• New Route 111 & the M&L RoW

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  by l008com
Does anyone know how the new Rt 111 in Salem (Windham?) is going to effect the old M&L RoW? They started digging from 28 up towards the direction of 93. It looks to me like the road is going to go UNDER the ROW. I would assume they'd be putting up a small bridge for the bikes/atv's now and when I get lucky and they start running trains up there again, they'll replace it with a real bridge. Anyone have any facts about this?

  by robmcalpine
Yes, Windham.
I live in town and they have the ROW blocked off from Roulston Rd. to Rte 28/Canobie Lake Rd so I can't tell what's going to happen. I know they plan on opening the trail back up when construction is finished. My guess is you're right.. that it will go UNDER the ROW.
Here's a map of the construction area: http://www.onlinesalem.com/route111/111Map.pdf

Rob McAlpine
Windham, NH
  by ferroequinarchaeologist
Jeez, I dunno. Judging from the size of the embankment being constructed, it appears that they're going over the old M&L. On the map RMcA linked, you can see that Contract E (green) work includes a "pedestrian bridge," and the only one shown on the map is over the old M&L, labeled as "recreation trail."


  by l008com
I assume that would be a bridge over the road. If it was a road bridge over the pedestrian trail, I assume that would be a road bridge, or a tunnel. Plus from what I saw looking over 28, there's no way they are going OVER the ROW. They have to be either going under it, or obliterating it like they did in manchester.

  by robmcalpine
I know the town plans on using the trail all the way to Canobie Lake Rd/Rte 28 once the highway is done (its being advertised this way with a note that from Roulston Rd to the end is temporarily closed). So, the ROW has to be left in tact somehow.. unless they re-route the trail entirely which would stink.
I'll try to find out what's going on.
Here's a link to the rail trail website: http://windhamrailtrail.org


  by b&m 1566
If the railroad ever game back I believe a lot of grading would have to take place in that area; including the rest of the line for that matter. From the looks of it the road is going to be lower than the actual ROW; I’m not sure however if it will be low enough for a railroad bridge to be constructed over the road and still have a 14foot clearance. A pedestrian bridge won’t matter; you can build the bridge higher than the right of way with stairs leading up to it and a ramping system for people riding bikes, pushing baby carriages, etc. For rail the ROW might have to be raise up several feet to accommodate a 14foot bridge clearance or dropped down to be level with the road for a grade crossing. Don't hold your breath because word of mouth has it that the town of Salem wants to extend the bike path to Hampshire Rd., a couple hundred feet north of the MA, NH boarder. If that happens it’s going to be even harder to bring back rail. There is the NH Revitalization Group that is fighting to revive the M&L branch but right now most of there efforts are going towards other projects like that of the Lowell extension to Nashua and the Mountain Division via Crawford Notch. Last I heard was that Pan Am still owns the line in Salem, so for now the bike bath will stay at bay.

  by l008com
I *think* that the state owns the line from the border north. But I also think that the southern most part of the line is still in use and not officially abandoned yet. Yeah that rail revitalization group had the right idea, but I think they need to advocate differently. Check their web site and you'd think extending the lowell line is their entire purpose. Anyway, maybe next time I'm in NH, I'll pull over and check it out closer.

  by b&m 1566
Well last I heard (going back a year or so now) was that Pan Am still owned the ROW in the town of Salem with the state trying to purchase it; this may or may not have happened yet. The rest of the line in MA is owned by the MBTA and is sporadically used by Pan Am to service a customer about ¼ of a mile north, after crossing the Merrimack River.

  by l008com
Aren't you fancy, using the "1/4" character :-P
  by robmcalpine
The ROW will go OVER the new Rte 111..

  by l008com
Hey on that windham rail trail, you can buy a foot of trail for $75. Someone should email them and ask if you buy a bunch of feet, can you put a train on it :-D That group really puts a damper on my dream to be able to take the train up to derry some day.

  by b&m 1566
l008com wrote:Hey on that windham rail trail, you can buy a foot of trail for $75. Someone should email them and ask if you buy a bunch of feet, can you put a train on it :-D That group really puts a damper on my dream to be able to take the train up to derry some day.
Looks like your dream is going to be even farther away after what I read.
The NH Railroad Revitalization Association reports that the Town of Salem is going to continue the paved bike path right down to Hampshire Rd. near the state line. No details were mentioned in the brief report about when construction of the bike bath would start (I'm assuming this coming summer) but it did mention that the town of Salem is committed to protecting the ROW which is why the trail will be constructed. Looks like the Selectmen for the town voted on it sometime mid to late last year.
Click on the link to read the report http://www.nhrra.org/minutes/200701.doc
  by l008com
14 years later.... yeah 111 goes under the ROW with a nice elevated pedestrian bridge. The first time I pedaled on that trail, I went from Stoneham, all the way up 28 to the state line, then hopped on the ROW and took it all the way to 102 in Derry. It was PAINFULLY obvious that it should be trains on it. And I am an avid cyclist. And I like rail trails. But this is such a no-brainer, it's absurd. Find the money, lay the tracks, pay the MBTA to run trains up the lowell line, over the wild cat, up to lawrence and then up through salem, derry and manchester. I'm pedaling up this path (a few years ago now), this almost perfectly level path. And I'm thinking about how the highway is one steep hill after another. This RoW is such a perfect no-brainer for the state. It's too bad they never got their shit together regarding rail and I guess public transportation in general.

That said, it's a real nice ride, you should check it out. Especially north of the 111 crossing this post was about. It's extremely scenic from that point forward, with ponds scattered around and the feeling of being deep in the woods. Some deep rock cuts and some very tall fills.

There is still the question on what they would do about the 111 overpass IF rail ever did return.
The bridge is arched but beyond that, the trail itself goes up a decent hill to get to the bridge. I wonder if they picked the height such that they would be able to extend the slope to that height from the old 111 crossing so a train could make the hill. Or if they plan on doing the opposite and making it a street level crossing. Maybe they did no planning at all for rail, and only planed for the pedestrian bridge? In the shots below, I'm not sure where the natural level of the ROW lies but my guess would be about halfway up the bridge embankments, making it a really awkward level.
  by NHV 669
Given that MHT runways have been built over the RoW, there isn't really an "if", or any point in designing rail-purposed bridges/crossings. It's toast.
  by l008com
You could certainly get to the airport by veering off the ROW and building a station somewhere very close to the terminals. Getting to downtown manchester may be trickier. I've read of RoW reroute proposals but as time goes on, those holes will slowly get closed up as property is sold and developed.

I suppose in an ideal world, the lowell line extends through nashua to manchester downtown, and the haverhill line gets a fork through salem, derry and manchester airport.
It really isn't that complicated a project, it's just no one wants to pay for it. And that alone may be the reason it never happens. But I don't think the runway extension alone is that much of a deadbreaker at this point.

I mean the whole discussion of why NH has no commuter rail is a whole separate other topic. So I guess to get back on topic a bit, I think it makes sense to preserve the RoWs with any future construction projects. It's just common sense. Don't throw away something you own just because you don't need it right this moment.

The Rt 93 widening project included some (albeit ridiculous) rail related abatements "just in case". The reasonable one was making sure that spot right before exit 4, where the M&L and 93 get VERY close together. The silly one was making sure there's room for another RoW between the northbound and southbound lanes for some light rail trolley type of transportation setup. As absurd as that second one ways, and this was a long time ago so maybe I'm remembering wrong, but still the idea of having a plan is good.

My regular trips to Derry ended many years ago, but if I could pedal a mile or two, hop on a lowell line train, and take that up to derry, then pedal up to the lake and then do it all again to go home, I'd probably do that all the time. I'll be too old to ride a bike by the time this ever happens, if it ever happens. And I'm not even that old right now :D