City Councilor: Pan Am’s train camp in Northampton set to roll away on Friday

Friday, August 01, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — In what will likely come as a relief to many North Street residents, Pan Am Railways on Friday expects to disband and roll away a temporary worker camp of train cars parked on the railroad tracks behind their homes.

According to Ward 3 City Councilor Ryan R. O’Donnell, Pan Am officials informed him Wednesday of their expected departure. Some 100 workers have been using a string of about 25 cars since July 7 as a place to eat and relax between long shifts upgrading train tracks for higher speed passenger rail service.

“I realize the company has provided inaccurate information in the past, but at this point I am hopeful the cars will in fact roll out by the end of the week,” O’Donnell posted to his Facebook page at around 2 p.m., Wednesday.

People who live along North Street complained that Pan Am’s camp was too noisy because of three large generators that supply electrical power to the camp. They were also frustrated that company officials seemed to do little to explore moving the trains or devising ways to mitigate the noise, light and other problems arising from the camp.

They enlisted the help of O’Donnell, Congressman James McGovern’s Northampton office and others, but no changes appeared to have been made by Pan Am or the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which is overseeing the project.

The camp runs about a quarter mile along a bike path from behind Taco Bell on King Street, across a bridge spanning North Street, before ending at about 84 Market St.

Pan Am spokeswoman Cynthia Scarano was not in her office Thursday afternoon, but she previously told the Gazette that Pan Am often sets up camps for these types of projects. She said the workers were using the camps to eat and relax, but that they were sleeping elsewhere. North Street residents said the workers were clearly living there.

O’Donnell and many neighbors have expressed frustration that Pan Am management did little to inform the city or the North Street neighborhood of plans to set up the camp, though most support the workers and the project to improve passenger rail service through the city.