Editorial: Pan Am’s ways are really getting old

  • Pan Am railway workers stand over an area of train tracks that was heavily damaged after several cars derailed in Shelburne Falls on Dec. 18, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters make sure a train car fire, started by a spark, is fully extinguished at the River Road crossing off Route 142 in Northfield, Monday, Sep. 25, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

Northfield area firefighters must be getting tired of putting out fires for Pan Am railroad. Two train cars filled with old wooden railroad ties ignited last week at the River Road crossing off Mount Hermon Station Road, requiring firefighters from a half dozen departments to smother the flames in foam.

Last June, piles of discarded ties in a gravel pit off Route 142 ignited and required 11 departments to quell.

In July, the state fined Pan Am $60,000 for repeatedly leaving ties along the tracks in both Northfield and Buckland.

The railroad rarely responds to Recorder calls for explanation or comment when news like this breaks. Town officials similarly have been frustrated by the railroad’s lack of responsiveness to concerns over the years.

Maybe the railroad has good explanations for why its old ties ignite in places like Northfield, requiring local volunteers and tax dollars to extinguish. But it would still be nice if the company not only responded publicly when this happened, but maybe even offered to reimburse the towns for their trouble.

Good News

The Community Bible Church is reviving its plan to build a new church at 24 Main St. in Northfield.

Lacking space at its 781 Millers Falls Road building, the church hopes to build on land the Rice family donated to the church in 2011, the site of the former Mobil gas station. The church needs Zoning Board of Appeals approval because the 0.8-acre plot is a nonconforming lot.

The church, with growing attendance that hits up to 60 on Sundays, has in recent months been using the library on the former Northfield-Mount Hermon School campus, but that option ends with the arrival of St. Thomas Aquinas College this summer.

The church, which has already prepared the Main Street site, now needs to raise money for construction of a building that it hopes will feature an open layout with moveable seating to allow its use throughout the week for a range of purposes for the congregation — and even outside community groups.

This all sounds like good news and a blessing to the community.

Paying for extra summer

So much for a brilliant foliage season.

Following a wet spring, cool summer and warm start to fall, experts are now forecasting a dull leaf-peeping season this year. In the hilltowns, which usually are preparing for the onslaught of leafpeepers, people instead find brown, brittle leaves already blowing to the roadsides.

Oh, well. We suppose it’s the price we pay for summer in September.

Conway School goes urban

For 42 years, Conway has been able to claim an odd bit of fame: its own higher education program offering a master’s degree in landscape design.

The Conway School of Landscape Design, which started as an alternative to the more traditional landscape graduate program at UMass, is selling its 35-acre South Deerfield Road property and permanently moving somewhere more urban.

“Over a number of years, we decided the school was better served, the students better served, if we had a location in the (Pioneer) Valley more closely aligned with urban projects,” the school’s current head, Bruce Stedman, told the Recorder.

The school’s educational focus is on the effects of climate change, and resilience to that change, particularly on urban spaces and post-industrial cities. Stedman said that’s easier to teach closer to the affected cities and towns.

Conway School of Landscape and Design was founded in 1972 by Walter Cudnohufsky of Ashfield in a small sugar shack next to his then home on Delabarre Avenue.

Green ale

The People’s Pint beer may not literally be green, but it is green in spirit. To support the Connecticut River Conservancy’s Source to Sea Cleanup efforts recently, the brewpub donated 25 cents for every pint of its special batch of “Source to Sea Pale Ale.”

“Brewing the Source to Sea Pale Ale and working with the Connecticut River Conservancy is a great opportunity to make a real difference with the beer we brew here at The People’s Pint,” Chris Sellers, manager at the brewery, told the Recorder. “I am very excited to continue to use our brewery and restaurant as a platform and a tool to raise awareness of issues affecting both our local environment and our local community.”

Three cheers to that.