ASSABET RIVER RAIL TRAIL LETTERBOX

ACTION-MARLBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Planted:                June 15, 2005

Length:                Marlborough & Hudson section; 5 1/4 miles

                              Stow & Maynard section; 2.4 miles

                              Route 85 parking lot (Hudson) to Letterbox; 0.5 miles

Difficulty:            Marlborough section; Moderate. Paved rail trail, but hilly.

                              Hudson section; Easy. Paved, flat rail trail.

                              Stow & Maynard section; Moderate. Flat, hard packed dirt & grave rail trail. Drainage issues; avoid after heavy rains.

Directions:

To start in Marlborough; From I-495, take exit 24A to Route 20 east. After you pass by the lake on your right, bear left at the traffic light. When you enter downtown Marlborough, Route 20 veers right, stay straight on West Main St. Take your first  left onto Rawlins St and then a right onto Central St. This brings you to the junction of Prospect St and Cashman St. Just up Prospect St is a municipal parking lot on your right. The trail starts at the junction of Cashman, Lincoln and Highland Streets, so you must bike or hike down Cashman St 0.1 miles to access it. 

To start in Hudson; From I-495, take exit 25A to Route 85C, also called the I-495 connector. This will bring you to Route 85. Turn left or north onto Route 85 (Washington St) and look for where the trail crosses the road. This will be in a retail plaza area. The Route 85 parking lot is on your left, next to the trail. To start from the Hudson end, keep going on Route 85 into Hudson and take a right onto Route 62 (Main St). After you cross over the Assabet River, stay with Route 62 as it turns left and becomes Wilkins St, while Main St continues straight. The Wilkins Street (Route 62)  parking lot will be on your left. 

For the Stow & Maynard section; From the Route 62 parking lot continue north on Route 62 and cross over the Assabet River. At the sharp curve turn right on Sudbury Rd and follow to end. Turn right on Boon/Sudbury Rd. Cross the Assabet River again and look for the small dirt parking area on your left across from Barton Rd. The trail heads northeast towards Maynard.

The Assabet River Rail Trail follows the former rail bed of the Marlborough Branch Railroad, which ran from 1850 until 1980. It passed through the communities of Marlborough, Hudson, Stow, Maynard and Action, where it connected into the former Boston-Fitchburg Railroad, which is still active as the B&M/MBTA Line. The paved trail sections in Marlborough & Hudson are complete and an unpaved, but ridable section in Stowe & Maynard is accessible. The plan is for the trail to travel all the way to the South Action MBTA station. For more information visit; ASSABET RIVER RAIL TRAIL .

Starting from Marlborough; This section of the paved rail trail mostly descends until it crosses into Hudson where the trail is relatively flat. A map board is located at the beginning of the trail. Mile markers are painted every 1/2 mile on the pavement. The trail starts out passing through residential & industrial areas, with a few street crossings (signed). After crossing Ash St you'll travel over a small berm with nice wood fencing before coming to Fairbanks BLVD and the entrance to Boston Scientific just shy of a mile. Another map board located here. As you pass by an open meadow and bench plaza on your right, you can see the Fort Meadow Reservoir in the distance. The trail is now is less residential and more isolated. Pass by a Spur Trail on your left at 1.4 miles which leads up to Sasseville Way. Use Caution crossing over Fitchburg St as there is no cross-light, only a cross walk. This brings you to another map board at 1 3/4 miles. The trails open as you parallel Crowley Drive while passing by a meadow and soccer field. You then descend into deep woods and travel along another berm with wooden fencing on both sides. A tunnel takes you underneath Route 85C as you cross into Hudson at 2.2 miles where you then enter an area with steep rock outcrops. Keep a lookout for an old Brakeman's Warning pole at 2.6 miles. This consists of a rail in the shape of an upside down L, hanging over the center of the trail. The chains hanging down over the trail would hit the Railroad Brakeman, who was on top of the train and warn him of an upcoming bridge or tunnel. ***See below for history. Thus, just ahead is a stone abutment for the old Farmers Bridge. However, before you go check out the stone abutment, look to your right, just past the rail pole for a large Oak tree. Follow the stone wall next to it to a large boulder. Look on the left underside of this boulder for a single rock covering the entrance to the Assabet River Rail Trail Letterbox. After checking out the stone abutment, the trail passes underneath some power lines and comes to the Route 85 (Washington St)  parking lot at 3.1  miles. A map board and shops are located here. An automatic cross-light gets you over Washington St and soon you'll come to the Assabet River High Bridge at  3.5 miles. After crossing over the river, if you look along your right, you'll see the remnants of an old railroad siding with its tracks still in place. Enter downtown Hudson. Cross the five-way intersection over Broad St-Loring St, then Vila Do Porto Blvd, as the trail now travels through town along the median, with Route 62 (Main St) on your left. You leave the median after crossing Vila Do Porto BLVD and travel alongside Route 62 where you'll pass by a restored "blue" Caboose that has been placed alongside the trail. Next, you'll pass by the Main St parking lot on your right at 4.3 miles which is directly across from the Main Street Cemetery. As you cross over the Assabet River next to the Route 62 bridge, look to your left to see another old railroad bridge that crossed the river. That old Boston & Maine Line will eventually cross over the trail further ahead. Just past Whispering Pines will be another automatic cross-light over Route 62 to another map board, where the trail continues through a residential area. You cross over Makin St to a medium with benches and a sign board, then Cox St and head back into woodland. Shortly you'll see two old stone abutments on either side of the trail. This is where that other rail line crossed over the old Marlborough Branch Railroad. The trail currently ends ahead at 5 1/4 miles at the Wilkins St (Route 62)  parking lot, where you'll find another map board.

The next section of trail into Stow is currently undeveloped as of October 2010, however, an unpaved section of the trail exists in Stow & Maynard further east. See below.

Starting from Sudbury Road (Stow); Head east past the yellow gate along "Track Road", a hard packed dirt & gravel road. 

Note; This section of trail has drainage issues, so avoid using after heavy rains.

The trail travels through deep woods alongside the Assabet River National Wildlife Refugee. Very isolated. After 0.7 miles the trail intersects with an improved road and becomes wider. No drainage issues along this next section.

Note; This road continues left to a small private airfield (CIA-Crow Island Aviators). Continue straight.

After 1 mile, an opening on your right leads to nice views of the Assabet River. The trail then travels alongside the river. You come to White Pond Rd at 1.8 miles. 

Note; To your right is parking and an entrance to the ASSABET RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGEE. Biking allowed on roads in refugee.

Continue straight where the trail narrows and is very similar to the section from Sudbury Rd. Drainage issues here as well. Travel along a causeway over Taylor Brook. Looking left you can see where the river has been dammed (Ben Smith Dam). You'll come to the town of Maynard's DPW on your right at 2.1 miles. The Winter Street parking lot is located here as well. To your left will be Ice House Landing, located on Maynard Conservation land. Information signs tell the history of this site. Picnic tables are located here. The trail ends after 2.4 miles at Winter St. If you head left down Winter St you'll come to Route 117. Cross the road (Caution no cross-walk) and head left, then a quick right on Mill St will bring you back to the rail trail on your right at 2.6 miles. This next section still has RR track in place and although its been filled in with woodchips, it's tough to ride. I stopped here. If you continue up Mill St then Pine St you'll come to Main St. Right will bring you to downtown Maynard.

***Brakeman
Prior to 1888 when Westinghouse developed a reliable air brake, stopping a train or a rolling car was very primitive. Iron wheels, located atop cars, were connected to a manual braking system by a long metal rod. The brakemen, usually two to a train, would ride on top of the car. On a whistle signal from the engineer, the brakemen, one at the front of the train and one at the rear of the train, would begin turning the iron wheels to engage the brakes. When one car was completed, the brakeman would jump the thirty inches or so to the next car and repeat the operation to apply the brakes on that car. The brakemen would work towards each other until all cars had their brakes applied. In good weather, the brakemen enjoyed riding on top of the cars and viewing the scenery. However, they had to ride up there in all kinds of weather - in rain, sleet, snow and ice, as well as good weather. Jumping from one car to the next at night or in freezing weather could be very dangerous, not to mention the fact that the cars were rocking from side to side. Today, a train brakeman assists the conductor by throwing switches, hooking the train cars together and ensuring the safety of the train, passengers, and freight.

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

DECEMBER 13, 2015

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