Coming up next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, the 26th annual Glory Days Festival rolls into White River Junction.
A free community event hosted by the Hartford Parks and Recreation Department, the festival will feature a full slate of live music acts, delicious local food, children's activities, and an array of train exhibits at the center of it all.
Trains, of course, because they're not just synonymous with White River Junction; trains and the railroads they came in on literally built this village.
The "glory days" that the festival celebrates encompass a period from the late 1840s until the 1960s—from the first railroad's construction, through a heyday when as many as five railroads converged on the village and saw as many as 50 passenger trains pass through on a daily basis, to its decline after the construction of the interstate highway system.
Ken Parker, a longtime resident, local historian, and owner of Parker Agency Insurance, remembers well the constant hum of activity by the railyards where he grew up—or rather, the constant banging. "If I have recollections of things as a kid, it was that slamming of trains. This was all the time," he says. "But the commerce here in the village was very active, with markets all up and down the street."
Before a single market and, certainly, the first railroad, the place that became White River Junction was farmland. As bridges were erected across the Connecticut and White Rivers, creating the confluence of tracks sending trains (with people and goods) to parts northeast, via Boston and New York, a thriving community sprang up. And here are some of the earliest photographs of White River Junction (sourced from this presentation by the New England chapter of the Society for Industrial Archaeology):
Union Station in White River Junction, around 1895.
The first Junction house, built in 1849, burned down in 1878.
On the site of the original Junction house, destroyed by fire, this fancy hotel was built. Familiar to most, today it houses, among other businesses, the Coolidge Hotel.
In 1882, the Barnum & Bailey Circus arrived by train in White River Junction.
The view from White River Junction looking northeast up the Connecticut River, 1862.
E. K. Smith & Son, one of the first companies to relocate from Hanover to catch the boom in WRJ, 1871.
Mark your calendars for the Glory Days Festival on September 8 and 9 in White River Junction. For more info, visit the festival's website.