The following article appeared in the July 20 editions of both local papers, The Groton Herald ( and The Groton Landmark (


by Steve Legge

Bikers, runners, walkers and the horse-riding community will be delighted to hear that the Rail Trail Project is proceeding at a rapid pace. The Nashua River Rail Trail begins in Ayer, and passes through Groton, Pepperell and Dunstable, ending at the New Hampshire border. Lisa Pelletier, Resident Engineer for Mass Highway on the project, explained in detail the construction startegy that involves moving from Ayer toward Dunstable, completing as much work as possible on a segment, while preparation begins on the following segments.

In keeping with this idea, the 1.8 mile segment from Ayer to Smith Street in Groton is almost finished. A parking area is being completed with plantings at Ayer center off Groton Street, and this trail segment has received its final paving top course. The parking area will also feature toilets and bike racks when completed.

The entire right-of-way to the New Hampshire border has now been cleared of trees and brush. The bike portion of the trail will consist of a 10-foot wide paved path for the full 11.3 mile length. Beginning in the center of Groton at Station Avenue, a five foot wide gravel equestrian trail will parallel the paved bike path north through Dunstable.

Work will concentrate in Groton during the summer. A fairly difficult stretch between Smith Street and Peabody Street is presently under preparation. Here, great amounts of standing and flowing water are an issue. Between two and three feet of sand and gravel are required here to raise the trail above the water. A .6 mile segment between Peabody Street and Broadmeadow Road has been paved with the first binder course. This section offers nice views of wetland flora and fauna on both sides of the trail.

Work to replace the Peabody Street underpass is scheduled to begin in late July or early August. The existing corrugated steel culvert will be replaced by a prefabricated concrete box culvert 20 feet wide and 10 feet high on the inside. Once started, construction should be completed in about a month. At Peabody Street, temporary water lines will have to be put into service during construction.

After the Peabody Street underpass is completed, work will commence on the same type of box culvert underpass for Pleasant Street. Meanwhile, work has been completed to strengthen and refinish the concrete abutments for the bridge at Rt. 119. Additional work is scheduled to start next week to clean and paint the bridge and install railings at the sides. Notices will be published in advance of work for residents and motorists affected by the construction activities at these major crossings.

The Mass Department of Environmental Protection owns the trail and the project. Mass Highway is responsible for overall direction, field testing and inspection. S&R Construction of Plaistow NH is the contractor responsible for construction. The project is scheduled to be finished in July of 2002. Work will continue into Novemeber of this year, weather permitting.

(submitted by Dann Chamberlin, Rails-to-Trails member since '88, & Groton selectman.)

<The Chamberlins []  7/21/01 2:25 AM>

Nashua River Rail Trail

(Ayer-Dunstable Rail Trail)

The Massachusetts Bikeways page at the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition Web Site seems to have the best list of the Rail-trails and other bike paths and bike routes in the State. That Web Page in turn seems to provide links to whatever other information is available on the Web about these particular bikeways. What follows is a Supplement to the information that is currently available at the Massachusetts Bikeways Page!

Mileage Chart & Detailed Trail Information

The following railroad mileage chart also serves as a table of contents for the detailed rail-trail information and associated pictures. Each page begins with the historic name of the former railroad station, and continues with detailed information about the trail on either side of that railroad station, to a point roughly half-way to the next railroad station. The page then concludes with a set of icons representing the services and points of interest that are within a reasonable distance of the trail. 

Mileage* Station Name Settlement Municipality
28.01 Ayer Ayer Ayer
31.54 Groton Groton Groton
36.18 Pepperell East Pepperell, MA Pepperell, MA
39.69 Hollis Hollis Depot, NH Nashua, NH

* = Railroad Miles from Worcester
Italics = beyond the limits of the current Rail-trail
Dark face = telegraph station in 1923

Mileage and Station Names from the Official List of Officers, Agents and Stations of the Boston & Maine Railroad, July 1,1923.

Newspaper Articles

Relevant books

The section of the trail between Ayer and the New Hampshire State Line (Near Hollis Depot) is described in Great Rail Trails of the Northeast by Craig Della Penna. The information includes a historical background of the trail as well as a detailed description keyed to bicycle odometer readings from the author's in person trip down the trail. This book is out-of-print, but many bookstores still have copies for sale.

Railroad Abandonment Summary

Item From To Year RR Miles
342 Ayer Hollis, NH 1982 B&M 11.7
B&M = Boston & Maine Railroad
From the "Directory of Rail Abandonments 1848-1994" in the book Lost Railroads of New England, 2nd Ed. by Ronald Dale Karr, published by Branch Line Press in 1996.

Brief History of the Railroad

A brief history of the Worcester & Nashua was published as Article #41 in The Rail Lines of Southern New England by Ronald Dale Karr, published by Branch Line Press in 1995.

Federal Funding Summary

Project Name State Year City County Federal $ Local $ Total $
Ayer-Dunstable Rail-Trail, N. Middlesex MA 1995 Ayer N/A $20,000 $30,000 $50,000
Acq. RR row, B&M Acton Line NH 2001 NASHUA N/A $60,000 $15,000 $75,000

This list is drawn on April 8 & July 14, 2000 from a database maintained by the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.  Direct questions to NTEC at 1-888-388-NTEC or by email to

Sign images are from the Manual of Traffic Signs by Richard C. Moeur.

Updated on October 22, 2001 by Kenyon F. Karl <>.
  Unintentional errors are likely!

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