Columbia Bridge to Beecher Falls

Bureau of Trails
Division of Parks & Recreation

NH Dept. of Resources & Econ. Dev.
PO Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302-1856
Phone 603-271-3254 - FAX 603-271-2629

8.7 miles currently open for winter use only
Potential year-round multi-modal Rail-trail

 Cross-Country Skiing Snowmobiling

Winter trail users must always be aware of the existence of steel rails under the snow cover. 
These buried rails are particularly hazardous in the vicinity of switches, bridges, road and farm crossings!

Miles*

Station or siding
141.0 Columbia Bridge
143.6 Parsons
144.7 Colebrook
147.2 Arlin's
150.6 Piper Hill
152.8 West Stewartstown
154.5 Beecher Falls VT

* Miles from Portland
Bold face indicates telegraph office in 1917

Mileage and station names from the Handbook of Officers, Agents, Stations, and Sidings of the Maine Central Railroad, January 1, 1917.

The section of State-owned railroad between Columbia Bridge and Beecher Falls is currently open for winter use only because of the continued presence of rails and ties on almost all parts of the line. This trail is administered by the NH DRED Bureau of Trails presumably under the terms of an agreement with the Bureau of Rails & Transit of the NH Department of Transportation.

The 23 mile railroad line between North Stratford and Beecher Falls was acquired from the Maine Central Railroad by the State Government in 1977, according to Preserving the Railroad System, an Overview of the State's Activities, 1975-1998, a booklet published by the Bureau of Rail & Transit of NH Department of Transportation. The North Stratford Railroad operated the entire line for the State from 1977 until 1989.

The New Hampshire Central Railroad has leased the section south of Colebrook from 1993 to 2003. Note also that the railroad line north of Colebrook to Beecher Falls has never been formally abandoned, and that the New Hampshire Central Railroad was designated as operator of the entire line in papers filed before the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1993. Because of this legal status, railroad service could be restored to Colebrook, West Stewartstown, or even Beecher Falls VT just as soon as a serious user of this service is identified. 

The Webmaster has received word in December of 1999 from an informant that the rails would be removed from the railroad line between Colebrook and Beecher Falls in the Summer of 2000. Note however that a formal abandonment petition before the Surface Transportation Board would be necessary before the rails and ties could be legally removed from the railroad bed to allow its use for year-around rail-trail purposes!

The curious will note that the railroad line just north of Beecher Falls might have been abandoned in 1927. This abandonment is suggested by  Item #47 of 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. This item concerns the abandonment of a 0.7 mile segment that cuts across the extremely remote northwest corner of NH at a place listed as Terrill's Cut, NH in the  Handbook of Officers, Agents, Stations, and Sidings of the Maine Central Railroad, January 1, 1917.

NH Executive Council Actions

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION -   Authorized to sell 2 easements to Portland Natural Gas Transmission Systems, One Harbour Place, Portland, ME with a total area of 24,600 square feet, more or less, of the State-owned North Stratford to Beecher Falls Railroad Line in the Towns of Columbia and Colebrook for $1,290.00 plus a one-time administrative fee of $500.00.

Item
#207
of the Executive Council Minutes for August 1
8, 1999

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

Updated on March 02, 2001 by Kenyon F. Karl <Webmaster@new-england-rail-trails.org>.
  Unintentional errors are likely!

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