SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND TRUNKLINE TRAIL:

DOUGLAS-FRANKLIN, MASSACHUSETTS

FRANKLIN & BELLINGHAM RAIL TRAIL;

FRANKLIN-BELLINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS

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Last Updated:      February 24, 2024

Length:                SNETT; 22 miles

                               SNETT [Northern Section]; 10.6 miles

                               Blackstone River Bikeway [Central Section]; 3.7 miles

                               Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail [Southern Section]; 4 miles

Difficulty:            SNETT [Northern Section]; Moderate. Flat, partially developed rail trail. Hard packed dirt, gravel, sand, cinder and rocks. Mt bike recommended.

                               Blackstone River Bikeway [Central Section]; Easy. Flat paved rail trail.

                              Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail [Southern Section]; Easy to Moderate. Partially developed rail trail. Stone-dust/hard packed dirt and gravel.  

Directions:          SNETT Section:     

To Start from the East Thompson Road parking area in East Thompson, CT [Northern End access from Airline SP Trail]; From I-395 take exit 53 to Wilsonville Rd and head east to Route 193. Travel south (right) to the first road on your left (Porter Plain Rd) and follow to Sand Dam Rd. Head right past the Sand Dam parking area to E Thompson RD and head left. Follow to the intersection with New Rd and spot the Airline SP Trail sign and map board on your left. Gravel parking area.

To Start from the South Street parking lot in Douglas [Central Section]; From the intersection of Routes 16 & 96 in Douglas, follow Route 96 (South St) south to the parking lot on your right.

Directions:          Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail:     

To Start from the Grove Street parking lot in Franklin [Eastern End]; From I-495 take exit 43 to Route 140 west. Take your first left on Grove St and travel south about 2 miles. Parking lot is on your left across from the trailhead.

The 22 mile Southern New England Trunkline Trail starts from the CT/MA border, where the CT Airline State Park Trail North ends and follows the rail bed of the old Air Line Railway. It travels Northeast through the Douglas State Forest in Douglas before turning Southeast through Uxbridge. It currently ends on the West Side Route 146. Plans are to then connect to the Blackstone River Bikeway; MA on the East Side of Route 146. This trail utilizes the old Air Line Railway bed Southeast through Millville to Blackstone. The Blackstone River Bikeway then continues South into RI, while the old Air Line Railway bed turns Northeast through Blackstone (undeveloped). In Bellingham, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail is developed to Franklin and is known as the Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail. Past Grove St in Franklin the rail bed is now in use by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) as the Franklin Branch. For more information visit; SNETT or FRANKLIN & BELLINGHAM RAIL TRAIL .

Despite its name the Southern New England Trunkline Trail does not follow any part of the Southern New England Railway, a railroad intended to run from Palmer, MA to Providence, RI whose right-of-way was partially constructed but never completed. It proved to be the ill-fated attempt by the Grand Trunk Railroad to disrupt established and stiff railroad competition in the burgeoning New England market. By the time the SNER was chartered and plotted in 1910, three other railroad lines were already operating in the same territory, serving the same port (Providence, RI), all while traversing routes selected for their operational benefits. Rather, this railroad was built as the Norfolk County Railroad, east of the Blackstone Station, and the Southbridge & Blackstone Railroad west of the station to the Connecticut state line. Later, the route became part of the New York and New England Railroad, which was absorbed by the New Haven Railroad. It is built upon a segment of the former right-of-way of the New Haven Railroad's Midland Division, which operated between Boston and Putnam, CT. For more information visit; THE AIR LINE & SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND RAILWAY .

SNETT; Northern Section:

Starting from the East Thompson Road parking area in East Thompson, CT [Northern End]; Map Board located here for the Airline State Park Trail. From the Map Board head Northeast across E Thompson Rd (Caution no crosswalk), up the gravel embankment and past the yellow gate along the hard packed dirt and gravel Airline State Park Trail. After 0.2 miles you travel underneath an old wooden bridge (thought to have transported cattle over the RR).

Note; Also nearby is the Hermit Cave. See; HERMIT CAVE for more information.

Continuing along the rail trail a high berm takes you across Rocky Brook. Just before the MA border you'll pass by the Tri-State Marker Trail on your right.

    Note; A 0.3 mile rocky hiking trail take you to a granite marker where CT/MA/RI all meet. Just off the rail trail you'll find a separate granite marker where CT & MA meet.

Come to a brown gate after 0.6 miles where the trail crosses into Douglas MA along the Southern New England Trunkline Trail

The SNETT [Re-zeroing Mileage] has a less developed base of hard packed dirt, gravel, sand, cinder and some rocks. ATV abuse have also added sandy sections and bumps along portions of the trail. Mt bike recommended, although I rode a hybrid without too much effort. Very scenic trail with lots of marshes. The Northern Section from the CT/MA border South to the  South Street parking lot is in the best shape and most scenic. South of the South Street parking lot the trail deteriorates the further South you travel. Not as scenic. 

Note; The SNETT is scheduled to be upgraded to a crushed gravel surface, along with an accompanying horse path alongside. No start date has been announced, as of 2023.

The trail starts out heading Northeast. This first 0.6 mile section contains large gravel and rocks and is rough, but stick with it as it will soon improve. Cross a small wooden bridge at 0.6 miles where you'll spot a sign for the Douglas State Forest. Many side trails in Douglas State Forest for Mt biking. The wide, cinder trail now follows a causeway through the Rocky Brook Marsh. Just before you come to a Y intersection at 1.6 miles, look right to spot a blue triangle trail marker. If you walk down this trail it quickly brings you to a bridge over a stream from the pond above. Scenic. Keep straight at the Y intersection along a causeway between Aldrich Pond. Spot some Beaver lodges. Renter the woods where you'll encounter a short 0.3 mile rough gravel section of trail with some flooding issues at 2 miles. A highlight of this trail is when you travel underneath the high stone arched Wallum Lake Rd bridge at 2.4 miles before a high berm above a marsh. Travel between two old cement bridge abutments at 2.9 miles, followed by another causeway through scenic Morse Pond. A medium berm then travels through the woods to the South Street parking lot at 3.9 miles. Map Board. More of a residential corridor. Cross S Main St at 4.3 miles and travel along a berm. Cross Yew St and enter deep woods with several berms. Cross Franklin St at 5.1 miles where the trail turns East. Again more residential corridor. You follow a Story Book Trail (informational signs with info that you read along the trail. They begin from the Depot Street parking lot). Just before you pass by the Depot Street parking lot on your left at 5.7 miles, look left (just past Story Book Trail post #3) to spot an old cement platform with two sets of old RR tracks perpendicular to the trail (must have been some type of old RR dock). Cross Martin Rd and head back into deep woods. Trail narrows here. You'll also cross into Cross Uxbridge. Monroe St at 6.6 miles and the trail consists of some hard packed dirt & grass double track. Travel through a long narrow rock cut at 7.5 miles followed by a high berm. You then travel down an embankment to West St at 8 miles and back up to the trail. Past here the trail deteriorates. After a long narrow rock cut the trail becomes rough with large gravel, sand and lots of ATV use. Avoid after heavy rains. You'll come to the highlight of this section as you pass high above Lee Pond at 8.9 miles. Past the lake the trail improves. Keep an eye out left for a stone lined underground chamber (possibly an old root cellar or ice house). Come to Chocolog Rd at 9.8 miles. Past here the trail is single track and floods after rains. This was as far as we traveled. Come to Route 98 after 10.6 miles. Past here I believe the trail dead ends at Route 146.

Blackstone River Bikeway; Central Section:

See; Blackstone River Bikeway; MA .

Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail; Southern Section:

Starting from Grove Street parking lot in Franklin [Eastern End]; Exit the parking lot and cross Grove St to reach the trailhead where you'll find a Map Board. 0 Mileage Marker. Mileage Markers are located every 0.5 miles along the trail. Tree species signs have been posted all along the trail as well. The wide, stone-dust Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail heads West into the woods. Pass another Map Board before crossing Spring St where you'll pass through a rock cut at 0.7 miles. Travel through a tunnel underneath Prospect St and come to an informational sign and a Brakeman's Chain at 1.3 miles. The trail continues as a wide, crushed gravel base as you cross over into Bellingham. Large granite wall along your left for the old RR. The trail turns Southwest. The trail is paved briefly as you travel down to Lake Street at 1.9 miles. Small parking area here. Cross Lake St where a short paved trail brings you up along a high berm. Straight as an arrow section. A crosswalk over Center Street brings you to a parking lot a 2.8 miles. Map Board located here. Turn left along the paved trail which also travels right down Fox Run Rd returning you to the old rail bed at 3 miles. The wide, stone-dust trail continues back into the woods. Cross the Arnolds Brook culvert at 3.5 miles. Pass by the Harpin Street Spur on your left at 3.9 miles.

 Note; This spur gives you access to DiPieto Elementary School.

After 4 miles you travel through the Route 126 tunnel. The trail continues undeveloped through Blackstone.

Future plans include expanding the trail Southwest. At the Eastern End, plans include expanding the trail East, along what is referred to as the the Industrial Track, 1.4 miles to downtown Franklin. See; Map Below.

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CLICK HERE FOR DIGITAL SNETT MAP

CLICK HERE FOR SNETT MAP

CLICK HERE FOR FRANKLIN & BELLINGHAM RAIL TRAIL MAP

 

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