Ware River Rail-Trail

Currently open for public use as a State-owned Trail from Coldbrook to Baldwinville.

Trail is blocked by the Route 2 embankment 0.9 miles north of Templeton. Informal detours are available.

Currently open for public use on an informal basis from the outskirts of Baldwinville to the outskirts of Winchendon

Mileage Chart and 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 available information about the trail on either side of that railroad station, to a point roughly half-way to the next railroad station.  

Miles* Station Name Settlement Municipality
24.80 South Barre    
25.53 Barre    
27.08 Coldbrook Smithville Barre
30.15 Harwoods   Barre
33.17 Williamsville Williamsville Hubbardstown
37.13 Phillipston   Templeton
39.10 Templeton Templeton Templeton
42.80 Baldwinville Baldwinville Templeton
47.60 Waterville Waterville Winchendon
49.41 Winchendon Winchendon Winchendon

* = Railroad Miles from Palmer

Miles and station names from B&A Employee Time Table No. 88 effective May 12, 1918, as provided by Ronald Groves, Webmaster of the Boston & Albany Railroad WebPage.

The Webmaster was pleasantly surprised that almost all of the Coldbrook-Winchendon trail was open and usable during his field checks of July 24 & August 28, 2000 despite the fact that the line south of Waterville had been abandoned more than thirty years ago. One on-road detour is necessary through the village of Baldwinville, and another on-road detour is required to bypass the massive State Route 2 embankment that totally blocks the trail. 

Accordingly, 'street-legal' trail users are currently able to plan a continuous rail-trail journey from Westmoreland and Hinsdale via Keene NH, and separately from Jaffrey NH south through Winchendon MA to Coldbrook Station near South Barre MA. Even better yet, the planned extension of the Mass Central Rail Trail to South Barre MA will enable trail users to continue east to Oakdale Station on the northern outskirts of Worcester.   

Indeed, rail-trail enthusiasts that like to promote grand plans should be able to fantasize about an inverted 'T' shaped trail system with a cross-bar that extends from the Boston area to Northampton MA, with a leg north to Winchendon and thence via Keene NH to Brattleboro VT or Cold River NH (near Bellows Falls VT). This fantasy should also include the choice of another route via Jaffrey NH to Hillsboro and possibly Henniker.    

Note that the existence of the North-Central Pathway between Gardner and Winchendon enables a 'hook-shaped' rail-trail trip northwest from Gardner to Winchendon then south through Baldwinville and Templeton to Cold River. Hikers can plan on using the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority Link Route busses to reach Gardner from the MBTA commuter train station at Fitchburg, and to return to Gardner and that train station from Winchendon, Waterville, Baldwinville, and Templeton. However this possibility is not available to bikers because of the absence of bike racks on the MRTA busses!  

Trail ownership and maintenance

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management owns the railroad bed south of Baldwinville and manages it as a multi-use trail. Unfortunately, no information about this trail could be found on its Web Site.

 The Coldbrook Snowmobile Club provides maintenance and local coordination of the official trail as well as the following bypasses:

Rail-trail users that appreciate the efforts of the Coldbrook Snowmobile Club are urged to join the organization and to participate in projects that are related to the Rail-trail and associated four-season multi-use trails. More information about this organization can be found on its Web Site. Contact information is as follows (from Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts Web Site):

Coldbrook Snowmobile Club
28 Laurelwood Rd.
Rutland, MA. 01543
Dean Zuppio 508.886.6752
Meetings: 1st Monday of the month (non-holiday)
                Coldbrook Country Club in Barre.

Relevant books

The 12.1 mile section of trail from Coldbrook to Templeton 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
275 South Barre Waterville 1968 PC 22
305 Waterville Winchendon 1984 B&M 2
PC = Penn Central Railroad
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 Ware River Railroad was published as Article #36 in The Rail Lines of Southern New England by Ronald Dale Karr, published by Branch Line Press in 1995.

Bus Stop Montachusett Regional Transit Authority operates 'Link route 3'  on weekdays between Gardner and Winchendon via Baldwinville, with the strong possibility that the bus will stop on signal at any of the rural intersections on Route 202 between Baldwinville and Winchendon. MRTA also operates 'Link Route 2' on weekdays between Gardner and Orange via Templeton with the strong possibility that the bus will stop on signal on Route 2A at the rail-trail crossing (former railroad depot) near Templeton. Link route busses connect in Gardner each other and also for with rush-hour runs to Fitchburg to connect with MBTA Commuter Trains to Boston. Connections with Franklin Regional Transit Authority 'Link Route 1' at Athol and Orange for service to Greenfield. Note that MRTA busses do not accommodate bicycles!

This page was updated on April 01, 2001 by Kenyon F. Karl <railtrails@crosswinds.net>. Unintentional errors are likely!
Sign images are from the Manual of Traffic Signs by Richard C. Moeur.

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