Palmer, Massachusetts (Railroad Fact Page

Page Updated 7/1/2021


Palmer is composed of four separate and distinct villages: Depot Village typically referred to simply as “Palmer” (named for the ornate Union Station railroad terminal designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson), Thorndike, Three Rivers, and Bondsville. The villages began to develop their distinctive characters in the 18th century, and by the 19th century, two rail lines and a trolley line opened the town to population growth. Today, each village has its own post office, and all but Thorndike have their own fire station.

Palmer was originally a part of Brimfield but separated after being too far from Brimfield. Palmer’s first settler was John King. King was born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, and built his home in 1716 on the banks of the Quaboag River. The area as then known was called “The Elbow Tract”. In 1731, a deed to land in today’s Palmer renamed the town ‘New Marlborough’ after Marlborough, Massachusetts, in today’s Middlesex County. In 1731, residents of the borough renamed the town ‘Kingsfield’, after the aforementioned John King. Though in some papers in the Massachusetts General Court, it was referred to as the Elbow. A large group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians followed, arriving in 1727. Finally, in 1752, it was named Palmer after Chief Justice Palmer. In 1775, Massachusetts officially incorporated Palmer.[5][6]

Depot Village became Palmer’s main commercial and business center during the late 19th century and remains so today. Palmer’s industry developed in Bondsville. During the 18th century, saw and grist mills were established by the rivers, and by 1825 Palmer woolen mills began to produce textiles. The Blanchard Scythe Factory, Wright Wire Woolen Mills, and the Holden-Fuller Woolen Mills developed the major industrial capacity and constructed large amounts of workers’ housing. By 1900, Boston Duck (which made heavy cotton fabric) had over 500 employees in the town. The 20th century brought about a shift of immigrants in Palmer from those of French and Scottish origin to those of primarily Polish and French-Canadian extraction.

Palmer, located about  20-minutes east of the City of Springfield, MA off the Mass Turnpike has been  called the “Town of Seven
Railroads”. Those railroads included the Boston &  Albany, Central Vermont, Boston & Maine, Ware River, Central Massachusetts,  Hampden, and Southern New England railroad. 



Palmer has been called the “Town of Seven Railroads”. These included five operating railroads (Boston & Albany, Central Vermont, Springfield, Athol & Northeastern, Ware River, and Central Massachusetts), one which was built but never operated (Hampden), and one which was not completed (Southern New England) The B&A, CV, and Ware River served Union Station, which was designed by H. H. Richardson.

The Central Vermont was sold to RailTex in 1995 and operated as the New England Central Railroad. RailTex was merged into RailAmerica in 2000, which in turn was acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming company in 2012. The B&A is now the CSX Boston Subdivision, while parts of the otherwise defunct Ware River and Central Massachusetts are operated by the Massachusetts Central Railroad. The SA&N was abandoned in the 1930s when the Quabbin Reservoir was built.

Amtrak‘s Lake Shore Limited passes through Palmer, as did the Montrealer from 1989 to 1995 and the Vermonter from 1995 to 2014, but no trains have stopped at Palmer since 1971. Union Station is privately owned and houses a restaurant. (See Steaming Tender Restaurant Below)

Location info:

Town / City:  Palmer, MA – 20-minutes east of Springfield, MA

Video: A Historical Tour of Palmer, MA – A compilation of photographs from the Palmer, MA Historical Commission.

Location Name:   Palmer Union Station.

Railroad(s): CSX Transportation / Amtrak / New England Central (NECR) / Mass Central

Today, although this medium-sized town of just over 12,000 residents can’t boast about 7-railroads,  there are still 4 that operate through town, and all four can be seen from Palmer Union Station, now home to the Steaming Tender Restaurant.  The big game in town is CSX, which pushes around 10 trains through town during a 24-hour  period.  CSX operates the former Boston & Albany RR line (last used by  Conrail / Penn Central).  The Central Vermont line is now used by New England  Central (a RailAmerica property). 
Mass Central is a local shortline based in  Palmer, they interchange with CSX near the station. The Amtrak”s Lake Shore Limited passenger trains (# 448 & # 449, the Boston sections of # 48 & # 49) pass through Palmer, but the town does not have a station stop.  The Amtrak movements are during daylight, as long as the trains are on time.

Rail Traffic: Expect near 15-trains during a 24-hour period.  Both Amtrak’s are scheduled during daylight.  CSX freights are spread out throughout the day, late afternoon to early evening is the busier time for CSX.  You can usually see at least one NECR movement during daylight.  Mass Central is a weekday operation, and will only come past the station to interchange with CSX / NECR.

 Palmer Locomotive Rosters


Site Details: The parking lot of the Steaming Tender Restaurant provides a front-row seat.  Parking spots along the CSX line are the popular place to watch trains, as this is the busy side.  Please be considerate to restaurant customers.  The restaurant is highly recommended!  The food is great; they even prepare orders to go (take-out).  Summertime, they have an ice cream stand!  You can see passing trains from inside the restaurant or choose to dine outside,  track-side!   Not hungry?  The restaurant sells train-related souvenirs.  Shirts, hats, and mugs proudly read “New England’s Top Train Enthusiast  Location”, and I have to agree!

CSX and the interchange tracks are on the north side of the parking lot, the New England Central RR is on the south side.  The diamond is behind the restaurant,  accessible, but please stay off the tracks.  Also be aware that you are on the restaurant property, and not public property.  The owner welcomes railfans, but please keep safety in mind when around railroad property.

The Steaming Tender Restaurant

  • Food: Lunch, and Dinner service, also an Ice Cream stands open during summer.

Steaming Tender Restaurant Adult Menu

Steaming Tender Restaurant Children Menu

Steaming Tender Restaurant online Ordering

Picnic Area: No. Outdoor “Track-side dining” is available at the restaurant.

Restrooms on site: Located in the restaurant for customers.  Local mini-marts and McDonald’s can also be used. 

Parking: Free track-side parking along the CSX line.  Please be considerate to restaurant customers.

Lighted for evening railfanning:  Yes.

Live Online Webcameras (Key: Green- Currently Live/ Red- Camera Offline ) – (Check on 9/27/2021)

Online Railroad Scanner Feeds: Yes,  (click Here To listen Live)

Palmer Station Train Schedule=> {Click Here}

Palmer Station Train Schedule=>  {Click Here}

Scanner Frequencies:

– 160.560 CSX NC (Berkshire sub) dispatcher (Agawam, Russell, and Chester bases)

– 160.680 CSX NC (Boston sub) dispatcher (Agawam base)

– 161.070 CSX W. Springfield yard

– 160.800 CSX road

– 160.770 NEC dispatcher (Palmer)

– 161.160 PanAm District 3 dispatcher (Springfield base)

Where to Stay- Motels / Hotels:

 The Owners of the Steaming Tender Restaurant have opened a local house and have named it “Train Master’s Inn” and have themed it in railroad,  less than 3 mins from the Steaming Tender Restaurant. The guest that stays at the inn Receives priority seating with the Guest key in hand at the time of entering Steaming Tender Restaurant and also a bowl of Famous Whiskey bread pudding. The closest motels are 20-minutes east around Springfield,  MA. Visit / click  Massachusetts, then Springfield.

WEBMASTER NOTE: (About: Trains Master’s Inn- the Continental breakfest was not what was promised on website or in booking the room all they gave us was a Stale Muffins, Coffee, Yogurt)

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