Saturday, May 8th is National Train Day, and we’re celebrating with a bit of local railroad history.  

In the early 20th century, a trip on Mt. Tom’s inclined railroad in Holyoke gave visitors access to some spectacular views of the Pioneer Valley. The once-popular summer attraction fell victim to the Great Depression and was dismantled in 1938. 

Today, this land is part of the Mount Tom State Reservation, and Producer Dave Fraser brings us the story of this once vibrant era which is gone, but not forgotten. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Saturday, May 8th, is National Train Day, and we’re celebrating with a bit of local railroad history.

In the early 20th century, a trip on Mount Tom’s inclined railroad in Holyoke gave visitors access to some spectacular views of the Pioneer Valley. The once-popular summer attraction fell victim to the Great Depression and was dismantled in 1938.

Today, this land is part of the Mount Tom State Reservation, and producer Dave Fraser brings us the story of this once vibrant era, which is gone but not forgotten.

Robert Schwobe: This road went to the summit, it was the inclined railway that was owned by William Stiles Loomis and his Mt. Tom Railroad Company. And it transported people from the the lower station to the upper station in about seven to eight minutes.

Of course, everything was clear cut then. So, the view would have been spectacular.

That’s the way you went out in those days. You went out dressed to the nines, whether it be male or female, you wore the wool suit and the wool dress. And it had to be uncomfortable, but they all did it. It was just the way you went out.

There was about a mile in distance, they were each on the end of a cable that made a single loop up around the upper station and there was an eight foot pulley up there that come back down. And that’s created a situation where they always passed on exactly the same spot.

And people would take their picnics up there. The women would all together in the pavilion, the men would go out doing their manly things in the woods and they’d come back and have this great picnic all set up, spend the afternoon just enjoying the view in the shade, and then make the trip back down. It was twenty five cents round trip.

There was three summit houses, the first one was 1897 to 1900, and then from 1901 to 1929, from 1929 to 36, when they– they first two burned; the last one, it was all steel construction, so it just really went to scrap.

The president and his wife came to Holyoke for the graduation of their granddaughter from Mount Holyoke College. And while they were here, they become the guests of William Loomis. And of course, his pride and joy was the summit houses and they got on the same car you and I would ride and rode to the summit.

We are at the summit now of Mount Tom, where the first, second and third summit houses once stood. You can see the view from here as you pan around off in the distance. Here, you see Easthampton. On a clear day, we can see Springfield, Amherst, and almost a Greenfield in some cases.

These stairways right here were the entrance to the first and second Summit House, and they are part of the original 1896 construction.

It all ended when the automobile come into vogue, the summit trade fell flat on its face. People started using their own cars and it was a moneymaking thing and it didn’t go over. So, any good businessmen say close it up.

It’s used today is for a service road to the towers or the antennas farm on the summit. It’s mind boggling to think that you can take a wilderness like this and turn it into a functional thing like the inclined railway was.

And like I said, there was thousands of railroad ties, thousands of feet of of track. It was a big endeavor in the days it was built.