NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL:
LEBANON-BOSCAWEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
MASCOMA RIVER GREENWAY:
LEBANON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Last Updated: August 12, 2023
Length: Northern Rail Trail; 58 miles
Mascoma River Greenway; 2.4 miles
Riverside Community Trail; 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Northern Rail Trail; Easy. Flat stone-dust rail trail.
Mascoma River Greenway; Easy. Flat paved rail trail.
Riverside Community Trail; Easy. Flat, narrow crushed gravel trail.
To Start from Glen Road in Lebanon for the Mascoma River Greenway: [Western End]; From I-89 take exit 19 to Mechanic St and travel west to Miracle Mile. Cross the river and take your first left down Glen Rd. A dirt parking area will be on your left.
To Start from Spencer Street in Lebanon for the Northern Rail Trail; [Northern End]; From I-89 take exit 18 to Route 120 south. Continue on Routes 4 & 120 around Colburn Park to Campbell St. Follow Campbell St for a 1/4 mile and turn left on Spencer St. Just past the trailhead on your right will be a parking lot on your left and straight ahead.
To Start from Potter Place Station parking lot in Andover for the Northern Rail Trail; [Central Section]; From I-93 take exit 20 to Routes 3 south & 11 west. Cross the Merrimack River past Franklin and continue right on Route 11. Follow Route 11, which soon joins with Route 4, for 11 miles to Andover. Continue another 1.5 miles past Andover. Just before the junction where Routes 4 & 11 split, turn left down Depot St (no sign present). Follow road left and you'll come to the refurbished Potter Place Station.
To start from Jamie Welch Park in Boscawen for the Northern Rail Trail; [Southern End]; From I-93 take exit 17 to Route 4 and head right (West). Continue straight when Routes 3 & 4 merge. Take your first right on Depot St and follow to the Park.
The Northern Rail Trail follows the rail bed of the former Northern Railway which was built in 1847. In 1887 the Boston & Maine took over the line. It travels from Lebanon to Boscawen. In Lebanon the trail continues west as the Mascoma River Greenway. The Northern Rail Trail is part of the state wide Granite State Rail Trail, a proposed 120-mile trail extending from Methuen MA to Lebanon NH. The GSRT forms a "backbone" with many other rail trails connecting to it. Heading east, the Freemont Branch starts in Windham while the Portsmouth Branch starts from Manchester. West of Manchester, the rail trail goes over the Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge toward Goffstown and New Boston. Another series of rail trails connect to the Lakes Region via Belmont and Laconia. Each rail trail is a local project. For more information visit; NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL , FRIENDS of the NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL & MASCOMA RIVER GREENWAY .
Mascoma River Greenway:
Starting from Glen Road [Western End]; Future plans call for continuing the trail west along the old rail bed.
Note; If you continue down Glen Rd you'll travel underneath a brick arched RR bridge (future part of the trail) and come to Riverside Park parking lot after 0.5 miles on your left. Skate Park, playground & restrooms. Here you can check out the crushed gravel Riverside Community Trail that starts by the playground. The trail winds through the woods alongside the Mascoma River before coming out to Glen Rd. It then continues left (trail overtaken by grass) and ends after 0.5 miles next to a gazebo by Powerhouse Mall.
Heading East the Mascoma River Greenway follows the crushed gravel road (spot the old RR tracks along your right) you'll pass by an old RR Mileage Marker B141/WRJ2 (Boston 141 miles/White River Junction 2 miles). Cross an old RR bridge over Mascoma River and underneath the Miracle Mile Bridge at 0.2 miles. Kiosks located along the trail. Here the trail is paved. On your right is the Miracle Mile parking lot. Travel underneath an old bridge and past some sculptures. Travel over the Mascoma River at a mile, picnic table. A bridge takes you over I-89 at 1.3 miles and along a high berm. Pass by the Mascoma Street parking lot on your left at 1.7 miles as you follow a residential corridor. Pass by old RR Mileage Marker B139/WRJ4 at 2 miles. (these old RR Mile Markers were located every mile along the route). Come to the junction of Mascoma & Mechanic streets after 2.4 miles.
Note; The next section was completed in 2021. The trail continues straight across the road, crossing a bridge over the Mascoma River then through a tunnel where it emerges out to a parking lo where it connects with the Northern Rail Trail. I have not checked out this new section yet.
Northern Rail Trail:
Starting from Spencer Street in Lebanon; A Map Board is located here. The Northern Rail Trail travels East away from town starting out as a paved trail. After only a 0.3 miles you'll pass by an old RR Mileage Marker B138/WRJ5 [Boston 138 miles/White River Junction 5 miles] on your left. These granite Mile Markers are located every mile along the old rail bed. Cross Bank St followed by an old iron RR bridge over the Mascoma River at 0.7 miles. Here the trail is stone-dust. Pass by a wooden 1 Mile Marker (located every mile). Cross a second bridge over the river at 1.1 miles. Spillway over to your right. You'll cross over two more RR bridges before crossing Riverside Dr at 1.8 miles. Riverside Drive parking lot located here along with a Map Board. This is quickly followed by your fifth bridge crossing. After traveling underneath I-89 at 2 miles the trail becomes a bit more isolated. Two more bridge crossings at 3 miles. Travel underneath Route 4 at 3.5 miles. After crossing yet another bridge at 3.8 miles you travel underneath Payne Rd. Just before you reach the lake look up to spot a Brakeman's Warning pole. 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. Mascoma Lake is along your right as you come to the Ice House Road parking lot at 4.1 miles. The trail now travels along the lake crossing into Enfield where it hugs the lake. Nice isolated section. After passing through a rock cut you enter the outskirts of Enfield, traveling underneath Main St at 5.8 miles. The trail continues along the lake, then traveling across a causeway before coming to a long RR bridge over the river at 6.3 miles. Here you leave the lake behind as you enter Enfield. Pass by an old RR building followed by the Main Street parking lot at 6.4 miles. Picnic tables and informational board. Travel through a tunnel underneath Shaker Hill Rd before passing the old Enfield RR Depot parking lot at 6.6 miles. The trail then travels past a spillway and and across a RR bridge at 7.2 miles. This was as far as I traveled. Cross Blackwater Rd into Canaan at 8.1 miles. Pass by Mirror Lake and come alongside Route 4 as you cross briefly into Orange at 14.3 miles. Travel underneath Route 4 , continuing along Route 4 before crossing into Grafton at 16 miles. Pass by the Route 4 parking lot next to Tewksbury Pond at 17.1 miles. Cross into Danbury at 23.3 miles. Cross Jack Wells Rd and cross briefly into Wilmot before crossing Eagle Pond Rd into Andover at 32.3 miles. Come to a tunnel underneath Route 11 at 34 miles. Located on both ends of the tunnel you'll find a Brakeman's Warning pole. 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. I've checked out this next section. Quickly come to Potter Place Station in Andover at 34.2 miles.
Starting from Potter Place Station parking lot in Andover; I've checked out this section. Here you'll find the nicely refurbished Potter Place RR Station along with an old red caboose. Porto-Potty located here along with picnic tables and a Map Board (just across Cilleyville Rd). Heading East towards Franklin the wide stone-dust rail trail crosses Cilleyville Rd where you'll find a Map Board on your left. Pass by an old cement Whistle stop sign, blue B&M rail car and old freight house along with an old RR siding (tracks still in place). The trail travels along a partially shaded corridor with occasional views of the Blackwater River. Pass by old RR Mileage Marker B104/WRJ39 [Boston 104 miles/White River Junction 39 miles] at 34.5 miles before crossing an old iron RR bridge over the river. Cross a second old RR bridge at 35.2 miles next to a covered bridge on Bridge Rd. Pass another old RR Mileage Marker. Travel through a tunnel underneath Lawrence St to the Blackwater Park parking area at 36 miles. Porto-Potty located here. Just before an old RR Trestle over the river spot the Brakeman's Warning pole. 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. A second Brakeman's Warning pole is located on the other side of the bridge. Cross another old RR bridge at 36.8 miles, where the Blackwater River turns south and travel through a tunnel underneath Route 4. The trail then travels along a causeway between Horseshoe Pond at 37.2 miles. This was as far as I traveled. Cross Route 11 at 38.7 miles. USE CAUTION No cross-walk. Cross into Franklin at 43.2 miles. Travel past the remains of the Franklin RR Turntable at 46.6 miles. Cross into Boscawen at 50.3 miles. Pass by the Gerrish Depot in Boscawen at 51.7 miles. Cross Depot St and the Jamie Welsh Memorial Field (parking lot) at 55.7 miles. Come to the Route 4 tunnel at 57.9 miles.
The trail currently ends here, as of 2023. The last 0.3 miles will take the trail across the Contoocook River to Hannah Duston Island, then back across the Contoocook River (where it empties into the Merrimack River) to Concord.
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.
CLICK HERE FOR MASCOMA RIVER GREENWAY MAP
CLICK HERE FOR NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL MAP
CLICK HERE FOR FRANKLIN SECTION MAP
CLICK HERE FOR ANDOVER SECTION MAP
CLICK HERE FOR DANBURY SECTION MAP
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