Northern Rail Trail makes it to Concord’s border

  • Lindy Heim and Donald Moyer, president and vice president of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, on what will be another piece of the trail in Boscawen once the equipment comes to lay down 500 tons of stone dust, compacted to a hard surface next Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Lindy Heim and Donald Moyer, president and vice president of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, on what will be another piece of the trail in Boscawen near the Route 3/4 overpass. Once the equipment comes to lay down 500 tons of stone dust, it will be compacted to a hard surface next Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Lindy Heim and Donald Moyer, president and vice president of the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail on what will be another piece of the trail in Boscawen near the Route 3 and 4 overpass. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Portions of the rail that still needs to be cleared out and connected to the rail trail that leads into Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • What the railyard junction in Boscawen used to look like in this undated photo. Courtesy of Northern Rail Trail

Published: 9/22/2022 4:20:37 PM
Modified: 9/22/2022 4:19:59 PM

The latest piece in what could eventually be a hiking/biking trail from Massachusetts to Vermont through Concord is just about ready, although there’s one heavy job still to be done.

“Next Wednesday is when the equipment comes that will allow us to lay down 500 tons of stone dust. … We lay down four inches of stone dust, and then that's compacted to a hard surface,” said Donald Moyer, who leads the maintenance team for Friends of the Northern Rail Trail. It should be finished by Friday, Sept. 30, after which the new section will open.

The work is being done on a half-mile section of trail in Boscawen that runs from Hannah Dustin Park at Concord’s border and connects with the Northern Rail Trail. That trail goes 59 miles clear to Lebanon and has proved very popular in its creation after the railroad was abandoned by Guilford Transportation in 1991.

“We have maintained trail counters and we estimated 125,000 to 250,000 users on the Northern Rail Trail,” said Moyer. “That will only increase if and when Concord opens up.”

That hoped-for Concord connection is the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, a proposed 12.7-mile trail through the city from Pembroke to Boscawen. That trail is being built piece by piece as money is raised, both private and state funds, and more disused rail lines are bought; it currently runs south along the Merrimack River from Terrill Park to Manchester Street.

If it is completed, Greenway Trail would connect with the Granite State Rail Trail, which runs south from Concord to the state border in Salem. Along with a connection to the Northern Rail Trail this would create a continuous, largely paved path running more than 100 miles between Vermont and Massachusetts, connecting at both ends to more trails in those states.

The Northern Rail Trail is open to snowmobiles in winter but not to off-road vehicles such as ATVs and dirt bikes. Pedestrians, bicyclists and horseback riders are allowed.

Once it’s finished, the new connection can be reached by parking at the Park and Ride on Route 4 in Boscawen and walking down to the trail or by turning south from Route 4 onto River Road and parking in a dirt lot at the new trailhead. The existing trailhead can be reached by turning north on Route 4 to a small parking area.

The latest section of trail in Boscawen was bought by the state in March. The Department of Transportation removed the rails, and Friends of the Northern Rail Trail hired a company to come in and clear it of trees and brush. All the railroad ties were pulled up and the trail was graded, awaiting the crushed stone.

Turning old railroad lines into hiking and biking trails can be complicated by ownership and legal issues. The state Department of Transportation owns the right of way for all rail lines, the Trails Bureau is responsible for maintenance of trails, and private organizations, including many snowmobile clubs, maintain and improve them.


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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