For many years, the railroad rolled right through Jaffrey

  • The old East Jaffrey railroad station as it looked in 1890. Courtesy photo—

  • For many years, Sylvia Pimental wondered what the story was behind the old railroad crossing sign that stood just off her driveway on Hadley Road. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The sign that hung at the East Jaffrey railroad station that was at one point cut back when it became known as just Jaffrey. Courtesy photo—

  • The East Jaffrey railroad station was bustling in its heyday as it was one of the major stops between Massachusetts and Peterborough. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/17/2019 1:30:01 PM

For more than two decades, Sylvia Pimental has wondered about the railroad crossing sign near the bottom of her driveway.

It’s weathered and has no writing left on it, and the tracks are long gone. She has found remnants of railroad ties in the woods of her Hadley Road property in Jaffrey where she knew a train used to pass through many years ago. And while Pimental never really dug too deep, she always felt there had to be a good story behind it.

According to Bruce Hill, president of the Jaffrey Historical Society, there is one. The tracks were built as part of the constantly evolving networks of passageways through rural America. This specific route began in Winchendon, Massachusetts and traveled through Rindge to Jaffrey. Construction began in 1868 and the first regular trip to Jaffrey took place on Nov. 12, 1870.

The main stop in town for the Monadnock Railroad was the East Jaffrey station located near Community Field and the Pizza Barn. Before there were gas stations, buildings and a courthouse, the train would travel along Route 202, passing through some of the strip malls, and going next to the cemetery and right near D.D. Bean. It then crossed the river and traveled along Hadley Road, which was the original Route 202 before the bypass was built in the late 1950s.

“The road predated the railroad,” Hill said.

To the right of Pimental’s driveway is a house that wasn’t there all those years ago and the tracks passed right through the front yard. There wasn’t a station there, but Hill found mentions of a platform and it was in fact known as Hadley Station.

“It was never the last stop, except during construction,” Hill said.

It was what was known as a whistle stop, but with its rural geography, wouldn’t have been a place where passengers got on and off unless they were visiting someone in close proximity.

“People could get off there and on there, but there was never an elaborate train station,” Hill said. “There did used to be a pole with a Hadley sign on it.”

Hill said the train carried freight items like cargo, luggage, coal, cotton. He found some old milk can tags that show it was a place where the commodity was picked up from farms in the area, most notably Lehtinen Farm.

Less than a year after the first train rolled into Jaffrey, the ability to extend a trip to Peterborough was realized on June 6, 1871. By the late 1870s, the tracks were extended to Hillsborough and then Concord.

“It only took a year or so to go from Winchendon to Jaffrey and another year to go from Jaffrey to Peterborough,” Hill said.

The train served the town of Jaffrey for 114 years with the last freight departing the town in 1984 destined for Massachusetts. The last passenger train took its final ride many years before, doing so on March 7, 1953.

It started out owned by Monadnock Railroad for the first four years, overseeing all of the construction to Peterborough, and then had three more owners until it was purchased by Boston & Maine for the duration of its use.

Hill has walked many parts of where the train traveled within the town and is always pleasantly surprised to find remnants during his expeditions.

“You’ll occasionally see a culvert that was put in for the rail bed,” he said. “There’s actually a lot still left,” including bases for signals.

Hill said the historical society has a number of baggage slips from the stop, and as a railroad enthusiast, Hill enjoys the glimpse at what life was like in those days.

It’s been a long time since the train rolled through Jaffrey, but the little pieces of history – like the sign in Pimental’s yard – are a reminder of the railroad’s historical significance and just how far things have come since it blew that final whistle.


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