THE H. ALBERT WEBB MEMORIAL
Mass Bay RRE member Leigh Webb created the H. Albert Webb Memorial Railroad Preservation Award in 2000 to recognize his father's love for New England railroading. Mass Bay RRE acts as Mr. Webb's agent in soliciting applications for the award, reviewing the complete applications, and administering the grants as they are used.
Nonprofit, tax-exempt [IRC 501(c)(3)] organizations that preserve historically significant railroad equipment, structures or information from New England railroads are eligible to apply. The successful applicant will receive a single $10,000 grant.
The Newfane Depot was built in 1880, when the narrow gauge Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad was completed to Newfane. While it was intended to run to Whitehall, New York, only 36 miles were completed to South Londonberry, Vermont. In 1905, the narrow gauge track was changed to standard gauge, and the name was changed to the West River Railroad. The Newfane Depot remained in service until the West River Railroad was abandoned in 1936. The structure was in private hands, used primarily for storage, until it was purchased by the Historical Society in 2014. When completed, the Newfane Depot will be one of only two railroad station museums in Vermont.The Newfane Railroad Station was chosen as one of the “water stations” as it was located on a plateau between the steep grades to the north and south. A building housing a water tank was constructed about 100 yards north of the depot, and remains standing. Originally, there were five water tanks along the railroad line, and Newfane’s was one of two that was housed within a building. It is likely that the Newfane’s Water Tank building is the only surviving structure of its kind in Vermont. Today, the Newfane Station is the only intact railroad depot that remains on the West River Railroad line. It is in its original location, and is one of few remaining railroad depots in Vermont that has not been adaptively reused or abandoned.
Completed projects since 2001 funded (entirely or in part) by H. Albert Webb Award grants include:
Projects in progress include:
Applications for the 2017 H. Albert Webb Memorial Railroad Preservation Award are now being accepted.
The Mass Bay RRE Award Committee will carefully evaluate all applications and make its recommendations to Mr. Webb, who will choose the successful recipient. Mr. Webb expects to announce the recipient of the 2017 H. Albert Webb Memorial Award recipient early in 2017.
Page updated September 9, 2016.
|"Dad, Me, and the RRE"
My father was a reserved and gentle man, who had no greater passion than his love of railroading. From the Lionel trains he gave me year after year for Christmas (for which he created, in pencil, intricate rail layouts on small slips of paper, and which, while seated grandly behind the two-fisted transformer, he ran a lot more than I did), to the Railroad Enthusiast trips he took as often as he could, Dad showed me as I grew up just how much influence trains can have over those of us who have come to love and respect them.
I would have to say Dad first came to know trains from depending on them to carry him from Beverly, Massachusetts, into Boston, so that he could attend Northeastern University in the 1930s. Even after he graduated, he continued to make that trip to work for General Radio Corporation, then located in Cambridge. Dad didn't even get a driver's license or own a car until the '50s. Trains were how he and so many others got to where they needed to go, every day, even weekends, to get away to the country, to visit relatives, or just go on a shopping excursion. His life was inextricably linked to railroads, a fact of which he was proud all his days.
He passed that passion on to me in a very subtle way, spanning many years. From my earliest memories when my age was measured in single digits, until well into my adulthood, Dad indoctrinated me to love what was in the beginning beyond my years to understand. Going on trips was what we did, as father and son. It was how we bonded. Some dads took their kids to baseball games, my Dad took me on Mass Bay RRE rail trips. As a child, I would remember getting up in the dark to make sandwiches, wrapping them in waxed paper, filling the Thermos, and adding a small bag of Hershey's Kisses (my favorite treat) to the lunch basket, so that we would have something on which to munch during an entire day of "riding the rails" on an Enthusiasts Excursion. Then, we would walk to the train station in my hometown of Melrose, to take the B&M into Boston, and then either go directly to a platform in North Station, or continue on to South Station to hook up with the special consist that would be our home for the next 10 to 14 hours (depending on whether the trip adhered to its departure and return times, which they rarely did). On some trips, we would have to take the car and drive for hours to connect with a train leaving from Maine or perhaps Connecticut. No matter from where we left, the object was always the same: to ride over as many lines as possible, and enjoy the unique experience, smells and motion of being on a train.
Even in my father's last year, when his condition made it impractical to entertain any realistic thoughts of taking advantage of any fan trips, he still would say how nice it would be to take that one last train ride. To humor him, I would answer that we should indeed do that.
He died before we ever took that trip -- yet I felt I owed him one last excursion together. So, with his ashes in my shoulder bag, and a lunch comprised of sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and some Hershey's Kisses, I took my Dad on one final trip. No one else on the train knew I wasn't alone -- but I think I felt closer to Dad than I ever had. That trip meant more to me than any we had ever taken, and my only regret is that Dad never fully realized just how successful his campaign to turn me into a "railfan" had been.
Today, in his name, an annual cash gift is given to an organization which is trying to preserve the history of New England railroading either by restoring a railroad building, or a piece of equipment, or by helping to save a collection of New England railroading memorabilia. It is my hope that the H. Albert Webb Memorial Preservation Award serves as a model for others to actively seek out and support preservation efforts that carry the same deep-seated meaning for them, as those I have found hold for me. Together we can make a difference, and pass the legacy of love for railroading onto future generations, who, without our help, might not ever know the glory of witnessing the power and magnificence of a steam giant belching smoke and cinders, or the joy of leaning your head out of an open boxcar and feeling the rush of cold air pushing your hair back and fluttering your eyelashes, while roaring along those ribbons of steel.
Climb aboard the "Preservation Special" and be a part of saving a heritage that's so much a part of the basic fabric of this country. Be a part of keeping railroading alive.
Leigh A. Webb