Granite company rebuilding rail line

Granite company rebuilding rail line WESTFORD (MA) A railroad line once used to bring rock into the Fletcher Granite Company is being revived and rebuilt, possibly to reopen in the fall.The granite company straddles the Chelmsford-Westford border at 275 Groton Road (Route 40) in Chelmsford. The rail spur that once connected the quarry to the Boston & Maine Railroad was in use from 1886 to 1968.In addition to processing the rock mined from their quarry, the company also imports rock by train from Eberton, Ga., to Iron Horse Park in Billerica where it is transferred to trucks that drive it into the Westford quarry.David Psaledas, plant engineer for Fletcher Granite, said the refurbished rail line will allow the company to send all the rock from Georgia directly to the quarry by train.”We’ll control all our own shipping,” Psaledas said of the company’s decision to reopen the rail line.Why this year? “There’s no time like the present,” Psaledas said.The rail spur from Fletcher’s quarry, about a mile and half of track, will connect to the Stony Brook rail line, formerly owned by the Boston & Maine Railroad, which has been operated by the Guilford Rail System since 1983.David Fink, executive director of Guilford Rail, said their rail system, which includes lines from Mattawamkeag, Maine to Albany, N.Y. carries more tonnage than any other New England railroad.The rail spur connection into the Guilford line won’t have an impact on their operations, Fink said.No local permits are required for the Granite Company to reactivate the rail, said Conservation Commission Administrator William Turner. Environmental issues surrounding the construction will be regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.Turner said the Granite company contacted the town, and told them of their intentions to comply with the regulations, and to do the project in an environmentally sensitive way.Psaledas estimates the spur will use 200 car loads per year, at about 87-90 tons per car.”This is really a piece of history,” said James Nigzus, who helped restore the B&M Steam Locomotive No. 410 that now sits on Dutton Street in downtown Lowell.Fletcher Granite’s restoration of the rail spur has been impressive, he said.”They’re doing a beautiful job,” he said of their efforts, which includes replacing the ties and laying down crushed rock. Arnold Wilider, of Westford, often rides his horse along the Stony Brook Rail line from Ayer to North Chelmsford. The line was also a path for passenger trains until 1958, he said.Today the Stony Brook rail is used by 15 or 18 trains a day, Wilder estimates.Freight trains typically travel around 40 mph, while passenger trains travel more than 60 mph, he said. Nigzus said the steam engine No. 410 was the last steam engine to work in the quarry, from 1950 until 1953.

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