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After crossing over the electric car tracks on the trestle behind Burger King in Hudson Center the steam railroad continued its path onward to the rear of the Baptist Church and the street level crossing at Greeley Street and then to the Hudson Depot. The depot was located behind the dwelling at what is now 238 Central Street and Wattannick Hall. From behind the grange hall the railroad passed through Dr. David O. Smith’s garden and close by the porch on the front of his house. The tracks then crossed Windham Road onto wood and farmland on route to West Windham. If you find this difficult to picture remember the home of Donna Boucher at 8 Windham Road was not there at the time as it was in its previous location on Hamblett Avenue. The first photo shows the tracks near the front porch of Dr. Smith’s home now located at 10 Windham Road.
To visualize the remainder of the route to West Windham remember that the current route 111 from Hudson Center to West Windham was not constructed until the early 1960’s and when it was built much of the road bed was placed on or close to the right of way to the railroad. Windham Road was the main road from Hudson Center to West Windham. At the time of the railroad Windham Road included the road of today plus a section which has since been abandoned and a section which today is called Lawrence Road. At that time Windham Road took a sharp left curve near the homestead of Albert Smith; the roadway after this curve has since been renamed Lawrence Road.
After crossing Windham Road the next crossing was at Clement Road near the site of the present Tip-Top Tree service. The second photo shows the sign at Clement Road giving warning of the railroad crossing. The house in the photo was the old Clement farmhouse which burned in 1935. From here the tracks headed east toward the farm of Albert E. Smith. The tracks departed from Windham Road as they went to the rear of the farmhouse and barn, continued through woods and farmland to return to Windham Road near Lawrence Corner. Lawrence Corner was at the intersection of Windham Road (now Lawrence Road) with Bockes Road, and an extension to Robinson Road (now abandoned).
The line through Hudson consisted of a single set of tracks, making the use of proper schedules and signals vitally important. On March 17, 1906 the tracks just east of Lawrence Corner near Beaver Brook was the site of a head on crash which left 3 fatalities and several injuries. On that day at 5:00 am westbound train 341 and eastbound train 372 met in a head-on collision which was so severe that both engines were destroyed and cars were derailed. Each of these were extra freight trains; 341 coming westbound from Rochester and 372 eastbound from Acton. The accident was caused by a mix up in the signals. Newspaper reports indicate that over the next few days over 1,000 people visited the site to view the wreckage.
From this point the rail line continued through rural countryside to the Anderson station at West Windham near the intersection of route 111 with route 128.
These photos are from the collection at the Historical Society or from editions of the Nashua Telegraph. Written by Ruth Parker.
Crossing Melendy Road near the intersection with Central Street the tracks went almost parallel and south of Central Street on the course toward Hudson Center. They went just north of Melendy Pond and through the back yard of what is now 91 Central Street heading towards Melendy Brook; which is also called Hadley Brook and First Brook. In this part of the route Central Street was north of the tracks.
Shortly after crossing the brook Central Street and the railroad tracks converged and ultimately Central Street crossed the tracks in such a manner that Central Street took a diagonal turn to the south. This placed the street on the south side of the tracks. This crossing was referred to as Central Street Crossing or also as Long Crossing. The switching of the street from the north to the south of the tracks resulted in a situation where oncoming auto traffic seemed to be approaching on the driver’s right which contributed to mishaps, particularly after dark. The name Long Crossing referred to the angle at which Central crossed the tracks. Once the railroad line was abandoned this diagonal turn was eliminated and that section of Central Street was straightened. The land taking to accomplish this resulted in narrow frontage for odd numbered houses near 91 Central Street whereas the opposite side ended up with wide frontage.
After crossing to the north of Central Street the tracks proceeded onto private land; next to emerge at the street level crossing with Burnham Road just below Alpine Avenue. There are two ‘dips’ in the road are apparent to this day. This street level crossing was called `Betsy Cutter Crossing’ and the road was known as Cutter Road. The crossing and the road were named for Betsey Cutter, a Revolutionary War Pensioner whose husband was a veteran. She applied for and received his pension. The road has since been changed to Burnham Road.
The railroad bed is still very pronounced as it goes through the wooded section of Westview Cemetery. This is easily walked and takes one north of properties on Central Street. The track bed crosses Merrill Brook over a stone culvert. Some maps identify the railroad track bed through Westview Cemetery as the right of way for the trolley. These maps are in error. The trolley approached Hudson Center via Ferry Street; proceeding into a wooded area at the beginning of Burnham Road.
A section of the old electric car (trolley) bed may be seen beyond the swamp to the north of the railroad bed. The trolley tracks take a sharp turn towards Central Street and cross under the railroad right of way just east of White Birch and behind Burger King where one can see the remains of the stone trestle which carried the trains to the Hudson Center station; crossing over the trolley tracks which carried the trolleys on to Pelham.
The train tracks continued east where a row of pines marks the railroad bed before it passed close behind the First Baptist Church. Crossing at Greeley Street the trains arrived at the Hudson Center Station. It was here that animals and patrons arrived to go to Benson’s. Animals were shipped here and some were walked along the road to the farm. The Jungle Train from Boston brought people on excursions. There was a freight house and siding for handling goods.
The station was later made into a dwelling, but when it was no longer in use it was moved to Benson Park. It has since been renovated and can be seen at the entrance to the park. Leaving the station trains passed along the north wall of the Grange Hall (formerly the Town Hall) and crossed Windham Road heading towards Windham.
Written by Ruth Parker
This is the first of three articles which traces the route taken by the steam railroad in it’s four mile stretch through Hudson.
The Nashua and Rochester railroad began operation of a single track route through Hudson in 1874 with a single station which was located in Hudson Center off Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall the home of Hudson Grange). This line provided passenger and freight services in both directions. After 1910 business on this line was on the decrease and the station closed about 1922 with passenger service continuing until 1934. O the station closed passengers boarding the train at Hudson Center would purchase tickets from the conductor. The line east of Hudson to Fremont, NH was abandoned by 1935; leaving Hudson as a branch line out of Nashua. Hudson remained an important stop because of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm and the Jungle train which brought passengers from Boston’s North Station to the Animal Farm on Sunday’s. The price of the train ride included admission to Benson’s.
Coming east from Nashua trains crossed the Merrimack River about 60 rods south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and proceeded on a north-east direction to Hudson Center and then on to Anderson Station in West Windham, a four plus mile route At first there was a wooden bridge across the river, but it was burned when set afire by sparks from a locomotive traveling on it. It was replaced in 1910 by an iron bridge, the metal later being salvaged for use during World War II to support the war effort. Our first photo shows the iron bridge C 1912 looking north (upriver) to the concrete Taylors Falls bridge. The abutments from the railroad bridge are still visible in the river as you cross from Nashua into Hudson. . These abutments can also be seen on the Hudson side of the river at Merrill Park. This park is located on land which includes the railroad right-of-way. Our second photo shows the entrance to Merrill Park which sits on the former railroad right-of-way. Part of the old railroad bed is also visible opposite the entrance to the Park and near the end at Fulton and Gillis Streets.
The trains climbed a grade from the river’s edge heading toward Hudson Center. The tracks crossed Lowell Road between the residence at 1 Lowell Road and the business at 5 Lowell Road. The train crossed Lowell Road and the street railway (trolley) on a trestle at the junction of Lowell and Central Streets as seen by our third photo. In this photo the home on the right is currently 65 Central and the house in mid picture is 1 Lowell Road.
The tracks then proceeded in a north of east direction along Central Street to a street level crossing of Melandy Road onto town owned land which was the former town barn, later the skate park, and now the pickleball court.
Here we see Hudson’s railroad station in it;s original position slightly off Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall). This station was used as a dwelling and later moved onto the Benson’s property. After many years of no use the station exterior has been restored and can be seen just inside the entrance to Bensons Park.
In this 1896 photo, we are looking east from the Greeley Street crossing at the Hudson Center Station (left) and the rear of the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall) on the right. From this point the tracks are headed towards the crossing at Windham Road, on to the crossing at Clement Road and then to West Windham. A Post Office was established in this station in 1876 and Eli Hamblet was the Postmaster; a position he held until his death in 1896. It was at this station that animals and patrons arrived to go to Benson’s. Animals were shipped here and some were walked along the road to the farm. The Jungle Train from Boston brought people on excursions. There was a freight house (center right) and siding for handling goods. At the height of railroad traffic there were as many as 13 passenger trains plus freight activity each day on this line. Considering a single track line, this made for a very busy and dangerous section of the line. The railroad station was later made into a dwelling, but when it was no longer in use it was moved to Benson Park and can still be seen there. Photograph from the Historical Society Collection.
Hand cars like the one shown here were used by railroad crews to travel from station to station in order to perform maintenance such as the removal of fallen trees, debris, or minor repairs to the tracks and the right of way. These vehicles were called hand cars because they were propelled by the hands, and muscles, of the people riding on them.
This crew and hand car were likely used to maintain the tracks between the West Windham station and the station in Hudson Center. The Hudson Center station was located just off of Greeley Street and behind the Town Hall (now Wattannick Hall). The station at West Windham was located on your left just beyond the intersection of Route 111 (Windham Road) with Route 128 (Mammoth road) in West Windham. The West Windham station has been destroyed by fire several years ago but it was located on the site of the present Kiddie Academy, an educational day care.
The single track line through Hudson crossed the river from Nashua just south of the Taylor Falls Bridge and then proceeded toward Hudson Center in a north easterly direction. After crossing over Lowell Road near Hammond Park the tracks crossed Central Street at “Long Crossing” and then continued to the Hudson Center station. From Hudson Center the tracks continued along or near the route of the present 111 into West Windham. “Long Crossing” was a street level intersection of the railroad line with Central Street. The name “Long Crossing” refers to the angle at which the two right of ways intersected;that is an angle greater than 90 degrees.
This undated photo of the handcar at the West Windham station is a part of the collection of the Hudson Historical Society.The identity of the crew members in this picture are not known.
The Worcester, Nashua, and Portland line of the Boston and Maine Railroad began operation through Hudson in 1874 and continued until abandoned in the early 1940’s. The railroad line entered Hudson by crossing the Merrimack River just south of the present Taylor Falls bridge between Nashua and Hudson. The line then took a gradual north and easterly path to Hudson Center and then on to West Windham.
The original wooden railroad bridge was completely destroyed by fire in June 1909 when sparks from an east bound freight train ignited one of the timbers. The resulting blaze was so spectacular that an estimated 1,000 folks in the area watch the blaze against the midnight sky. The destruction of this bridge seriously interfered with the traffic between Worcester and Portland; some 32 trains per day used this bridge daily along the single track line to West Windham and Portland. A temporary bridge was put in place within a week and a replacement steel bridge was completed in record time.
By December of 1942 the days of this line had ended. It was decided to use this steel railroad bridge for army maneuvers. On Saturday December 26, 1942 two preliminary blasts of dynamite were set off near the Nashua side of the bridge. These were staged to acquaint the military unit with the explosives. A detail from Maryland was delegated for this task. According to the Nashua Telegraph the Army Engineers planned at some later time to conduct extensive maneuvers ending with the blowing up of the bridge. According to officials of the railroad, the railroad bridge had been turned over to the U.S. Army about one month earlier.
These explosions occurred without warning to or previous planning with local officials. The first blast consisted of 50 pounds and a second of 150 pounds. Residents of the Crown Hill section of Nashua as well as of the Hudson Bridge area were frightened and hundreds of phone calls were made to police and fire headquarters as well as to the local paper. The resulting explosions rocked houses and blew out hundreds of panes of glass. Many residents were in a near panic and several women were hysterical.
Complaints and protests occurred on both sides of the river. Scores of residents from Crown Hill district reported window broken and other damage. On the Hudson side many windows were blown in and plaster was shaken down in many of the homes. Significant damage was reported to the windows and frames of the Hudson Community Church. The effects of the blasts were felt as far away and Benson’s Animal Farm in Hudson Center.
Needless to say both Nashua and Hudson officials registered their protests through Senators Bridges and Tobey. The senators conducted an investigation into the blasts. Army personnel from Fort Belvoir, MD as well as First Corps Area were called back for the session. First Army Corps of Boston claimed they had no prior knowledge of the maneuvers. No advance warning of the blasts had been given. Much, of the damage and emotions could have been controlled with advance knowledge of the blasts and simply opening the windows just prior to the last. Army officials met with Hudson Selectmen and property owners in order to access the damage. Shortly thereafter forms were provided to the property owners for reimbursement of damages. Reimbursement for at least part of the damages by the U.S. government did occur up to 1 year later.
Once the Senators and officials from Nashua and Hudson learned that these blasts were preliminary to blowing up the bridge with a 500 pound charge at some future time an official protest to further blasting was registered. It was pointed out that it made more sense to salvage the bridge for scrap material for the war effort than to blast it and sink it into the river.
In October 1943 salvaging of the bridge began when Governor of New Hampshire, Robert C. Blood, applied the torch to the first steel girder of the old railroad bridge. In the end, 500 tons of steel were scrapped and turned over to the State Salvage Commission to be used in the making of war materials. By January 1944 the old railroad bridge was gone. All that remains of this bridge today are the old abutments in the river, visible just south of the Taylor Falls Bridge.
This photo is from the Historical Society collection. It shows the railroad bridge during the hurricane of 1938; just a few years before the army maneuvers to blast the bridge. In this photo a train was stationed on the bridge during the hurricane to stabilize the bridge. Details of the blasts, resulting damage, and the probes were reported in the Nashua Telegraph for Monday December 28, 1942.