Rails to Trails in New England

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

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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:02 pm

SilverLakeRailroad wrote:
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...


MBTA leases are very haphazard. It is a literal fill-in form and the only requirements for executing the lease are that the trail folks submit a skeletal funding plan and design to the T for review. They don't even have to have a funding source, just a "we'll try" (...and trot out the Iron Horse scam to get it rubber-stamped). Then they can do whatever they want, and administration is in the hands of the town. Yes, in the fine print the state can take it back. But then they have to defeat the town or trail nonprofit's usage control to take it back. There is 99.9% probability that will fail, because it requires de facto full permission from them to "Please, rip up my trail!" with all the legal maneuvering playbook to block restoration in the hands of the trail. It is as good as signing the ROW into permanent abandonment, and has nowhere near the restoration legal protection of something like the Minuteman which has the "restoration without objection" court order (which can still be circumvented, but takes more effort on the town's part). Since most of these towns can't afford to maintain their own trails, they end up sucking DCR dry to administer them regardless. So the state ends up picking up a tab it often didn't intend to...but doesn't get its control back because the towns/trail org. are still boss.

Incoherent policy. They should never sign their lives away like this. If somebody wants a trail, give DCR the lease and let them be the administrator who controls it and incorporates the trail lobby's desired features. That way every landbanked ROW is under centralized control under the state parks dept. and can be overridden by executive fiat to turn it back over if rail is needed. And only the trails that serve some value-added for the state parks system get added, instead of some grade crossing hell between one industrial dump and another and no sidewalk connectivity on either end that no one will use (see Chicopee, Methuen). It's impossible to be selective or keep things sanely balanced in the interests of statewide planning when other self-interested parties have a wide open door to stick their fingers in it and play grabby hands. It becomes that "win"/"lose" between modes as a masquerade for "win"/"lose" at local vs. state control. I don't think there's a single ROW in the state where public interest for rail can overpower the games local gov't plays. Now that the T is subservient to Mass EOT they need to be bound by some standards because they've been bona fide dumbasses at not looking these 99-year-lease insta-forms over well enough before signing on the dotted line.

It's never easy to de-landbank once it's trailed, but other New England states are a whole lot less out-to-lunch about their policy than MA is.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby frrc » Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:00 pm

In regards to the Leominster "rail trail" farce, CSX was asking $5 million for the line from Leominster to Fitchburg. Leominster balked at the idea and supposedly did their own assessment. The City also filed a lawsuit against CSX for "environmental violations" where a culvert washed out leaving a gap in the former abandoned roadbed. Far as I know, that law suit is still pending, and there are concerns about "dangerous chemicals" at the Leominster yard.....

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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby H.F.Malone » Mon Nov 21, 2011 10:37 am

Wasn't the point of "Rails-to-Trails" to preserve the entire linear right-of-way for potential future re-use as a rail corridor? The RTT proponents intially touted the "green" advantages of rail service and the future (hoped-for) shift back to extensive rail use (polluting highways=bad for society, low-environmental-impact rail=good for society).

Has any RTT corridor ever been returned to use as a rail line?
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby b&m 1566 » Tue Nov 22, 2011 1:20 am

There have been discussions of a paved bike path being built on the M&L Branch in Salem, NH the last few years. With 8 of the 9 public crossings heavily utilized with vehicle activity and its close proximity to rte. 28, it hasn't gotten very far.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby superwarp1 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:18 pm

as a Railfan and bike rider I'm very lucky to live near a rail trail. the Old NH canal line which is now paved from Southwick, Ma South to Farmington, CT over 25 miles. Westfield Ma is supposed to start in 2012 with their section. Every time I'm on the trail I find something of the old railroad that was left behind: Telegraph poles, old whistle markers(where they haven't been stolen), Nice curved trestle in Granby, Ct, left over rail ext ext. Better to turn it into a bike path than to loose it to development.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:22 am

superwarp1 wrote:as a Railfan and bike rider I'm very lucky to live near a rail trail. the Old NH canal line which is now paved from Southwick, Ma South to Farmington, CT over 25 miles. Westfield Ma is supposed to start in 2012 with their section. Every time I'm on the trail I find something of the old railroad that was left behind: Telegraph poles, old whistle markers(where they haven't been stolen), Nice curved trestle in Granby, Ct, left over rail ext ext. Better to turn it into a bike path than to loose it to development.


Definitely, and there are some good ones where preservation from encroachment is the biggest advantage of interim trailing. Bike to the Sea trail on the Saugus Branch a good example where abutters in Malden have been particularly brazen in encroaching. Reformatory Branch and Bedford Narrow Gauge trails (+ proposed Yankee Doodle Trail extension of the Bedford on the last leg of untrailed ROW) are good because they were abandoned pre-dating landbanking. Ditto the Newburyport Branch trail north of Topsfield where MBTA ownership ends. And I think Watertown, MA has a very innovative plan on the un-landbanked center section of the Watertown Branch that's partially encroached by gaining easements, then letting their Arsenal St. redevelopment plans flip some of the cruddy industrial properties into mixed use that widen the trail back to the original ROW's width, then picking off over 20-25 years enough abutters in that downtown redevelopment to eventually unite the entire ROW.

I also think the ones that have no foreseeable rail use for the next 50 years are excellent trail candidates. The Canal Line is a good example. That'll never be a commuter rail corridor because the commuting patterns are east-west throughout, not north-south the length of Route 10. Other ones like the Bruce Freeman Trail are likewise in the same boat...the Framingham & Lowell is an extreme low-priority reactivation with any commuter use being beyond the time range of meaningful current study, but definitely a ROW worth preserving because of connectivity between all the rail mainlines.


It really is a planning issue. If the states only ranked by priority the ones most likely to have reactivation potential, they can save a lot of fights with people and this whole one mode defeating the other mentality. If it's a high priority corridor, make sure whatever move they make is well-planned to not introduce blockers or give false hope. And that any interim use agreements have robust legal protection to enforce the reactivation priority, design that incorporates rail-with-trail from the beginning on likelihood of restoration, and total understanding that if it isn't possible the trail gets booted and they shouldn't get too attached to designing it with all the frills. Make the NIMBY's sign off on the reactivation and cede their rights of protest BEFORE they get an interim trail, instead of getting the blind 99-year lease and every legal and rhetorical tool to wage war of attrition on future rail use. And use some discretion to block the ones that absolutely do not work from a pedestrian perspective. Like the Chicopee disaster that's a state highway grade crossing hell, goes nowhere except industrial wasteland, and has no ped/bike connectivity to the rest of the city. Ditto Methuen; if you read the town development plan one of the #1 transit weaknesses cited is lack of sidewalks in town and over-orientation on city streets to car travel. i.e. Nobody can get to the trail to use it, and that problem doesn't go away until they invest in a much longer-term effort on citywide sidewalk connectivity (the town plan also mentions studying commuter rail, so there's a total one-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-other-is-doing disconnect between factions in the city). Would any wheeled transit plan that flawed get greenlit? No. So why does every ROW have to have a walking path graded over it if some of them are too unworkable to build, too flawed to use, or too expensive or unnecessary to maintain (or only maintainable if the towns can dump on the state trail maintenance the state doesn't want). The logic doesn't wash. Unfortunately the Iron Horse scam is to blame for a lot of that with this malarkey sales pitch about "ALMOST FREE" trail in exchange for the scrap metal. Curbing that BS with a little regulation and transparency would help.

But for the Canal Lines and Bedford Branches of the world that don't have reactivation potential...absolutely there should be an easy path path to interim use. I still think there has to be ample justification that it's a usable trail worth the cost of building and maintaining, but if 50+ years out nobody can perceive any practical rail use there should not be any hand-wringing about bringing a trail. Not even among railfans where, as you say, there is plenty of good history preserved on the route and very high value in preservation from encroachment. Focusing the use on smart development grounds cleans up a whole lot of the conflict involved in trails, trails vs. reactivation, and this whole unnecessary mode vs. mode zero-sum game. The only thing that matters is what's the smartest use for the corridor. Sometimes that's going to tip to rail/future rail with interim trail taking a back seat and the ROW needing to be held clear or conservatively used, sometimes that's going to be trail with rail a superfluous luxury not foreseeable, and sometimes--yes--it's going to be private development or nothing at all when the ROW is simply a poor or unmaintainable fit for any mode. Develop on the merits, not on competition between factions where somebody has to "win" or it's some sort of tragedy that the ROW isn't force-fit for some use/any use today.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby madcrow » Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:58 pm

I think that rather than railfans hating rail trails, it's more of a case of railfans not really caring about rail trails one way or the other unless those trails are in an area where trains would be better. Case in point, the Minuteman Trail which basically amounts to the results of a bunch of NIMBYs fighting public transit so hard that a planned subway line turned into a bike path...
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby markhb » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:29 am

There has been some discussion of the Bayside Trail in Portland, which follows part of the former Union Branch and bisects the former railyard. The Daily Sun ran a story yesterday talking about the planned development of the yard site.
Developers of a new 1-million-square-foot development planned for Bayside released new details about the project yesterday and said construction would likely begin next spring.
...
In a telephone interview, Federated spokeswoman Suzanne Tamargo acknowledged that its $2.3 million agreement to buy the parcels is not final, but said the project remains on track.

“There are terms of our contingency that are being worked out, and until that is done, it won’t close,” she said of the land deal, adding, “It’s still moving forward.”

Tamargo said external factors, such as a possible federal grant to help pay for the parking garage, must also be resolved before the transaction can close.

Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman, said yesterday that the project has taken longer than some expected to close but that there were “fairly straightforward reasons” for the delay.


The development has a "sell sheet" here, and it gives an idea of what might be built. Note that the artists' conceptions are just that and there isn't any official site plan. What does seem clear is that the Bayside Trail may evolve from a concrete sidewalk through a brownfield to a concrete sidewalk alongside a bunch of tall buildings.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby Reader#108 » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:00 pm

After dinner last Thursday. I took the kids and nieces/nephews for a walk along the Saugus Branch. The only rails that have been

removed are the ones at a crossing. All through the Saugus CTR area the rails are intact in the ROW, they look like they are in

pretty good shape. I forgot there was a siding along the river as well as the small tressle as it crosses the Saugus River.

Good way to walk off Turkey Dinner, and Im sure that my brother and sister where happy with the tired kids when we got

back right at dusk.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:38 pm

Reader#108 wrote:After dinner last Thursday. I took the kids and nieces/nephews for a walk along the Saugus Branch. The only rails that have been

removed are the ones at a crossing. All through the Saugus CTR area the rails are intact in the ROW, they look like they are in

pretty good shape. I forgot there was a siding along the river as well as the small tressle as it crosses the Saugus River.

Good way to walk off Turkey Dinner, and Im sure that my brother and sister where happy with the tired kids when we got

back right at dusk.


Saugus has yet to recognize the MBTA lease officially, so no work has been done. The only crossing removals were done by the town at 3 of 4 crossings (Essex St crossing is still in there) quite a while ago. The ROW in Everett is already trail, and half of Malden's ROW is torn right down to the dirt, with progress steaming towards Revere at a good clip.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby moth » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:06 pm

You asked about a map for the Nashua River Rail Trail: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/images/nashCampMap.gif
There is more info on the DCR site at: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/nash.htm

There is also a proposed nearby rail trail (unlikely to connect directly): http://www.squannacookriverrailtrail.org/
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:54 pm

moth wrote:You asked about a map for the Nashua River Rail Trail: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/images/nashCampMap.gif
There is more info on the DCR site at: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/nash.htm

There is also a proposed nearby rail trail (unlikely to connect directly): http://www.squannacookriverrailtrail.org/


Another decent couple of ones for preservation purposes. Nashua River is on a non-landbanked B&M ROW, so preserves a line a la the Bedford Branch where the original charter was lost. And the Greenville Branch is one the T didn't want but had to take on when it bought B&M's assets in 1976. It's perhaps the single most useless state-owned line because it goes from nowhere to dead-end nowhere. In 100 years there will still be no rail transit potential on either, so if the usage is there to justify trail construction...absolutely, these are the kinds to expedite. Nashua River's been a very pleasant surprise on utilization.
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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby Jackinbox1 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:44 am

In my opinion? I think the owners of the rail trails mean well. You got drunk drivers and idiots on the road. However, I'm not okay with them not budging or making up reasons to not reconstruction a needed line. For example Methuen. They hated that the I-93 transit study mentioned reopen the Manchester and Lawrence branch for commuter rail. The worst part? THERES CLEARANCE FOR BOTH ON THE RIGHT OF WAY!!


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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby Tom Lapointe » Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:11 pm

We have a new rail-trail in the Fall River, MA area, the Alfred J. Lima Memorial Queuquechan River Rail Trail. This is the last 2 miles of the old New Haven RR Watuppa Branch into Fall River; the last time I saw a train on this branch was about 44 years ago! (I was 20 at the time & driving my first car, a beat-to-hell '59 Chevy Impala, when I came up to the Quequechan St. grade crossing & was amazed to have to stop for a train passing through the crossing! - I think this was Penn Central pulling the last cars out of the Rodman St. yard (now a park-like entrance to the rail trail)). I'm also a cyclist & involved in the local rail-trail committee (joined when I saw the first phase of this trail being constructed from the former Brayton Ave. grade crossing location up to the Westport town line, along the bank of the South Watuppa Pond). The line had been largely abandoned with most of the track still in place (although the grade crossings at Ququechan St. & Brayton Ave, in Fall River, as well as the RT. 6 crossing in front of White's restaurant in Westport had long since been pulled).
The line had originally been built as a long trestle right down the middle of the Quequchan River in Fall River, although a stretch towards the center was eventually filled in to accommodate a passing siding / run-around track. Unfortunately, the trestles were so badly deteriorated that they were impossible to salvage for rail-trail use; they were pulled out using a monstrous crane, & replaced with new rail-trail bridges in the same locations. The rail-trail trestles are supported on bents of galvanized steel with large augers on the far end that were literally screwed into the riverbed, supporting new bridge decks of pressure treated lumber. Just prior to the trestles being pulled out, I shot both some still photos & video of the original trestles showing their condition, as well as the crane removing them (I got permission from the contractor doing the work to fly a camera-equipped quadcopter over the site, as well as overhead footage of the longest trestle just days prior to its removal). Here's a link to my YouTube video on it: https://youtu.be/pTohuSXIQoM

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Re: Rails to Trails in New England

Postby FatNoah » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:35 pm

How about this? Removing an active railroad to put in a rail trail: http://www.laconiadailysun.com/newsx/lo ... -wow-trail
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