• Portsmouth and Concord Railroad

  • Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by GuilfordRailSD45
Hello All,

My name is Steve, I'm new to the forums.

I've been deeply interested in the Portsmouth and Concord Railroad for quite some time now. I've been looking all over the web for photographs of the line from Rockingham Junction in Newfields, NH to Manchester, NH. I'm particularly interested in shots from Rockingham Junction, Epping, Raymond, and also, shots of the Fremont Branch.

I was wondering if anyone could provide me with photos/ sources to photos of the aforementioned locations, either before the track was removed in 1985, or before the line was abandoned in 1982.

Thanks in advance,

  by edbear
The line was the Concord & Portsmouth and originally was built to Concord. After the Concord Railroad (I'm guessing 1850s) obtained control the line into Concord was removed beyond Candia and tracks extended into Manchester. The line was well photographed. Until the early 1950s there were two passenger round-trips over the route usually operated with gas-electric cars. The morning trip out of Portsmouth, afternoon return ran through to Concord via Manchester. The gas electrics usually met, both morning and afternoon runs, at Rockingham station where mainline connections to both Boston and Portland were usually made. A good photographer sometimes could capture three trains at Rockingham in a single photo. Portmouth is New Hampshire's only deep sea port and some coastal and ocean tonnage was moved inland by rail. New Hampshire was at one time a slow-growth state with no pipelines, so a good portion of industrial and domestic oil was brought in over the Portsmouth Branch. The local freight usually had quite a string of tank cars on it. One gas-electric round-trip ended in the early 1950s and the remaining one about 1954. For most of the rest of the 1950s, the local freight was advertised as a mixed train and a wooden combine was used as the caboose and passenger car. In the early 1970s, there was some temporary bridge strengthening so that some heavy power plant equipment could be moved to Seabrook. The line is well-photographed in Morning Sun and other books on New England railroading. I think there's an NRHS Bulletin of the 1950s that has a trip on the mixed train as an article.
  by jbvb
The two most recent issues of the B&M Bulletin have covered Manchester, the 2nd article has a good deal on customers and traffic on what became the Manchester & Portsmouth branch after the Concord RR rerouted it and was subsequently leased by the B&M.

The Raymond, NH depot is a museum these days, I don't know what they have for a collection. The Walker Transportation Collection at the Beverly (MA) Historic Society has a lot of B&M photos. Several of the recent color picture books have had photos or sequences of photos, usually from Rockingham Jct. or Portsmouth.
  by GuilfordRailSD45
Edbear, thanks alot for all of that information. I never knew that the line was ever that significant; I assumed that the branch really only ever saw locals with a couple cars after, say, 1960. I checked out the Morning Sun website, and there's several B&M and New England railroading books - Thank you very much for directing me to that resource.

jbvb, thank you for the other possible resources. I've been meaning to check out the Raymond Depot, as it's not all that far from me. I'll definately keep the Walker Transportation center in mind. Now, where can I get a hold of the B&M Bulletin? Is it something that I have to purchase, or is it viewable on line somewhere?

Thanks alot guys, I appreciate it.
  by jbvb
The B&MRRHS publishes the Bulletin for their members. It's a glossy 8x11 stapled magazine with ~50 pages and a modest amount of color. It used to come out 4x/year, but less regularly in the past 20 years or so. They usually have a few recent issues for sale when they have a table at a train show. Charles Ro and a few other hobby shops stock copies when a new issue comes out. Several New England book dealers have back issues. Alden Dreyer (who posts on the BM_RR list fairly frequently) tries to have at least one copy of all issues on hand.
  by b&m 1566
The Portsmouth and Concord Railroad was formed 1845. In 1846 before construction even started the railroad was granted two branch lines, one to Manchester and the other to Hooksett. In 1847 construction started in Portsmouth and had reached the Concord Railroad in Bow, in what became Bow Junction in 1852 (Bow Junction, is now the present day location of Blue Seal). Due to financial troubles the two branch lines never materialized as the railroad struggles to make a profit.

In 1855 the Portsmouth and Concord Railroad was turned over to its creditors and a new railroad was formed called the Concord and Portsmouth Railroad (city names reversed). Financial troubles continued and in 1858 the Concord Railroad leased the Concord and Portsmouth Railroad for 5 years. In 1862 the Concord Railroad extend its lease for 99 years at which time the Concord Railroad, using the license granted to the Portsmouth and Concord Railroad in 1846, built the two branch lines, one from Candia to the Manchester and Lawrence Branch and the other between Hooksett and Suncook. Upon completion of the two branch lines the segment between Candia and Suncook was abandoned.

In 1858 the Concord and Portsmouth Railroad lease was transferred to the Concord and Montreal Railroad when the Concord Railroad merged with other Railroads to form the C&M. In 1895 the lease transferred to the Boston and Maine when the Concord and Montreal was leased to the B&M. In 1944 the B&M purchased the Concord and Portsmouth Railroad and a year later it was dissolved. After the Candia, Suncook abandonment the rail line became known as the Manchester and Portsmouth Branch of the Concord Railroad and later the B&M Railroad. Service between Manchester and Rockingham Junction ended in 1982. In the late 1980’s the rails were removed between Manchester and Rockingham Junction. Today a small segment between Rockingham Jct. and Portsmouth is still in service, owned by the B&M Railroad and operated by Springfield Terminal Railway both are subsidies of Pan Am Railways. The section between Rockingham Jct. and Manchester is owned by the state and is now a rail trail.

Back to 1863: Just as the Concord Railroad was getting ready to abandon the segment between Candia and the junction of the new feeder line from Hooksett in Suncook the state granted two charters to build a rail line from Suncook to Pittsfield and Pittsfield to Alton Bay, where it would join up with the Dover and Winnipesogee Railroad (The spelling of the lake was later changed to the present day spelling). Construction started in 1869 with service to Pittsfield, starting the same year. Due to financial troubles and the Civil War, construction between Pittsfield and Alton Bay was put on hold. The extension to Alton Bay never materialized but in 1889 the line was extended to Center Barnstead.

In 1895 the Suncook Valley was leased to the Boston & Maine the same day the Concord & Montreal Railroad was leased to the B&M. In the 1920’s the B&M petitioned to abandon the Suncook Valley and in September 1924, the Suncook Valley Railroad became New Hampshire’s, first independent short line. The Suncook Valley Railroad abandoned the track between Pittsfield and Center Barnstead in 1947 and in 1952 the B&M embargoed the interchange track do to deteriorating conditions of the Merrimack River Bridge, south of Bow Junction. After the embargo the Suncook Valley abandoned all operation.

Peter Dearness of New England Southern Railroad told me a while back that the feeder route between Hooksett and Suncook was abandoned sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s after the bridge over the Merrimack River was washed out in a flood. Since Suncook could be serviced from Bow Jct. the bridge was never rebuilt. Only the stone abutments and stone pillars of that bridge survive today. (Located by Edgewater Drive in Hooksett.)

I believed the bridge up by Bow Junction also supported a trolley line (on its own track) that ran between Suncook and Concord.

I just looked for the first time, but the ROW between Candia and Suncook (right up to what later became the “switch back” for the Pittsfield Branch [the Blueberry Express]), is still visible on Google Map’s satellite imagery.
  by GuilfordRailSD45
I've been away for quite some time, and although this thread is several months old, I'd like to say thanks for all of your very informative responses - they are very much appreciated. Fortunately, someone ended up uploading hundreds of pictures of the line (particularly Rockingham Junction) to rrpicturearchives, so that also answered some questions.

Thanks guys!
  by joshg1
The story about the Concord & Portsmouth I know is that the Concord RR had a monopoly on all freight between Montreal, Canada, the Great Lakes, and west, and Boston/ Southern New England. With the exception of the Grand Trunk to Portland, which required a break of gauge. The Concord was concerned freight could move via the B&M and Eastern to the C&P onto the Northern at Concord, so they took control of the C&P through a straw man (men). They then petitioned the legislature to reroute (recharter) the line via Manchester b/c the grade was too steep. The legislature said "Show us", so the Concord/C&P took the smallest, oldest engine around, filled four coaches with legislators, and used green firewood soaked in water as fuel. Amazingly the train stalled on a slight grade and the legislators got out and said "Wow, you're right; we'll change the charter". The line was moved to Manchester, and the Concord dumped the C&P. There is another story of the Concord sending a crew out one Sunday to rip up a few miles of track south of Henniker Jct, out of fear the Manchester & North Weare would be used to divert traffic around the Concord RR.

The Suncook Valley (original name?) branched off the Concord at Hooksett (north of the large, curved bridge) over a set of covered bridges. The line from Bow Jct to Suncook was rebuilt (1890s? Can't recall who did it) but not back to Candia. This route Concord- Suncook-Hooksett-Manchester was strung with trolley wire for interurban service which stopped in 1933. The wooden bridges in Hooksett washed away in the 1936 flood.