Supriya Ghosh

Suncook Valley Railroad

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Reporting mark  SV
Headquarters  Pittsfield, NH
Dates of operation  1869–1952
Locale  New Hampshire, United States
Track gauge  4 ft 8 ⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Suncook Valley Railroad was a short-line railroad in the United States, originating in Suncook, New Hampshire, and terminating in Barnstead, New Hampshire. It was operated as its own business entity since September 28, 1924, when control was regained from the Boston and Maine Railroad. Starting in 1869, the Suncook Valley RR was leased by the Concord Railroad, and subsequently Concord & Montreal Railroad, then finally the B&M. It served the Suncook River valley region in central New Hampshire, stopping in key communities such as Epsom, Allenstown and Center Barnstead.

Contents

History

The route of the fabled Blueberry Express was first suggested in January 1849, when a charter was granted by the state of New Hampshire to John Berry to build a railroad from east of Concord into the Suncook Valley to Pittsfield. A second charter was granted in July of that same year for a second investment group to extend the rails from Pittsfield to connect with the Dover and Winnipesogee Railroad (modern spelling Winnipesaukee) at an undetermined point near the village of Alton Bay. The charters lapsed into expiration due to disputes over an easement and a lack of financial backing. The looming Civil War also halted plans for the railroad.

In 1863, a second pair of charters were granted by the New Hampshire courts for the construction of the Suncook Valley road, and what became known as the Suncook Valley Extension Railroad-the line to be constructed from Pittsfield to Alton. Ground was broken April 26, 1869, with the first Suncook-Pittsfield round trip taking place on December 6 of that year. In 1889 the extension was completed to Center Barnstead, but the connection to Alton never materialized.

On June 29, 1895, the Boston and Maine Railroad seized control of the C&M and therefore the SV on the same day. On January 1, 1912, the original lease expired, but was extended until January 1, 1916. All the while, the B&M held onto a shrewd, 60-day notice exit clause. Only on April 1, 1921, did the B&M fully take over the original lease from the C&M. The B&M sought to shed the expense of running into the Suncook Valley region and petitioned for abandonment. Since customers and residents along the route were yet to be served by a safe and efficient state highway system, action was taken to keep the line open. Former B&M employee C.J. McDonough became general manager of the SV, the head of New Hampshire's first independent shortline on September 28, 1924.

Until its demise in December 1952, the SV served the customers of its route mainly with carload-type freight and the U.S. Mail's Railway Post Office essential contract. Service was included to a nearby quarry, the occasional passenger by use of the SV's well-worn combine, and the commonly depicted New England milk trains. Mixed trains were not uncommon on the route.

After World War II, the rail business dwindled, and state highways opened the valley to quick access. March 1947 saw the abandonment of the extension from Pittsfield to Center Barnstead. The railroad's ancient 2-6-0 steam locomotive was soon replaced with a new GE 44-ton switcher diesel locomotive. With the loss of the mail contract in 1952, along with a deteriorating physical plant (the B&M had embargoed the railroad bridge interchanging with the shortline in April), the SV petitioned for abandonment.

The SV was charming and notable for such reasons as the use of steam power well after World War II (until 1949), its daunting switchback gaining access to the route in Suncook village, its first-of-a-kind independent status and the never-say-die frugality that defined life in rural New Hampshire.

Literature

  • John C. Hutchins: The Blueberry Express - A History of the Suncook Valley Railroad. Flying Yankee Enterprises. ISBN 0961557400
  • References

    Suncook Valley Railroad Wikipedia


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