Hebron Historical Society looks at local history of trains

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Sep. 24, 2013
Robert LaMay begins a Sept. 20 talk for the Hebron Historical Society about the history of trains in the local area. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Robert LaMay begins a Sept. 20 talk for the Hebron Historical Society about the history of trains in the local area. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Amston resident Bob LaMay has had a lifelong passion for trains. A resident of Hebron since 1952, when he moved to town with his family at the age of 11, LaMay reminisced with other long-time residents at a Hebron Historical Society meeting on Sept. 19, where he gave a formal talk about the history of the railroad in the area.

LaMay recalled running down the hill on Reidy Hill Road to meet the mail train as it passed through town. He projected several maps for the group, showing an intricate network of rail lines passing through Hebron and the surrounding areas. “Today, most of these railroads are gone,” said LaMay.

LaMay has spent many years photographing trains in the local area and beyond, and the bulk of his presentation featured photographs that he and others have taken of trains in East Hampton, Colchester, Amston, Willimantic, Hartford, Norwich, Lebanon, Yantic, North Franklin, Ledyard and other Connecticut towns. Each town had its own station, said LaMay, some surviving to the present, but most having long since been torn down.

During his quest to document railroad history, LaMay has experienced many adventures, including the time that he dropped his camera into 4 feet of water in the Willimantic River. “I pulled the camera out and was able to save the film,” said LaMay. “The camera froze up about a week later, though.”

LaMay is a core member of a group of volunteers involved with the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in Willimantic, and the final portion of his presentation was dedicated to this topic. He projected a photo of the largely overgrown Columbia Junction Roundhouse, taken shortly after the museum was formed in 1991. The roundhouse was originally completed in November of 1892, and was used for servicing and repairing steam engines. The museum rebuilt the roundhouse at a cost of $500,000, paid for largely through a state grant. “The plans we used are the original plans,” said LaMay.

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum, which features a number of restored railroad buildings, engines, cars and other attractions, will present its 10th annual Night Photo Shoot on Oct. 12. Flash lighting for the event is provided by a professional. For more information, go to http://www.cteastrrmuseum.org/.

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