Rails to Trails in New England

Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

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Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:49 pm

I get the general vibe from the railfan community that railtrails are not welcome. For some reason many railfans are 100% opposed to railtrails and that is something I never understood.

There are many dormant rail lines, many without dormant tracks, just power lines, etc. BUT hidden in these abandoned railroad lines are pieces of railroading history. Unseen history railfans would enjoy, sitting and rotting away in the woods. WHY? Because there is no access to this dormant railroad bed!

I have always been a bicycling fan, and when you throw me onto a dedicated trail for walkers, and bikers, etc. built on an abandoned railroad line, I enjoy my day!

SO what's this thread about?

Discussion of railtrail projects, currently built railtrails and opinions of railtrails, but I ask that there is not a massive amount of bashing here... Please make this a positive discussion of Rails to Trails Projects.

Thanks and enjoy this new thread!
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:18 am

Here's my listing of railtrails. In order of my favorite to my least favorite. () mean still in planning... { } mean still under construction

1. PAVED Newburyport-Salisbury (to stonedust) Park at the Newburyport MBTA Station. The Newburyport trail is quick but cool. It does a fantastic job of getting you over the Merrimack via the US1 Bridge. Unfortunately then you must cross US 1 (working on solving the problem, design complete, going out to bid). If your are not killed, take the Salisbury Railtrail through the salt marsh (the Cadillac of rail trails). After some road weaving, take the Salisbury ghost rail trail to I95 in Salisbury.
- this is a gorgeous, smooth ride

2. STONEDUST Topsfield-Wenham-{Danvers}-(Peabody)- (Wakefield) Start in topsfield center. Be careful crossing route one. Cross over the ipswich on the old railroad bridge, continue through to wenham. Stop at the swamp walk (the coolest thing ever). If you are daring, continue through to Danvers Center. Note the Danvers section is stone and rough on bikes. Continue to go over the MA 114 railroad bridge (awesome). The trail abruptly ends at the peabody line. Peabody and Wakefield are still in the planning stages.

3. PAVED Peabody Start just of MA 62 on the Middleton Peabody town border. Continue past the quarry to a scenic Park. Travel on road (lowell St) to cross under I95 and US1. Note that you pass the old wakefield branch (future peabody section of my #2 rail trail) just before Bonkers. Join the trail again on the first side street to the right. Ride to the North Shore Mall and grab lunch at the food court!

4. PAVED (to Stonedust) Bedford Lexington Arlington Cambridge and Concord. My suggestion starts you in Lexington. Follow the Minuteman up to the RDC car in Bedford. (A cool little railroad community) From Bedford join the Reformatory Branch Railtrail (Very Scenic). This brings you to Concord. To make things interesting. I then take the old Battle Road back to Lexington. (Be sure to see the old N. Bridge and cool Battle of L&C presentation) From Lexington continue to Alewife, then back to Lexington

5. PAVED Amesbury The Amesbury River walk is cool but short. When connected to the Salisbury point Ghost Trail, it will be added to the #1 Railtrail trip. Unfortunately there is a landowner holding things up...


To Do List

1. Bruce Freeman Trail
2. Capecod Railtrail
3. Providence RI Rail Trail
4. Cotton Valley Rail Trail (rode it on a speeder)
5. Lexington Narrow Guage Rail Trail

Comments / What Am I Forgetting?
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:09 am

It's more that there's no coherent policy in a lot of states on what ROW's they do need to preserve. CT is an example of good planning. All of their landbanked ROW's with trails are state-administered linear parks with no leases to municipalities or "Friends of the Trail" organizations sticking their fingers in it and making it a bureaucratic mess. Only outside party they deal with is the East Coast Greenway alliance, for fed funding reasons. Every potential reactivation corridor is ranked on their State Rail Plan by realistic chances they'd want to use it: 1) NYNE Manchester-Willimantic (commuter rail), 2) Air Line Willimantic-Putnam (Amtrak NEC 2030 vision), 3) NYNE Plainfield-state line (Hartford-Providence rail), 4) Air Line Portland-Willimantic (Amtrak NEC 2030 vision non-preferred alternative). That's it...they don't bother listing the Canal Line because that has no envisionable service worth so much as a study over the next 25 years. NH does a similar thing, where abandoned ROW's are offered up "as-is" for snowmobile and recreational use with no warranty and no expectation for state support. And they can withdraw usage at-will without consulting anyone. In fact, I think they only have 1 state-administered paved trail, the Salem-Windham one.


MA is an example of totally incoherent policy. There's no prioritization, and their network has been eaten alive by municipal groups sicking town pols and state legislators to twist the T and EOT to blindly fork over trail leases. There are 5 state agencies that own ROW's--EOT, MBTA, DCR, Mass Water Resources, and the Turnpike Authority--who don't always agree with each other on line usage. DCR once making trouble for itself by getting in a spat with RIDOT over a Woonsocket-Boston commuter rail study on the part of the Franklin Line the unpaved Trunkline Trail runs on. Then nd DCR often gets bludgeoned by the towns to pick up maintenance on the municipally-designed trails the EOT and T give out leases for. Often trails they didn't even want added to their network. It wastes time, money, and leads to a haphazard network of disputed jurisdiction that no parties are truly satisfied with. And it encourages rampant NIMBY games, like encroachment (all it takes is 1 building constructed on an ROW you let a town own and it's blocked forever) or games about who's allowed to use it.

They have also indeed given away lines that have immediate rail uses, like the Falmouth Branch (Cape Cod Central RR, with an expensively renovated station finished just before the local legislator booby-trapped a bill requiring the tracks get ripped out), Chicopee (freight customers lobbying for PV to be allowed to reinstate service), and the Armory Branch (CDOT and Amtrak pushing for immediate restoration as a Springfield Line freight bypass). Plus other cases where the only aim was for the towns to seize it fast and yank the rails before anyone has a chance to think, then screw planning a usable trail (i.e. the "Iron Horse Preservation Society" scam that gets trotted out). Danvers Phase I (unusable trail because of washouts and poor grading work by Iron Horse), Chicopee, the pending disaster in Methuen (NH commuter rail study area), Newburyport (encroaching on the Eastern Route so no restoration to Portsmouth can be full 2-track), and the smoke-and-mirrors hostile takeover a 2-man trail lobby is trying to do in Dover (high-ranked studied commuter rail). Purely coincidentally, all of those except Newburyport playing the Iron Horse Preservation card. Other potential disasters: the Bruce Freeman extension to Framingham, the Milford-Holliston trail, the Saxonville Branch trail, and the Leominster-Fitchburg trail. In each of those cases CSX owns the ROW's and has abandonment filings that take effect pending sale of the lines. They're negotiating straight with the towns, who can't afford it. The F&L and Milford Branch STB filings have been amended with 180 day extensions 8 or 9 times because they can't close the deal, and things got so pissy between CSX and Leominster that CSX jacked the purchase price to a "go @#$% yourself" $50M and the trail group petitioned to disband entirely and revoke the agreement rather than keep talking. Where is the state in all this? The EOT owns all the rest of the F&L the Freeman trail sits on...why won't they scoop up the rest, lock that whole ROW up, and keep Framingham from starting yet another spat with CSX? Why's the Saxonville Branch ownership still not signed and legal when that trail is partially designed?

Hopefully the State Rail Plan being drafted now can rein some of this ill behavior in. The state needs to do what CT was doing and rank the ones it'll need. They need to lock up the ownership of abandoned ROW's and not leave things in a bunch of hotheaded town selectmen's hands. They have to get their stories straight agency-to-agency. They have to state for the record which ones have MPO-rated activation studies so not all 99-year leases are created equal (importantly: the Minuteman agreement is armed to the teeth saying that Arlington and Lexington cannot object if the Red Line has to go there and the state makes all reasonable efforts to relocate the trail). They have to enforce property laws so encroachment isn't such a threat. They have to stop giving these leases to groups so disorganized a DCR bailout is later needed (Methuen, Danvers...i.e. everyone pimping the Iron Horse scam). And they have to stop being blind to NIMBY games. These ROW's don't come back if you brain-fart one away (e.g. the Dover guys spreading rampant disinformation and encouraging trespassing on a still-active freight ROW).


Required reading: http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress ... rail-scam/.

This blogger can be annoyingly pretentious at times, but usually a thoughtful read. He's right on-point framing the rail-trail debate here. Uses a textbook case of a town falling for the Iron Horse scam (in this case different salvage company, same exact misleading sales pitch) to scuttle a line that had imminent usage potential. His argument takes a dim view of people who want walking paths. I don't agree with him there. I think there's a need not being adequately met. Problem is it's so willy-nilly how to approach that need that it's fracturing the debate on wheels vs. feet grounds. i.e. Somebody's mode has to "win" and somebody's has to "lose". With open encouragement for whoever wants to pervert the process. The chaos ought to be the dead giveaway that there has to be structure given to the debate, because what matters is optimal use of the ROW. If it's being poorly utilized because somebody had to "win" and somebody had to "lose", everybody loses. And yes, that includes the trail supporters who "won" because some ROW's are really poorly set up for pedestrian connectivity and too difficult to maintain (see the blogger's Providence grade crossing example...see Methuen's lack of connectivity to any other pedestrian concentrations, including streets with sidewalks...see Danvers' washout problems...see Chicopee's industrial middle-of-nowhere and state highway crossings...etc., etc.). Too many bad decisions get made when people can only frame this in terms of transportation conflict.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby Noel Weaver » Wed Nov 16, 2011 10:34 am

The reason that I often do not support tearing up tracks for a rail trail is the opposition when and if the powers to be want to re-use the property as it was intended for namely running a railroad again. Once the tracks are gone the rail trail enthusiasts will yell like hell if there is even a thought of restoing the track. Look at the problems that the Western Maryland Scenic had when some enthusiasts wanted part of their line for a rail trail. Some rail trails are OK if there is absolutely no hope or no prospects for ever needing a line for service again. Imagine what would have been the case had the track been torn up for a trail between Canaan and New Milford? Imagine the fuss that would result if New York State would really make an effort to restore the Harlem Division north of Wassaic which in my opinion could make a lot of sense as this area is growing by leaps and bounds. I do admit that some of the trals and walkways are very nice and serve a good purpose but I only agree with them if there is absolutely NO HOPE of ever restoring rail service. The walkway over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie is a good example of a proper use, good location and really no practical need for rail service ever again at this location. While it is unlikely that the Airline between Portland and Willimantic will ever again be needed for railroad operations I can ony imagine the fuss that would result here if some outfit tried to buy this property for a railroad. This is why overall I would prefer that the tracks be left in place and the line railbanked for future possible use in most cases.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby MEC407 » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:27 am

The Eastern Trail in Maine (ROW of the B&M's Eastern Division, originally the Eastern Railroad) is coming along slowly but surely. They just finished building a beautiful new bridge over the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk, and I think they've either built or are building a bridge over Route 1 in Saco.

I've never walked or biked this trail so I can't comment on whether it's "good" or not, but it's nice to see the ROW being used for something other than power lines and pipelines.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby drvmusic » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:29 pm

I'm a big fan of the Nashua River Rail Trail that runs from Nashua, NH to Ayer, MA. One of my favorite spots to bike :)
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:34 pm

drvmusic wrote:I'm a big fan of the Nashua River Rail Trail that runs from Nashua, NH to Ayer, MA. One of my favorite spots to bike :)


Do you have a map of that trail?
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:35 pm

MEC407 wrote:The Eastern Trail in Maine (ROW of the B&M's Eastern Division, originally the Eastern Railroad) is coming along slowly but surely. They just finished building a beautiful new bridge over the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk, and I think they've either built or are building a bridge over Route 1 in Saco.

I've never walked or biked this trail so I can't comment on whether it's "good" or not, but it's nice to see the ROW being used for something other than power lines and pipelines.


Cool, any maps of that?
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby MEC407 » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:39 pm

Try this:

http://www.easterntrail.org/trails/etamap.gif


That's an old map, hence it says "proposed," but it should give you an idea.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:40 pm

MEC407 wrote:Try this:

http://www.easterntrail.org/trails/etamap.gif


That's an old map, hence it says "proposed," but it should give you an idea.


How much of that is completed...
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby MEC407 » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:46 pm

Good question. I'm not sure. Try the main web site at http://www.easterntrail.org/ for more info.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:01 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:The reason that I often do not support tearing up tracks for a rail trail is the opposition when and if the powers to be want to re-use the property as it was intended for namely running a railroad again. Once the tracks are gone the rail trail enthusiasts will yell like hell if there is even a thought of restoing the track. Look at the problems that the Western Maryland Scenic had when some enthusiasts wanted part of their line for a rail trail. Some rail trails are OK if there is absolutely no hope or no prospects for ever needing a line for service again. Imagine what would have been the case had the track been torn up for a trail between Canaan and New Milford? Imagine the fuss that would result if New York State would really make an effort to restore the Harlem Division north of Wassaic which in my opinion could make a lot of sense as this area is growing by leaps and bounds. I do admit that some of the trals and walkways are very nice and serve a good purpose but I only agree with them if there is absolutely NO HOPE of ever restoring rail service. The walkway over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie is a good example of a proper use, good location and really no practical need for rail service ever again at this location. While it is unlikely that the Airline between Portland and Willimantic will ever again be needed for railroad operations I can ony imagine the fuss that would result here if some outfit tried to buy this property for a railroad. This is why overall I would prefer that the tracks be left in place and the line railbanked for future possible use in most cases.
Noel Weaver


Or, interim agreements with real teeth. The Central Mass Sudbury-Hudson trail nonprofit has it right. They basically say right in their charter, with link to the 1993 commuter rail survey: (paraphrased) "If the RR comes back, oh well them's the breaks. We're confident the ROW can accommodate rail-with-trail and will make every effort to find a mutual solution, but we made a promise to not stand in the way and will uphold that promise for the greater good." Ditto the 1981 "without objection" court order on the Minuteman (I'm sure the NIMBY loopholes have been figured out, but onus is still on them to produce the legal goods). And I do think states like CT and NH keeping their trails under lock-and-key at the state DOT or Parks Dept. level is a much saner way to do it than giving the locals any foot in the door. Because that usually disintegrates into anarchy and makes a mess of the trail they do build. Every trail should have a clearly-defined mission statement, justification for how it supports multimodal transit instead of "win"/"lose" pedestrian vs. rail, a contingency plan for what WILL happen to the trail if the RR has to come back, extra legal protection for the state in advance if there is any state-ranked and/or studied restoration proposal in the 30 year range, outright prohibition (or the NH "as-is without warranty" method) if it's an infrastructure-critical ROW with highly desired restoration in the 25 year range, clearly-defined ownership with some alpha dog answerable to state-level planning, and justification for how it preserves and avoids destroying the rail network (e.g. encroachment prevention on an ROW that would be cannibalized in 20 years with no interim action). The landbanking statute would be a lot less dysfunctional if it had this kind of structure to it instead of being misused as a wedge to destroy what it was enacted to protect. I think the states are wisening up to this, but they had to suffer some painful losses before they woke up and the NIMBY's have permanently seized too much of the leverage.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby markhb » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:48 pm

I saw this when following the link gpcog just posted in the Mountain Division forum. Looks like at least one abandoned line won't be a trail anytime soon.

Trestle tussle in Portland sinks federal grant effort for trails
PORTLAND — Competing visions for the future of the railroad bridge at the mouth of Back Cove have sunk a regional effort to secure more than $1 million in federal grants for bridge and trail projects in greater Portland.
...
(I)t was a proposal by Portland Trails to convert the Back Cove bridge into a paved walking and biking trail ($750,000) that prompted rail advocates to derail the process.

The swing bridge is a movable trail trestle along the old St. Lawrence & Atlantic rail line. It's built to allow boats to cross the rail line that runs behind the B&M Baked Beans factory.

Tony Donovan, a Portland member of the fledgling Maine Rail Transit Coalition, is one of the local rail advocates who opposed the proposal.
...
After opponents testified against the application at an Aug. 3 meeting, PACTS Director John Duncan said the trails and rails groups were directed to meet and reach a compromise. But the funding deadline came and went without a new proposal.

"I was really disappointed this didn't come together," Duncan said. "It was a regional effort that a lot of folks put a lot of time into."
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:30 am

I support rail trails for removal of encroachment and prevention of development or being purchased with the intent of never letting rail nor trail from ever happening. But I hate when something like the Minuteman Trail through Arlington means a Red Line extension doesn't ever stand a chance of happening without costly cut-and-cover construction. I love the trail, it really is great, but at some point, rail will trump trail in demand, but residents will kick and scream to prevent any rail from returning at the expense of their precious trail.

The Northern Strand Community Trail (Bike to the Sea) on the Saugus branch will be under an MBTA lease. At some point, the MBTA will have a say. (I'm not sure on the contract specifics, but perhaps they can even cancel the lease early, as well, in turn for some sort of compensation like funding for other parks or something).
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby SilverLakeRailroad » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:29 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:I support rail trails for removal of encroachment and prevention of development or being purchased with the intent of never letting rail nor trail from ever happening. But I hate when something like the Minuteman Trail through Arlington means a Red Line extension doesn't ever stand a chance of happening without costly cut-and-cover construction. I love the trail, it really is great, but at some point, rail will trump trail in demand, but residents will kick and scream to prevent any rail from returning at the expense of their precious trail.

The Northern Strand Community Trail (Bike to the Sea) on the Saugus branch will be under an MBTA lease. At some point, the MBTA will have a say. (I'm not sure on the contract specifics, but perhaps they can even cancel the lease early, as well, in turn for some sort of compensation like funding for other parks or something).


That is how the MBTA leases work, They can retake their property IF they ever decide to add passenger service. Freight service doesn't matter, passenger only. COntracts specifically say NI IF AND OR'S OR BUT'S, if they need it back, they get it back. National Grid offers the same policy, just a bit more complicated than the MBTA policy...
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