Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Trip to Vermont, circa 1967

Vermont Landscape

Prior to my trip to Vermont earlier this week, I believe I had actually only been there once before and that was long ago when I was in third or fourth grade.  At the time we were living in Connecticut while my Dad was stationed in Vietnam and one day my grandfather - who was always big into trains - packed my three brothers, my Mom, and myself into his former State Police cruiser and made the trek to Riverside, Vermont where Steamtown U.S.A. was located. 

Steamtown was founded by F. Nelson Blount who was the President and Founder of the Blount Seafood Corporation which provided chopped clams to soup manufacturers throughout the US, including Campbell's Soups. The business was very successful and as Blount became a millionaire, he also became a collector of vintage steam locomotives and rail cars.   His collection was originally displayed at "Engine City" in Wakefield, Massachusetts as part of the Pleasure Island amusement park in the mid-1950's but when space restraints became a problem, Blount's collection was moved to North Walpole, New Hampshire, switched to Keene, New Hampshire, moved back to North Walpole, and finally - in 1964 -  settled into a site that was abandoned by the Rutland Railroad near Bellows Falls, Vermont.

It was to there that I made my first foray into Vermont way back in 1967 and I can still remember how excited my grandfather was to bring us there and show us the big steam locomotives that he so loved.  Unfortunately for Steamtown, F. Nelson Blount died in a small plane crash in August of 1967 and, without his funding, the collection was left without care and began to deteriorate in the harsh Vermont winters.  In 1984 the collection was moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where several years later it was taken over by the US Government and established as the Steamtown National Historic Site.  A member of the National Park System, the new and improved Steamtown officially opened to the public in 1995 and finally fulfilled F. Nelson Blount's original dream to have a museum in a working railroad yard with excursions on steam trains as well as a functional locomotive shop.

I have no doubt that were he still alive, my grandfather would have absolutely loved it. I've driven through Scranton quite a few times over the years and every time I see the signs for Steamtown I think of my grandfather and that trip to Vermont to see the locomotives and share in the passion that he had for a way of life that had been replaced by something sleeker and faster.  Perhaps one of these days I'll stop in Scranton and visit Steamtown; I've got no doubt that if I do my grandfather will be right there along with me and enjoying every minute of it.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful memories you have Linda. I just showed MWM this post and obviously being a steam engine maniac he has heard of steamtown. He said the roof fell in there some years ago is that right?

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  2. This was a great history lesson, as well as memories shared. Love it! I see where the seeds of love of trains were planted, and by whom. Priceless.

    Big hugs...

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  3. good post linda, now I want to go to Vermont.

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  4. wonderful memory! i have lovely memories of my grandfather too and died when i was six. funny how certain days in your life stay with you always and then you can't remember what you had for lunch! ha ha

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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  5. Your story reminds me of my first trip to Boston with my maternal grandmother. We shopped 'til we dropped. She bought me my first bra that day. I felt so grown up! Then we had tea and lunch and went to Boston Commons. It is one of my most favorite days with her.

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  6. Thanks for the memory. I guess Vermont hasn't changed too much.

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  7. I don't have a real passion for trains, but I do enjoy antique machinery because of the history that flows from it.

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  8. That is one of my favorite kinds of post. Now we know why you love trains. Good memories. When you get there, take pictures for the rest of us.
    Kat

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  9. Aha! The love of trains is hereditary. ;-)

    Nice post full of great childhood memories.

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