Ayer, MA to Westbrook, ME

The Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad

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This railway line was conceived in the mid-1850s out of the desire of communities in the northern New England region to connect with the growing economic center that was Boston, MA. In fact, there were originally three railroads, with this common purpose, that built this line:

  • The Worcester and Nashua Railroad, which constructed the segment of this line between Worcester, MA and Nashua, NH in 1848
  • The Portland and Rochester Railroad, who completed their line between Rochester and into Portland, ME, in 1871
  • The Nashua and Rochester Railroad, who extended the line of the W&N at Nashua into Rochester in 1874

By 1883, all three lines had consolidated into the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad; leasing of this line by the Boston and Maine Railroad started in 1886 under its Worcester, Nashua and Portland Division.

By the early 1900s, the B&M had three lines that ran parallel to each other in the region, and they deemed pertinent to shed some of the redundant routes. The entire line was abandoned in segments over the next 50 years. In 1949, the eastern portion of the line, between Sanford and Portland, in Maine, was sold to the Sanford and Eastern Railway, a shortline that operated over that line until 1961.

The rough timeline below shows the construction and abandonments of the route between Ayer, MA and Westbrook, ME:

         MA  |                        New Hampshire                    |       Maine
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Ayer  Hollis  Nashua  Hudson  Fremont  Epping  Gonic  Rochester  Sanford  Westbrook
============================================================================================
1848     |---- W&N -----|
1871     |---- W&N -----|                                         |------ P&R --------|
1874     |---- W&N -----|----------------- N&R -------------------|------ P&R --------|
1883     |---------------- Worcester, Nashua & Rochester Railroad --------------------|
1886     |------------------- Leased to Boston & Maine Railroad ----------------------|
1932     |------- B&M -----------|.......|- B&M -|......|----------- B&M -------------|
1942     |- B&M -|...............|       |- B&M -|      |----------- B&M -------------|
1949     |- B&M -|                       |- B&M -|      |------- B&M -------|-- S&E --|
1952     |- B&M -|                       |- B&M -|      |-- B&M --|.........|-- S&E --|
1961     |- B&M -|                       |- B&M -|      |-- B&M --|         |.........|
1982     |.......|                       |.......|      |.........|

|.....| = year of abandonment of right-of-way

Today, some of the former right-of-way serves as rail-trails, while yet other portions serve as roadbeds for regional highways and local roads. Additionally, bridge piers still stand in a number of rivers crossed by the WN&R.

In 1847 the land I live on was sold to Captain Charles Prescott. This was part of a homestead owned by Daniel Livermore. It was his surviving daughter Betsy who transferred the title to Prescott.

In it she (Betsy) describes the purchase as being 60+ acres,minus the land the railroad was to take. Captain Prescott never owned any part of the railway. Nor anyone else who may have bought pieces of it later. So it seems this was an eminent domain situation.

A deed that was made out to Captain Charles Prescott gave over title of the property around the railroad.

Later a man named Barrows would own the place. So the question is? If the railroad is now a trail,how much of that if any do the a butters own if any?

Or better, what constitutes the rail bed? Is it just the tracks, or does it allow for more? And how is this a right of way?

Gregory Thibeau
Groton, MA
6/10/2015

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