SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND TRUNKLINE TRAIL:

DOUGLAS-FRANKLIN, MASSACHUSETTS

FRANKLIN & BELLINGHAM RAIL TRAIL;

FRANKLIN-BELLINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:       June 19, 2021

Length:                 SNETT; 22 miles

                               Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail [Southern End]; 3 miles

                               Blackstone River Bikeway [Central Section]; 3.7 miles

                               SNETT [Northern End]; 10.6 miles

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

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

                               SNETT [Northern End]; Moderate. Flat partially developed rail trail. Hard packed gravel with some soft sand and cinder. Mt bike recommended.

Directions:     

To Start from the East Thompson Road parking area in CT [Northern End access from Airline 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 Depot Street parking lot [Northern End]; From Route 146 take exit 6 to Route 16 west. Travel 3.5 miles and turn left onto Depot St. Just before the end of the road (where trail crosses) will be the parking lot on your right.

To Start from the Grove Street parking lot in Franklin for  [Southern 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 End]:

Starting from the East Thompson Road parking area in CT; 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 MA along the Southern New England Trunkline Trail

[Re-zeroing Mileage] The SNETT has a less developed base of gravel, some soft sand and cinder. Cross a small wooden bridge at 0.6 miles where you'll spot a sign for the Douglas State Forest. The trail now follows a causeway through the Rocky Brook Marsh. This is as far as I traveled. Cross Wallum Lake Rd at 2.5 miles and another causeway past Morse Pond at 3.2 miles. Cross South St at 4 miles, SE Main St at 4.4 miles and Yew St at 4.8 miles. After crossing Franklin St at 5.5 miles the trail begins to turn towards the southeast crossing Depot St at 5.9 miles. Left is the Depot Street parking lot. Cross Martin Rd at 6.1 miles, Monroe St at 6.7 miles and West St at 8.1 miles. Cross Chocolog Rd at 9.9 miles. At some point I believe the trail narrows as you come to Route 98 after 10.6 miles. Past here the trail dead ends at Route 146.

Blackstone River Bikeway [Central Section]:

SEE; Blackstone River Bikeway; MA .

Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail [Southern End]:

Starting from Grove Street parking lot in Franklin; Exit the parking lot and cross Grove St to reach the trailhead where you'll find a Map Board. Mileage Markers are located every 0.5 miles along the trail. Tree species signs have been posted along the trail. This section of the Franklin & Bellingham Rail Trail is hard packed dirt and gravel and can be rough in spots with mounds created from ATV use. 

Note; Future plans call for upgrading the Franklin section of trail.

Head into the woods. Pass another Map Board before crossing Spring St where you'll pass through a rock cut at 0.7 miles. Some drainage issues. Travel through a tunnel underneath Prospect St at 1.1 miles and come to an informational sign and a new Brakeman's Chain built by the trail committee. The trail now improves to a wide, crushed gravel base as you cross over into Bellingham. The trail is paved briefly as you travel down to Lake Street at 1.8 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, then right down Fox Run Rd for a short on-road section (residential) before picking up the trail straight ahead as the road turns right at 3 miles. The trail continues undeveloped, as of June 2021 (tried to ride but it turns into a lot of muck), to a new tunnel underneath S Main St (Route 126). The trail continues undeveloped to Blackstone.

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