Nashua River Rail Trail

The Nashua River Rail Trail is a 12.5-mile (20.1 km) paved mixed-use rail trail in northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire under control of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). It roughly follows the course of the Nashua River, passing through the towns of Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, and Dunstable, Massachusetts and ends about a mile across the New Hampshire state border in Nashua, New Hampshire.[1] The trail is used by walkers, cyclists, inline skaters, equestrians, and cross-country skiers.[2]

Nashua River Rail Trail
Nashua River Rail Trail 1
The Nashua River Rail Trail at the Groton School Pond in Groton, MA
Length12.5 mi (20.1 km)
LocationMiddlesex County, Massachusetts
Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
DesignationMassachusetts state park
TrailheadsPark St. and Main St., Ayer, Massachusetts
(42°33′36″N 71°35′23″W / 42.560083°N 71.589646°W)
Gilson Rd. at Country Side Dr., Nashua, New Hampshire (42°42′57″N 71°31′55″W / 42.715919°N 71.531963°W)
UseBicycling, inline skating, walking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing
Hiking details
Right of wayFormer railroad line
Maintained byDepartment of Conservation and Recreation
WebsiteNashua River Rail Trail
Nashua River Rail Trail is located in Massachusetts
Location of trailheads in New Hampshire and Massachusetts


Ayer was a major junction for both north-south and east-west rail lines during the rapid development of railroad transportation. The Nashua River Rail Trail sits on the former Hollis branch of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The line was originally part of the Worcester & Nashua Railroad that connected Worcester, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire, which was opened on July 3, 1848. The line was extended to Portland, Maine in 1874 and it became part of the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad connecting Worcester and points east to Canada's Grand Trunk Railroad via Portland, Maine.

The Boston & Maine Railroad took over the line in 1886 and called it the Worcester, Nashua & Portland (WN&P) Division. Between 1911 and 1912, a second track was added from Worcester to Nashua.

Passenger service on the line ended in 1934. After World War II, with the gradual decline of rail transportation, the line fell into disuse, and the last freight train ran on the line in 1982. Some concrete signal bases can still be seen, and railroad plates and ties can be found buried under the sand.[3]

The DCR bought the Hollis Branch in 1987, and the trail was paved by Mass Highway between 2001 and 2002. The official opening and dedication was on October 25, 2002.[3]


Ice Cream Shop, Railroad Square, East Pepperell, MA
Pepperell businesses along the Rail Trail

The Nashua River Rail Trail travels along a flat and scenic landscape with many opportunities to see wildlife. The trail passes wetlands, ponds, woods, swamps, and farmland where a variety of wildlife can be viewed, such as beavers, herons and swans.

At the Ayer trailhead, which is close to the Ayer commuter rail station offering access to rail service between Boston and Fitchburg, there is a 60-space parking lot with non-flush public toilets. There are several other parking lots along the trail, which crosses many roads and bridges. Trail users can stop for refreshments in nearby Groton Center or at a restaurant and ice-cream stand in Pepperell.

Free parking is available in Pepperell where the trail crosses Massachusetts Route 113 and at the Nashua trailhead at Yudicky Park.

See also


  1. ^ "Nashua River Rail Trail". Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  2. ^ "Nashua River Rail Trail". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Nashua River Rail Trail". Department of Conservation and Recreation. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006. Retrieved March 12, 2019.

External links

Coordinates: 42°39′00″N 71°34′36″W / 42.65000°N 71.57667°W

Ayer, Massachusetts

Ayer (/ɛr/, Eastern New England English /ɛə/) is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. Originally part of Groton, it was incorporated February 14, 1871, and became a major commercial railroad junction. The town was home to Camp Stevens, a training camp for Massachusetts volunteers during the American Civil War. Later, Fort Devens was established by the federal government to train New England soldiers for World War I. Fort Devens is a major influence on the area, although it is considerably smaller than when it was first closed in the mid-1990s. The town's population was 7,427 at the 2010 census.For geographic and demographic information on specific parts of the town of Ayer, please see the articles on Ayer (CDP) and Devens, Massachusetts.

Ayer station

Ayer station is an MBTA Commuter Rail station located off Main Street (Route 2A/111) in the Ayer Main Street Historic District of Ayer, Massachusetts. It serves the Fitchburg Line. There are three tracks through the station, two of which are served by a pair of low-level side platforms, which are not accessible. There is a shelter on the inbound platform.

Ayer has been a major railroad interchange since the Fitchburg Railroad opened through South Groton in 1845, followed by the Stony Brook Railroad, Worcester and Nashua Railroad, and Peterborough and Shirley Railroad in 1848. The original depot was replaced with a union station with a large trainshed in 1848. Land speculation and industrial development spurred by the railroad access expanded the tiny farm village into the independent town of Ayer.

A new station was constructed in 1896. By 1900, the town was served by five lines all controlled by the Boston and Maine Railroad, with service to Boston, Worcester, and Lowell plus New York, New Hampshire, and Maine. Passenger service ended on all of the lines except the Fitchburg Line between 1931 and 1961. After a brief disruption in early 1965, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority began subsidizing commuter rail service to Ayer. The station and part of the line was closed in 1975, but reopened in 1980. Pan Am Railways also runs freight trains through the town to various destinations.

Planning began in 2003 for a parking structure to serve park-and-ride commuters at the station. Due to delays caused by disagreements with a property owner, the project was reduced to an expansion of an existing surface lot. Property to ensure a public access route to the station was acquired by the town in June 2016, allowing the parking expansion to proceed. A contract for construction was issued in January 2019.

Charles River Peninsula

The Charles River Peninsula is a 30-acre (12 ha) nature preserve in Needham, Massachusetts owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservations. The Charles River turns nearly 180 degrees, creating the peninsula. A 20-acre (8 ha) field on the peninsula has been farmed for roughly a century. The original acreage was given in 1960; additional land was given in 1994.

Fort Revere Park

Fort Revere Park is a state-owned historic site and public recreation area situated on a small peninsula in the town of Hull, Massachusetts. The park occupies 6 acres (2.4 ha) on Telegraph Hill in Hull Village and houses the remains of two seacoast fortifications, including former Fort Revere.

Holyoke Heritage State Park

Holyoke Heritage State Park is history-oriented state park located in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The park opened in 1986 on the site of the William Skinner Silk Mill which was lost to fire in 1980. The park is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Lynn Shore Reservation

Lynn Shore Reservation is a protected coastal reservation in the city of Lynn, Massachusetts. It includes 22 acres (8.9 ha) of beaches and recreational areas. From north to south, King's Beach, Red Rock Park and Lynn Beach are located along Lynn Shore Drive and Nahant Bay, a small bay of the Atlantic. The reservation shares athletic fields with Nahant Beach Reservation in the area around Nahant Rotary, a traffic circle at its southern end.The reservation is part of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston, and is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which also manages the adjoining Lynn Shore Drive parkway.

Mountain Meadow Preserve

Mountain Meadow Preserve is a 176-acre (71 ha) open space preserve located in the Berkshires and Green Mountains of northwest Massachusetts and adjacent Vermont in the towns of Williamstown and Pownal. The property, acquired in 1998 by the land conservation non-profit organization The Trustees of Reservations, includes highland meadows, wetlands, forested hills, and 4 miles (6.4 km) of trails.

Located on Mason Hill (a sub-peak of The Dome), the preserve is open to hiking, cross-country skiing, and similar passive pursuits. Views from the property include Mount Greylock and the Taconic Mountains to the west. Trailheads are located on Mason Road in Williamstown and White Oaks Road in Pownal.

Nahant Beach Reservation

Nahant Beach Reservation is a protected coastal reservation covering 67 acres (27 ha) of beach and recreational areas in the town of Nahant, Massachusetts. Nahant Road, formerly known as Nahant Beach Boulevard when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, offers access to 7,000-foot-long (2,100 m) Long Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side to the east. The reservation includes a boat ramp with access to Lynn Harbor and shares athletic fields with Lynn Shore Reservation in the area around Nahant Rotary, a traffic circle at the reservation's northern end. The reservation is part of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston.

Nashua River

The Nashua River, 37.5 miles (60.4 km) long, is a tributary of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the United States. It is formed in eastern Worcester County, Massachusetts, by junction of its north and south branches near Lancaster, and flows generally north-northeast past Groton to join the Merrimack at Nashua, New Hampshire. The Nashua River Watershed occupies a major portion of north-central Massachusetts and a much smaller portion of southern New Hampshire.

The north branch rises west of Fitchburg and Westminster. It flows about 30 miles (48 km) generally southeast past Fitchburg, and joins the south branch about 5 miles (8.0 km) below its issuance from the Wachusett Reservoir.

Pepperell, Massachusetts

Pepperell is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 11,497 at the 2010 census. It includes the village of East Pepperell.

Popponesset Peninsula

Popponesset Peninsula is a spit of land in Cape Cod, Massachusetts which extends from the southwestern shore of Popponesset Bay and separates it from Nantucket Sound.

The peninsula is now significantly shorter than seen in the Barnstable County survey of 1880. Portions of the shore have been stabilized with riprap to deter further erosion. Most of this work was done immediately after Hurricane Bob which in 1992 had opened an inlet through the beach. Much of the peninsula is occupied by Popponesset Beach and the remainder is largely residential. The peninsula is home to conservation projects that prevent disturbance of the piping plover - an endangered species of bird. At one point there was also a small convenience store on the beach whose remains can still be seen on the beach in the form of four large pilings driven into the sand.

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation is a state-owned geologic preserve and public recreation area located off Route 146 in the town of Sutton, Massachusetts. The state park is notable for its .25-mile-long (400 m), 70-foot-deep (21 m) chasm of granite bedrock with abrupt precipices and boulder caves where ice lingers into the early summer. It is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Rumney Marsh Reservation

Rumney Marsh Reservation is a Massachusetts state park occupying over 600 acres (240 ha) in the town of Saugus and city of Revere. The salt marsh is located within the Saugus and Pines River estuary and provides habitat for many different migratory birds and marine life. The park is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Sampsons Island

Sampsons Island is a 15-acre (6.1 ha) uninhabited, undeveloped barrier island at the mouth of Cotuit Harbor in Barnstable, Massachusetts. It is the location of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Sampsons Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and it forms part of the Sampsons Island/Dead Neck Island barrier beach system. The island is only accessible by private boat, and is used for recreation and wildlife viewing and preservation.As a barrier island, Sampsons Island and Dead Neck Island protect Cotuit Harbor and nearby coastal areas. The island is a nesting site for piping plovers, least terns, and common terns and a habitat for many other shore birds. It is designated an Important Bird Area. Access to the island is limited during nesting season.

Squantum Point Park

Squantum Point Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located on the Squantum peninsula of Quincy, Massachusetts, United States. The park was created on the site of the former Squantum Naval Air Station, which is preserved in a 2,700-foot-long (820 m) strip of runway, and the former dockworks of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. The park is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and is associated with the development of the Neponset River Reservation.

Stony Brook Reservation

Stony Brook Reservation is a woodland park in Boston and Dedham, Massachusetts, a unit of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston, part of the state park system of Massachusetts. It was established in 1894 as one of the five original reservations created by the Metropolitan Park Commission. The park is served by the Stony Brook Reservation Parkways, a road system that was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Webb Memorial State Park

Webb Memorial State Park is a public recreation area located on a peninsula that extends nearly half a mile into the Hingham Bay area of Boston Harbor in Massachusetts. It is composed of three connected drumlins and a low marsh area. The state park forms the only mainland portion of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad

The Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad was a railroad line that was to link the city of Worcester, Massachusetts to the city of Portland, Maine, via the New Hampshire cities of Nashua and Rochester, by merging several small shortline railroads (typical of the earliest North American railways) together.

In 1845, Worcester was becoming an important railroad junction in central Massachusetts, with numerous rail lines linking the city to Boston, Springfield, Providence, Rhode Island, and Norwich, Connecticut, with another line linking it to Albany, New York. But there was not a rail link with the cities in northern New England.

The Worcester and Nashua Railroad was organized in 1845 to link Worcester to the growing mill city of Nashua. The line opened as far as Groton Junction (now Ayer) in July 1848 and to Nashua in December. The line opened up New Hampshire to southern and western New England and plans were made to connect the line with southern Maine.

The Nashua and Rochester Railroad was formed in 1847, extending a railway line to Rochester, New Hampshire, on the Maine border. The Worcester and Nashua (W&N) leased the Nashua and Rochester (N&R) in 1874, and the two companies merged into the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad in 1883. The Boston and Maine Railroad leased the line in 1886. This acquisition also included the continuation from Rochester to Portland, via the York and Cumberland Railroad which was formed in 1846. It opened to Gorham, Maine, in 1851 under the direction of Maine railroad pioneer John A. Poor and was extended in 1853. The York and Cumberland was reorganized as the Portland and Rochester Railroad in 1867, with a connection to the Grand Trunk Railway in Portland, and was completed to Rochester in 1871. The three lines were tied together by the B&M as its Worcester, Nashua and Portland Division and covered over 147 miles (237 km).

By 1901, the B&M found they had three parallel lines between Massachusetts and Maine, due to the various mergers and leasings. There was enough business for all three lines during the first decade and a half of the new century, but by 1915, passenger service was rerouted down the Stony Brook line, and freight service had dropped off as well. By 1930, the construction of a new wye in North Chelmsford rerouted all freight up the Stony Brook and the Nashua and Lowell to reach New Hampshire.

The B&M began the process of abandoning portions of the WN&P division in 1932 when two large sections were discontinued from Hudson to Fremont, New Hampshire, and from Epping to Gonic, New Hampshire. Service between Gonic and Rochester lasted until 1982.

The next abandonment came in 1942 when the line was cut off from Hollis, New Hampshire, to a point one mile from Union Station in Nashua. Later that year, the line was wiped out from Union Station across the Merrimack River to Hudson.

The portion of the line in Maine between Rochester and Springvale was gone in 1952, but the line from Springvale to Westbrook operated from 1949 to 1961 as the shortline Sanford and Eastern Railroad, which also operated trackage between Springvale and Sanford that was once part of the Atlantic Shore Line interurban system. Today only portions of the line in Westbrook and Portland still see traffic, being serviced by the Portland Terminal Company.

Paper mills along the line between Ayer and Hollis kept the train moving north of Ayer Junction until 1981 when the B&M stopped all service. In 1982, the line north of Ayer Junction was abandoned and the tracks removed two years later. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired this portion of the right of way; in 2002 it was officially opened as the Nashua River Rail Trail. The one mile of track between Union Station in Nashua and an industrial park was abandoned finally in 1993.

The W&N still survives between Ayer and Worcester, operated by Pan Am Railways whereby it is now designated as that railroad's Worcester Main branch. The line sees daily through-freight usage, permitting interchange at Worcester with CSX and Providence & Worcester Railroad.

World's End (Hingham)

World's End is a 251-acre (1 km²) park and conservation area located on a peninsula in Hingham, Massachusetts. The peninsula is bordered by the Weir River to the North and East and Hingham Harbor (part of Hingham Bay, and Boston Harbor) to the West. The land is composed of four drumlins (Pine Hill, Planter's Hill, and the double drumlins of World's End proper) harboring tree groves interspersed with fields attractive to butterflies and grassland-nesting birds, and offers 4.5 miles of walking paths with views of the Boston skyline.

The adjacent neighborhood, an upper-middle class residential subdivision with several waterfront homes, is also colloquially called World's End.

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