CPF363 wrote:It is frustrating that the State of New Hampshire did not purchase and maintain the railroad infrastructure in addition to the right-of-way along the Northern from Concord to White River Jct. Some 20 years ago, Guilford removed most of the track from just north of Hanna Dustin memorial in Boscawen to somewhere around Mascoma Lake. This was New Hampshire's only true through line that could have been rebuilt for Amtrak Boston to Montreal service, but that will never happen now. The remaining rail will probably be removed and welded together to fix up another line.
It's been NHDOT's policy for >25 years or more to have all hardware removed on a state-owned ROW post-abandonment. Any such abandonments become de facto snowmobile trails whether any official authority wants that to happen or not, so state controls their liability by doing hardware removal and a once-over of the bare surface, then declaring the ROW an "as-is" trail with specific limited-liability clauses. Northern Div. hardware removal was done by-the-book per this policy after its '92 abandonment.
State's got a uniquely pervasive snowmobiler culture, and state gov't has philosophically always given that culture live-and-let-live permissiveness on public lands when the land in question is not under any specific environmental protections. Several other states have mandatory rail removal clauses for abandoned ROW's (PA, I believe, is the next-closest state that does it by on-the-books law). NH justifies their policy on the legal butt-covering of minimizing their liability risk vectors. It obviously has its downsides, but the state made up its philosophical mind long ago re: snowmobiles so it's arguably their most sane and correct policy option for managing those legalities.
The only ROW's (excluding OOS ones that still have active carrier rights) not covered by that blanket clause are. . .
ROW's explicitly given a railbanking designation in the State Rail Plan as "going concern" restoration candidates. Currently that's only the Conway Branch, which has its longstanding NHN-north/CSRX-south access studies sitting on the books awaiting/not-awaiting further action. Northern isn't included here because the rail removal pre-dates that corridor's federal designation as a Boston-Montreal candidate, and the official VTrans-NHDOT feasibility study on that route.
You can argue they should've slapped a formal railbank on the Northern from Day 1, but that intercity proposal didn't exist at any level serious enough for a feasibility study until 12+ years after the abandonment so hindsight is 20/20. The reasoning for backing a Conway-esque railbank exemption would've been pretty threadbare back in the mid-90's, whereas for the Conway Branch it's been a thing floating in the background pretty much ever since CSRX first opened for business.
ROW's explicitly designated as speeder trails. e.g. Wolfboro Br. & that Conway segment. Those speeder clubs have explicit NHDOT permission for their rail use, explicit promises of hardware preservation, and explicitly tighter usage guidelines for snowmobilers so they don't wantonly mess up the speeder clubs' infrastructure during the offseason.
ROW's explicitly designated as actively maintained walking trails. M&L paved path and future expansion of, for example, since it's got publicly-funded landscaping they don't want the snowmobilers to ruin. Obviously not a rail-germane consideration. Many fewer of these officially-maintained rail trails in NH than any other New England state, again because of how much more pervasive the snowmobile culture is there.