• Southwest New Hampshire

  • Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by b&m 1566
I'm focusing this topic on the southwestern side of New Hampshire (specifically everything west of the Merrimack River up to Concord and everything south of the Claremont Branch). I have a lot of question for this area in regards to old and current rail lines and or trolley lines.
I’m not as familiar as I would like to be with the rail lines in this area, so I’m hoping to (overtime) gain more knowledge of the rail lines that traversed the landscape.
I was looking at bing maps the other day and noticed a small siding in Milford behind Lorden Plaza (located just west of the junction of 101 & 101A). What is the purpose of this small siding and does Pan Am still use it? As I was trying to find a nearby purpose for it, I noticed that it was more than just a siding at one time; I noticed an abandoned rail line. I traced this rail line up through Merrimack and into Bedford but could not find anything beyond the vicinity of Bedford High School. What line was this, did it end in Bedford or connect to the Goffstown branch? When was it abandoned?
  by ferroequinarchaeologist
You appear to have found the Manchester & Milford branch of the B&M, which ranks as one of the most useless lines of railroad in the state, if not New England. A brief and incomplete history: the Fitchburg Railroad reached Milford in the late 1890s, and the B&M took this as a threat. To keep the Fitchburg away from Manchester and Concord, the B&M built the Manchester & Milford, with the junctions at Grasmere and Milford constructed in the reverse direction so as to slow transit and discourage anyone from routing traffic to New Hampshire by way of the Fitchburg. The line was completed in 1900, but by then the issue was moot, because that year the B&M took over the Fitchburg. This now-totally-useless line hung around until 1926 before it was abandoned. It did serve the throngs of vacationers visiting beautiful Baboosic Lake in the summers. :-)

Most of this info is from Robert M. Lindsell: The Rail Lines of Northern New England; Branch Line Press, Pepperell, MA. There is much more in that book about these lines and the area in general, as it was the site of competing charters, lines built and almost immediately torn up, and lines built for the sole reason of preventing anybody else from building.

  by b&m 1566
The Fitchburg Railroad reached Milford, NH? Was there another rail line in Milford (aside from the M&M branch you mentioned) or are you referring to the Hillsborough Branch itself?
  by b&m 1566
I think I spoke to soon. I just found the other rail line that more or less follows rte 13. I stopped tracing it for now near Potanipo Lake (I will finish it when I have the time). A long time ago I noticed a spur that came off of the Hillsborough Branch near Prospects Street (tracks still in place at rte 13 grade crossing) but it wasn't until today that I realized there was an old passenger depot located next to ROW; I always though it was a spur to a long gone customer down near the stone company(?) The modern day intersection of rte 13 and 101 made it hard to trace but I was able to pick it up on the other side near Armory Rd. Judging by the amount of curves I saw, it doesn't appear to have been a rail line capable of high speeds. When was this line abandoned?
  by edbear
The Fitchburg's Line was the Brookline Branch and ran from a junction with the Greenville Branch at Squanacook Jct. just north of Ayer and covered territory between the Greenville Branch and WNP main line. I think the Brookline station is still standing. It was abandoned in mid-1930s. A lengthy section remained in use for about another 30 years or so from Milford south to serve a quarry.
  by newpylong
If you look at an older division map from that area the amount of lines in Southwestern NH was actually amazing. Talk about a spiderweb. Nothing left for the most part, which doesn't surprise me when there isn't much there to begin with in the form of people or industry.
  by NRGeep
Keene was the big hub in the area with the Ashuelot, Cheshire and Keene and Nashua RR's coming through town all eventually becoming part of the B&M.
Granite, paper, milk were all big and no doubt I'm missing some other heavy shippers back in the day.
  by joshg1
Rail Lines of NNE is the definitive work. The Cheshire (SE-NW thru Keene) was an important Boston-Canada route. The others less so, small industry and agriculture. The decline of both predates competition from road traffic. I can add coal destined for Concord came via Worcester and Peterborough, Contoocook. I can't put my finger on it, but I *think* a through passenger train ran the same route in 3½ hours. The only electrics in that region were Nashua and Keene streetcars and the Springfield Terminal connection at Charlestown. You should look at this collection:http://docs.unh.edu/nhtopos/NewHampshire.htm. Some RR ROW became highway ROW.

Relics I can think of off the top of my head- lovely stone arch bridge south of 101 in Keene, some rail trails, Chesham depot (private), piers for Greenfield viaduct, a few abutments along the Contoocook in Henniker and Hillsborough, wood viaduct in Bennington below the mill(can't miss it)… and you can trace the lines through Keene although the rails are long gone and paved over- N. side of Marlboro and Emerald Sts.

Bellows Falls is on the edge of your area, but much more interesting than anything in it.
  by ThinkNarrow
charding wrote:...and while we are at it, here's link to an Ebay item that is mislabeled N. Walpole, MA when it should be N. Walpole, NH - can anyone identify the bridge and what B&M line it was on?
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Original-Slide- ... 5d3b55501b
That's the bridge from the Green Mountain RR engine facility in North Walpole NH to Bellows Falls VT on the former B&M Cheshire Branch. While the Cheshire Branch is long gone, the bridge is still there and in service for Green Mountain use. Somewhere there's a photo of the 6000 running as The Cheshire crossing this bridge. Many years ago, I rode over it.

  by charding
John, Thanx.

Cheers, Colin
  by b&m 1566
On the Hillsborough Branch in Bennington (Powder Mill Pond), I just learned that the popular curve wasn't built until after 1952 but was built before 1956. Was this addition one of the steps taken so the B&M could abandon the Cheshire Branch and associated track (railroad north and/or west?) of Winchendon, MA in the early 1960's? When was the line between Keene and Bennington abandoned?
  by joshg1
The Manchester & Keene predates Powder Mill Pond; hydro dam opened 1923. The curve north towards Hillsborough was built after the line to Keene was abandoned in 1938 and 9. The curves to the east are original. Peterboro to Elmwood (the jct was in Hancock) aband. 1942. Winchendon to P'boro was Monadnock RR, other names to Fitchburg, aband to P'boro 1972, to Jaffrey 1984.

I should add that bridge scene is pretty much the same- traffic lights on the NH side and more roadside brush.
  by trainsinmaine
You'll have to have a DeLorme New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer handy, but if you want to spend a fun day in the spring or fall, go up and down all the back roads between Keene and Hancock tracing the former route of the Manchester & Keene. There is LOTS to see --- long stretches of ROW (some walkable), bridge abutments (some huge and impressive), old depots. One wonders why this line was built in such improbable territory --- it had to have been an engineering nightmare --- and how it hung on for as long as it did. I might add that it weaves through some very, very pretty country.