Above: A topographic map of West Springfield, MA, circa 1957, shows the location and features of the railroad spur onto the Big E Fairgrounds.
Eastern States Exposition Railroad Spur
For approximately 60 years, the Eastern States Exposition grounds in West Springfield, MA, used to be served by rail. The siding served a number of purposes throughout its existence from a place to take deliveries to a display track. Below is information on the history of the spur.
Origins of the Rail Spur
The original Eastern States Exposition fairgrounds were constructed in the spring and summer of 1916, with the first fair held that September. The ground's construction included a railroad spur to the first buildings on the property - the New England Coliseum and two barns. The spur was constructed from the Boston and Albany rail yard across Memorial Avenue and then onto the grounds. It is speculated that the spur was originally used to bring in cattle as well as supplies for the fair.
New Haven Railroad Display
As the exhibition grew and new buildings were added to the fairgrounds, the best known accounts of the railroad spur and its use are documented. Topographic maps from this period show the spur crossing onto the property where today Gate 9 is located. The spur then ran along the west side of the small ponds along the parking areas (near the giant slide) and then south towards the location of the Mallary Building today. The spur then curved to the west and ended along the south face of the Young Building. Today, the loading dock on the south side of the building still exists and the slight curve towards the east of the building was a result of the location of the railroad spur.
A number of witness accounts hold that the New Haven Railroad provided a display of equipment throughout the 1950s and 1960s on the fairgrounds. The equipment was parked either at the Young Building or at the runaround spur located near the current location of the big slide. The New Haven would offer fair attendees the opportunity to climb up in the cab of the locomotives on display and observe other pieces of equipment which the railroad provided. The most common recollection was a display of FL9s throughout the early 1960s. In addition, it is rumored an RS-3 was also displayed with freight cars one year and another year, one of the New Haven's EF-4's was also on display. The American Association of Railroads also had a display near the same location where they would hand out marketing materials.
At the same time, most people remember box cars of hay parked adjacent to the Young Building, which was used to house the livestock during the fair, prior to the construction of the Mallary Complex. The use of this spur to haul in hay seems, by a number of accounts, to have lasted into Penn Central days.
Above: An aerial photo of the existing rail spur adjacent to the Big E Fairgrounds and the switch which is still installed that lead to the Eastern States Rail Spur.
After the New Haven Railroad went bankrupt, the siding wasn't used again for an exhibition of equipment until the mid-1970s when Amtrak brought equipment for a display during the Big E in September of 1975. Amtrak was introducing its Amfleet cars at the time and displayed a coach, cafe, and baggage car with a diesel generator inside for head end power. The siding was removed within the following year or two just prior to the Railroad Hobby Show moving in to the fairgrounds in 1982. As of today, the switch for the siding into the Big E is still in place and serves as one of the only remaining remnants of an interesting footnote of railroad history.
Below are known locations of publically available images and information related to the railroad spur at the Eastern States Exposition Fairground. If anyone else has information on the spur or images, please send me an email on the contact page.
Shoreliner, Vol. 16 Issue 3, Page 13 - Photo of Pullman-Bradley rebuilt coach 1000 on display at the Eastern States Exposition.
Shoreliner, Vol. 19 Issue 2, Page 36, Talgo 1955 demonstrator at Eastern States Exposition. Two black & white pictures showing the Talgo Demostrator adjacent to the Stroh and Young Building.
Along the Line, November 1960 - Big E Report - Photos and Summary
Along the Line, November 1961 - Big E Report - Photos and Summary
Along the Line was the former employee magazine for the New Haven Railroad. The Shoreliner is the quarterly publication of the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association.
Equipment Listing by Year
Below is a table with a listing of equipment which was displayed at the Eastern States Exposition. Most of this information has been verified with multiple sources but a few are based on first hand accounts which may be subject to error.
|Year||Equipment||Exhibit Notes||Promotional Material|
|1930||Boston Albany J2a Hudson No. 604 and Coaches||Appears tours of locomotive cab offered in front of Stroh/Young Building. (Picture available.)|
|1955||Talgo 1955 Demonstrator||Small white booklet given away.||Talgo Booklet (NHRTA Website)|
|1960||FL-9 2030, Pullman Sleeper, Grill Car, Coach 1000, and Caboose #546||Approx attendance 93,710.|
|1961||FL-9 2053, RPO||Approx. attendance 71,000. Hurricane threat kept crowds down.|
|1975||Amtrak Amfleet - Coach, Cafe, and Baggage Car||Amfleet Flyer (Amtrak Archive)|
|1976||Boston & Maine Bicentennial Loco and Box Car||B&M GP38-2 No. 200, B&M 7039 50' Box Car|
Based on a number of conversations with people who attended the Big E in years where equipment was on display, it is apparent that the railroad handed out various flyers and literature about the equipment on display. I am very interested in obtaining copies (either physical or digital scans) of these items. If anyone has these items in a dusty box somewhere and would be willing to digitize them (or let me digitize them), it would be greatly appreciated. In addition, I am also interested in photos of equipment on the spur. If anyone has photos they would be willing to share with me (either privately or for the public on this website), I would be very interested in those as well. Another good source of information has been Big E Programs as well as newspaper articles and magazine articles. If you have any of those that you would be willing to share, feel free to send me an email on the contact form. Thanks!