- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - The first watercolor in Robert Madison’s series of 16 paintings he created in 2015 shows a canal boat in New Haven Harbor, almost dwarfed by the majesty of the schooner Amistad.

That same canal boat recurs in each of the 16 watercolors, moving its way up what was the Farmington Canal to Massachusetts. Each watercolor painting features a landmark of the town the canal boat is passing through- 16 towns in all before reaching Massachusetts. The Farmington Canal was meant to connect New Haven Harbor with interior New England.

The 16 paintings can be found in Madison’s first book, “New Haven and Northampton Canal Greenway,” which provides a comprehensive look at the bike trails and walking trails that now exist, mere shadows of the canal and railroad that used to be. Today, the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway has about 84 miles of trails.

“It links everything together,” Madison said of his book, which provides maps of the walking and bike trails in each of the 16 towns the canal, and later the New Haven Railroad, once ran through.

“I thought I’d like to make people aware of the canal itself,” he said.

Madison, 74, now of Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, said he made several attempts at starting this project, but eventually was also able to include information from canal and area history experts in the book, as well as the completed maps. His main goal was to provide a complete history and all of the trail information in one place, he said.

The canal was closed in 1847, when the New Haven Railroad was completed, and parts of it have completely disappeared from the map due to development, Madison said. That was another motivation for writing his book, to preserve a piece of history.

“If it wasn’t for the rail trail itself, the whole thing would have disappeared from people’s imaginations,” Madison said.

Madison said initial reactions to the book have been positive with many people commenting on how grateful they are to finally have a full picture of all of the trail maps and where the canal actually was in their towns.

“People are amazingly interested in it,” Madison said. “I hit upon a good idea here.”

Madison has been giving presentations about the book throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts since the book was published. The presentations include a viewing of the watercolor paintings, a history of the canal and a book signing. One of the next will be held at the Shennecossett Yacht Club in Groton on Feb. 4.

All proceeds from the book and any presentations Madison gives will be donated to the Southwick Historical Society. If enough funds are raised, historical markers will be placed along the areas where the canal used to be, Madison said.

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Information from: New Haven Register, https://www.nhregister.com

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