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Lake Winnipesuakee Railroad

‘Railroads’ – Lake Winnipesaukee NH

During the early 1800s, the growth of the textile industry and an increasing population brought about the need for better transportation of raw material to New England’s manufacturing centers. In 1830, a project was proposed to build a railroad between Boston and Lowell, a distance of 26 miles. On June 24, 1835, the Boston & Lowell Railroad was opened for service.

The Boston & Lowell was considered the first and principal link to what was known as the great Northern Route. From Lowell, the line was continued by the Nashua & Lowell Railroad. This line then extended by the Concord Railroad along the Merrimack Valley to Concord, New Hampshire, and then by the Northern Railroad to the Connecticut River in Lbeanon. From there, it continued through Vermont to connect with the Montreal Railroad, a distance of 326 miles from Boston. In addition to these extensive lines with the Boston & Lowell was the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad, which proceeded from Concord, New Hampshirem and throughout the White Mountains connecting with the Grand Trunk and the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad.

On August 8, 1848, the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad between Concord and Meredith Bridge opened-an important development to the growth of what is now Laconia. In the following year, the road was extended to Lake Village (Lakeport). This event marked one of the largest celebrations these towns in the Lakes Region had ever seen.

In 1839, a charter was granted to the Dover & Winnipesaukee Railroad to build tracks from Dover to Alton Bay-a total of 29 miles. The charter lapsed, but eight years later another was granted under the name of Cocheco Railroad. By 1848, tracks had been laid as far as Farmington and a year later were completed to Alton Bay.


Lake Winnipesaukee Railroad 1909

In 1847, a charter was granted to build the Lake Shore Railroad between Laconia and Alton Bay. This 18-mile road was established to connect the Cocheco road, on the eastern side of New Hampshire with the old Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad at Meredith. Due to the lack of finances, this construction was postponed for over 40 years, leaving the original charter to expire. Finally, 1883, the charter was granted and left in the lands of Charles A. Busiel and his associates. In 1887, both the Concord Railroad and the Boston and Maine offered to build the Lake Shore Line. In June 17, 1890, The Lake Shore Railroad was opened by the Concord Railroad Corporation, connecting Alton Bay to Lakeport.

The Cocheco Railroad played an important part in the race for supremacy on the lake with Concord & Montreal Railroad during these early days of transportation. The Cocheco Comapny, who had also buillt the steamer Dover, was an intense rival of the Concord & Montreal. The Weirs was a forbidden port to craft operated by the Dover & Winnipesaukee, which had taken over the Cocheco in 1863, as Alton Bay was off limits to the boats of the Concord & Montreal. The race was finally won by the Dover & Winnipesaukee Railroad after construction of the steamer Mount Washington in 1872, and the line was taken over by the Boston and Maine in attempt to consolidate its lines in outlying districts.

Towns and villages that were few in number had become centers of industries. While wealth, like the currents of the state’s rivers, was attracted to the waterfalls, the source of power, it was left for the railroads to foster the hum of spindles, the rumble of looms, the tap of hammers, each being symbols of public prosperity. Where the iron horse had not penetrated, silence had fallen on the scene and natural resources were left to waste. And not only did the manufacturing and business interests depend on the railroad for their welfare, but the portable mill of the most remote lumberman, the summer home in he mountains, the many industries of the state, all were affected by the railroads.

20th Century Railways

Railroads flourished throught the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, but as time passed, interstate highways were improved and the trains became replaced by the automobiles. The trains to Alton Bay continued to operate until July 9, 1935, but the with the decreases of passenger service hastened by the prolfic number of automobiles, the trains ceased operations-a great loss to the area. With the growth and development of the steam locomotive throughout the state came the advent of the steamboats for the lake travel on Lake Winnipesaukee.

During the nineteenth century, competition between the railroad companies did much toward that connected the towns and villages of the Lakes Region, it is easy to see that water travel was fast, convenient, and an accepted means of transportation for decades. Railroad stations were a common sight on every public dock throughout the region, where trains would transfer passengers to one of the railroad-owned steamboats for the next jaunt. All these towns were laced together by boat lines and smaller crafts connecting between the islands and smaller communities. On any day, one could find more than a dozen steamboats throwing soot into the air as they carried passengers and freight to all points throughout the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

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