Monday, January 05, 2009

Wellfleet's Railroad Connection

Yesterday Sven and I were walking along a path, which used to be a right-of-way for the railroad that brought visitors to the Outer Cape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The trestle that once spanned Duck Creek, behind Mac’s Shack, is still visible, although disintegrating. Here is the same spot, in a different season, viewed from a different angle, much greener, and so lush in the summer sunshine. I decided to do some quick research on Wellfleet's railroad connection. The trains would arrive at the depot building on Duck Creek – converted into Just Desserts during the 1980s, then sold and now renovated as a private home. The Old Colony Railroad Company linked Orleans and Wellfleet in 1871 and opened up a whole new world for Wellfleetians who had only traveled previously by sea, for the most part. The steam engines allowed people to visit Brewster, or even journey further south, as well as to travel up to Truro and P-town, by rail. Passengers must have had a great view of Duck Creek as their train arrived in the village of Wellfleet! The line ran up Railroad Avenue, descended under Holbrook, and presumably continued along the bottom of the ridge. The route then passed through the woods beyond the library where it is possible to make out the elevated mounds that carried the tracks. The journey from Boston to Provincetown took five hours. Invention of the automobile facilitated travel and the passenger rail line ceased operation in the late 1930s. Freight was transported by rail until the 1960s. Today, much of the old right-of-way supports houses, so it would not be feasible for the trains to make a comeback, unfortunately. Part of the right-of-way was converted into the bike trail which now allows bikers to ride from Wellfleet to Dennis in safety. What fun it must have been to travel along Cape Cod Bay in the olden days! After reaching the depot in Truro, the tracks crossed the Pamet River. The broken beams that once supported the tracks can still be seen, below, with Corn Hill in the distance.