The Odd Fellows and Indian Head Bank Buildings bask in the late afternoon sun
The Odd Fellows and Indian Head Bank Buildings bask in the late afternoon sun

Nashua, New Hampshire

The City of Nashua, the Gate City of New Hampshire, was a busy junction of six rail lines and three railroad companies. Nashua was also the home to New Hampshire's first steam railroad, pulling the first train into the state in 1838. With three railroad companies, there of course were three "Nashua" stations, one for each railroad; the Concord, Nashua & Lowell, and Worcester & Nashua Railroads. Main Street boasted three railroad stations as well, again, one for each railroad company.

By 1895, all the railroads in Nashua were operated by the Boston & Maine Railroad. In the 1920s the railroad undertook a constroversial program to shut down rail lines that were redundant and performed poorly financially. The first to go in Nashua was the Nashua, Acton & Boston in 1926, followed by the Nashua & Rochester in 1934. Eventually the Worcester & Nashua was also abandoned.

Over the years Nashua has seen many amazing things on the rails.

  • April 13, 1912 - Colonel Theadore Roosevelt does a whistle stop in Nashua during his campaign for President.
  • May 3, 1930 - Fire rips through Nashua, destroying over 400 buildings mostly in the Crown Hill neighborhood. Affectionately known as the Crown Hill Fire, the cause of the fire was believed to have been pinpointed at the wooden railroad bridge over the Nashua River.
  • March 1935 - The Boston & Maine toured the new Flying Yankee around its sysem. In Nashua it was said to have attracted 10,000 people.
  • March 1936 - The big 1936 flood, caused by an unusually early warm spell, caused damage in the region. The Nashua rail yards were submerged and a popular photo was taken of Union Station with not a bit of dry ground in sight. At its peak, the flood level was 12 feet high.
  • October 18, 1947 - The Freedom Train spent a day in the city on its tour of the country. It was kept on the Worcester & Nashua line near Spring Street.
  • November 12, 1954 - Nashua was in newspapers across the nation with the wreck of B&M Train No. 302, The Red Wing (Montreal-Boston), at Union Station. The train entered the station at 70 miles per hour and derailed on the station curve (speed restriction of 30 m.p.h.). Locomotives #3818 and #3820 were leading the train to Boston. When they derailed, #3820 hit a few freight cars on an adjacent siding causing extensive damage to the locomotive requiring it to be scrapped. There were 53 injuries and one death in the wreck. This was the railroad's first passenger fatality since 1918.

Today, considering there isn't much left to New Hampshire's railroad system, Nashua remains to be a railroading center, albeit a shadow of its past. In 1983, change happened when the beloved Boston & Maine was purchased by Guilford Transportation Industries to become part of Guilford Rail System, which of course became Pan Am Railways in 2006.

Surviving Nashua Railroad Buildings

The following list is of all the buildings known to have been used by the railroad and still standing in the city.

Car Shop
Located on Main Street, this building had a few different uses and even building styles. Originally the building was used as an elevator to bring coal bardges up from the river to street level. This entrance can still be seen on the east side of the building at water level. The building was later used by the railroad as its car repair shop, with two tracks entering the rear of the building, which at that point was considerably longer than the current building today. In the 1920s, a fascade was placed on the building facing Main Street. Over time it was home to Western Union and the Boston & Maine Transportation Company. Starting in 1978, the building was home to Goodale's Bike Shop. During this time, maybe earlier, a utilitarian appearance of a plain white front was given to the building. The bike shop moved to a larger location in 2002. In 2004 a new owner was found and began restoring the long forgotten hidden fascade. The building has been completely renovated/restored to its 1920s appearance and is home to the Peddler's Daughter restaurant.

City Station Freight House
The freight house at City Station was built a few years after the passenger depot in 1860. What was once a common feature, the freight house featured a track that actually went inside the building to an indoor freight platform. The bricked-up entrance can still be found on the east side of the building. The building still stands on Canal Street at Railroad Square, now filled with multiple businesses. It can be identified by the railroad mural that faces Main Street, painted in 1987 by Elizabeth Johansson from Anheuser-Busch. The building had a rough year in 2009. In March a vehicle went off the road crashing into the building, and on July 8th following a building inspection the freight house was condemned. The freight house has since been restored and retrofitted with a steel structure and is home to Portland Pie Co.

Otterson Street Freight House
Old maps of the city show the location of the Otterson Street freight house at multiple locations, one of them being on the corner of the South Common. It's a possibility that this building is the one home to Nashua Glass at the corner of Chestnut and West Otterson Streets.

Roundhouse
Located adjacent to Union Station on Temple Street, this was one of three roundhouses in the city, originally being used by the Concord Railroad. This roundhouse ended up being the facility the Boston & Maine Railroad used. Today only one stall of the roundhouse remains along with the machine shop and is used by Corriveau-Routhier as a maintenance garage and storage.

Union Station Freight House
The freight house, which was located behind Union Station on Bridge Street, was converted in 1936 to the Nashua Farmers Exchange.

Stations

Blood :: Hollis :: Nashua :: Nashua, Main Street :: Nashua, Union Station :: Otterson Street :: South Nashua

Railroad Lines

Boston and Maine Railroad: Southern Division, Main Line

Boston and Maine Railroad: Worcester, Nashua and Portland Division, Acton Branch

Boston and Maine Railroad: Worcester, Nashua and Portland Division, Keene Branch

Boston and Maine Railroad: Worcester, Nashua and Portland Division, Main Line