Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum
In lieu of services, a celebration of Dave Bartlett's life will take place on Saturday May 30, 2015 at 5pm at the Trolley Museum.
Join Dave's family and friends for food, drink, trolley rides and recollections.
Please RSVP to sal_spencer at comcast dot net
Donations may be made to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, PO Box 272, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.
The Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum lost its biggest fan when David C. Bartlett passed away quickly at home on Tuesday March 10, 2015. Many people knew him as the museum's ticket seller, always quick with a joke or a tall tale. "Let me see if I can sober up the motorman and we'll get you a trolley ride." he would say to folks after they had bought their passes. But he was also our corporate Clerk, our General Passenger Agent, our Membership Clerk, our Transfer Editor and our Chief Engineer. And to some people, Dave was SFTM.
In 1991 Dave was invited by founder Tony Jewell to help found SFTM as an entity to perform the restoration of Trolley No. 10, whose story you can find elsewhere on this site. Dave was on the board of directors, and very active in the day-to-day operations both behind the scenes and interacting with our guests, right up until his last day. He brought a strong sense of fiscal responsibility to the board's deliberations, an attention to detail to his various clerk positions, and a sense of humor to the museum's newsletter, The Transfer, of which he was the editor.
His biggest effort in recent years was to get a new 'fire-proof' Car Barn built at SFTM. Here are some pictures of the progress we have made on this project to date.
Dave also wanted to see the outward appearance of the museum improved, and worked to find funding to have the old H.P. Hood Creamery foundation removed.
Dave was, of course, much more than a many-hatted museum volunteer. He was well known for his sense of humor. Here is the back story of this beloved husband, father, friend, uncle, grampa, great-grampa, railfan and professor. He would be somewhat embarrassed at this attention, so feel free to stop reading (or skip to some recollections from Dave) when your eyes glaze over.
Dave was born in Worcester, MA, raised in Leicester, MA, the son of Charlotte (Kesseli) and Herbert Lawrence Bartlett, who owned and operated a printing shop in Worcester.
Dave graduated from Worcester Academy and Worcester Junior College and received his BA and MS in Civil Engineering from UMass Amherst. He served in the Army from 1953 to 1955 in the Signal Corps as a radio repairman.
Dave worked as a transformer technician for General Electric in Pittsfield, MA, and spent a summer surveying curves and bridges for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He married Mary Morgan Goodwin ("Polly") on March 16, 1957. See below for Polly's recollection of those days.
In 1972 Dave donated his structural engineering expertise to the replacement of the Greenfield Pumping Station covered bridge.
Among his joys were his family, spending time in his woods and garden, camping and backpacking in the White Mountains, skiing, travelling by train on this continent and in Europe, and watching trains. Here are some pictures from those times.
Family members include his wife of 58 years Mary "Polly" Bartlett, son Robert "Sam" Bartlett and his wife Marie Bartlett of Leyden, daughter Sally Spencer and her husband Robert Spencer of Buckland, and daughter Nancy Bartlett of Albuquerque, NM. He leaves three grandchildren; Jeffrey Bartlett Spencer of Buckland and his fiancee Brenda Culver, Nathan Bartlett of Chicago, and Jeanne Bartlett of Middlebury, VT. He leaves one great-grandson, Nicholas Spencer and was predeceased by a granddaughter, Amy Spencer in 2001.
Dave enjoyed his beer, cocktails and wine. Next time you lift a glass, lift one for the Old Man.
In lieu of services, a celebration of Dave Bartlett's life will take place on Saturday May 30, 2015 at 5pm at the Trolley Museum. Join Dave's family and friends for food, drink, trolley rides and recollections.
Donations may be made to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, PO Box 272, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.
Here are some recollections of Dave's.
Here he tells us of a visit to Worcester MA in 2013 for a surprise party for John (first cousin) and Mary Kesseli. The reference to "40th on the CSRR" was the surprise 40th anniversary party we held for family and friends at the Conway Scenic Railroad where we chartered a private car. '"Bumskit" hill' refers to Asnebumskit Hill Road in Paxton, where we lived from 1961 to 1967.
It was a total surprise anniv party for John and Mary, given by their 3 kids, and it was essentially the Kesseli clan that was there. J&M freaked out when they walked into this crowd, when they were expecting to have a quick lunch on the way to a fictitious other event in the area. Shades of what you kids pulled for our 40th on the CSRR!
Memories came back to me, in the Lincoln Square area where the elegant restaurant was. We could see the Auditorium, of which I remember its dedication ca 1934, and in which I graduated from Worcester Jr College in 1948. But otherwise the city has changed incredibly. Lincoln Square no longer has a bunch of rr tracks running thru the middle of it, nor a B&M station there to boot, plus several trolley lines. When the trains came thru at rush hour - which they seemed to do, life stood still in the Square. Now the track is in a tunnel, the trolleys are long-gone, and traffic flows at a reasonable rate.
On the way home, we swung around past the homes of both my Grandparents, side by each on Hanna Road, noted that the Tatnuck Grammar school, where my Mom and most of my aunts and uncles went, and in another generation, many of their kids, and also one Judy Burbank.
Then we took a swing up "Bumskit" hill, which had been newly-paved just for us, I think. Our house looked really nice, with a big porch added on the sunny side. A junior mansion sits where the Henry place sat til it burned down. There are new side-roads all over, with fine homes barely visible thru the trees.
This was his reply to my sister Nancy's request for information about 'which war he didn't fight in'. We knew he had not been in the Army during a 'war', Nancy wanted clarification on Memorial Day 2006.
Yes, the famous Forgotten War. No big memorials; seldom mentioned. 50,000 dead. It started at the end of June 1950. I had already been accepted to UMass, so I went. Was able, by dint of good grades, to maintain deferment until graduation on June 7, 1953. Few of us expected to get thru college without being called up. But some of us did.
On June 9, another day that shall live in infamy, I told my draft board that I was no longer a student. Then I went to Boston to look for a summer job with the state to kill any time I might have before I was invited to attend the fray. That PM, as if a omen, the sky went black about 5pm as the Great Tornado of '53 went roaring thru Holden on its way to Worcester and beyond, spreading massive destruction and many deaths in its wake.
But maybe it really wasn't an omen. "They" just wanted me to clearly remember the day I told the draft board to come and get me. Soon after that, a sweet little note came in the mail telling me that they were looking forward to arranging a Great Adventure for me, and if I would show up in their office at 7 am on August 26, they would offer me a New World.
So I proceeded to make the best of the next weeks, The state took me on as they had in a previous summer as an engineering aide, allowing me to eat well while I awaited my fate.
But guess what! Toward the end of July the other guys accept a truce offer. A line was drawn in the rice paddies along the 50th parallel and the shooting stopped. mostly. Nobody expected the truce to last out a week. In fact, said truce celebrates its 53rd anniversary in two months, without resolution to this day. This "war" , which has always been labeled in gov-speak a Police Action. is not over even as I write this to you. Another forgotten fact.
I still was expected to rendezvous with fate on Aug 26, 1953, truce or no truce, and not wishing to spend 30 years in prison, I went. The rest is another whole story, but the effect was that when our friends, known then as "the gooks" heard I was coming to get them, they held the truce. And somehow, after I became thoroughly trained in various skills for dealing with them, on June 9, 1955 I was told that the honeymoon was over, my talents were no longer needed, and that I could gather up the tatters of my life and deal with it all. Up til that point Jun 9 was the happiest day by far of my young life.
This one was written just weeks before he passed, in memory of SFTM member and friend John Pickett, who had just passed away.
John and Me
It was 1951. A cousin of mine was going to U Penn, and I was at UMass. He contacted me and said I had to come down to Philly to meet his roommate, who was a major train nut. So one Friday pm I drove to NoHo, bought ticket to Philly and was met at 30th Street by my cousin and John Pickett. John and I hit it off right away.
In those days there was a pulp Railroad Magazine, which had a section where railfans could swap negatives. John was a serious photographer, so he soon made a contact with one Ray Burhmaster, in Downers Grove IL, and had made a plan for driving out to Ray's in the summer of 1952, and from there taking a vast swing across the west chasing steam trains. John invited me to go along, and off we went. Ray knew where to look for our prey. We found everything from Big Boys to Heislers. The trip took about a month, and we all got some great shots along the way.
In 1953, John and I graduated from our respective colleges and both were "invited" to work for the same employer - he as an ROTC lieutenant, and I as the bottom of the food chain. At one point our employer brought us to nearby locations in New Jersey, where we sometimes matched up for weekend train hunting. But eventually said employer sent us to very distant postings.
By the spring of 1955, our employer decided we were getting too expensive, and on 9 June, deep in the heart of Kansas, I was given $200 cash, a piece of paper that said I was no longer confined but they might invite me back at any time for the next 6 years. John too took a similar offer at about the same time, so we agreed to meet at Ray's and attack different parts of the west. Ray had real-world commitments, so he could only go with us for a week or so, at which point we put him on a train home.
Long story short. Steam was much harder to find, but find it we did. And after a month we were back to Ray's. I opted to head home, but John and Ray did some midwest hunting after I left.
Some time later, John started a family and career with TWA. I never forgave him for that. We'd keep in touch occasionally. In the intervening years, Polly and I met and married. We took a few train trips which took us through Chicago, and Ray would meet us while we waited for our connections.
I digress. When John and family retired, they moved from metro NYC to Kinderhook NY. We visited back and forth with them, and watched the progress as John converted a six-car garage that came with their house into an elaborate model railroad. It's there now. Its fate is still unlearned.
Once SFTM got going, they came to SF frequently. And after his wife passed away, John became a very frequent visitor. Over the years he ran No. 10 far more than I ever did. He made friends with our staff. Made it a point to be here for the first trip of the season, ditto the last, and more ditto Moonlight Magic.
One thing he said a few times recently was that if he'd known Shelburne Falls then as he did now, he'd have come here to live instead of Kinderhook.
Here is a recollection sparked by Piper and Reba-Jean's thorough clean up of our 1910 Central Vermont caboose:
In my past life in the railroad business, I was sent out on occasions to ride one end or another of freight trains, as part of a training (no pun intended here) program. A good way to learn the inner workings and geographical extent of the railroad. Caboose cooking was pretty basic. There was the big old coal stove, Somebody kept a coffee pot anchored on the top. Crew would usually bring their own stew pots, and potatoes wrapped in foil that they would bake. It was all pretty primitive, like indoor backpacking, except that in a caboose the ground beneath your feet was constantly in earthquake mode when the train was moving. Everything and everybody not nailed down would soon end up on the floor.
On one occasion I went out on a night freight, which reached its terminal in the wee hours, and would return to origin point in the morning. This required catching what was left of the night's sleep on a bunk, and being nearly thrown off the bunk at dawn when the yard switcher coupled onto the caboose with excess enthusiasm as it made up the train for the trip back to Oakfield.
It was all a welcome relief from the office, but was extra good to get home (often at totally odd hours of night or day) to my little family, where I would try to explain to my little boy what his dad had been off doing all this time. Not sure he remembers any of this. It was a long time ago.
Here is a recollection of a trip to Eagle Lake in Maine:
In the late 50's, Polly and I were living in northern Maine and I was working for a railroad there. (Sam and Sally were born there - they are certified Mainiacs). Anyway, I'd heard of this mythical railroad in the Allagash country, as had some of my fellow workers. One of the lads had a big canoe, so a couple of us decided one weekend we'd have a go at seeing what was still there. First, a long drive on paper company dirt roads, then putting in the canoe with day-gear, motoring some 20 miles up Chamberlain Lake, making the mistake of putting ashore for lunch only to be surrounded by dense clouds of industrial-grade black flies. Finally we got to a place called The Tramway, beached the boat, and started working our way on foot along said tramway, which was totally overgrown with jungle, until we found the railroad track, which somehow had been cleared off. Later we found out why.
Partway along, stumbling past numerous abandoned log cars with trees growing up right thru their bodies, we literally bumped into the two-stall enginehouse, and found inside the two legendary locos. So they really existed! After exploring the rest of the operation, a couple of us vowed to come back the next year and camp overnight so we could have a much better look. And so we did.
Same drill. I seem to remember we waited this time til black fly season was over. Drive to the logging road and to the lake. Load up, motor up again, set up camp on Chamberlain lake right next to the long wooden trestle's remains, and spend the rest of the day exploring in depth. I took some flashbulb accessories along to shoot the engines (they aren't great shots - too dark and gloomy for the bulbs I had). After a day of poking around, we went back to the campsite on the lake, made supper, and sat there thinking that we were the only people in this small universe. Just then (there was still maybe an hour of daylight) darned if a floatplane didn't land almost in front of us!! A couple of dudes popped out, stood on the pontoons, and fished for a bit, no luck, so soon the beast roared off into the dusk, and we were really alone in the wilderness.
So that's the short version of my story. Some years later we heard that a forest service ranger decided that the old enginehouse was a fire hazard (???), and burned it down. The engines sat there in the open for a number of years, until some eager railfans decided to preserve them, and apparently have done so successfully. By then the logging roads had been extended much closer to the scene of the crime, so I bet they didn't have to need a canoe to get there.
Here is what Polly wrote recently for the Central Vermont Railway Historical Society, about her travels with Dad chasing and riding trains:
Some our first dates in Amherst in 1956 were spent watching for trains. It must have been the very last of steam engines because I remember telling him what the wheel arrangement was on an engine, a 2-8-4 (or something). He didn't believe me that I could know that so he would say, "Well. What is that one?" And I would tell him. You see, I was brought up by an electrical engineer who also was a rail fan. Dave often said after we were married, "I don't have steam engines any more so it is lucky you came along." We spent our Honeymoon stopping first at St. Albans VT so we could hear the trains, then on to the Laurentians in Quebec to ski. They were still running steam, luckily because that year they had no snow for skiing.
As our children flew the nest and one of them landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we had the wonderful excuse to ride Amtrak out to see her once a year. From there we often trained around the rest of the country on as many different lines as we could manage. Those rides were made all the more memorable because Dave carried a Railroad radio scanner with him to listen to the engineer, train crew, the Dragging Equipment Detectors, ("Dragons") and the dispatchers. One time the train was stopped in the middle of nowhere and a fellow passenger asked a trainman walking though the car why we were stopped. The trainman said. "I don't know, ask him." and pointed to Dave. Dave also has a very extensive model railroad in the attic of one of our buildings but I am afraid it has not been touched (except by squirrels) since the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum started in 1994 and began running in 1999. He was a founding member and held many positions of importance in that organization and was the initiator of the Trolley Barn building. His greatest wish was to light the match under the mortgage paper for the trolley yard in 2018.
So unless you have any great Dave stories to share, I guess that's about it.
Thanks for reading.
Sam Bartlett, for all those who loved David C. Bartlett.
14 Depot Street Shelburne Falls MA 01370        413-625-9443       email@example.com