The Wachusett Dam & Reservoir
Before There Was A Dam
How they built it and what became of the people who lived there
The West Street Bridge
(B&M Bridge #140, Berlin, MA)
This massive steel railroad bridge, part of the Central Mass. Railroad, sat from the 1880s to the 1950s astride the main road from Clinton to Berlin. It spanned a very busy five-point intersection of roads, a millpond and another set of railroad tracks.
Generations of local drivers learned to negotiate one of the huge stone piers set practically in the middle of the road, with slow horses earlier on but with faster and faster autos as the decades rolled by. It was the spreading use of those autos that ultimately spelled the demise of the railroad and its bridges.
Locals can attest to fast moving traffic that still passes through that intersection, a dangerous place to go on foot.
Very little of this bridge remains today but this article may help in visualizing, and appreciating, the engineering of the day.
The Construction Railway
The Wachusett Reservoir was “the largest hand dug reservoir in the world,” so the story goes.
Seven million cubic yards of soil had to be moved up to five miles with the tools of the era – men with shovels, horses and…trains.
The construction railways, narrow gauge railroads operated by thousands of men, existed for just three years with but a single purpose… to move all that dirt from the basin to the dike in a race with the waters rising ominously behind the Wachusett Dam.
Then it was completely dismantled leaving behind only a few faint traces below the water of the Reservoir…and these images to tell the story.
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Coach & Sandy – the area around the submerged/buried ponds, South Main Street and South Meadow Road cutoffs
Diversity at the Dam – Strong men came from all over to the huge project where there was opportunity for all who were willing to work hard for a good wage.
The Wachusett Aqueduct delivered water, by tunnel and open stream, to the Sudbury Reservoir in Framingham 12 miles away. Since replaced, it still functions as a backup water supply.
Clinton Catholic Cemetery – The largest of the cemeteries which had to moved because of the rising waters, its colorful story is retold here.
One Man, One Shovel – rarely had so much dirt been moved by hand, a task completed with the most basic of tools…the shovel.
Scar Bridge – This bridge once carried Scar Hill Road traffic across the Nashua River in Boylston but today remains submerged in place
Channel Velocity Control – it was imperative to slow the water down in the spillway before it could erode the banks of the millpond and, perhaps, topple the railroad bridge.
Get a Horse! – The horse had been around for centuries but was far from obsolete. Here is the story of the horse and its contribution to the Wachusett Dam & Reservoir.
The Villages at West Boylston – Four separate villages surrounding the Old Church were submerged. Here is their story presented by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
UFOs over the Dam
What is that strange object floating over the top of the dam??
See for Yourself!
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Explore the wide array of contemporary photographs, available in the public domain, that were used for the articles presented here.
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