Grafton & Upton Railroad Owner Gives Tour Of Propane Site

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Jon Delli Priscoli is the owner of the Grafton & Upton Railroad.
Jon Delli Priscoli is the owner of the Grafton & Upton Railroad. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. — Grafton & Upton Railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli gave The Grafton Daily Voice a tour of the propane transfer site he is building off Westborough Road in North Grafton. 

Photo Album A slide show tour of the Grafton & Upton Railroad propane transfer site

The construction of the station, which was formally presented in a special meeting Tuesday night at the Municipal Center, is pre-empted from local or state government oversight. Instead, railroads are overseen primarily by the Federal Railroad Administration, the Surface Transportation Board, and state and federal fire marshals. 

Most of the construction will be completed by January, weather permitting, with the first of the 80,000-gallon tanks arriving as soon as next week, Delli Priscolli said. No propane will be delivered until the site is reviewed by the appropriate federal agencies and invited local officials, he said. 

"I want to be a good neighbor," Delli Priscoli said. 

The slideshow from The Grafton Daily Voice offers residents an opportunity to see how the site looks today. It is best viewed on a desktop or laptop computer. 

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Comments (41)

According to today's Telegram, work to resume on the propane terminal..

I own a propane tank and it sits next to an open flame, my gas grill, and no one panics over that.
I'm confident that federal safety standards are in-line with Grafton safety standards, for which we probably lift our standards from the feds.
So while this project doesn't help the property values of abutting neighbors, it is probably not a doomsday safety hazard.

Aladdins, Where do you get this confidence? The site is already under construction and the guy has just this past week (correct me if I am wrong) gave the plans to the Government Agencies. I am all for business to get going but we should verify that the Feds are doing their jobs. Heck, there was a chemical leak at that trucking company on route 30 and this caused havoc in this neighborhood. The town at least owes some due diligence of the Feds inspection. Make sure that they see signed copies of all the permits and inspections needed. The town should also know what materials are being shipped in his rail cars also.

I agree Harpoon,
It's a good idea to stay on top of all these things, whether its on rails, roads, or in a factory in Grafton. The machinery of industry is some pretty serious stuff, and if we don't keep tabs on it, it'll come back to bite us eventually. We don't need to run away from all industry, but we also need to be aware of and minimize/balance risk as much as possible.

Why is it just the G&U railroad you think should make the town aware of the contents. What about CSX? They have rails running through town, so should they too make the town aware of all contents of every train that rolls through Grafton?

If we're gonna start asking about what's passing through town, then what about all the trucks on I-90 (are hazmats allowed on the Pike)?

Voice of reason,

Very good point........

There is only one fact that matters here. The railroad has been around longer than any of us (1800's). I lived by it most of my life and when it was fully operational. No one that lives by this should be surprised. If you are.... You are not using your brain. The owner of the railroad has the right to do what he is doing and he doesn't even need to engage the town. The fact that he is participating in this meeting is surprising to me. I would build it according to what the law allows and meet every safty percausion and not worry about anything else. The towns people are not his customer so why focus any time or effort on them. He is a better man than me. This is America where free enterprise should be a core value of our nation unfortunately for most people its not. We already have too much government regulation we need to get back to what our forefathers intended our constitution to be. This is not Ameritopia! It is America.

Lets get back to the major point: Safety. We know that the railroad is exempt from town regulations. Fine. The railroad can ignore Grafton all they want. That's the law.
But the RR is NOT exempt from Federal regulations, both EPA and STB. Based on comments from the EPA and STB reps at the recent meeting, none of the Feds have seen the development plans. Now they know. Thus, the Feds need to do their jobs. Perhaps Senator Moore can, once again, poke the administration to get into this game.

Jim, I am all for less regulation and free enterprise. I do not agree as a businessman that I would not be upfront with my plans. I think our citizens have a right to know what is going up in our town and at least know that all the safety precautions are being taken. No matter how little rights we have, we can sure put up a fight and make it miserable for anyone to try to stone wall our town. That is why he made the presentation. He should have made it earlier. We can make sure that all the safety equipment needed to be in place in case of emergency. We could make sure that an adequate emergency plan to were set in place to evacuate citizens etc..If you cannot see the need for this, than I disagree with your business ethics.

I am glad I got a response…. My point is that he knows he will get a fight, it’s a small town liberal New England town that has little industry, I would probably have kept this close to the chest too, however he seems to me to be a doing many things to be a good neighbor (i.e. paying and sending a town fire response person to Pueblo CO for hazmat training (I think I read that somewhere), building a landscape buffer in Upton, overbuilding spill catch basins, etc.)

Suggestion...... do your best to work with him! Don’t be adversarial. You will get farther than putting up a fuss. As a business man myself I respond very well to people that are reasonable and see it from all perspectives, as that is the way I look at issues and opinions. As he is successful I am sure that he does the same. You can disagree.... Just stop talking about doomsday scenarios.... CSX has a farther greater impact on the safety of your town than this little railroad that only travels at 10 – 15 MPH tops. As for the person that says he is going to lose his insurance, I feel for him but…. The railroad has been around longer than any of us. Not in this capacity but, you can’t fault someone for seeing a need (freight transportation needs of the greater area) and taking a risk to resolve it by investing his and other investors money to accomplish a goal of reviving a business that was not profitable only a few years ago.

One more thing..... Pay attention to what it going on around you! The G&U has been purchasing engines for a while..... I the first ones were back in 09..... Do you think they are to handle Washington Mills business.....? I think not. They now have 6!!! 6 engines are significant investment; companies don’t make those kinds of investments without some sort of other commitment from customers or clients. I think there is a lot more to come with that kind of investment.

I have been following this railroad "story" for 4 years. If the citizens had taken any interest in it back then you may have had a chance in changing what is now happening. You and your elected officials had your blinders on..... all of this was writing on the wall, very obvious.... and there is more to come I suspect. Upton had an even bigger missed opportunity with the land surrounding the railroad and the governmental red tape resulted in a development project getting delayed therefore opening the door for the railroad to lease the land. The more land available to the railroad the more it will get developed for railroad transload businesses. If you don't want it in your back yard make it easy for zoning to allow other types of uses that are more residential friendly. I suspect it is too late for that though, the train has left the station on that I think.....

Members of the town's Economic Development Commission have been actively talking to and engaged with all five of the railroads that are here in Grafton, and have been doing so over the past15 years. The EDC met with the previous owners of the Grafton & Upton RR, and have also had meetings with people from the marketing department of the Providence & Worcester Railroad. We've talked with Mr. Delli Priscolli from the first days he became involved and we have also been diligent in providing members of the town's Emergency Management team with safety contact information for all five railroad companies.

Glfjl, first, thanks for your service to the town. My question is why did the BOS respond to the residents that they did not have a plan to review? Are any of them on your commission? I guess I am confused that this project has progressed so far without a plan presented to the BOS. A website should not take the place of a meeting with the town's BOS.

One of the five selectmen is a member of the EDC. While it is difficult for some to accept the federal laws as they relate to railroads, the fact remains that railroads are not required by law, to submit plans for local "review." They are, however, encouraged to discuss what they want to do with communities by the STB and the FRA.
This is certainly not the first time that what the different railroad companies want to do in Grafton has been questioned - the town of Grafton lost a legal decision in 1990 concerning this very same North Grafton rail yard. Members of the EDC have consistently advised selectmen and other town officials to be pro-active in talking with the five different railroad companies so that the town would not again find itself in an adversarial relationship.

Brooke Padgett is on the EDC, and has been for many years.
Brooke is also on the BoS.

Yeah, although not specifically saying "propane", the plan for some kind of transload site at that location has been publicly available on the Grafton & Upton RR website for months and months. The same plan includes all the available parcels for development along the G&U corridor, including a 5 acre parcel on Upton Rd. behind the library and Cumby's.

...maybe a good thing the town bought the Perrault property, now that I think about it.

And there are other places to get even more information. You just need to look. Think also about what is happening east of you in Boston with CSX. That is not new news. Freight needs a place to go....... Central mass is a better fit than Boston. Just sayin.

I admit there is a fair amount of speculation in that last statement but.... Your town officials should be looking at all that is going on. Maybe they are I don't know.

I am wondering what the radius of impact would be if something were to go terribly wrong with the 4 holding tanks of natural gas (ie. explosion). I am also wondering if the EPA knows that there is a level 3 Biolab in this radius. I would hope someone would think to ask the EPA if this would be a prudent thing to do. I hope our BOD follows up with the EPA on this.

According to info presented at the recent meeting, windows shatter within a 0.6 mile radius. However, do a bit of research and you will see that such LP explosions are quite rare. When they do occur, they are usually the result of human error or ignoring safety procedures. Hmmm...human error.

Copy the following link from the Boston Globe to your browser to see what a great neighbor Mr. Priscolli has been to a former Upton town official.

That is probably why he waited to have the meeting... Remember how many people fought and fought the Greenbush Commuter Rail Line?...and that was for a silly passenger train. If a proposed project even comes near a protected moth species or a spotted salamander in this state, it's over. He's not breaking any laws, and while I believe it is in hiss best interest to cooperate... he technically doesn't have to.
Why not engage with the G&U now as neighbors, and if things really don't work out, then go to the "nuclear option"? At the same time, I would be ticked if this was going on in my backyard... were abutters informed by their realtors that they were buying next to an active railroad under federal (not town) regulation?

Chris L, you hit the nail on the head..... He knows all of that and the best option is for everyone to work together to come up with solutions to concerns.

About the homes... it doesn’t matter what the realtors say. The land has always been owned by the railroad and it is shown on the zoning/ tax maps. If you buy a house and don’t look at the zoning/ tax maps that include your property you are not informing yourself for probably the biggest purchase of your life... not very smart.

Clarification, the land that the tracks sit on that is. Some of other land his company has purchased or leased.

One more comment in regards to "We won't cut corners on the project"..... The Grafton and Upton railroad cuts corners with safety everyday in this town. How? By poorly marked and unsignalled highway crossings on the various local roads and state highways it crossings. They may not be high-speed, but grade crossings just as dangerous to the public, and are grossly under-equipped. Flagmen and stop signs are early 20th century technology.

I believe maintaining the crossings are a town/ state responsibility depending on the road. I could be wrong. Why would a flag man be any less safe than an unmanned crossing signal or gate? If someone is there to monitor that the traffic is stopped before the train moves I would think that would be better than a train just moving down the tracks assuming that motorists etc. are going to pay attention to the signal or the gate...... People blow though signals and go around gates all the time.... Milford is getting crossings gates and signals at their end as the state is funding some of the cost and the owner of the railroad is working collaboratively with the town to install them. Please help me understand why a person stopping traffic and checking to see if traffic stops is more dangerous than an unmanned crossing? I agree that it is less technologically advanced but who cares as long as it is safe. It frees up capital for other projects and he needs another employee….. also a good outcome.

I think an earlier article on this site said something about the state providing crossing signal equipment for some of the G&U crossings...

12/5 news report says "plans to build"

12/7 news report says "is building" ... looks like according to the picture, 12/7 is a little more accurate!

I would like to krow the exact location of this property and what residential units lie within a one mile radius of the site. Do our roads meet standards for transportation of hazardous materials? What will be the road and intrastructure impact from the Town line to the site? What is the hazard impact for citizens driving or living near this site? How much traffic impact from the big tanks?

Give us more detailed and accurate information.

Look on Google Maps ... it's sort of between Pratts Pond and Nelson Park. Old Westboro Road branches off Rt 30 just before that.

I find the above statement both irresponsible and frightening. Seems this fellow feels that owning land entitles one to some sort of baronial rights.

Our community has both the right and obligation to demand the safety of all it citizens. No land owner under any sort of clooked legal concoction can endanger us.

And a clown chimes in...

the guy can do what he wants with HIS land!!! what does 'clooked' mean anyway I am sure you don't mean crooked right, what is crooked about what he is doing?... well clown?

His land is under federal regulation. The RR should do everything to ensure the safety of the community even though it could just ignore the town altogether. D. Priscoli indicated that he wants to be in a good relationship with the town and neighbors. It would be good for business in the long run if he has the town on his side... sooner or later he will need our support for something, and he'll be more likely to get it if he cooperates with the town all along.

He's going to have to use a town-owned road to access his site and maybe to deliver those tanks (don't know if they're coming by rail or highway). We just need to make sure that it's in the RR's best interest to help mitigate their impacts to the town (monetary and otherwise?) and ensure safety, whether or not they technically have to according to law.
I'm just saying, I think it would be better for the town and railroad if we are able to get what each party needs without hostility. Maybe some continued public engagement by the RR to address concerns?

...maybe the town also needs to do some research into similar facilities and ensure that residents/town get a fair deal?

He's obviously too smart to need town support, brilliant in fact! Anyone who can get around the absolute nonsense of this town's by-laws and red tape should be able to do what they need to do. I also will add that the town does too much research in fact if they stop all of the researching especially of the researchers, then the town would in fact make its own fair deal for the residents.

Haha, nice point about the research...


Good for Mr. Delli Priscoli, he owns that land took the risk having that land and should reap the benefits of the land with out all of the rigor-moreau that goes with owning land in Grafton. Nor should anyone tell him what to do with it.

I guess if you have a sleigh "stolen" is more important than public safety with large propane tanks in peoples neighborhoods. Whos the ASS and now!

Has nothing to do with people agreeing or disagreeing with my opinion... that is the whole point of discussion and conversation also a good way to rethink the issues and learn at the same time. When the obvious opinions get close to outrage and infringment on Town officials abilities to 'make' residents do what they are told, or veiled threats are issued to people who OWN land or whatever then I have problem with that... and of an ass an ass and a clown a are lucky enough to be both.

You r implicating yourself there michael bass, anyway, maybe we could hash this out over a nice hot cup of coffee some time :)