"In the field" railroad history adventures...

Friday, July 29, 2022

NH to VT Rail Trail Trek (Part 2: Fort Hill Rail Trail and Brattleboro)

From the Ashuelot Rail Trail, I connected directly to the Fort Hill Recreational Rail Trail. This trail headed north and ended abruptly at an abandoned railroad bridge a little south of Brattleboro, VT.

Bridge over the Ashuelot River
Alongside the Connecticut River
At the Causeway
Short Video of the ride:
One of many telegraph poles
Apple Break
Thinking there would be signage to get into the Town of Hinsdale or at least directions to some food joints along the highway but never seeing anything--I stopped and ate an apple--I was hungry!

The Abandoned Railroad Bridge

This was the end of the line. I took a few photos and gingerly stepped out on some starting to-rot bridge railroad ties but knew this wasn't really safely crossable (especially with a bike!)

I sat on this rock to take the next couple of photos

Even though I knew this was a dead end, I had no desire to ride back again and (rightly) figured there would be some kind of bootleg trail to the highway above.

I slithered up this nearly vertical slippery trail - kind of pushing the bike ahead of me and finally made it to the top! At the top there was an additional short slog through some prickers to get to the road but the blood on the scratched leg would soon dry on the ride down into Brattleboro!

Onward to Brattleboro

It was a beautiful breeze-filled ride down into Brattleboro.

I even snuck out behind the store on Main Street and shot this photo of the tracks going northward:
I rode past the Retreat Center and finished my ride here at the Grafton Cheese Company by the pond. I had a beer from the bar in the back and asked them to charge my phone.
To kill a bit of time, I rode around the lower level and had a bit of fun riding through the cow tunnel.
Lastly, my son Greg arrived from his ride at Killington and we chowed out at a BBQ spot we visited years before: Top of the Hill Grill.  All in all - a great day for us both!

Further Info 

Fort Hill Recreational Rail TrailBuilt in the 1910s by the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) as part of the Connecticut River Division Main Line, the route introduced daily service to the B&M Fort Hill Branch in the early 1920s to meet growing competition from motor trucks that had begun courting small shippers from Boston to the Canadian border. This resulted in the line being known as a peddler route. Competition from trucks eventually became too much, and by 1983, the route ceased service.

NH to VT Rail Trail Trek (Part 1: Ashuelot Rail Trail)

 My son and I headed north. He went to Killington to lift-assisted downhill, while I rode the rail trails from north of Winchester NH to Brattleboro VT. We meant later that day at Brattleboro. It was an interesting trek!

I started at Coombs Bridge Rd a few miles north of Winchester, NH - kind of in the middle of nowhere. The trail was flat but rough and overgrown in many places--I was glad I brought my mountain bike.
Coombs Bridge Road
an old rail
I chatted with a lady with her dog in a small jeep hat I encountered on the trail
There were occasional foundation remnants along the trail...
...and bridges, updated with wood flooring planks.
It was very pretty when riding alongside the river.

The Village of Ashuelot

The train station is preserved and still standing...
I took a short detour nearby to check out the covered bridge. (I of course walked it at a slow pace :-) )

Mill Ruins

Sadly this Paper Mill was destroyed in a flood in 2005. See Paper Service Limited mill details below

Enjoy a short "one-handed" video of the ride:

At the end of the trail, I rode on--crossing the road to pick up the Fort Hill Recreational Trail.

Further Info 

1 - Trail/ Railroad History

Ashuelot Rail Trail
The 21.5-mile trail traces the corridor of the Ashuelot Railroad, which began serving the area in 1851. The Connecticut River Railroad acquired the route in 1877, and the Boston and Maine Railroad took over in 1893. It ran until 1983, helping to spark the late-19th-century manufacturing boom for mills along the river by supplying raw materials and getting products to market.

2 - Paper Service Limited Mill
The Paper Service Ltd. mill, which made tissue paper for garment and gift wrapping, was one of five paper mills that once dotted a three-mile stretch of the river. Most of them dated to the mid-1800s. This mill--active for over 100 years--shut down in October 2005 after a catastrophic flood destroyed the boiler room, caused sections of the building to collapse, and washed out ramps leading to the loading dock. Two trucks that disappeared downriver went missing for several months. It was a sad end to an innovative and both eco- and humanitarian-oriented corporation.

Paper Service Limited
- The Abridged History of Demise: One of NH's last Paper Mills
An Excellent Documentary 

‘It’s hard to talk about it’
- Story of Ashuelot’s Paper Services Ltd. comes to an abrupt end.