A virtual tour of the restoration of THIS old house, plus a few tidbits

Extended Tours of the Pioneer Valley's Rail Trails

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To go to our Bed & Breakfast, the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn, please click on this link.

Layout of the Tour 

old railroad map circa 1940
From the collection of Craig Della Penna

     You’ll be taken on a leisurely, narrated bicycle tour of the existing and future rail trail network that radiates from Northampton, Massachusetts. 
     This all day tour will take-in the right-of-way of four different former railroads, (Boston & Maine’s Mass Central and Mt. Tom Branches and the New Haven Railroad’s Canal Division and their Williamsburg Branch.

The ride has been divided into three different sections.

 Section 1
     This will start at the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn (SMTI), located at 62 Chestnut St in Florence and head west on the City of Northampton Bikeway.

     After a short  1/2 mile segment of on-road riding on Rt 9, we'll head into Leeds and explore railroad archaeology still visible on the future rail trail along the Mill River.

     The educational component of the ride will focus on history of the New Haven Railroad's Williamsburg Branch, the industrial villages of Florence and Leeds and the politics of trail building.                                    

     This segment is about 8 miles+— and will return to SMTI for a bathroom break if needed.

 Section 2

     This segment will begin at SMTI and head east on the City of Northampton Bikeway, through the Stop and Shop parking lot, across Rt 5 and then head onto the soon to be built extension of the Norwottuck Trail.

     We will then cross Damon Road and head east on the Norwottuck Trail (aka the Mass Central Branch of the B&M Railroad). Heading east along the state's regional gem, we will discuss the history of one of the B&M most storied branchlines as well as a discussion of the politics of building long distance trails.

     In the interest of time, we will not do the entire 10 miles of this trail—only about 5 miles. Then we double back on the Norwottuck and head on-road—on Route 9 into downtown Northampton for a discussion of the concepts that make  streets attractive and accommodating for bikes and pedestrians, design of rail trails, and a short history of downtown Northampton and the long diverted Mill River.

     This segment is about 14 miles+—as we break for lunch at one of downtown Northampton’s notable eateries.

 Section 3

     Starting from the restaurant in downtown Northampton we will bike south along the former New Haven Canal Division right of way out of town.

   This unfinished section is about 1 mile in length and then we are on road—on Route 10 for about 3 miles into Easthampton where we will meet up with the newly built Manhan Rail Trail.

     The Manhan is a rare trail in that it takes in two different former railroad branchlines. In this this case, the Boston & Maine RR's Mt Tom Branch which runs east from downtown Easthampton to the Connecticut River at Mt. Tom Junction while the other line is the New Haven Railroad's Canal Division.

     We will jump onto  the rail trail right where the two corridors comes together in downtown Easthampton.  We’ll explore approximately,  2.2 miles on the Mt Tom Branch and  2.0 miles on the Canal Division.

     The educational component will focus on the politics of trail building, the meaning of the abundant railroad archaeology found along the Manhan Rail Trail and the economic development aspects of rail trails.

     There will also be a discussion of the brownfield redevelopment (contaminated former industrial areas)  along rail trails and how these are remediated.

     We will then retrace our route back to Northampton and back to the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn. 18 miles+—

 Total distance: 40 miles+—

NO Tower in Northampton Mass circa 1950

B&M and NH Junction at Ferry St. in Easthampton
from the collection of Ed Dwyer

 Seven Questions

 Where and when does the ride start?  The starting point will be at the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn (SMTI) in Northampton, MA.    SMTI  is located at 62 Chestnut Street, just off of Route 9 and 2 miles west of Smith College and downtown Northampton. Start at 10:00 a.m.  For directions see this web site: www.sugar-maple-inn.com

 What kind of bike will I need?     A touring/hybrid is recommended. It will be possible to do this ride with a road bike  or a mountain bike, but the hybrid might be the better suited because of the varied surface expected and the numerous starts/stops for narration.

 Will we be on the road as well as trails?   YES!  The ride will consist of about 40 miles of riding. (85% paved, 15% dirt) and perhaps 75% off-road and 25% on road.

 Will there be frequent stops?   Yes!  There will be a couple of opportunities for bathroom breaks and numerous stops to point out old railroad infrastructure and give background historical information.

 What about lunch?   We will eat at the Northampton Brewery--the oldest brew-pub in western New England.

Who is the leader?  Craig Della Penna will lead the tour. For 20 years, he marketed rail freight and operated two of New England’s largest and most successful railroad owned,  trans-loading facilities. From 1998-2004, he worked for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as their New England Field Representative focusing on the legislative affairs end of building rail trails and outreach and training in the communities that needed the most assistance.  

Having given over 1000 lectures in 18 states and Canadian provinces, Craig is one of the country’s most sought after motivational speakers on the economic development, tourism, and community development aspect of rail-trails, and their leveraging small amounts of public dollars to redevelop forgotten or hidden lands into treasured places.   He is the author of  three books, numerous op-ed pieces and guest editorials on the value of smart growth development as it applies to rail-trails.Today he works in four realms.

He is the Executive Director for Northeast Greenway Solutions, which is a consulting firm set up to help bring cogent solutions to communities developing rail trails and greenways.  NEGS collaborates with other non-profits, engineering companies, communities or grass roots trails organizations to assist in their development.  There is a html newsletter/blog that NEGS produces that now goes out to over 11,000 people on a regular basis.  http://www.greenwaysolutions.org 

He is the broker/owner of Pedal to Properties, Della Penna's Trailside Realty, Inc. His innovative practice was featured in a prominent story in the Smart Growth section of the National Association of Realtors Magazine, a  Boston Globe editorial, the Wall Street Journal and United Airlines in-flight magazine—Hemispheres.   http://www.pedaltoproperties.com

Along with his wife Kathleen, he also operates Sugar Maple Trailside Inn, an 1865, bed & breakfast located in Northampton. This award-winning restoration was featured on HGTV’s Restore America.  Their B&B was recognized in Yankee Magazine’s 70th Anniversary Issue on “The Best of New England” and it was featured in a four page article, in B&B America - a glossy national travel magazine specializing in the B&B industry. It sits 8 feet away from southern New England’s first municipally built/operated rail trail, the City of Northampton Bikeway.   http://www.sugar-maple-inn.com 

Looking towards Union Station in Northampton
Today this view is from a condo

To go back to our web site for the Bed&Breakfast.  Click here.