on wasting my time going down there again unless they complete a loop around the reservoir following the majority of the old route.

    They just wiped out the pine grove and soon will be realigning the mainline track so that it runs along Eda Ave. That’s to make room for more parking they say. I say that they are most likely going to sell some of the land for housing and probably end up with the same amount of parking space.

    I still run into the occasional simpleton who goes down there at Xmas time on a yearly basis to ride the train like they used to. The equipment has changed, the ride isn’t the same, why bother? I recommend that people not go down to that tourist trap.

    In my opinion, until the line is rebuilt around the reservoir and is up to at least 5 miles, the place is a tourist trap and not worth visiting.

    The exception would be to visit when no one was there and just walk around and reminisce.

    By the way, yes, the original parking area was over at Mt Urann. The Cranberry Jct Station used to be over there. It was moved to it’s later location in the 50’s I believe. It was torn down when the present owners took over. Too bad, it was a nice station.

  2. Scott says:

    Thanks for the memories. Sounds like you must have started going down there in the late 70’s and continued into the 80’s. Do you remember the castle that used to be visible from the parking lot. It was located 500 feet or so north of the crossing at the entrance. After going thru the pine grove, down the little hill and curve, past the cribbing made out of ties, it would have been on your left. The orange engine was powered by compressed air, it was used in areas where there was a big fire danger.

    Like you, I was very disappointed when in 2005 I believe it was, the west side track was torn up. My thinking was that as long as the iron was down, there was always hope. Now there is very little hope.

    The track is still down on the east side of the reservoir. From Atwood Jct to “the woods” about 2 miles I believe. The lighthouse is still there, but not the church.

    If I were to go back and visit, I think I’d skip the present Edaville and just walk the old right of way.

    Is there any hope of a complete loop around the reservoir again? It’s possible to do it but the land is owned by someone else on the west side. It would require their cooperation. The track would have to stay near the reservoir and not go to where Mt. Urann used to be as houses have been built there.

    Believe it or not, the present owners have an easement that allows them to lengthen the loop on the west side of the reservoir. I saw that in their brochure that was put out when they were selling the place.

    The present owners seem to have no interest in either expanding the track or even using the 2 miles that remain of the track around the reservoir.

    They are supposed to be getting a new steam engine next year.

    The present owners seem to want to remove any trace of the old Edaville.

    Good writeup.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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