MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL:

WACHUSETT BRANCH

BARRE-STERLING, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:     May 20, 2019

Length:                West Section: Route 122 (Barre) to Glenwood Road (Rutland); 8.8 miles

                              Center East Section: Wachusett Street to Route 68 (Rutland); 1 miles

                              Center West Section: Route 31 (Holden) to Wachusett Reservoir parking lot (West Boylston); 4.9 miles

                              East Section: Gates Road (Sterling) to Cider Mill Complex; 1.6 miles

Difficulty:            West Section: Easy. Mostly flat, stone dust rail trail.

                              Center East Section: Easy. Mostly flat, stone dust rail trail. Exception; connection to Route 68 is a steep grade.

                              Center West Section: Western End; Moderate. Hilly, gravel and stone-dust trail. River St to Wachusett Reservoir; Easy. Mostly flat, stone dust rail trail.

                              East Section: Easy. Mostly flat, stone dust rail trail.

Directions:

To start from the Route 122 parking lot in Barre (West Section); From the junction of Routes 122A &122 in Rutland, take Route 122 north. You will pass by multiple trail parking lots along this road. After crossing over the Ware River travel less then a mile and you'll see the trail alongside your left. Take your next left into the White Valley wayside park next to the river where the trail currently begins.

To start from the Wachusett Street parking lot in Rutland (Center East Section); From the junction of Routes 122A & 68 in Holden, take Route 68 north. Turn left on Wachusett St and the parking lot will be on the left side of the road.

To start from the Mill Street parking lot in Holden (Center East Section); Take exit 5 off of I-190 and head south on Route 140. Take your second right onto Laurel St which becomes Manning St. Turn right on Route 31 north and take your first left onto Mill St. Parking lot on right.

To start at the Wachusett Reservoir parking lot in West Boylston (Center West Section); Take exit 5 off of I-190 and head south on Route 140. At the bridge where Route 140 south continues, turn right onto Thomas St. The reservoir will be on your left and the Thomas St parking lot will be on your right. 

To start from the Cider Mill Complex parking lot in Sterling (East-North Section); From I-190, take exit 6 to Route 12 south into Sterling's town center. Look for Waushacum Ave on your left. Head up Waushacum Ave until you spot a sign for the Cider Mill Complex on your right. Just past this sign will be a smaller sign for the Rail Trail. Turn into the lot and head left to where a dirt parking lot is located at the trails start.

To start from the Gates Road parking lot in Sterling (East-South Section); From I-190, take exit 6 to Route 12 south. Travel 3.5 miles. Turn left down Gates Rd. The parking lot will be on the right across from the trailhead.

The Mass Central Rail Trail is a planned 104 mile trail from Northampton Massachusetts to Boston. It will follow the old Central Mass Branch of the Boston & Maine RR that ran between the two cities. The railroad split into two after the1938 hurricane shattered the line. The trail today exists in many unconnected sections and with differing surfaces. Starting from Northampton heading east the sections that are complete include the Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch, Mass Central Rail Trail: Belchertown , Mass Central Rail Trail; Ware-Hardwick- New Braintree , Mass Central Rail Trail; Barre-Sterling , Mass Central Rail Trail; Wayland-Weston & Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge . Locally, some sections of the trail are known by another name. For example along the Mass Central Rail Trail; Boston-Cambridge section in Cambridge the trail is referred to as the Fitchburg Cutoff, while in Somerville it is referred to as the Somerville Community Path. For more information check out;  MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL & EAST COAST GREENWAY .

The Mass Central Rail Trail also connects to other trails. In Northampton 3 trails converge at the "Spoke". The Mass Central Rail Trail; Norwottuck Branch , Mass Central Rail Trail; Williamsburg Branch which travels northwest towards Williamsburg and the Manhan/New Haven & Northampton Canal Rail Trail North travels south to New Haven, CT. In Cambridge another "Spoke" of trails all radiate out from Alewife T Station; The Minuteman Bikeway which travels northwest to Bedford,  Alewife Brook Greenway which travels east to the Mystic River and Fresh Pond Loop Trail which travels south to Fresh Pond.

This section of the Mass Central Rail Trail between Barre and Sterling has been developed by WACHUSETT GREENWAYS . You may also access the Ware River Rail Trail which travels north from Route 122 in Barre 12 miles up to Baldwinville. This is an undeveloped, but cleared rail trail of hard packed dirt & gravel accessed off of Route 122 via Old Worchester Rd. 

WEST SECTION:

From the Route 122 parking area (Barre); The stone-dust Mass Central Rail Trail travels east from the "White Valley" parking lot (site of a former cotton mill) alongside the river. Cross over the Ware River via an iron bridge. Note the stream gauge station below next to a cement sluiceway. A switchback brings you up to the rail trail which then travels east just above the river. This section utilizes the old Boston & Albany rail bed while the old Mass Central rail bed parallels this trail above right. If you look up along your right you can spot some old stone culverts under that rail bed. After 0.6 miles you'll have a great view of a curved stone dam in the river and huge stone building (part of the Ware River watershed). A switchback takes you off this old rail bed, away from the river and up to the old Mass Central rail bed at a mile. As you travel through this heavily forested section look left to spot an old RR mileage marker. This one is a bit faded but reads B60/N44 (Boston 60 miles/Northampton 44 miles). These granite markers were located every mile along the RR line. Cross Coldbrook Road to the parking lot where the stone-dust trail picks up at 1.5 miles. An informational sign is located just past the gate and describes the old Coldbrook Springs RR Depot that was located here. The first train passed through here in 1887. I believe the old stone foundation was a part of it. Continue southeast into the woods along a ridgeline. Travel underneath some transmission lines before coming to a path on your left leading down to another parking lot alongside Route 122 at 2.1  miles. Just past this path look left to spot another old RR Mileage marker (B59/N45) that has been painted. Parkers Brook is now below to your left, which you then cross over via another  iron & wood bridge. USE CAUTION crossing busy Route 122. Continue alongside the brook, over more bridges and past many marshes. At 2.7 miles you'll pass by a spur trail up another parking lot off Route 122. Continue past the marsh, then over a causeway between Muddy Pond. A slight incline brings you up to Whitehall Rd (dirt) then down through a cut. You'll come to an intersection and granite bench after 4.5 miles. The Midstate Trail crosses here. 

Note; Right will bring you to the Midstate Trail parking lot

Continue straight along an older section of the trail which is not as wide. You'll cross a small berm that has a split rail fence on your left. Down below to the left RUTLAND STATE PARK . Continuing along the trail, you cross over a very high berm that passes between a body of water that I believe is part of the Barre Falls Reservation. The trail then comes to State Park Rd at 5.2 miles where you'll find a map board. A parking lot is located to your left. Cross the road to where the trail heads up a small hill and then levels back out. The trail then passes through a tunnel underneath Charnock Hill Rd at 6.1 miles and emerges in a moss covered, deep, rock cut. Very scenic, especially in the spring. A stream follows the trail a bit until you come to Thayer Pond. Nice granite benches overlooking the pond. Several beaver lodges. A causeway takes you over the pond and past an old RR bridge abutment. Another granite post marks the trails entrance as you come to the Miles Road parking lot at 7.2 miles. Another map board located here. The trail continues up alongside Miles Rd, passing by the future Welcome Center (21 Miles Rd). The trail continues across the road on your left. You'll pass by the foundation of the old Rutland Water Tower & RR Depot. Another tunnel takes you underneath Route 56 and alongside Moulton Pond. At 8 miles you come to a granite slab marking the spot of a head-on train wreak in 1932. Soon after you cross another culvert for a stream running into Moulton Pond. A beaver dam lies below. The trail is very wide and open as you come to Glenwood Road (Rutland) at 8.8 miles. A signboard is located here, as well as a parking area across the road.

The next 1.2 mile section to Wachusett St is undeveloped and blocked at the opposite end by private ownership. Last updated May 2019.

To connect on-road to the Center East Section travel right (south) along Glenwood Rd. Turn left and follow Wachusett St east. You'll come to the Wachusett Street parking lot on your right after 2 miles.

CENTER EAST SECTION:

From the Wachusett Street parking lot (Rutland); The Mass Central Rail Trail heads southeast towards Holden. There is a signboard and map located here. Head past the gate along the wide, flat trail, which consists of stone-dust. You'll pass by a nice granite bench as you head into the woods along a hillside. After only 0.3 miles, look  left to spot an old railroad mileage marker with B51 on one side (51 miles to Boston) and N53 on the other (53 miles to Northampton). Soon you'll spot Route 68 below to your left. Keep an eye to your right and you may spot some tubing running from tree to tree gathering Maple sap. After you pass through a small rock cut you'll come to an intersection at 1.1 miles. 

Note; Straight, the rail trail continues undeveloped. 

The stone dust trail turns left and heads downhill to Route 68 where it ends at 1 miles. This is a steep hill, which you'll then have to climb back up. However, across Route 68 is Shaft #4 of the Quabbin Aqueduct. This stone building with the slate roof and copper gutters was built in 1931and serves the Quabbin Reservoir. The reservoir was built between 1926 and 1939 and flooded 39 square miles of land. Four towns were abandoned from the area to accommodate the reservoir. A 60 mile pipeline and aqueduct delivers water to the Boston area from the reservoir and this shaft is part of it. See; Quabbin Reservoir . Currently, as of May 2019, a gap exists between the next section.

To connect on-road to the Center West Section travel right along Route 68 (wide shoulder). Not recommended for kids on bikes. After 1.4 miles turn left on Route 122A (narrow shoulder). Turn left on Mt Pleasant Ave (low volume traffic) after 1.8 miles. Cross Princeton St and continue along Quinapoxet St (narrow shoulder) out to Route 31 at 4 miles. On your left is Mill St (residential). Follow it north back out to Route 31 at 4.9 miles. On your left is the Mill Street parking lot and across Route 31 is the continuation of the Mass Central Rail Trail.

CENTER WEST SECTION:

From the Mill Street parking lot (Holden); Cross-walk over Route 31 leads to the hard packed gravel Mass Central Rail Trail. This section does not utilize the old level rail bed but instead you encounter a tough trek uphill using switchbacks. Not recommended for small kids on bikes out to the River Street parking lot. You'll finally start to level out as you cross the ridge following the power lines passing through a big open field with expansive views. You then head back downhill along switchbacks emerging at the Manning Street parking lot after 1.1 miles. A map board is located here. Cross-walk leads to the flat trail as it travels through an open field then through a Hemlock forest. This section is also hilly. You head downhill to the River Street parking lot after 2.1 miles. There is another signboard here, a granite post and bench. The trail then takes a sharp left back through the woods along the old rail bed. You cross an iron bridge over the Quinapoxet River next to two picnic tables at 2.3 miles and again at 3.1 miles, where there are 4 granite benches. Next you will pass by the old foundations of the historic Springdale Mill. Built in 1865 and rebuilt again in 1875 after a fire, this mill site was razed in 1906. Today they are reclaiming the site. Right after the two black benches is a granite sign marking the entrance to this site. A path takes you to various granite sign posts describing the history of the mills and the dam that was used to power them. It finishes off at an old stone bridge abutment that crosses over the old rail line. Travel underneath I-190 at 3.6 miles, where there will be another signboard. After 3.9 miles spot two granite benches on your right. Go to the second granite bench. Standing in front of the bench with your back to the river, look across the trail for a 3-trunked Maple tree to your right. Behind this tree, under a rock and leaves is the Mass Central Rail Trail East Letterbox. Continuing onward spot an old granite RR Mile Marker on the left with an N on one side and a B on the other. This indicated the number of miles to Northampton and Boston. This was also the location of the old Springdale RR Station, which opened in 1881 and closed in 1892. Next you will pass by a trail to your right that leads down to a small dam. Across the dam is a stone Pump House that is part of the Quabbin Aqueduct that pumps river water up to Boston. On your side of the dam, is a granite sluiceway that brings water rushing through a narrow channel. It would make a great water slide. Next you will pass by two old rail cars painted green on your left. One is standing on end. These are used for training by the fire department. You then come to the Wachusett Reservoir parking lot (West Boylston) after 4.9 miles. Currently, as of May 2019, a gap exists between the next section.

To connect on-road to the East Section travel out to Thomas St and head left to Route 140. Turn right and cross over the Reservoir. Use caution, as the shoulder is narrow in spots. As you start up the hill, there will be a paved road on your left. This was formally Pleasant St. Take this road and go past the yellow gate where the pavement ends and a grassy "woods" road begins at 0.4 miles. 

Note; This section is scheduled for an upgrade, but as of May 2019 no work has yet begun.

The road heads uphill for roughly another half mile and then back downhill until you reach another yellow gate at 1.2 miles. Turn left on-road (low traffic) along Prescott St, cross over Waushacum Brook and some railroad tracks and travel up a slight hill. The road crosses an invisible boundary and becomes Bean Rd as it enters Sterling. You cross over Boutelle Rd and just before you reach Route 12, take a right down Gates Rd, a short connector to Route 12. Cross over Route 12, using extreme caution as there is no crosswalk over this busy road. Continue down Gates Rd to the Gates Road parking lot located on your right after 2.9 miles. Across the road is the trailhead for the Mass Central Rail Trail.

EAST SECTION:

From the Gates Road parking lot (Sterling); Cross Gates road to the trailhead. Head into the woods along the stone-dust Mass Central Rail Trail. Soon you travel along a causeway that separates West Waushacum Pond on your right from The Quag on your left and cross over a steel bridge. After 0.3 miles a path branches right along the shoreline, while stone and wrought iron benches beckon you to sit a spell and enjoy the view. Continue through the woodlands before another causeway at 1.3 miles takes you through a cattail marsh. After 1.6 miles you come to the Cider Mill Complex parking lot (Sterling)

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CLICK HERE FOR WACHUSETT GREENWAYS MAP

CLICK HERE FOR MASS CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL MAP

CLICK HERE FOR OLD MASS CENTRAL RR MAP

 

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