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!