Building Route 7 In The Early 20's
by Alan Dodd
Before Route 7 was built, the mountain at Strait's Rock went down to the river with only room for a narrow road between mountain and river.The road then went into Cedar Hill Road, to Gaylord Road and to the village. This was the main road. Where the road is now was farm land. There was a big quarry at Strait's Rock with a large steam-powered stone crusher on each side of the corner. All the stone for the road between New Milford and Kent came from this quarry.
The trucks at that time had solid rubber tires and could only be used on a good road so all of the hauling on the job was done with many teams of horses and dump wagons. There were no bulldozers or payloaders at that time so it took many men with shovels to spread and level the stone and dirt.
A small village of tar-paper covered buildings was on the lot north of what is now the Charlie DeCosa home. There was a dorm for the men to sleep in and a row of fireplaces for cooking and a store where they bought their food. They used a lot of canned goods. We plowed up tin cans for years after the land was again used for farming.
There was also a storage building, a blacksmith shop and a building over the boiler which supplied steam for the steam engine that ran the crusher and the steam drills for drilling holes for the blasting. There were no air drills as yet. The steam engines were big and heavy and could not be used everywhere, so some drilling was done by hand. One man held the drill and two men pounded it with sledge hammers.
My brother and I had to walk through the job every day going to school, so we got a better view of it than anyone else. All machines, shovels, rollers and cranes, etc..., were powered by steam engines which burned soft coal. There were no diesels yet.
The Gaylordsville station was a busy place. All coal, cement and machinery came on the train and then were hauled to the job, using heavy wagons and horses.
A lot of the skilled labor came from New Milford and as it was better travelling on the east side of the river, a suspension bridge with cables fastened to trees was built for the men to walk over to the job.
As all the steam engines used a lot of water, a dam was built in Squash Hollow and a three-inch iron pipe was laid for half a mile to the quarry. Water for shovels, cranes and so forth was carried to them by water wagons drawn by horses.
As the bridge between the village and Strait's Rock was on new ground, a narrow gauge railroad was built to carry stone and supplies for building the bridge. My brother and I swiped apples and gave them to the engineer, hoping for a ride. They took our apples, but no ride.
Their machines were crude by today's standards. They spent a long time and did a lot of hard work by hand and with horses, but they did a good job. The road is still there after three quarters of a century of use and still carries a lot of traffic.
© 1998 Alan Dodd