Nawth o’ th’ Towah. Frank Heppner, Guest Blogger

Frank writes of what the Rhode Island language can be …

Being a lifelong railroad enthusiast, a few years back, after my retirement from URI, I
wrote a little book called Railroads of Rhode Island. As a newcomer to Rhode Island … I had only lived here for 42 years … I had to talk to a lot of old-timers to get information that might not be available from printed sources.

I finally came to the chapter on shortline railroads, almost all of which are now defunct. I live in South Kingstown, and I knew quite a few Swamp Yankees (or as they say it,“swampahs”),so I contacted them as I needed information about a specific railroad.

One such little railroad, the Narragansett Pier, had passed close to the long-time tractor supply business owned by a local family in Wakefield.

Sea View Station

I knew most of the family members pretty well, so I thought I would ask the patriarch, Russ, if he knew anything about the next shortline to the north, the Wickford and Newport, that started in Wickford, and whose old right-of-way can still be found in many places.

I didn’t see Russ when I went in to chat, so I asked his son Mark if his dad knew anything
about the Wickford and Newport Railroad. “Don’t know,” he replied. “He’s out back in the shop; ask him yourself.”
Russ was, indeed, back in the shop, working on a giant tractor.
“Russ,” I exclaimed. “You’ve been very helpful with info about the Narragansett Pier. I
wonder if you know anything about the Wickford and Newport?”

As if detecting a faint, foul odor, he replied, “Wickfahd and Newpaht. That’s up nawth ‘o
th’ towah, ain’t it?” (The “towah” was the fire lookout tower that marked the border between
North and South Kingstown. It is about 6 miles from Russ’ business).

“Yes,” I replied.

He shrugged his shoulders. Then this man who could tell you exactly what happened at
10:08 AM on January 14th 1923 on the tracks of the Narragansett Pier Railroad in Wakefield,

“Don’t know a thang ’bout it.”

By | 2017-10-21T20:09:17+00:00 November 6th, 2017|Guest Author, Rhode Island History|4 Comments


  1. peter voccio jr November 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    DR. ED ,

    Nice story!

    So I thought tells it all.
    Frank be thankful ya gut the info on the pier.
    Loved the photo of the tower climbed it years ago.
    MISS IT!

    • Ed November 6, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Yes, Peter, Frank tells a good story.
      Thanks Frank and … Peter

  2. peter voccio jr November 9, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    DR ED ,

    Had to read it again ,he is a very good story teller just
    might having some folks down in wickfahd having a few
    good laughs. The 1972 movie Deliverance could have
    been filmed there.
    You might suggest to Frank he might invoke the folklore
    rule being he has been in touch with the swampahs for
    years. It’s been done over the state line.
    Frank could then get info about the trains and pass it on
    through his writings,while our next door neighbor keeps
    trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

    • Ed November 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Good thinking and quite funny, Peter. Thank you.

Leave A Comment