“We are in the beautiful Northeast Kingdom, and we’re going to talk about railroads — the Grand Trunk (Railway), which brought a lot of industry and excitement to this little part of our state,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “We’re going to go meet James O’Gorman from the Island Pond Historical Society up on the hill.”

“The Grand Trunk Railroad (first came) through in 1853 due to the efforts of John A. Poor from Maine, who was a lawyer and investor, working with the Grand Trunk and investors from England and Canada,” O’Gorman said. “There was a competition as to whether or not to have (a continuous rail) line from Montreal to Boston or Montreal to Portland, Maine. John Poor lobbied hard to have the line go to Portland, Maine because it was a hundred miles shorter in distance.”

Perkins asked, “Why did Montreal need to be connected to either Portland or Boston via train? I mean, they’re on a river as it is.”

“I think, because of the St. Lawrence freezing over, they thought it’d be easier to move goods from Montreal down through here — and Island Pond is actually the middle point between Portland and Montreal,” O’Gorman noted. “This current station that you’re looking at now was built in 1903. The Grand Trunk (Railway) did some major changes here in town. At one point, there were 13 tracks along this area, and in the heyday of the ’30s and ’40s, there was a train leaving here every 20 minutes.”

“Beautiful wooden bridge here, but there’s a history of bridges across the rail lines,” Perkins said.

“That’s correct,” O’Gorman observed. “There used to be a walking bridge here when I was a kid that they had built as part of the changes for the railroad, along with a wooden bridge for cars and traffic.”

“This really became the center of commerce and, shall we say, even entertainment for the region for about a hundred years,” Perkins added.

“Oh, it did — when the town (of Brighton) was first formed, there was a population of about 200,” O’Gorman said. “It increased to over 3,000 when the railroad came through here, so it grew. (There was) a lot of activity going on here, right up through the 1950s and ’60s.”

“James, there may not be 13 tracks anymore, and there might not be a train departing every 20 minutes or so, but there are still some tracks and they are still used today,” Mike Hoey added.

“That’s correct; it’s mostly a freight line now,” O’Gorman answered. “The passenger rail (service) closed in the 1960s. There are about two trains a day still transporting lumber and various materials through here.”

Perkins asked, “If people want to learn more about the Grand Trunk Railway or Island Pond in general, how can they do that?”

“They can certainly come by and visit the Island Pond Historical Society,” O’Gorman said. “This summer, we’re going to be open on Saturdays from 11 to 1. We have a website; if you (search for the) Island Pond Historical Society, you’ll find out more information there.”