Palmer is affectionately known as 'The Town of Seven Railroads', and is still one of the favorite spots of rail buffs to come see the trains on Depot Street (The old depot (see cache coordinates) is now a restaurant called the Steaming Tender). However, there is one rail line in Palmer that never got a chance to make a name for itself.
The Hampden Railroad ran between Bondsville, MA and Springfield at Athol Junction. It was built to be an inland connector between the New Haven line and the Boston & Maine (Central Mass. division), shaving 3 miles off the usual trip from Springfield to Boston. The Hampden rail line was 14.8 miles of high class rail that never felt the wheels of a single revenue train.
The Hampden Railroad was incorporated in July 1910 as a subsidiary of the New York, New Haven & Hartford. By 1912, 90% of the grading had been finished and 5 miles of heavy line rail had been laid. By June 23, 1913, the Hampden RR was practically completed (all that was left was to connect to the Central Mass), but the lease of the property was not approved by the Public Service Commission, and the rail was never opened for operation.
The unfinished Hampden Junction would've completed the connection to the Central Mass Railroad
The rail line was unbelievably straight, with at most 4 degree curves and a steepest grade of 1.23% which was over Minnechoag Mountain in Ludlow. In addition, there was not a single grade crossing. To acheive these feats required 28 bridges over the 15 mile route, in addition to several huge grade fills and cuts. The Minnechoag cut itself was 4,800 feet long and 70 feet deep.
The longest bridge on the Hampden was at Bircham Bend over the Chicopee River which ran 85 feet above the river, and was 1,098 feet long. The bridge over the Swift River in Palmer was 400 feet long and ran 61 feet above the river and continued over the Central Vermont tracks. Despite being built as a freight line, there were 4 passenger stations built along it's route: East Springfield, Ludlow, Three Rivers and Thorndike.
The bridge at Bircham Bend over the Chicopee River
In 1921, with more than $2,000,000 in notes overdue, and no revenue to offset them, the Hampden Railroad went into receivership. It was sold for scrap to the Roxbury Iron & Metals Co. for $30,000. The total price tag for the construction? $4,000,000. However, prior to the sale to Roxbury, the government comandeered the surplus rail for use in the Watertown Arsenal during WWI.
There is little evidence left today of the Hampden Railroad, and little to no information as to the history is available online. You can however see two of the remaining bridge abutments while driving through Palmer, and thousands of people drive over the Mass Turpike just east of 291 which uses the Hampden RR alignment.
Information on the history of the cache was taken from an article in the Shoreliner magazine, entiled "The Unused Hampden Railroad" written by C.A. Brown.
To find the cache, you will need to find one of the two bridge abutments that still exist from the old overpasses of the Hampden Railroad in Palmer. At one of the abutments, you will find a monument to the Hampden Railroad (see image).
The Hampden Railroad Monument - Can You Find It?
How you find this monument is up to you! The monument was placed in by the Palmer Conservation Commission. Below the words 'Palmer Conservation Commission' are three words. (Assume all words are complete)
X=# of letters in 1st word, Y=# in 2nd, Z=# in 3rd
Coordinates for the cache are:
N42 A.BCD W72 E.BFB where:
The hike along the old rail line is pretty flat (with the exception of one steep part if you choose) and the round trip hike just under 1.5 miles in length. The cache is a 30mm ammo can decorated by Alexa.
I hope you enjoy the view near the cache location, and enjoy some of the rich rail history that is present in Palmer.