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Preserving the History & Heritage of Lake Winnipesaukee & Vicinity
 

 

CONCORD & MONTREAL RAILROAD
 

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AN INTRODUCTION



Excerpts from The Concord & Montreal Railroad System Booklet, c. 1893

At The Weirs

The Concord & Montreal Railroad system is made up by a union of the Concord Railroad with the original Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad and White Mountains Railroad. This system exists entirely within the State of New Hampshire, and its various parts are among the oldest railroad foundations of the country. The main line of the Concord Railroad is laid between the cities of Nashua and Concord, including the manufacturing centres, Manchester and Hooksett, in its course, and following closely the direction of the Merrimac River for its route. For branches it has the Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad, connecting Nashua with Acton, in Massachusetts (the only instance of any line of the system-extending outside the borders of New Hampshire); the Suncook Valley Railroad, connecting Hooksett with the rural centre of Barnstead by a line through a beautiful section of farms and fells; the Concord & Portsmouth Railroad, leaving the main line at Manchester and running direct to Portsmouth, on the seacoast, forty-one miles away; and the Manchester & North Weare Railroad, connecting Manchester and North Weare by a spur line delightful in situation and full of interest for summer tourists.


1893 Annual Pass for Concord & Montreal Rail Road

North of Concord the lines are of the old Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad, known as the White Mountains Division of the Concord & Montreal system. The main line of this division is from Concord northward through Tilton, Laconia, Weirs, Plymouth, Woodsville, Littleton, and a host of towns and villages interspersed, to Wing Road, from which point the Trunk Line may be said to be divided, one section continuing northward to Groveton Junction, on the Grand Trunk Railway, and the other running directly eastward to Fabyan’s, almost under the very shadow of Mount Washington. The branches of the White Mountains Division are: - a short spur from Tilton to Belmont near Gilmanton, which will probably be extended to the Iast named point; a line connecting Lake Village (Laconia) with Alton Bay, traversing the entire length of the southern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee; the Pemigewasset Valley Railroad, leaving the main line at Plymouth and running through a semi-mountainous country to North Woodstock, and connecting directly with the Franconia section; the Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad, leading from Bethlehem Junction to Maplewood, Bethlehem, and the Profile House; and the Whitefleld & Jefferson Railroad, connecting, the two points indicated in this title by a line running eastward about half-way between the two spurs of the main line, as above set forth. The Concord & Montreal also runs a short line from Fabyan’s across the valley to the base of Mount Washington connecting directly with the famous Mount Washington Railroad.

Aptly and with abundant foundation in truthfulness, the State of New Hampshire was long ago entitled the “Switzerland of America.” Possessing the rugged and picturesque mountain and lake features which have made that diminutive European country so famous, the Granite State offers these in a far grander and more diversified presentation and with a charm and fascination of detail which even the Alpine region cannot boast. Besides, New Hampshire affords that which Switzerland does not: the most beautiful and attractive rivers and streams in existence, watering lovely vales and supporting and enriching farming and rural districts, such as would be sought for in vain in any other country under the sun. In keeping, too, with the extent and variety which form the distinguishing traits of the New England commonwealths, the Granite State has a seacoast, diminutive and curtailed it is true, but offering beaches, and ports, and harbors, and shore-scenery that would have made a name centuries ago for any Old-World section. ln this State the angler finds his paradise, in the region where brooks and streams take their rise in mountain heights, and rush in swift and joyous currents to the level of outspread ponds or lake, or, joining the course of stately rivers, flow onward to a union with Old Ocean. The mountain-climber and explorer finds infinite variety and scope for his exertions, in the massive and tumbled and picturesque upheavals and depressions, the peaks and gorges and ravines of the Central sections. The pleasure-seeker and tourist flit like the bee from sweet to sweet, now whipping the stream for trout, exploring myriad localities on mountain-side, lake-shore and island for new experiences and revelations of beauty or interest, or basking the deliciously tempered sunshine and atmosphere of vale and glen and upland, never fearing monotony or anticipating satiety. The tired, worn, perhaps health-broken toiler, exhausted and oppressed with months of ceaseless labor, finds balm and recreative influence such as he has never even dreamed of until he visits here, among the farms and hillsides and nooks and corners of this goodly heritage. ln short, no order or condition of humanity but finds somewhere, and probably in numberless localities in this old Granite State, scenes and haunts for summer time inviting and rewarding all who need or may care for their beneficences.

Into all this region of delights and attractions the Concord & Montreal system penetrates, ministering to every interest, responding to every demand for transportation of person or property, opening up every section and district and department to visitation or occupancy. Its lines afford passing glances, introductions, as it were, to every form and manifestation and situation of beauty or attractiveness known in the region. The wondrously fair Merrimac Valley ; the monuments ofmanufactory enterprise; countless abodes of wealth and ease and institutions of community progress; lovely intervales and glens strewn with homesteads and farming-establishments; takes with charming successions of scenery of shore and island and surface; grand old woods coming down from hill or mountain sides to meet the waters flowing in streams or glistening in sunlight; elevations growing Into hills, hills swelling into mountains, mountains topping and overtopping each other, and bristling with crags and ledges and rugged formations; beautiful vistas extending in every direction among these until the eye droops and thought wearies in following their suggestions; great wilderness existing today wild and unreclaimed as when fresh from the hand of the Creator -these are but fragmentary specimen of the natural characteristics of the country in which this system is planted, and to which it constantly ministers.

The Merrimac Valley

Time was when in the whole New England region every natural feature and locality, every river, lake, mountain, headland, or notable site, had its Indian name, bestowed by the ancient and original owners of and dwellers in the land and descriptive of some quality, feature, or historic association therewith connected. As the white settlers overrun the country and established their homesteads and communities at various points, these Indian names often fairly graced the institutions of their founding, and became familiar in the ears of their progeny and to the added multitudes who became joined to the interests of their founding. But the spirit of change, which has worked so mightily in all the development of this great section, in due time caused the substitutions of more modern nomenclature for these Indian appellations-more's the pity, - until it has come to pass that modern ears are greeted but seldom by the soft, expressive titles with which the red man used at once to name and describe the locality or thing of which he spoke.

Perhaps, however, no one of the New England States has preserved in greater number and purity the Indian names than has New Hampshire, the State preeminently of mountains, lakes, and rivers, such as the Indian knew and loved, and in the neighborhood of which he chose to dwell; and among these names none has been preserved with greater acceptance to the generations that have occupied in modern times, or the myriad hosta of travellers and tourists that have wandered over the earth during later decades, than that of the bounding, sparkling, joyous river, formed by the union of the Winnipesaukee and Pemigewasset, streams that rush downward from the bases of the White Mountains and join their forces as they hurry toward the sea.

Being at the confluence of two beautiful rivers, the Merrimac and the Nashua, the water views and facilities for summer sports and pastimes afforded by such natural provision are in excess. Nashua is really one of the youngest of the Granite State communities, having been first settled considerably within the present century, and attaining its growth in comparatively recent times. Until long after the Revolutionary War its site formed a portion of the old town of Dunstable, and the whole section was included in the ravages of King Philip’s bloody campaigns.

After leaving Nashua, the route northward, following the course of the Merrimac through the valley, is attractive beyond measure. Towns and villages are not found in frequent succession, although favorable sites, almost sure to prove of rare beauty and utility, have been occupied for community purposes; but upon either bank of the river, planted upon some gently sloping hillside, or nestling among groves or in winsome valley nooks, larger or smaller individual estates are profusely scattered, representing retired wealth, elaborate farming industry, or the summer establishments of citizens of widely separated centres. Often these estates, with their finish of ornamentation and cultivation, lend peculiar attractions to situations for which nature has done her best, and animate scenes that have been fair to look upon ever since the dawning of creation. But the river itself forms the great centre of attraction in all this section. Its swift moving current has worn a deep bed in the valley in the course of centuries so that its banks on either side appear in miniature cliffs, only a few feet raised above the surface of the water to be sure, but constantly suggesting that overlooking of the water from the land always so pleasing where the river or lake or ocean enter into the scenery. Usually, the grounds on either side of the river slope gently backwards and upwards from its banks, sometimes rising in slight undulations for long distances before finally reaching the extreme level, and again abruptly mounting skyward in successions of low, wooded hills, in this part of the State hardly suggestive of the mountain heights that so completely occupy a little farther away. Although in its general course the river is unusually straight, its shores are sinuous enough, winding and circling about miniature points and headland, often covered with the loveliest groves; or, occasionally, the waters broaden out into lakelets, apparently to accommodate groups or individuals of fairest islands, that seem to be floating quietly on the surface of the stream under the sunlight. The points and headlands half inclose, or give formation to, little bays and harbors, that greatly diversify the views, and enhance their attractiveness in all directions. Now and then, the river rushes over broad and descending ledges of bared rock, as at Hooksett and old Amoskeag, when the most picturesque and sightly river-falls imaginable are developed.

Amid all these scenes and situations the valley roads are laid ; and near these beneficent highways are the celebrated New Hampshire farms the centres of sojourn for myriad visitors to these parts in summer time, who value their accommodation,their home-life and their wondrous recreative influences as they can never esteem the ministrations of hotels great and small, or the caravansaries of cosmopolitan features to be found on every hand in the seashore, lake, and mountain localities.

Dividing these rural sections into departments, as it were, the centres of manufacturing industries are set along this valley. Midway between Nashua and Concord appears the thriving city of Manchester a municipal establishment that has even more of country than of city features, and whose surroundings are of the loveliest natural scenery affording ministrations and satisfaction to summer-seekers such as few localities can boast. Although Manchester is the most populous city in New Hampshire, it has scarcely more than 40,000 inhabitants, and its municipal belongings are compacted within comparatively narrow limits. Here the Merrimac anciently cut its way through a sort of gorge, in the midst of an elevated plain (which plain is now occupied by the city establishment), plunges grandly over the ledges in it’s hurried course, forming the notable Amoskeag Falls, a picturesque a spectacle of tumbling water as one can find in many miles of travel. The Indians knew all about this section, one may be very sure.

The summer-traveller, or sojourner, will be likely to value the Manchester neighborhood chiefly for the opportunities here afforded for the blending of city and country pleasures. In all New Hampshire there is no larger grouping of fine estates and residences around a common centre than is the case in the suburbs and vicinity of this city. Here the outlooks, and the highways for driving, are superb. The land is more elevated, more tumbled about in lofty hills, than is usual in Merrimac situations, and among these elevations the river winds with a beauty constantly varying and superlatively commanding. The Falls, with the rapids above and the rushing, dashing waters below them, are grand to look upon, especially when the river is even moderately full. Four miles east of the city lies the beautiful lake Massabesic, a sheet of water so wondrously irregular in outline, that although it is only four miles across its widest part it has still thirty-one miles of shore in its circumference. With picturesque islands in every part, beaches of whitest, the finest wood-growths coming down to meet its shimmering waters, and sentinel hills on every side affording the most glorious outlooks over the surrounding scenery, no wonder that this lake forms a notable point of visitation, and that its Fairy Grotto and sulphurous Devil’s Den are attractions remembered by thousands who have investigated their mysteries.

In all this section the hotel and the farmhouse vie with each other as centres of home-life for the summer-sojourner and present countless attractions, irresistible by those, who may tarry among them during the warm months.

A few miles above Manchester, on the river, is Hooksett, whose manufacturing establishment, so far as it goes, is similar to that of Manchester, only Hooksett is a New England village, while Manchester is a full-fledged city. All along its course the Merrimac is crossed at intervals by bridges of wood or iron ; and a turn of the river at this point requires a crossing to enter Hooksett by a bridge 550 feet long. The site of this village forms part of the reservation anciently given by Massachusetts to Passaconaway; the great sachems Of the Penacooks. Passaconaway and Wonalancet his son, were converted to Christianity by the venerated Eliot; and even King Philip, with all his eloquence could not seduce these converts from their new-found faith, when he afterwards persuaded the Penacooks to become part of his anti-English confederation.

The scenery about Hooksett is rugged and primitive, numerous elevations on all sides rising often abruptly, while on the west side, across the river, a ragged, jagged, lofty pile of crags, known as Pinacles Mount, rises sharply to semi-mountanious height, and overlooks vast sections of the State in every direction. At the base of this singular formation a correspondingly deep lake, wild and picturesque enough to look upon, and having no visible outlet, finds place. Near the village, as the river passes, it tumbles again, in a sixteen feet fall, over a bottom of rocks and ledges, supplying another wondrously attractive feature of water view for the tourist or sojourner.

The characteristics of the Merrimac Valley, as above set forth, continue as the course is held northward, until Concord, the capital city of the State, is reached. Here and there, from valley points, widely extended outlooks are afforded; and again and again, old Kearsarge, rising loftily like an advanced guard of the mountain ranges, suggests the change in scenic forms that is about to take place a little further on. For, soon after leaving Concord, as the route trends northward, the Merrimac and the lovely valley will be lost sight of, and the lake and mountain region of New Hampshire be somewhat abruptly entered upon.

Concord is a city of about 15,000 inhabitants, and distant from Boston 75 miles. Geographically, it occupies the centre of the State, reckoning from east to west, being about equi-distant from the ocean and the Connecticut River. Historically, its associations are full of interest. In 1725, its site was in possession of and occupied by the Penacook Indians. In 1733, this site was granted by Massachusetts to white settlers, who displaced the Indians. A few years later it became a part of New Hampshire; and in the early part of the present century it became the capital of the State.

But with Concord, as indeed with all the New Hampshire localities treating here, we have not so much to do now historically as with natural features, situations, and characteristics as surnmering-places. From any standpoint, indeed, the capital city of the old Granite State is wondrously at tractive; but from that last above named it has no superior.

There is little need, indeed, in pursuing the purposes of this volume, setting forth how, from the earliest days, Concord has been one of the most important and most illustrious of New England centres; how that the famed and quaintly energetic Count Rumford, many decades ago, made temporary home here, and left his name and the impress of his genius and energy upon many institutions and features of the place; or how that, looking still farther into the past, the original possessors of the country round about held pow-wows and “councils” upon its territory, as in a place revered even by their rude sensibilities for its matchless natural beauties and its appealing associations through harboring a thriving and pushing business community, the qualities of this neighborhood that attract and hold the stranger or the novice in his enjoyment are of finer fibre and flavor than those having reference to, or connection with, material interests alone. Of these qualities the name “Concord” is exactly descriptive and interpretive; and the true Concord is found in the fitting into each other of all the natural, acquired and artificial elements of the situation. In short, here is precisely such a locality as in older countries would receive the title of “The Vale of Peace.”

In the immediate neighborhood of Concord there are no lofty mountains no wild ravines or ragged wildernesses; no outspread lakes, with rock-strewn it and heavily wooded shores; not even a tumbling waterfall in the river to attract by any other manifestations of natural eccentricities. The scenery of this locality is rather of the peaceful pastoral order, and its attractions are of nature in perfect rest, and of softest, and most soothing influences on every hand. The situation is of vast meadow tracts, stretching away from the river banks, and from the clustering hills on which the city stands, on almost every side these meadow lands undulating gently in every portion, and dotted with groves and hamlets, and the institutions and establishments of humanity as incidental to a thriving, intelligent, and progressive population.

Upon these meadows and intervales are some of the finest farms in the State, or, indeed in the country ; and various most beautiful localities have been utilized for special foundations, as, for instance, the State Asylum for the Insane, St. Paul’s School, and the like. From the breezy hills upon which the city stands, the outlook across the intervale lands extends for miles in every direction; and the boundary of the view, or the horizon, is marked by a fringe of low, wooded hills, an admirable framing for a picture that can hardly be temperately described. The finest roads cross and mark these lowlands in every direction, affording delightful drives outward to the hill-country on the boundary, and to innumerable attractive spots and locations within the sections. The clustering elevations about the city command complete views of all ; and from the top of one of them, when the air is perfectly clear and the weather fine, outlooks into every county in the State may be obtained, including marvellous revelations of mountain peaks, such as distinguish the scenery of but few portions of the earth’s surface. In the midst of all the river flows, a quiet, vvinsome, fascinating element of beauty in the landscape, satisfying its every appearance, and animating the natural features as the coursing of the life-blood does the face of a healthful man.

Now, here is indeed a very “ Eden of the North “ for summer visitors and sojourners; and around about this city there are attractions of sanitary qualities, rural situations, beautiful scenery, and temporary homes for summer, such as the denizens of any community establishment, near or remote from this locality, who feel a change of place desirable in the summer time, might rejoice to find. Need it be said that Concord and its neighborhood are busy places at this season of the year, and that all these charming and recreative influences are most thoroughly utilized? The residences of the city population, and the farmhouses and dwellings of the outlying districts, become the headquarters every year of joyous, animated, happy people, thoroughly intent upon enjoying, and profiting by the natural provision here so lavishly bestowed, and enlivening the situations with merry-making and good-fellowship, of themselves the most excellent of recreative influences.

A few miles further northward, or to within the limits of the town of Tilton, the Concord & Montreal Railroad occupies the course of the Valley of the Merrimac, and then, entering upon the lake section, leaves the “river of the swift current” for other and far different scenes. To all this valley and its dependencies this railway system is a beneficent minister, bringing thousands upon thousands of pilgrims, tourists, and visitors face to face with its attractions and beauties yearly, and making it possible that no inviting spot, no locality especially favored by nature, no desirable situation, shall be too remote from, or out of reach of, any class of summer seekers.



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