CHESTER – A daytrip doesn’t need to be far when there are interesting places right near your own backyard.
Just a 20-minute drive away is the town of Chester, which offers a day’s worth of places to explore.
The Chester Railway Station Museum offers a glimpse into the past and maybe the future as Chester’s railway station is part of the East-West Rail proposal that would bring passenger trains back to the community.
The museum is located inside Chester’s original station and features artifacts from the world’s first over-mountain railroad, which is just one of Chester’s claims to fame.
A conductor statue named “Willie” greets visitors at the front door. The hardwood structure’s chestnut and black walnut still stand along with numerous objects authentic to the early days of the railroad.
“Chester was a real ‘Wild West’ town 50 years before there was a wild west,” said Chester Foundation President David Pierce.
The station property includes a 1919 wooden caboose that has become a destination for campers, or glampers as those looking to camp with some amenities are called.
“We just had campers here for a few days and they already booked again,” Pierce said.
The station has a children’s car which looks like an ordinary freight car from the outside but inside is a play space. The car has a model train that runs along the top of the car walls, old-fashioned costume clothing, an antique child’s desk and more for children to explore.
There is another car that once housed the Riverside Park security office and a bumper post from H.B. Smith. The Railway Station Museum is free and caboose camping starts at $50 per night.
Chester, which is touted as “The gem of the Valley” on its website, offers numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors. Chester is a hiker’s delight and the “Chester Walks” brochure available at townofchester.net includes several trails.
For someone looking for an easy walk, the Chester Village Loop is recommended. This takes visitors through downtown Chester and by the railway. Another easy walk is the Gobble View Route on Middlefield Road which is a level walk with scenes of the Westfield River and the old Gobble Mountain coal tower.
Slightly more challenging walks include the C & B Trail Hampden Park Loop and C & B Trail Granite RR Loop.
Challenging trails include the Riverfront Road Loop and Prospect Street Loop.
The Keystone Arch Bridges Trail is a must-see for anyone who enjoys hikes, bridges and history. The arches are the first series of stone arch railroad bridges built in America.
The Historic Route 20 Visitor’s Center on Route 20 offers information about the area, past and present.
Ad finally, daytrip isn’t complete without checking out the local cuisine and Chester has a few options right near the railway and on Route 20, including the Common Table and Carm’s.