Last Updated:       September 14, 2014

Length:                 Northern Rail Trail; 58 miles

Difficulty:             Easy. Flat stone-dust rail trail. 


To Start from Lebanon (Northwestern 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 in Andover (Central); 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 (Southeastern 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 plans are in the works to continue the trail west 4 miles 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 .

Starting from Lebanon; A map board is located here, along with information on the future Mascoma River Greenway. The Northern Rail Trail travels east away from town along a stone-dust & gravel trail. After only a 1/4 mile you'll pass by an old RR mileage marker B138/WRJ5 [Boston 138 miles/White River Junction 5 miles] on your left. These granite 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. Pass by a wooden 1 mile post (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 and coming to Shedd St at 6.8 miles. The trail then travels past a spillway at 7 miles and across a RR bridge. This was as far as I traveled. 

Pass through Canaan at about 13.5 miles, Grafton at around 21 miles and Potter Place at 34 miles.


Starting from Potter Place in Andover; [34 miles from Lebanon/Re-zeroing mileage] 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). 

Note; Heading west towards Lebanon the stone-dust rail trail travels through a tunnel underneath Route 11 at 0.2 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. 

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 0.3 miles before crossing an old iron RR bridge over the river. Cross a second old RR bridge at 1 mile next to a covered bridge on Bridge Rd. Pass another old RR mile marker (every mile). Travel through a tunnel underneath Lawrence St to the Blackwater Park parking area at 1.8 miles. Porto-potty located here. 

Note; Lawrence St will bring you into Andover. Also, just up the trail a bit you'll pass by a spur trail that will also bring you into Andover. Food.

Just before an old RR Trestle over the river spot the Brakeman's Warning pole at 2 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. A second Brakeman's Warning pole is located on the other side of the bridge. Cross another old RR bridge at 2.6 miles, where the Blackwater River turns south and travel through a tunnel underneath Route 4. The trail travels along a causeway between Horseshoe Pond at 3 miles. This was as far as I traveled.  

Cross Mountain Brook at 3.3 miles followed by Switch Rd. USE CAUTION crossing Route 11 at 4.5 miles. Here the trail parallels Route 11 before passing Highland Lake at 5.8 miles and crossing Chase Hill Rd. After crossing a small bridge over Sucker Brook the trail pulls away from the road. The trail follows the brook for a bit before crossing Valley Rd at 7 miles. After a couple more crossings of this brook you cross Sam Hill Rd at 7.6 miles. Cross Hoyt Rd, then travel underneath Route 11 at 8.6 miles. Cross Chance Pond Rd at 10.5 miles. [44.5 miles from Lebanon] To your left across Route 11 is Webster Lake.

Note; Just down Route 11 is the Webster Lake parking lot.  

The Gerrish Depot in Boscawen is 52.6 miles from Lebanon. Jamie Welch Park in Boscawen is 56.6 miles from Lebanon.


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.