Chester Chatter: When trains were public transportation

By Ruthie Douglas
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

One thing that has always brought me pleasure is reminiscing with old timers. I spent much time listening to Wally Balch and his tales of times gone by.

For 80 cents round trip he commuted to his job in Bellows Falls. The ride home was particularly relaxing as he would read his newspaper, catching up on the news.

Oftentimes on weekends, friends would board the train for Montreal to attend  some civic event and return home without the drive. Come Christmas, folks would go by train to shop in Rutland.

Back in the 1940s, without a late school bus, the Chester High School basketball team traveled by train to play their games in Ludlow. They played in the Ludlow Town Hall often, not returning to Chester until the midnight train. The high school ski team also traveled by train.

On Friday nights, the Douglas brothers would flag the train down at the crossing by their house so they could go to the movies in Bellows Falls. It would cost 11 cents, one way.

Wally also told me of his early days of driving truck. He bought his first Mack truck for delivering milk out of Buffalo, N.Y. He went out there by train and it took him two days driving home. The roads were not so great and, in those days, there were no shock absorbers in trucks, so it was a rough ride home.

He picked up the farmers’ milk in Andover and Weston and, come winter, going over the mountain into Weston was not easy.

Wally’s last years were spent driving the school bus for Green Mountain High School. Wally had many tales to tell.


Ladies of the Red Hat Chapter of the Red Hot Tomatoes enjoyed lunch at the Stone Hearth Inn recently. Some 22 attended. Members are from nearby towns.

Friends of Gail Kendall send out get well wishes. Hope she will soon feel better.

A wonderful evening was had by the Wayne Stowell family. Wayne was the winner of the chili bake-off contest at the Bellows Falls American Legion. The fundraiser was a success, raising over $1,300 for Our Place Drop-in Center in Bellows Falls.

Did you get to see the Super Moon and the Blood Moon? It was wonderful.

As I mentioned last week, Bucky Bailey died. He was a longtime friend. In the 1960s we worked together at the Magic Mountain Ski area. He will be missed by his friends here in Vermont.

Gail and Jerry Stewart have opened their new dog kennel on Elm Street in Chester. They welcome anyone to stop by to view their new facility.

Watch out, many folks have fallen on the ice, which is everywhere this winter.

Darn that groundhog, six more weeks of winter!

Let me share with you a recipe for friendship

1/4 cup of Kindness
2/3 cup of Compassion
1 tsp of speaking your mind
2 tbsp of Listening
3 cups of Laughter
Boil in challenges
simmer with patience
stir in sensitivity
Spread over a lifetime
Serve each other


  • This week’s trivia question: How did Popple Dungeon Road get its name?
  • Answer to last week’s trivia question: Vermont craft beer outsells our maple syrup. Vermont has the most breweries per capita of any state in the country. The Burlington area has the most.  There are currently 56 breweries and brew pubs in Vermont Brewers Association.
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Filed Under: Chester ChatterCommunity and Arts Life

About the Author: Ruthie Douglas is originally from Springfield but has called Chester her home for 58 years, and has been writing the Chester Chatter column for more than 40 of those years. Ruthie is also a longtime volunteer throughout the community.

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