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.
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.”