The Saga of the Struggling Grafton & Upton Railroad

1/19/04

A 131 year old tiny railroad, the Grafton & Upton, which owns a 5.6 acre Milford train yard has sued the Town of Milford recently to allow a lease to the Boston Railway Terminal Corp to be executed for the property.  However, the Town contends that the property will have to undergo Conservation Commission and zoning oversight since it is located near town water wells and contains some wetlands.

The Grafton and Upton Railroad, long owned by the Lucey family of Shrewsbury, contends that the property is protected under the federal regulations that exempt railroads from local zoning requirements and the Wetlands Protection Act. However, the Town claims that this is not a railroad, but a trucking company.

Last month, Milford filed a brief with the Federal Surface Transportation Board to ascertain whether this Board has determined this to be a railroad, under the Board's regulations. The Luceys claim that income is being lost while the case is being determined and the potential lessee could be lost as they are under a tight timetable.

This railroad used to operate a 5.5 miles of track from North Grafton to Milford, initially for passengers and then mostly for freight, starting in 1873. Much of the track is now in disrepair.  However, apparently the Boston Railway would like to utilize the yard as  stopover storage coming off the nearby CSX railroad so that trucking and possibly some locomotives can then distribute the goods. The yard is comparable to the South Boston yard in size, but only recently, according to Milford officials, has the idea of using locomotives been part of the deal along with trucks. The case is being heard before a federal judge currently.

 

Grafton and Upton Railroad by Dan Malloy

 

The Grafton Center Railroad began in 1873 as a narrow gauge steam railroad running from the Boston and Albany in North Grafton, to Grafton. In 1887 it was reorganized and changed to standard gauge. The name was also changed to the Grafton and Upton. By May 1890 the line had been extended to Milford, via Hopedale.

 

In 1902 the line was electrified from Hopedale to North Grafton. Passenger service was provided from Milford to North Grafton by the Milford and Uxbridge St. Rwy. Freight service continued to be provided by steam engines. They were operated at night so as not to interfere with passenger cars.

 

The remainder of the line from Hopedale to Milford was electrified in 1919, and on April 22, 1919, freight service was changed to electric. Two new General Electric steeple cab locomotives were purchased for this service. Control of the railroad had long been in the hands of Draper, which was the largest customer on the line.

 

On July 11, 1946, electric freight service ended and was replaced by diesel-electric locomotives. While much of the line is now inactive, the railroad is still considered as an operating line.