by Jack Anderson
There has been speculation about the development of the so-called “Jungle” area of the village for many years, but it resurfaced lately with village and town discussions of the area. I am not sure when the current property lines were created, most likely it was after demise of the Woodstock Railway in the mid-1930s. But going back to the 19th century, this area of the village is very important historically, for it was the site of the terminus (or beginning) of that short line which connected Woodstock to White River Junction from 1875 to 1933. The railroad played a significant and vital role in the cultural and economic evolution of the town. Its buildings still survive.
Located on the south bank of the Ottauquechee on Pleasant Street are the ticket office/depot; the freight shed/former passenger depot; the engine house; the turntable; and various sheds associated with the Woodstock Railroad. In the words of Eric Gilbertson, former Director of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, these buildings collectively represent “the best coherent group of 19th century railroad structures in the state.”
Closest to the street, the ticket office/depot replaced the original passenger depot, which was located in the freight shed. Built in 1893, the original block of the depot is 20 x 45 feet and sets on a stone foundation with a full basement. Designed in the popular “stick style” of the period, the depot had an overhanging roof on all four sides which provided shelter for passengers. Photos at the Woodstock History Center show that stick brackets supported the overhang. A ticket office was located on the north side of the depot; its walls projected approximately four feet toward the railroad track. The Vermont Standard of April 27, 1893, stated that: “At each side [within the depot] is a waiting room, and at the rear a passageway between the waiting rooms, with two closets [lavatories] opening there from. Over the ticket office will be a private office for the Superintendent. In the center of the roof on the front, on track side, a small tower will rise to give it a good appearance of height.”
Since 1933, when the Woodstock Railroad went out of business, the building has served a variety of purposes, including a grocery store, restaurant, a Laundromat, and an auto parts store.
Construction of the Woodstock Railroad fright shed/original depot, the large gray building, began in September of 1875. The Vermont Standard of 9/23/75 reported, “The depot is rapidly approaching completion. It is 80’ x 26’ and is intended to be used wholly for freight, but for the present a portion will be devoted to a passenger station.” As Victorian Woodstock became a tourist destination, including the construction of the Woodstock Inn in 1892, a new, more attractive depot was needed. But this building was the passenger depot for 18 years. The Standard went on the report that “In the second story of the depot a private room for the employees of the company is finished off and makes a very comfortable and pleasant apartment.” The Woodstock Railroad Annual Report of December 31, 1875 states that “A very convenient station house was built at Woodstock and a turntable was built and provided with all the side tracks.” The first train pulled into Woodstock from White River on September 29, 1875.
The building was raised and a concrete foundation with full basement constructed in the late 1930s, when the building housed a John Deere dealership. Also at that time, a large shed roofed addition was built along the north side. Later, the building housed the POMA ski lift company.
The engine house, located behind the former Windsor county jail, now the Probate Court and Sheriff’s Office, was originally constructed in 1876. The Annual Report of the Woodstock Railroad, dated 12/31/76, stated, “An engine house has been built at the Woodstock station. It contains a single track and is sufficiently large for one engine, with a space for a water tank and a work room.” This building is easily identified by the tall engine doors on the east and west gable ends. The western end still its water tower.
The first turntable was constructed in 1875 somewhere on the property. A newer turntable was constructed in 1886 or 1887, west of the engine house. The perimeter wall, with a diameter of 68 feet, is visible today.
Rounding out the collection of railroad buildings is two long, narrow stick built sheds the edge of the embankment of the “jungle.” These first appear on the Sanborn Insurance Maps in 1910, and they were used as warehouses, supposedly for F. H. Gillingham and Sons.
Historically Speaking: Recalling the Woodstock Railroad
by Jack Anderson