Please click on the link below to sign-up for our Newletter!!

Friends of the Northern Rail
Trail in Merrimack County
P.O. Box 154
Andover, NH  03216

 News & Events

Bob Ward Steps Down as President of FNRT-MC
Eleven years building the Northern Rail Trail
By Lindy Heim, FNRT-MC

Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) President Bob Ward reminisces about his eleven year stint leading the rail trail group from its initial vision to trail completion.

Bob Ward steps down this month after 11 years leading the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail - Merrimack County. The past 10 of those years were spent overseeing conversion of the Northern Rail Line railbed into a four-season recreational trail from Boscawen to Danbury.

Photo: Lindy Heim
Bob Ward has contributed hugely to making the Northern Rail Trail the success story it is today. He was kind enough to share his recollections of the successful efforts of the "rail trail group" known as the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) with me one day this summer. He began by noting how he became involved with the organization in the first place.
Andover residents, Alex Bernhard and Myra Mayman, harbored a vision of turning the old Northern Railroad rail bed into a four season recreational trail. Early in 2004, they decided to recruit Bob Ward to run with their idea, recognizing his outstanding networking and leadership skills.

Bob admits he was hooked from the start and committed to staying the course until the full 34 miles of rail trail were constructed in the Fall of 2014. "I kind of made an unspoken commitment to myself to see this through to completion."  This month marks his 11th year leading the charge for the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail and the 10th anniversary of the start of rail trail construction. Bob plans to retire as President of FNRT-MC in September.

Looking back, Bob's first efforts were devoted to fleshing out the organizing committee. He recruited Andover bike shop owner Ed Dansereau, Andover Conservation Committee member Peter Southworth, Andover Recreation Committee member Tom Frantz, and Proctor Academy Environmental Science teacher Nelson Lebo. Together they held informational and promotional meetings in Danbury and Andover. There was a lot of interest among the leaders and residents in both towns spurring the committee to move forward towards incorporating.
FNRT-MC was officially incorporated as a non-profit entity in December 2004. The group got busy holding meetings in Andover to set their objectives, often meeting in Ed's bike shop. They settled on using a volunteer work base, choosing hard pack over pavement for the trail surface and seeking funding from the state's Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

In the Summer of 2005, FNRT-MC filed for 501(c)3 status with the IRS.  In December of 2005, the friends group was approved as a public charity, thereby able to receive tax deductible contributions. Also in 2005, Bob, Alex, and Myra applied for and won FNRT-MC's first RTP grant feverishly making required copies of their application at the Concord Staples Store and wringing their hands while waiting to hear back.

Trail building began in earnest with the first couple of miles of stone dust being laid between Blackwater Park on Lawrence Street and the Potter Place Station in Andover. Salisbury Road Agent Chris Bentley, donated a grader and the group rented a vibratory roller. R.D. Edmunds and Son of Franklin supplied the stone dust, as they have on every inch of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County.

About 100 people turned out to celebrate the completion of the first section. The celebration involved remarks by Bob at the entrance to the Lawrence Street tunnel at Blackwater Park. He introduced FNRT-MC's board of directors to the community, officiated the ribbon cutting by local boy scouts, and walked the 2 miles with the other celebrants to Potter Place to enjoy refreshments served in the Andover Historical Society's freight building.

A little known detail came out during this interview. Upon completing an early stage of building the first section of rail trail in Andover Bob, Myra. and Alex christened the rail trail with a libation of wine in a private "we did it" celebration of their own. Can't blame them for expressing their pride and joy in the moment.

From 2005 to 2010, six sections of the  rail trail were built doubling up in 2010 with two projects being completed in the same year. One project included 8 1/2 miles of rail trail construction that was funded by a hard won Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant through N.H. DOT, the largest single grant FNRT-MC has been awarded to date.

The TE grants applications are reviewed by New Hampshire's Regional Planning Commissions of which there are nine in the state. At the time, Bob was the governor's designee on the GACIT commission which advises the governor on all statewide Transportation Enhancement program funding awards. He remembers offering to recuse himself because of his involvement with the FNRT-MC but was asked to stay on instead. The amount of funding requested by the many applicants greatly exceeded the amount of TE funding available making FNRT-MC's application and eventual award that much more precious.

In 2011 FNRT-MC reached the Grafton County section of the Northern Rail Trail connecting the two rail trails for the first time. A July 31 celebration was planned in Danbury and named for the historic Golden Spike ceremony commemorating the completion of the transcontinental railroad project of 1869. Bob orchestrated the entire event that day, awarding our honored golden spikes to heads of state agencies and other special guests including Ray Burton from the Governor's Council.
Four more RTP grants and generous gifts of time and energy by rail trail volunteers culminated in the most recent ceremony, the Finish Line Celebration in Boscawen on October 4, 2014. Again, Bob took charge of inviting guests and organizing a memorable event around finishing construction of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County. Though it was a soggy day, a good crowd braved the weather and enjoyed the festivities. Listing those who couldn't make it there that day, Bob quipped that Daniel Webster sent his regrets for not being able to attend, bringing a chuckle to all who attended.

Asked about what he sees in store for the friends group after his term ends in September, he envisions the focus of the board of directors shifting towards maintenance and that that responsibility should be shared.

Bob further comments, "As soon as construction of the rail trail was done, my goal was accomplished. It's time now to address the new challenges that lie ahead. This has been a great group to work with, very lively, energetic and dynamic. Everyone on the board of directors plus innumerable other volunteers have contributed to this effort in his/her own way."
FNRT's board of directors gave Bob a spontaneous and resounding round of applause at the conclusion of its August monthly meeting knowing that it was his last and that he will be missed immeasurably.

Northern Rail Trail Completion Celebration
About 50 to 60 family members, rail trail fans, dignitaries and at least 5 well behaved dogs attended the FNRT’s Finish Line Celebration at Jamie Welch Park in Boscawen on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Thank you, FNRT President Bob Ward for organizing this wonderful event marking the completion of building the last couple of miles of rail trail on the old Northern Railroad bed in Merrimack County.
The lineup of displays looked fabulous, especially FNRT board member Ellsworth Morton's handmade case & stand holding FNRT’s collection of honors.  Hot coffee and doughnuts were so welcome, thank you Dunkin Donuts of Boscawen.  The music by the newly formed N.H. Rail Trail Band was rousing and the programs designed and printed by Charlie Darling, publisher of the Andover Beacon, were classy, beautiful keepsakes.  Did you notice the gorgeous print of Lisa Jelleme Miller’s original oil painting of the view of Webster Farm from the rail trail in event publicity and on the program cover?  Yes, that was her gift to the rail trail organization.  Thank you, Lisa. And thank you, Pecco Beaufays of Highland Lake Inn (one of the rail trail’s two welcome centers) for coordinating the whole event program project.
Wasn’t it wonderful that the Crowell family turned out in force and seemed genuinely pleased with being recipients of FNRT’s highest honor, its golden spike award.
It was so nice seeing other interested parties share in the joy of the moment.  Among the rail trail fans that gathered to celebrate on Oct. 4 were folks who represented supporting organizations or contributed muscle, administrative and/or financial support such as Chris Gamache of the NH Trails Bureau (who spoke), Dick Lemieux of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, one of Kelly Ayotte's assistants, Larry Keniston of NH DOT, Representative Lorrie Carey, Leon Nelson and Mike Henderson of the Andover Snowmobile Club, Dave Murray of the Boscawen Town Line Trail Busters snowmobile club, Leigh Webb of the Franklin Historical Society, Bruce Crawford and Elaine Clow of the Boscawen Historical Society, FNRT volunteer trail work crew members board member Steve Rayno, Steve Robinson and Ricker Miller, to mention a few.
The displays by the Merrimack River Greenway and the Trails Bureau in addition to FNRT’s handouts were very impressive and fun for folks to look over. FNRT volunteer Kent Hackmann gave away Fall Soonipi Magazines with the nice article about the rail trail in it and sold FNRT ball caps and memberships.  The cap tree, made by volunteer John Monto, worked great.  Look for the FNRT booth to pop up at area and rail trail events in the future.
The opening remarks and golden spike award were well received by the crowd. After listing all the officials and board members who couldn't attend, Bob got a good laugh when he mentioned that Daniel Webster also couldn't make it.  Chris Gamache was a lively speaker and got rousing applause when he praised all involved for their work, passion and dedication.  He says he heads the only stand-alone Trails Bureau in the country. In all other states, Trails Bureaus are a smaller part of some other state department. He applauded the completion of building the rail trail, a project that has been going on for 10 years, and which he sees his department supporting for many years to come.
Ben Crowell spoke lovingly of his Dad when he accepted the Golden Spike Award on behalf of FNRT's recognition of his family's huge contribution to trail building over the years.  It was a sweet moment for all of those who remember his Dad, Peter Crowell, who loved building rail trail more than anyone.
And the arrival of Boscawen Selectman Roger Sanborn with his tractor and wagon was a welcome sight for the young people in the crowd and FNRT volunteer Kent Hackmann, who quickly abandoned his position at the FNRT booth to grab a seat.
Many took to the trail on foot or on bicycles after the official ribbon cutting ceremony to finish off the celebration by admiring the last miles of rail trail so recently added to the 31 miles already resurfaced for 4 season use in Merrimack County.

New Hampshire’s Northern Rail Trail
Named a Top Trail in U.S.

Concord, NH, 2012 – The 52-mile Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire has been named to the list of “100 Top Trails in the U.S.” by the Rails to Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C. The trail is one of the longest in New England and the longest in New Hampshire. The trail crosses the State of New Hampshire from Lebanon in the Connecticut River Valley to Boscawen, on the Merrimack just north of Concord. A westward extension of the trail toward Vermont from downtown Lebanon as part of the Mascoma River Greenway is in development and would put its final length at 59 miles.

Chris Gamache, Bureau Chief for the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, said “New Hampshire should be proud of the designation. The Northern Rail Trail is a year-round recreational treasure thanks to the cooperative efforts of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, local snowmobile clubs and the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail groups in Merrimack and Grafton Counties.”

Northern Rail Trail Names New Welcome
Center in Danbury
There is good news for users of the Northern Rail Trail.  The Danbury Country Store is now open for business.  Designated an official Rail Trail Welcome Center by the Board of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County, the store offers important amenities to bikers and walkers on the Rail Trail in Danbury.

Audrey Pellegrino, Danbury Country Store operator, when asked if she would accept the Welcome Center designation said,

"I would love to have the store designated as a welcome center, we were actually talking today about where the bicycle racks should go! We will have a handicap accessible public bathroom for people to use as well as a separate sink to rinse travel mugs and water bottles....
The name of the store has been changed and is now The Danbury Country Store.  This may not be much of a change, but hopefully it is enough for people to realize it is something different.  We are offering made from scratch cookies, donuts and muffins daily as well as Boar's Head Deli order-to-go sandwiches, homemade pizza slices, and salads.  Hopefully, people will stop at the store while out  enjoying  the rail trail!"

The distance from the first Rail Trail Welcome Center, the Highland Lake Inn in East Andover, to the Danbury Country Store is just about 13 and a half miles-an excellent distance to ride for lunch.  Also, the rest stop is just about 7 miles from the Potter Place trailhead.

"We're very excited about the opening of the Danbury Welcome Center at the Danbury Country Store," said Alex Bernhard, Vice President of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County.  Good food, a public bathroom, water, and a warm welcome-a bicyclist's dream!  We're delighted that local businesses are developing along the trail."

National Trails Day celebration on the Northern Rail Trail
A nice group of rail trail fans celebrated National Trails Day June 1 by riding or walking from the old Gerrish Station trailhead in Boscawen to Holy Cross Rd. at Webster Place in Franklin and back.  It was a lovely morning and the views of the Merrimack River and adjoining farm fields was magnificent.

Seen in the picture are Ken Leonard from Mass., Steve Darling, Steve Rayno, Bob Ward, Giesela Darling, Joyce and Ellsworth Morton.   Lindy Heim who was taking the picture.  Behind the group is the brand new informational kiosk that Ellsworth Morton constructed which will feature rail trail information, maps and rack cards.

While riding along, everyone admired the restored mile posts and new Franklin/Boscawen town line marker for which volunteer Ed Hiller is responsible.  Also it was learned that large numbers of discarded tires, TVs and other debris had to be removed by board member Steve Rayno.  With the help of prison workers and the town of Franklin, Steve patrols the Franklin section of rail trail with gusto.  Don't even think of throwing anything on Steve's rail trail!

Two other riding groups were seen heading out on the rail trail that morning; a mom and two kids getting ready to ride to Webster Lake and a couple of friends, Ken and Bunny of Litchfield and Bedford, N.H. respectively who had a longer ride in mind with a possible stop at Naughty Nellie's for lunch and/or ice cream.  Locals as well as folks from some distance away are aware of this fabulous 4 season recreational trail and are coming out to enjoy it.

Altogether, the occasion was well celebrated.

Disabled Veterans to enjoy the
Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire
The New England Summer Sports Clinic for Veterans, sponsored by the Boston VA Healthcare System and NEHSA (New England Handicapped Sports Association in Sunapee), is a wonderful event planned for disabled veterans on July 23 and 24 on the Northern Rail Trail in New Hampshire.  "Veterans involved in adaptive sports activities benefit from positive connections with the community and from nature," says Ralph Marche, Chief of Voluntary and Recreation Therapy Service at the Boston V.A.  This summer the organizers have again chosen the Northern Rail Trail to stage their activities because of its beauty, bike friendly surface, wide expanse and 1% maximum grade.

Four teams of participants will set out on the rail trail on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 23 and 24 beginning at the Potter Place trailhead in Andover, N.H.  Heading out at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day, these groups of 15-20 (veterans and their staff) will operate cycles some of which are specially designed bikes/trikes that feature a drive train powered by the arms rather than the legs.  Athletes will ride up and back on a two mile stretch going north from Potter Place to Eagle Pond at mile marker 36.6 on NH Rt 4.

Area folks are stepping up in support of the veterans. Local  volunteers will offer refreshments to the athletes and cheer them on as they set out on their ride. Byron's Septic Service of Andover is donating the use of a handicapped porto-potty for the occasion.  The Andover 4th of July Committee will hang patriotic signage along the trail. The Andover Historical Society is allowing use of their grounds for the event.  And the  Friends of the Northern Rail Trail (FNRT) will mow the trail sides and are delighted that disabled citizens are making use of the rail trail, whose features give these athletes easy access to the outdoors.
For more information on the event contact Kelly Cossaboom at  For more information on the Northern Rail Trail, downloadable maps and membership opportunities visit  

Northern Rail Trail Friends groups win recreational trails funding, add amenities to the trail and announce events
Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) and Grafton County (FNRT-GC) were each  awarded Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants from the N.H.  Bureau of Trails recently.  FNRT-MC, which has won RTP funding 8 times since 2005, plans to extend the rail trail south about three more miles from its present terminus at the Webster Farm in West Franklin, N.H. to the historic Gerrish Station and Merrimack County Jail and Home in Boscawen, pending final reviews. Starting November 8th the trail bed and existing ballast will be graded.  Phase 2 of this project will begin November 12th to spread, grade, and compact the new surfacing, consisting of granite stone dust. This second phase should be completed in 3 to 4 days, weather permitting.  

FNRT-MC's sister organization has also secured grant funds from the N.H. Trails Bureau and will use them to resurface about 7/10 of a mile of existing rail trail from mile marker 19.4 on Rt 4 in Canaan as far as the Orange Rock Cut.  "The hard pack resurfacing project will be bid out and hopefully enough funding will be left to do a little work around the Tewksbury Pond gates as well.  The FNRT-GC group hopes to start work in November," says Trail Project Administrator Ken Warren.
Franklin Savings Bank awards FNRT $2,500
Franklin Savings Bank President, Jeff Savage, announced that FNRT has been awarded a $2,500 Fund for Community Advancement grant for the extension of the recreational trail from Holy Cross Rd. in W. Franklin to Gerrish Depot in Boscawen.

Sarah Stanley, Assistant Vice President - Marketing & Community Relations Officer commented, "we enjoy being a part of this valuable area resource that provides alternative transportation as well as four-season recreation.”
This generous gift by the Franklin Savings Bank is very much appreciated by FNRT-MC and will allow the organization to get that much closer to completing its goal of reaching Concord, N.H. in the near future.
Restored Bristol Line Turntable in Franklin
The recently restored granite foundation of the old railroad turntable in Franklin on the Northern Rail Trail is a sight to see. This circle of granite blocks is where engines were turned to head up the Bristol Branch Line to Newfound Lake from the track otherwise headed to White River Junction, Vermont.  The restoration work was done by Billy Hurd, Thomas Richardson, Zak Adams and Steve Rayno all of Franklin with funding provided by Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County. Newly cleaned up, seeded and restored after years of neglect, it is already an attractive and popular trailside amenity.

Additionally, the city of Franklin has mowed both sides of the rail trail from the Andover/Franklin town line to Webster Place opening up views and widening trail access.  Friends of the rail trail are extremely grateful for all of the maintenance help offered both by the city of Franklin and rail trail volunteers.

Annual Firecracker 5k Race Check out the Youtube video!

Firecracker 5K Race Results   2012_Firecracker_5K.docx

Potter Place in Andover, N.H. is a little gem of an historic village which serves as the site of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail's main trailhead and information kiosk. In fact there is an entirely charming event called the Old Time Fair being held there this Sunday, August 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring pump car rides, great food, an auction and tag sale.  

The folks at the Andover Historical Society (AHS) get the credit for bringing the appearance of the site up to the level we enjoy today.  The train station has been recently painted looking as it did in its hayday and the Potter farm foundation shade garden is in wonderful shape. One less prominent piece of railroad history though, the telephone box at the Potter Place station, has suffered from lack of attention over the years and caught the eye of the ever vigilant AHS member and railroad buff Ed Hiller. "The post was leaning over, the rear wooden panels rotted away, and the lettering on the front almost completely gone," Ed points out. In his usual focused way, Ed Hiller took on the task of restoring it to its original look just as he has done for 30 plus granite mile markers along the rail trail.

To do so, Ed contacted the B&M Railroad Historical Society archivist who provided him with a detailed B&M specification for the box, including dimensions, hardware, lettering, etc. along with a picture of a box that could be used as a guide for the proper colors of paint.  "It seems that these boxes are now rather rare," says Ed.
The first step in restoring the box was to straighten the mounting post.  With the help of Andover resident and woodworker, Harvey Best the rotten wood was replaced and the box back was restored to sturdy condition.  "I then repainted the box with the specified green and white stripes, repaired the roofing, and stenciled on the lettering.  It is now back in place along side the track in Potter Place, looking much better than before! Still remaining is the reinstallation of the padlock and hardware, which awaits location of a working key."

Thanks, Ed for all of the restoration projects you do to enhance people's enjoyment of the old Northern Railroad corridor.


About midway along the full 49 miles of the parklike Northern Rail Trail there is a brand new bike rack attached to the informational kiosk at Potter Place in Andover. It is a result of the "We build It Forward" community effort sponsored R P Johnson's Hardware who undertakes building projects one day a year offering supplies and volunteer labor. FNRT is delighted and grateful to have its trailhead ammenity chosen as one of the 13 other jobs completed on the Saturday, June 23, 2012 workday this year.

Potter Place is a lovely spot to take a break while enjoying the rail trail.  On weekends the Andover Historical Society (AHS) opens its museums to the public from 10 to 1 on Saturday and 12:30 to 3 on Sundays.  The Emons general store, Potter Place rail station and caboose are well worth a visit and admission is complementary.  Also there are picnic tables, a secret garden in the foundation of the old Potter homestead, the Potter cemetery, seasonal porto-potty and the AHS Oldtime Fair scheduled for Sunday, August 5 to look forward to.

New amenities to enhance trail user's experience along the stretch of the rail trail in Franklin are historical signs erected by FNRT board member Steve Rayno.  "People don't realize the enormity of the history along this path," says Steve, "the cultural and commercial history here is rich in fact and legend."

And in Danbury Dick's general store features wheels of Grafton cheese and other great snacks.  Dick's is directly across from famous Hippie Hill where time has stopped but not good conversation and comradery.

For more information, pictures, maps, weather and membership, visit the two county's friends group's websites at

Future amenities on the rail trail planned

Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) announce plans for new amenities on the rail trail thanks to commendable work by eager beaver Steve Rayno of Franklin.  Not only did he take charge of clearing a large area around the old railroad engine turntable site along the rail trail in Franklin last fall, but he is trying to restore another special site, a spring near the Franklin/Andover town line. To fund the effort, Steve organized a bike raffle netting the organization over $700 in January.

Steve is a relatively new member of the FNRT-MC board and has proven to be a strong advocate of the rail trail.  He is an active rail trail user himself both on a bike and snowmobile.  While exploring the latest section of the trail built in Franklin last fall, he was excited to find the remains of the old engine turntable.  This circle of granite blocks is where engines were turned to head up the Bristol Branch Line to Newfound Lake from the track otherwise headed to White River Junction, Vermont.  Steve reports that he and his buddy, Billy Hurd, removed about 85 tires plus truckloads of debris from the area.  And with the help of Thomas Richardson encroaching trees were cut down as well.  Steve envisions eventually turning the area into a grassy picnic park with historical markers.

More recently another historical site has become the focus of Steve's attention.  He had heard tales of a famous spring head and decided to investigate where it might be located in relation to the rail trail.  He found it near the Andover and Franklin town line and is working with the property owners to relocate access to it for rail trail users.  Known in times past as Cold Spring from records going back to 1842, the spring was prized for its water quality.  People came from far and wide to fill jugs and milk cans. "We know the spring passes drinking water tests so, assuming we can get permissions from the state and property owners, the fresh water spring would be an added amenity to the trail as well as a point of interest," comments Alex Bernhard, FNRT-MC vice president.  

The FNRT-MC board voted to support Steve by designating any moneys that Steve is able to raise to benefit the turntable park and spring renovation projects. To this end, Steve came up with two beautiful bikes and three other prizes to raffle off at the Andover Snowmobile Club Spaghetti Supper on January 28 at the Andover Elementary School, grossing FNRT-MC $750 for the effort. The Andover Snowmobile Club, an FNRT partner, was kind enough to allow the raffle to be a part of the night's festivities.  Allan Houle presided at the microphone and Steve's son Shawn along with Bob Ward assisted.  FNRT-MC president Bob Ward wrote the FNRT-MC board recently, "I just want to let everyone know how successful the 'winter bike raffle' was.  Kudos to Steve Rayno for his good idea and making that idea a reality. Way to go Steve!"

On Friday, November 11, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail remembered the late Peter Oren Crowell, an FNRT board member, by riding the Northern Rail Trail from Potter Place north toward Danbury inthe Second Annual Peter Crowell Ride.  It was a blustery but sunny morning, one that Peter Crowell would have enjoyed with his grandchildren, two of whom were in the trailer in the photo.  A combination of Crowell family members and FNRT volunteers commemorated Mr. Crowell's indomitable spirit and his love of bicycling, the rail trail, and the outdoors.  Pictured in the photo are, from left to right:  Myra Mayman, Board secretary; Peter Crowell's son, Ben, with his son Corbin and nephew Hunter in the trailer; Ben's wife Abby Crowell, FNRT volunteer Chris Norris of East Andover and FNRT Board member Steve Darling of Andover.  The can-do spirit of Peter Crowell was evident in this ride.

Friends of the Northern Rail Trail (FNRT) volunteer Ed Hiller demonstrates the attention to detail that has been involved in his project of repainting the old Northern Railroad mileposts on the rail trail. 26 mileposts from MP-90 to MP-115 have been painstakingly restored using vintage fonts. Other rail trail volunteers including Steve Robinson, Ricker Miller, and Steve Rayno have cleared the areas around them in preparation. These markers "give a feeling of historical significance to the rail corridor, and also provide trail users with an idea of where they are and how far they have come," Ed says.  Thank you for your devotion to railroad history and rail trail users, Ed.

Check out a video from NH Chronicle - Turning Rails into Trails (2008)

September 2011 Rail Trail Extension Update
Once again there has been another successful effort to extend the Rail Trail.  The end of September saw two more miles added to the trail in a southerly direction from Depot St. in Franklin to Webster Place also in Franklin.  This extension is significant for several reasons.  One is that the new section begins to travel beside the Merrimack River, increasing the scenic aspects of the trail.  The second is that this brings the trail closer to Boscawen, NH where the trail will eventually start, giving easier access to more people in the greater Concord area.   More information about this new section will be added in the during the next few months.

FNRT Updates Maintenance Strategy
After investigating how to best prohibit encroaching vegetation on the rail trail surface, consideration of  herbicides has been suspended at this time in hopes that increased volunteer support will protect the trail and corridor.  

The FNRT (Friends of the Northern Rail Trail) board received valuable feedback and opinions about spraying the trail.  The FNRT wants to respect the wishes of abutters, all trail users, and the greater community.  The group is committed to protecting the natural resources around the rail trail, and as we develop a long range maintenance plan, the board's evolving strategy is to proceed with a combination of mowing, brush hogging, and using hand tools to maintain the trail - now 23 miles and growing.

The need for trail users to 'adopt' a section of trail is now more important than ever.

The role of a "Trail Manager" (or team) would include the following:
Monitor our signs, trail heads, drainage, problems with vegetation, improper activities, etc. - help us identify any issues or problems as well as communicate the varied uses & elements of the trail (people, history, wildlife, education, health, etc.) through photos, stories, etc.
Keep the trail clear of branches, debris, fallen trees, trash, etc. (or notify the FNRT in case of an issue too large to handle).  

If you have questions or an interest in volunteering, contact the FNRT at 344-4874.

Friends group in Merrimack County
adds 2.5 miles to rail trail

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC) recently resurfaced 2.5 more miles of rail trail at the West Franklin end of the rail trail extending its length that much closer to the ultimate goal of Concord, N.H.
Thanks to a recent N.H. state Recreational Trail Program grant, the city of Franklin and lots of volunteer help, the rail trail in Merrimack County now reaches from the Grafton/Danbury town line to Webster Place in Franklin, a full 25.3 miles of wide and smooth rail trail with no more than a 1% grade change throughout.
It takes a lot of hands (volunteer and paid), planning and good luck to convert an old rail bed into a 4 season rail trail.  FNRT-MC volunteer Chris Norris of Andover was the point person responsible for coordinating all the players on the ground for the two phases of the trail extension. He worked with Dick Edmunds of R. D. Edmunds & Sons who won the contract for delivering stone dust for this project and members of the Lakes Region Snowmobile Club who helped by cutting brush along the trail to Webster Place prior to phase one.

Phase one consisted of grading and compacting the ballast or large rock surface in preparation for the stone dust. Both phases were done with the assistance of Durgin & Crowell Lumber Co. Inc. of New London as provider of the heavy equipment for the project, Ed Larpenter as grader operator, Ed Hiller and Tim Norris as compactor operator and backup operator, and Franklin resident Taffy Johnson as volunteer coordinator of the truck receipt collectors.  Franklin FNRT-MC Board members Nita Tomaczewski submitted and managed the grant (and hauled trash) and Steve Rayno helped address a challenging bridge problem.

With approximately 9 more miles of rail trail building to go, FNRT-MC is hoping to finish the job beginning with a major fundraising effort.  Anyone interested in assisting either with trail maintenance or fundraising is encouraged to contact the organization at

Photo credits: First picture is of the R.D. Edmunds truck unloading stone dust followed by the grader operated by Ed Larpenter. The second picture is of two volunteer truck receipt takers Taffy Johnson and Susan Sinclair of the Webster Lake Association. Both photos were taken by Alex Bernhard of FNRT.
The other two pictures are before and after photos of the rail trail surface taken by Lindy Heim also of FNRT.

Golden Spike Ceremony
For more photos of the Golden Spike Ceremony,

A Golden Spike ceremony was held in Danbury on the Northern Rail Trail on Sunday using one of the original gold spikes from the October 2005 ribbon cutting ceremony dedicating the very first section of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County, N.H. The ceremony is reminiscent of the 1869 event in Utah when the first transcontinental railway was opened.  Bob Ward, President of Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC), hosted the ceremony before an appreciative crowd of about 150.  State Executive Council member Ray Burton, who has been a long-time supporter of the recreational rail trail system, presented FNRT-MC with an officially signed commendation from Governor Lynch.

About 40 members of the Kearsarge, Hopkinton and Upper Valley Community Bands played railroad-themed music before and after Bob Ward presented the historical timeline of the rail trail and passed out mounted golden spikes to towns and organizations which have been supportive of the effort. Following the ceremony of the actual tapping of the golden spike into the hardpack, refreshments from the Danbury General Store and Dick's Country Store were enjoyed, and tours of the rail trail and 100 year old Danbury Grange were led by organization leaders.

Representing the receivers of these awards were: Allan Houle Vice President Andover Snowmobile Club, Ken Merrifield Mayor City of Franklin, Larry Keniston NH Department of Transportation, Bernard Golden Selectman Town of Danbury, Ray Burton NH Executive Council, Jacob Johnson Selectman Town of Andover. Following the ceremony of the actual tapping of the golden spike into the hardpack, refreshments from the Danbury General Store and Dick's Village Store were enjoyed, and tours of the rail trail and 100 year old Danbury Grange were led by organization leaders.

As a surprise treat, Mike Loomis event coordinator for FNRT and daughter Siena offered rides in the Loomis's 1971 Schwinn pedal car, a family treasure. This fiberglass and plastic model bike emerged as an answer to the call for alternative transportation at a time of spiking gas prices.  

FNRT-MC has received two gifts recently, one monetary and the other honorary.  The State of New Hampshire has approved a FNRT-MC request for a Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to extend the rail trail further towards Concord this fall. Also, in June the Lakes Region Planning Commission honored FNRT-MC with a plaque in recognition for a job well done in recreational trail building.

Check out the video of Disabled Veterans
cycling on the Northern Rail Trail on Youtube

National Trails Day

Groups celebrate National Trails Day on Northern Rail Trail and plan  more summer celebrations

On National Trails Day, June 4, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in both Grafton and Merrimack Counties and the Upper Valley Trails Alliance got in motion to celebrate the Northern Rail Trail.  They organized a series of bike rides ranging from 8 to 28 miles along the 46 mile completed length of the Northern Rail Trail between Lebanon and West Franklin in New Hampshire.

Steve Rayno of Franklin biked from Franklin to Ice House Lane; Tom Frantz of Andover led a group from Potter Place to Webster Lake and were greeted and accompanied by a snapping turtle; Mike Loomis of Newbury biked with his wife and daughter to Blackwater Park; Alex Bernhard led a group of six from Potter Place to Danbury, where they enjoyed the new benches at the Danbury General Store; Lindy and Craig Heim of Wilmot covered two directions, from Eagle Pond Road to Potter Place and to Danbury Center.  John Taylor of the Upper Valley Trails Alliance went from Canaan to Danbury; Ken Warren of the Grafton Friends biked from Enfield to Canaan, and Grafton Friend Amelia Sereen, went from Lebanon to Enfield.

Some from as far away as Vermont and as close as Meredith and Manchester, N.H., rode under bright sun and blue sky.  Even the weather celebrated the Rail Trail Saturday!  

Andover Elementary and Middle School students enjoyed the rail trail for a
two hour mountain biking session in late May
and used the trail to access a variety of terrain to ride and learn
mountain biking basic skills.  Students from ages 8 to 13
had fun on the trail.  A highlight was stopping to look at four painted
turtles sunning on a log in a wetlands just north of the  Blackwater River.

Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County extended the trail in two directions in October 2010

Two more miles of smooth surfaced trail were added to eastern end of the rail trail in Franklin in October.   In addition, FNRT just completed work along the ballast covered rail bed of the old Northern Railroad between Potter Place and the town shed in Danbury.  With that work completed, the Nothern Rail Trail now follows Rte. 4, essentially, up to Enfield then on to West Lebanon going north from its Potter Place trailhead in Andover and follows Rte 11 east to Depot Street in Franklin.  Preliminary work started back in September when culverts and banks were repaired.  Then the parade of trucks carrying heavy loads of hard pack rolled in and covered the compacted ballast with finer material.  Further compacting smoothed and stabilized the surface so as to be suitable for horses, dogs, bikes, walkers, skiers, wheelchairs and snow mobiles.  As always, no motorized vehicles are allowed on the Northern Rail Trail, except for snow mobiles in winter.  Now the rail trail is continuous through two counties for about 45 miles from South Franklin to West Lebanon.
Mayor Ken Merrifield

To celebrate, a trail extension celebration was held at Lagace Beach at Webster Lake on Oct. 9, that lovely Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend.  27 rail trail fans and dignitaries came out to cheer the ribbon cutting ceremony conducted by FNRT President, Bob Ward with Mayor Ken Merrifield doing the honors with the sissors.  Bob pointed out the incredible amount of volunteer time, materials and effort that went into the trail extension and thanked all for their contributions.
27 rail trail fans & dignitaries

Us Congressional candidate, Charlie Bass, lent his support as did Jennifer Codispoti of the Trails Bureau, New Hampshire State Representatives Leigh Webb and Dennis Reed, Franklin City Council member Annette Andreozzi, Tilton Conservatrion Commision member Jim Cropsey, Franklin activist David Palfrey and politician Gene Chandler.  FNRT board members present were Lindy Heim and Mike Loomis, who's 2 year old daughter Siena assisted with the ribbon cutting.

FNRT volunteers who attended the ceremony included Project Manager Chris Norris and compactor driver and milepost restorer Ed Hiller, both of Andover,  volunteer co-ordinator Taffy Johnson of the Webster Lake Association in Franklin and Photographer Lisah Carpenter of Wilmot.  The FNRT board would like to express its gratitude to all those who volunteered their time on this project.
Taffy Johnson of the Webster Lake Association

After the ribbon cutting, Ed Hiller lead a walk down the new rail trail pointing out railroad historical features and explaining the process involved in converting old rail bed into 4 season rail trail. Most attendees returned to schmooze, enjoy refreshments provided by Hannaford's of Franklin, and take home maps of the completed trail donated by the Tilton Staples.  Thank you, Franklin Recreation, for allowing FNRT to use Lagace Park for its celebration.  A fine time was had by all that blustery sunlit day.  For more information, news, membership and downloadable maps, visit

FNRT volunteers Ed Hiller and Chris Norris

1st Annual Peter Crowell Memorial Bike Ride

The first annual Peter Crowell Memorial Bike Ride on the Northern Rail Trail and ceremony of remembrance of beloved FNRT board member and volunteer extraordinaire, Peter Crowell. was held on Saturday, October 9 on the firehouse lawn in East Andover on October 9.  FNRT President Bob Ward conducted the ceremony expressing the feelings of all who gathered with heartfelt words of affection for this avid bike rider, trail builder and one of a kind character.  Bob presented J. Gefken, family friend and representative that day, a mounted golden spike as a tribute to Peter's memory and contributions to FNRT over the years.  FNRT intends to sponsor bike rides on the rail trail in Peter's name annually.

After the ceremony, about 10 people mounted their bikes to ride toward Franklin on Peter's favorite section of rail trail.  That Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend was a beauty so several riders rode the 6 miles to Depot Street and back before enjoying apples, cider and cookies donated by the Hannaford's in Franklin.

FNRT would like to thank the East Andover Fire Department for allowing it to use the BBQ pit area for the celebration and to thank the Crowell family for their continued support of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County.


With recent major donations from the Granite State Wheelmen, the Mascoma Savings Bank, and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County completed a  $66,900 matching fund campaign to secure a $334,643 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration and administered by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.  The funds  were used to construct  8.3 miles of rail trail between Potter Place and the Danbury   town garage.  This new rail trail connects the existing rail trail in Grafton County with the recently completed 12 mile segment between Potter Place and West  Franklin, making this 46 mile trail the longest rail trail in New Hampshire.

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County was organized
in 2004 for the purpose of building, maintaining, and promoting the use of a
four-season recreational trail on the old Northern Railroad line between Concord and White River Junction.  With six consecutive yearly Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants and enthusiastic volunteer support, the FNRT-MC completed 12 miles of rail   trail between Potter Place and West Franklin.  In 2006, the FNRT-MC was awarded a federal Transportation Enhancement grant to build the 8.3 mile trail segment from Potter Place to Danbury.  This grant required 20%  matching funds, an effort that was undertaken by the FNRT-MC in 2007 and completed this summer.  Other foundations and trusts that provided support to the fundraising with generous grants included:  the Davis Foundation, the Stannard and Dorothy Dunn Trust, the Cogswell Benevolent Trust, the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, the Cricket Foundation, the Brundage Foundation, the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, the Weiss Family Fund, the Brown Foundation, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation  and the McIninch Foundation.

With the TE funds secured, construction on the rail trail was done by R.D. Edmunds and Sons of Franklin with supervision by the engineering firm of Vanasse Hargen Brustlen (VHB) of Manchester.  The work consists of clearing the existing trail of debris, compacting the large ballast stones, laying a four inch layer of  stone dust, then rolling and compacting this layer.  With the trail surface work completed, six bridges will have new railings added to comply with federal standards.  The new rail trail is 8-10 feet  wide and suitable for use by walkers and runners, bikers, horseback riders, and, in the winter, cross country skiers and snowmobilers.  Other motorized vehicles such as ATV's are prohibited by federal law.
The FNRT-MC works closely with local  snowmobiling clubs to maintain the rail     trail, including trimming limbs, cutting weeds, and repairing bridge decking and
railings.  During the next few years, they will be  building  partnerships in Franklin and Boscawen in order to complete the final 11 miles of trail building to just
north of the  Concord town line.   More information about volunteer opportunities and special programs is available at the website

Rail Trail Raffle Helps With Summer Trail Building

The July 4th annual raffle of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail successfully awarded prizes donated by local businesses and raised money to support building miles of more trail in Danbury and Franklin.  In the next few weeks the FNRT will be connecting Andover's rail trail to the existing trails that run all the way to Lebanon with eight miles of trail into Danbury.  In addition, the busy summer includes building another two miles toward Concord as we continue east from Webster Lake into Franklin.

Gail Beaufays of East Andover won the bicycle donated by S & W Sports of Concord, Stacey Viandier of East Andover won the weekend lodging donated by the Highland Lake Inn, and winners of the gift certificates were Leon Garretson of Hill (Jake's), Bill Roberts of Concord (Green's Auto), and Joy Gould of Center Conway (Pizza Chef).

Chris Norris is overseeing the three stages of work building trail into Franklin.  He is receiving help from Steve Rayno and Fred Hoffmeister.

Stage One will involve cutting back of vegetation by the Franklin Snowmobile Club under the direction of Billy Hurd. Billy, a nearby heavy equipment contractor, has also generously offered to undertake some preliminary work on the bed and Dick Edmunds has agreed to contribute much needed bank run gravel to build up the bed.

Stage two, preliminary grading and compacting of the bed, is planned for Thursday and Friday, September 9 & 10. The grading will be done by Eddie Larpenter using machinery donated by the Durgin and Crowell company. Peter and Ben Crowell have generously committed to continuing with their father's interest and passion in constructing the Northern Rail Trail.  Volunteers will operate the compactor.

The final stage of the delivery, grading, and compacting of the stone dust (ledge pack) is planned for Monday, September 13 and will continue until completion.  Dick Edmunds will provide the stone dust in six trucks and is anticipating two days of work.

The FNRT thanks the community for their support in our fundraisers and we hope  to see you out enjoying the trail!

Firecracker 5K Race Results
My apology for the technical difficulties we experienced with the posting of the results and order of finish for some of the race classes. Spikes will be mailed to those who finished in the top three of their class, but did not receive them at the race.  Thanks for your patience and your support.
Sincerely,  Tom Frantz - Race Director

Race warmup

2010 race start

"Give Us Your Best Shot" photo celebration
of the Northern Rail Trail was a huge success

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail's (FNRT) photo project, "Give Us Your Best Shot" was the brainstorm of FNRT volunteer Larry Chase. Beautiful, intriguing and fun digital photos were submitted to the organization's website to celebrate National Trails Day June 5th.  Nature, wildlife, people enjoying the trail, groups working on the trail and  unique features of the rail trail were among the items of interest to the photographers. This was a good showing for a first time event and may become an annual one.  Photos will be displayed wherever FNRT has a physical presence this summer; the Potter Place kiosk, the Fire Cracker 5K, Old Time Fair and trail celebrations to follow.  Some may be used in FNRT promotional materials.

FNRT would like to thank all of the photographers for participating, Flash Photo of New London for printing the photos and the New London Gallery for matting and framing them. As a reward for sending in a best shot, one lucky photo submitter had his/her name drawn  for the mounted golden railroad spike prize at the June FNRT board meeting June 16th.  Congratulations Carolyn Stoddard of Franklin!  Her photo of her husband Ron and their dog enjoying the trail near mile marker #49 was the winning pick.

To see some more pictures that were submitted for the contest,

Box Culvert is placed under Route 11 in Potter Place, N.H. for the Northern Rail Trail June 16 and 17, 2010

People were out on Rt 11excitedly watching the construction site on either side of the Northern Rail Trail passing under Rt 11 at Potter Place, New Hampshire in mid June. Over a two day period, a giant crane hoisted each CONSPAN arch out of the truck queue, then aimed the concrete legs gingerly toward the grooves of the precast foundation below.  One at a time the giant arches were guided home to produce the 78 foot tunnel. The headers at either end were the last to arrive and the most dramatic because each has the words in 5 inch lettering, "Northern Railroad" engraved over the passageway, a tribute to times past and a key component to the tunnel's overall  curb appeal.  This construction is a tribute to future times as well.  Extra heavy foundations are a part of the plan to accommodate double stacked freight service to the North East corridor, should that come to pass. The arches would simply be removed, the 12’ tall pedestal wall foundations would be extended to just below road grade adding thirteen feet of height and a simple concrete slab would be placed on top of the pedestal walls to increase the vertical clearance at the center of the span by 6.5 feet.

Looking back, the Northern Railroad was built in 1847, acquired by the Boston & Maine in 1887, offered passenger service until 1965 and freight service until the early 1970s.  According to Ed Hiller of the Andover Historical Society, there was no bridge at this location until 1956 when the Route 11 highway bypass around Potter Place was constructed to go over the Boston & Maine RR and Depot Street.  Route 11 used to follow what is now Cilleyville Rd.. The old 4th NH Turnpike (Rt 4), whose construction started in 1800, went along Depot St., past the railroad station and on north through part of Wilmot towards Danbury. Then in 1996 the state of New Hampshire bought the right of way leading to recreational use of the rail bed thereafter.
This underground passage is a tremendous improvement over the corrugated metal culverts that are so prevalent elsewhere.  The 24’ span x 6’ rise CON/SPAN concrete arch bridge units were engineered and provided by Steve Wolf, P.E. of CONTECH Construction Products Inc of New London, N.H. and pre-cast by Concrete Systems Inc. in Hudson, N.H. The tunnel has no incline, sufficient ambient light and is a good width for recreational purposes. Its functionality and beauty are a tribute to Alex Bernhard, FNRT's project coordinator, working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) and bridge contractor Jeff Bates of Weaver Brothers Inc. in Bow.  The foundations and wing walls were designed by DOT's Samantha Fifield in Concord.   Beck and Bellucci Inc., subcontractor of Weaver Brothers, displayed their experience as the bridge crew set the 11 arch units that weighed 35,000 pounds each and the two precast head walls that weighed 22,000 pounds each using their 218 HSL Series crawler crane. Here are the comments of Steve Wolf, the Northern New England Manager for CONTECH Construction Products Inc.: "The primary advantage to a single span buried arch structure versus the triple span conventional bridge that was removed is far less maintenance for the NHDOT bridge crews and the resulting savings to NH taxpayers.  Another factor is a buried arch structure is less susceptible to freezing before the road surface as commonly occurs with a conventional bridge that is exposed to subfreezing temperatures from underneath."

FNRT has been working on securing funds since 2004 to resurface and connect this section of the rail trail on up through Danbury to the 10 miles already converted to 4 season use to the east and the Grafton County rail trail to the north and west.  Construction is expected to begin late this summer. For more information and how you can help, visit

FNRT volunteers perform rail trail cleanup for National Trails Day

Although the walk/hike portion of the National Trails Day celebration (June 5, 2010) on the Northern Rail Trail in Franklin was cancelled due to weather, the trail work project in Andover was not.  21 volunteers showed up to pull, mow, whack, and shovel encroaching vegetation from parts of the rail trail near Blackwater Park. Among the group of workers armed with loppers and rakes were 3 members of the Blackwater Trail Riders Horse Club who helped clear a trestle bridge near Short Road. Other teams cleared brush along the open rail trail, shoveled runoff from the walkway above the trail at the tunnel, graded and added harkpack to the tunnel surface.  Derek Mansell brought his wonderful tractor/shovel to help with the tunnel work, something that was badly needed for safety reasons.  All in all, the contribution of time and effort was a nice tribute to National Trails Day.

Rail Trail Raffle Winners are chosen at the Old Time Fair

Friends of the Northern Rail Trail raffled off 6 fabulous prizes this summer as a fundraiser for their continuing efforts to build and maintain a four season trail between Concord and Danbury.
Winners were chosen at the Old Time Fair at Potter Place August 2, 2009 by young fair goers from Vermont.
Winning the 2 TREK Navigator all terrain bikes from S & W Sports of Concord are Jerry Bliss of Andover and Dona Drapeau of Boscawen.
Louise Grasmere of Highland Lake and Mass. won a night's stay at  the lovely Highland Lake Inn on Maple Street.
Dave Boudras of  Boscawen won the Green's Auto gift certificate,
Steve Lanphear of Belchertown won the Pizza Chef coupon
Michelle Dudek of Andover won the Jake's Market certificate.
Thank you to sponsoring businesses and individuals who
supported the bike raffle this year!

The Northern Rail Trail extends to Franklin
On Wednesday, July 29th, the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County finished extending the rail trail from Dyer's Crossing in East Andover to Webster Lake at Chance Pond Road in West Franklin. The finished rail trail is now 10 miles in length from Potter Place in Andover to West Franklin. The first step in this process was grading the abandoned rail bed to make it level. Next the graded rail bed was compacted with a compactor operated by volunteer Ed Hiller of Andover. The grader was operated by Ed Larpenter of Candia. Then stone dust from Colebrook Gravel in Boscawen was spread by the grader and compacted again by Ed and Ed. Use of a brand new 12 ton Volvo compactor was donated by Dave Libby of Chadwich-BaRoss of Concord. Use of the grader was contributed by Durgin & Crowell Lumber Company, Inc. of Springfield.
This year a new specification for stone dust was used which produced a surface substantially smoother and easier for walkers and bicyclists to use then in prior years. Numerous FNRT members, oordinated by Lindy Heim of Wilmot, volunteered their time to log in the stone dust trucks and coordinate the work. The new two mile segment travels on a high berm overlooking Webster Lake. The elevated dirt berm was designed to bring the old rail line down from the heights of East Andover to the lower Merrimack River Valley in West Franklin. A Trail Extension Celebration is being planned for September at the Franklin trailhead.

Update on Connecting Andover to Danbury
June 15, 2009

In 2006 the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT or “we” in this note) received a $258,000 (since increased to $345,000) grant of federal funds under the Transportation Enhancement Program administer by NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT) to build 8.3 miles of trail from Potter Place in Andover north to the Danbury Town Garage. FNRT has already built eight miles south from Potter Place to Dyer’s Crossing in Andover and has a grant to build another two miles from Dyer’s Crossing to Webster Lake in West Franklin. Another rail trail group has built 25 miles of trail from Lebanon to the Danbury Town Garage. As a result, when this project is finished, there will be 43.3 miles of four-season trail from West Franklin to Lebanon – the longest four-season rail trail in New Hampshire.

Current Status.
The project is being constructed in two segments – installing bridge railings on six bridges in Danbury and then covering the existing stone ballast with 4” of stone dust.  

We are currently awaiting NHDOT approval to start design work on the bridge railings. A number of the bridges have no railings and for these VHB (FNRT’s engineers) will design the railings and the manner in which they tie to the bridge structures. In other cases, where the existing railings do not meet federal standards, we will supplement them with additional railings. We hope to have NHDOT’s approval in time to complete design work, award contracts, construct and install the bridge railings this fall. We need to have the bridgework done before we can lay down the stone dust.

We are working with VHB on a specification for the stone dust using the experience we have gained over five years of building trail in Andover. We plan to advertise for stone dust in the spring of ‘10 and purchase and apply it to the trail during the summer of ’10. If we follow this schedule our Danbury neighbors will see our grader and compacter preparing the trail in Danbury in the late spring of next year.

More Information
If you would like further information about this project, please contact FNRT’s project manager, Alex Bernhard at 603.735.5071 or at

Turnout Triples for Firecracker 5K
Ideal weather conditions greeted the 117 runners for the 2008 Andover Firecracker 5K road race on July 4.  The race, held on the rail trail and sponsored by the Andover Fourth of July Committee and the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County, started at the Blackwater Park at 9:00 AM.  Though most of the runners were from New Hampshire, runners from Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont also competed for prize money and the gold, silver, and bronze railroad spikes that were awarded to the top three finishers in each age group.  The race attracted a large number of young male and female runners, as 35 males and  females age 18 and under participated.  This year's turnout nearly tripled the 44 runners who participated in last year's event.

Fundraising Dinner a Success

The dinner event held at the New London Inn on April 17, 2008 proved to be a big success both in attendance and money raised to fund further work on the rail trail.  Special thanks go the New London Inn for sharing half of the evenings proceeds.  Also thanks are extended to all those who joined in to enjoy a fine meal while, at the same time, contributing to the future work of the FNRT-MC.

FNRT-MC Awaded Fourth RTP Grant to Extend Trail to Franklin City Line.

On April 19, 2008 FNRT-MC received approval for its fourth grant under the State of New Hampshire's Recreational Trail Program. This grants nearly $30,000 to extend the ledge pack on the Northern Rail Trail from East Andover to the Franklin/Andover line, about 2.5 miles to the southeast from where the finished trail currently ends in East Andover.  The work on this extension of the existing 5.7 mile trail will be conducted in late summer and be finished by early fall of '08.  When completed the trail will be  over eight miles long!

FNRT-MC Applies for Fourth RTP Grant
 to Finish Trail to Franklin City Line.

On January 18, 2007 FNRT-MC applied for its fourth grant under the State of New Hampshire's Recreational Trail Program. This application seeks $30,000 to extend the ledge pack on the Northern Rail Trail from East Andover to the Franklin/Andover line, about 2.5 miles to the southeast from where the finished trail currently ends in East Andover. Normally, announcement of the winners of these grants occurs in late April.

If allowed, the finished portion of the trail would extend past Dyer's Crossing in East Andover another half mile to the Franklin City line on Route 11. Work would commence in late summer and be finished by early fall of '08.

While FNRT-MC has been successful in three of its last three applications for these grants under the Recreational Trails Program administer by the NH Bureau of Trails, there can be no assurance that it will succeed again this year. Results will be posted in late April or as soon as information is available.

December 5, 2007

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trial - Merrimack County had hoped to complete another short section of the trail in E. Andover before the winter arrived.   Unfortunately this was not possible before the cold and snow settled over the town.  This extension would have continued eastward from the current terminus at the E. Andover fire station to a point where the rail trail crosses Sucker Brook, increasing the trail length by several hundred yards.  The current plan is to accomplish this work in the late Spring of 2008.

September 15, 2007

Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County reaches East Andover NH.

The Northern Rail Trail reached East Andover on Wednesday, September 12. The resurfaced trail now runs more than 5 miles, from East Andover to Potter Place.

This project was funded by a $30,000 grant from New Hampshire’s Recreational Trails Bureau, a program of the Department of Resources and Economic Development.

Peter Crowell of New London, a board member of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County (FNRT-MC), organized and oversaw the work. He also contributed the equipment (a grader and vibrating roller) and much of the labor.

Ed Larpenter and Fred Burpee did a great job, working conscientiously for long hours, to grade the rock ballast of the former Boston and Maine rail bed and lay down and compact 127 loads of hard pack bought from R. D. Edmonds in Franklin. Rosie Best of Andover served as greeter, traffic cop and monitor of the truckload deliveries through three days of fair and foul weather.

This new section of rail trail starts at the Volunteer Fire Department in East Andover and joins the previously refinished surface at Switch Road, paralleling Route 11, runs next to Blackwater Park and behind the Andover Elementary Middle School, and ends at the restored Potter Place railway station, now a museum run by the Andover Historical Society. It connects the population clusters of Andover as the trains used to.

The completion of this new segment of rail trail in East Andover also initiates a pioneer partnership between FNRT-MC and the Highland Lake Inn, which overlooks the rail trail. The Highland Lake Inn will serve as the rail trail’s first Welcome Center, providing parking, restrooms and trail information and selling refreshments. FNRT-MC is working to spread the Welcome Center model to other B&Bs and inns along or near the rail trail in the future to provide amenities to rail trail users.

FNRT-MC board member Charles Martin reported, "Immediately after the last load was delivered, two guys from Concord showed up on mountain bikes. So they were the first two to experience our trail end-to-end. When I rode my bike back home, via the rail trail, I came across two pairs of walkers. Amazing how quickly people discover and use the rail trail!"

Organized in 2004, the FNRT-MC aims to continue the conversion of rail bed into a four-season rail trail from Danbury to the Boscawen-Concord line. In 2006 it received a $206,000 Transportation Enhancement grant to take the rail trail from Potter Place to Danbury, where it will connect with the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County. Ultimately the Grafton and Merrimack County sections together will total 59 miles of continuous rail trail, the longest rail trail in New Hampshire, and will allow people to ride their bikes or hike from the Connecticut River Valley to the Lakes Region.

Sept. 6, 2007
Extension Work Underway

This week work has begun on upgrading the Rail Trail from Switch Road to East Andover.  Peter Crowell and his crew have begun the grading, rolling and application of stone dust (hard pack) to the newest section of the Rail Trail in Andover, as outlined in the previous news articles from August and April (below).  This extension work is expected to be completed by the middle of next week

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail (Merrimack County) have anticipated this newest section since last year and are excited about adding over 2 miles to the existing trail.   However, trail users are asked to wait until rain has fallen on the trail to allow the stone dust to pack more completely.  Hopefully this will be by the middle of the month.

August 2007 Andover Beacon Article

Rail Trail Group Poised for Trail Work to East Andover

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail (Merrimack County) is waiting for the final contract from the state to begin trail work from Switch Road to Highland Lake.  A grader, vibratory roller, and labor is being donated thanks to Peter Crowell of New London and the group hopes to complete the trail section in September.

The FNRT enjoyed talking to lots of people July 4th on the green as well as August 5th at the Potter Place Fair.  Members informed interested townspeople about plans to extend the trail to East Andover, added new members, and sold tickets for the bicycle raffle.  The winners of the raffle prizes:

Bicycle:  Melissa Cote, Alexandria; Highland Lake Inn weekend: Terrance and Holly Humphrey, Franklin.  Gift Certificates: La Meridiana: Kathi Yusko, Andover; RP Johnsons: Richard Adams, Andover; Main St. Garage: Leslie Zajac, Andover; Pizza Chef:  Dick & Taffy Johnson, Franklin; Jake's:  Paul Buddenhagen, Andover

The next rail trail meeting is Wednesday, September 19th at 7:00 PM in the science room of the AEM School and is open to the public.

RPT 2007 Grant

In April of this year we were awarded $30,000 to extend the Trail another two miles, from Switch Road in Andover to Channel Road in East Andover. NH Trails Bureau, which administers these Recreational Trail grants, estimates that we will have the necessary documents in place to actually start construction in August of this year.

We have been lucky again this year in having Peter Crowell of New London willing to contribute his services to do the construction of this addition. This will allow us to use the entire grant to purchase the stone dust to be laid down over the old railroad ballast.

Assuming all goes according to this plan, we should have a finished four season trail from Potter Place (at the intersection of Routes 4 and 11) to East Andover on Route 11 - a distance of about 5 ½ miles - by September of this year.

We plan to update this information from time to time as we get closer to the actually dates. When the work is done, we hope you can join us to celebrate the arrival of the Trail in East Andover.

October 1, 2006
Sunday Fun Day a big success!

A hard rain hardly dampened the spirit of trail well wishers.

43 children and adults turned out for the running races, managed by Mike Silverstein, the Andover Elementary & Middle School's physical education teacher.  Mike arranged for cool Northern Rail Trail T-shirts for the occasion.

Dr. Susan Lynch, honorary chair for the event, addressed the crowd, saying that New Hampshire is known for hardiness, and won't get bothered by a little rain!  She is an avid proponent of rail trails, which fit well with her campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Events in the Andover Elementary & Middle School gymnasium included an exhibition of trail-inspired art, exceptional food offerings from Jack's and Peter Christian's in New London; Jake's, Blackwater Restaurant, Pizza Chef, Food Stop, and Kitchen of Proctor Academy in Andover; Bowie's Market, Highland Lake Apple Farm, and Highland Lake Inn in East Andover; La Meridiana in Wilmot; and the Elk Farm in Danbury.

Excitement grew with a large number of entries for the bike raffle.  The winner was Rose Davis of Andover.  In addition, a silent auction for a night at Craig Della Penna's bed & breakfast in Northhampton, MA, followed by a guided tour was won by Harvey and Rosie Best of Andover.

Many thanks to all who participated in making this a truly fun day.

Trail Construction Work Completed in August, 2006

On Friday, August 25th the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County completed construction on another 1.7 miles of trail on the Andover portion of the NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL. This newly-constructed trail section extends an existing trail built by the Friends last year that starts at the restored railroad station in Potter Place at the intersection of routes NH 11 and US 4. The new section ends at Switch Road just off NH 11 in East Andover. The combined trails provide 3.4 miles of off-highway trail for bicyclists, walkers and baby carriages.

The new trail follows the Blackwater River and has a 12’ travel lane of compacted stone dust that sits on top of several inches of compacted railroad ballast. The trail has a smooth surface and is one of the finest in the State.

Both trails were built by the Friends, a nonprofit volunteer organization with members from several towns near the trail. The goal of the Friends is to provide a four-season rail trail from Grafton to the Boscawen/Concord line, a distance of about 34 miles. The work done so far has been funded by grants of federal funds over the last two years, administered by the NH Bureau of Trails. The funds were used to purchase the stone dust from R.D. Edmunds of Franklin. Peter Crowell of New London contributed the use of a construction equipment, equipment operators and materials.

IA formal ceremony officially opening this newest portion of the NORTHERN RAIL TRAIL is planned for Sunday, October 1st at 1:30 pm at the Blackwater Park on Lawrence Street in Andover. Dr. Susan Lynch, the wife of Governor Lynch, is the Honorary Chairwomen of the event which will include an art show, a race along the trail and refreshments donated by several local restaurants.

Delivering hardpack material                 Grading & rolling

FNRT officers checking out the trail, Alex Bernhard, VP; Bob Ward, Pres.;
Charles Martin, Treasurer; Myra Mayman, Secretary

August 15, 2006
Key Webster & Hersey Farm Parcels by Rail Trail May be Preserved!

Daniel Webster was a key force in the Northern Railroad of New Hampshire.  He delivered the keynote address at a gala celebration on November 17, 1847 celebrating completion of the railroad.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the railroad right-of-way passed along the western border of Webster's farm in Franklin.
This historic property was slated for massive development, but a group of conservation organizations has worked diligently for preservation.  They have raised significant funding for the purchase, but need your help obtain the balance of funds required. Here is a description of the campaign.   This is a critically important effort for the Northern Rail Trail in Franklin!

Likewise, the Hersey Farm in E. Andover is a scenic prize that straddles the Northern Rail Trail.  The Andover Conservation Commission, Andover Historical Society, and Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust are working to preserve it.  Call Beth McGuinn at 603-526-6555 for more information.

Both efforts can use your help to secure the final funding needed to acquire these parcels!