Rail Trail Flat Bread Co.

I’m always interested in new businesses that name themselves after the rail trail. We already have a townhome complex and bike shop. Now there is a restaurant!

FlatBreadLogoThe Rail Trail Flat Bread Co. opened in early December, in downtown Hudson, just 3 blocks from the trail. Michael Kasseris and Karim El-Gamal picked the location because they felt that the Hudson area was ready for a new restaurant.

Last Friday I went and checked it out. The first surprise is how packed this place is. Two blocks of the usually empty night-time Wood Square, were full of parked cars. Only found a spot on the 3rd block. There were at least 60 people inside, with a waiting bench for takeout, every seat at the bar taken and most of the tables full.

RTFBCFinally seated at the bar, Crissy was pouring a wide variety of craft brews. Coincidently, someone posted her picture to the facebook page just minutes before I sat down.

RTFB is a welcome addition to the Hudson community.

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Acton – Then & Now

There has been a train station in South Acton for more than 160 years.  It’s been there so long, its use has almost come full-circle. The first photo on the left is from 1908 and shows the nearly brand new 2nd station. It’s a full service building, with a heated waiting room, a manned ticket window and large awnings in each direction.  Standing on the platform, there are 4 sets of tracks in front; east & westbound mainline to Boston and Fitchburg, a freight siding and the track to Marlborough that is the route of the ARRT. This station was on School Street, more than 1000 feet east of the current MBTA platform and parking lot.

In the 2nd photo, taken in 1965, the station is boarded up and closed.  It eventually burned down and the MBTA moved down the tracks and built the big parking lot and single boarding platform we use now.

Jump forward to 2012 and the preliminary track work for the new RR station starts in July.  On July 21st, commuter trains for 3-4 weekends will stop short of the South Acton platform and passengers bused the rest of the way to Littleton and Fitchburg. So where did the MBTA locate the temporary stop? Back at the old station! As you can see in the last photo, crews have spruced up the old parking lot, put in a set of stairs and restriped the concrete. The weekend passengers may not appreciate the historical context, but rail fans will.

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Community Service Day

Every spring the seniors at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School participate in Senior Community Service Day – a half-day of volunteer work to be performed in Acton. This year, on April 27, ten students met at the Sylvia Street access point to the Acton section of ARRT to clear the trail of a winter’s worth of downed trees and brush. The students braved poison ivy and the risk of deer ticks. They used hand saws and branch loppers to clear  a bit more than half a mile of a path that runs next to the abandoned railroad tracks.

Information and picture provided by ARRT volunteer David Mark.

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Spring is here

Spring is finally here and there is a lot going on with the ARRT. First off, most of Massachusetts is in a full-blown drought, with tinder dry brush alongside the trail. Yesterday, the ARRT volunteers had their first spring cleanup in Maynard. We were picking up trash on the northern half of the ROW, which has been wood chipped for the last 4 years and is a popular walking path. This evening a large brush pile next to the path caught fire, with flames 25 feet in the air. It took the Maynard Fire Department an hour to put it out.

The Maynard cleanup was the first of 4 ARRT sponsored events over the next 5 weeks. We are doing our annual spring cleanups in Hudson and Marlborough and repainting part of the ARRT RR caboose in late May. The full schedule can be found on the ARRT calendar page.

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New Maynard Book

Beacon-Villager columnist and ARRT Director David Mark has just published a book of his best columns and blog posts. It is titled “Maynard – History and Life Outdoors” and can be purchased in Maynard at The Paper Store, Gallery Seven and Ray & Sons Cycle and Ski; also Willow Books (Acton) and Concord Books (Concord). It can also be bought online at Amazon.com.

Included in the book are stories about biking, the ARRT and the history of the railroad.

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New Marlborough Business

After 2 years of stagnation, the Crowley Drive section of the trail is seeing new economic activity. Vestas Technology is a large wind turbine company from Denmark, that is building a generator  testing lab in the office park next to the trail. Construction had started last month, and is scheduled to be finished in 2012. They are also leasing office space in the 4-story building next door. That makes them the first tenant in the empty building that was built 3 years ago, but was caught in the 2008 recession.

The other site in the neighborhood is Toll Brothers “Regency at Assabet Ridge“. This is a 55+ condominium complex that is being built by the largest multi-unit residential developer in the country. The first 4-unit town house opened 2 years ago, but was only used as the sales office. The rest of the 69 units were put on hold because of the economy. But since late summer, construction of the next 12 units has started. The name of this community is directly inspired by the Assabet River Rail Trail, being located 50 feet from their gateway entrance.

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Storm Damage

Today I checked out most of ARRT route in Hudson and Marlborough. It’s been 7 days since the record-breaking October 2011 snowstorm hit New England and the ARRT wasn’t immune to the damage.

Starting out at the east end of the trail, the Wilkins Street parking lot and the section running westward was in good shape, with only one large blow down that had already been cleaned up. The section from Cox Street, past the caboose, and through downtown Hudson was perfect. That’s to be expected, with not that many trees near the trail.

Coming up on the High Bridge over the Assabet River, I see the first change. Sometime in the last 2 months, the Hudson DPW has removed the flimsy top plank on top of every trail fence, for the entire length of the trail. We have been complaining about those planks for years, so it’s nice to see them finally gone.

South of Washington Street is where the real damage starts. Coming up behind Hannafords Supermarket, I see a middle-aged couple appear to be meticulously removing some loose branches from the side of the trail. Getting a little closer, I see that they are striping off the clusters of red and orange berries on the branches. So they were no help!

Beyond Hannafords, there are tree limbs on or beside the pavement every 50 feet, for the next 1/2 mile. I can’t imagine what it must have sounded like last Saturday night, with branches crashing to the ground every couple of minutes, all in less than 12 hours. Even the RR telltale at the Farmers Bridge got hit by falling branches, bending the top of the iron bars, 30 feet above the ground.

Past Farmers Bridge is the 1000′ straight away through the densest forest of the entire trail. This is where the big trees came down, taking out the railings on both sides of the trail. The Hudson DPW seems to have started work here a couple of days ago. The broken fence rails have been neatly stacked up on the side, waiting to be nailed back on the fence posts.

This is a good spot for some quick informal research. The biggest fallen tree is about 18′ in diameter. The chainsaw cut lets me count the tree rings. The tree seems to be about 50-55 years old, far younger than I would have guessed.

About 8 saplings had been planted on the Hudson side of the tunnel in 2005. With this storm, the last 3 trees have been lost. Not by losing branches, but toppling over at the roots.  The mural in the tunnel is in good shape and the overhead lights are back on. But there had been so much graffiti on the abutments that they have been painted a solid yellow to cover it all up.

Outside of the tunnel, I cross into Marlborough. There is little damage for the next mile, as there is less forest and more open parkland. This section was opened in 2003 and has two rows of 25 maples bordering the trail. Every tree is undamaged.

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