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Abandoned Lawrence and Manchester Railroad Corridor

This video shows the Rail Corridor for the most part BEFORE development of the Salem and Methuen Sections with some glimpses of the completed northern sections.

This video is about the Lawrence and Manchester Railroad. The Manchester and Lawrence Railroad was a railroad company that was chartered in New Hampshire by businessmen from Manchester, to build a rail line from that city to the Massachusetts state line. The Manchester and Lawrence was chartered in 1847 and opened in November 1849. It leased the newly built Methuen Branch from the Boston and Maine Railroad, which opened in August 1849 and ran from South Lawrence through Methuen to the state line where the two lines met. Methuen Train Depot. The B&M tried to lease the M&L, but the company leased itself to the Concord Railroad in 1850. This still helped the B&M as the railroad opened up a second Manchester to Boston route that helped the B&M compete with the combined Nashua and Lowell and Boston and Lowell Railroads. By 1887, the contract was terminated, and the B&M gained control of the line. In the 20th century, the line was relegated to local freight. Passenger service on the line dropped to one round trip per day until 1953 when regular passenger service ended. Special summer trains ran to Rockingham Park in Salem for the horse races until 1960 when that service stopped. Guilford switcher on the M&L in Salem, New Hampshire, circa 1993. Despite rapid growth in Rockingham County in the 1970s, rail traffic declined. In 1984, Guilford abandoned the line between Salem and Londonderry, and three years later the line in Londonderry to Manchester Airport was abandoned, leaving the line split in two. Service from Manchester down to the airport continued until the mid 1980s when the Manchester segment was taken out of service and freight service between Manchester and the airport had ended. Freight ran from Lawrence through Methuen up to the Salem depot until December 1993. Service from Lawrence to the Rockingham Racetrack run-around sidings continued until March 1999, and all service past the Lawrence/Methuen line ended in June 2001. Today, a small stretch in Lawrence is used as a short freight line that services a customer about once a month. The portion of the line in Massachusetts (Lawrence and Methuen) is currently owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) The abandoned roadbed currently serves as a rail trail in Londonderry, Derry and Windham. As of June 2012, 2.5 miles of track remains in place in Salem.


Rail Trail Surface

This is the surface of the Danvers Rail is one of the possible surfaces the Methuen Rail Trail will have when it reaches first phase this summer.


Rails to Trails Conservancy Toolbox

I was reminded recently of the best resource for a project such as ours.

The Rails To Trails Conservancy has provided nearly every thing one needs to get a Rail Trail off the ground, so to speak.

The Rails to Trails Technical Assistance Toolbox covers everything from research and acquisition to construction and liability. Please feel free to poke about when you have time, perhaps you will light on something that inspires you to volunteer for that aspect of the project.

Plan, Design, Build >>
Design for User Type



Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

” . . . is a woody vine that is well known for its ability to produce urushiol, a skin irritant that causes an itching rash for most people, technically known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.” wp

. . . and Methuen’s got plenty of it. I got some of it now, just a smidgen on my eyelid no doubt transferred from a finger which discovered it on the back of my wrist. I tend to get it in little patches about the size of a half dollar and transfer it. Some people are MUCH more susceptible than others., but they tend to know who they are. In New England you run across it early in life just rolling around on your lawn. (remember it’s the thing that looks like a mitten)

Regarding trails under normal usage, poison ivy stays in its place on the ground, so once a trail is improved and the brush is pushed back to normal distance, hikers and cyclists need not fear it. Wandering into the woods will bring you in contact with it, as well as handling a dog that has come into contact with it. We were exposed to it yesterday while picking up all the nonsense that was hiding under the shrubbery.

My favorite anti-Poison Ivy aids are Tecnu and Ivarest. Usually I wash my hands and face with a cleanser designed to remove Poison Ivy oils, when I come in from the woods, either Tecnu or a bar soap. If I miss a spot, the Ivarest helps negate the itch, but it’s that lovely pink paste that tells the world what you have been up to in your off hours. IF the you can’t ignore the itch, cover the spot with a non-adhesive bandage.

from Wikipedia:

“The reaction caused by poison ivy, urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, is an allergic reaction. Around 15%[5] to 30%[6] of people have no allergic response, but most people will become sensitized with repeated or more concentrated exposure to urushiol. Reactions can progress to anaphylaxis.

Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that develops into reddish colored inflammation or non-colored bumps, and then blistering. These lesions may be treated with calamine lotion, Burow solution compresses, or Aveeno baths to relieve discomfort.[7] In severe cases, clear fluids ooze from open blistered sores and corticosteroids are the necessary treatment.

The oozing fluids released by itching blisters do not spread the poison. The appearance of a spreading rash indicates that some areas received more of the poison and reacted sooner than other areas or that contamination is still occurring from contact with objects to which the original poison was spread. The blisters and oozing result from blood vessels that develop gaps and leak fluid through the skin; if the skin is cooled, the vessels constrict and leak less. If poison ivy is burned and the smoke then inhaled, this rash will appear on the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and possibly fatal respiratory difficulty. If poison ivy is eaten, the digestive tract, airway, kidneys or other organs can be damaged. An untreated rash can last up to four weeks.

Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin

People who are sensitive to poison ivy can also experience a similar rash from mangoes. Mangoes are in the same family (Anacardiaceae) as poison ivy; the sap of the mango tree and skin of mangoes has a chemical compound similar to urushiol. “


life is skittles and life is beer

Mud season is here in New England . . . that means spring can’t be far away! Time to roll out your bike, old new, expensive or cheap, if they can be ridden they should be ready to be ridden. Here are some tips to get your bike ready for another year of cycling. If you get it done straight away, then there is no reason not to go for a ride as soon as the spirit moves you. My first instinct when the sun peak out and melted the ice on the drive was to roll ‘Daisy’ right into the living room and get started.

If you have kids have them cleaning their own bike, especially if you are cleaning yours at the same time. Get them into the habit of taking care of their bikes and they will make your investment in their bike last longer.

Cleaning – I am always amazed how many people just park their bike and spend little time cleaning it. Any conscientious biker will wipe down their bike before and after each use. Dirt, grime and road salt are so easy to avoid. and cleaning it off will easily extend the life of your bike and its moving parts. Clean everything tires, rims, seat, chain, chain rings, cassette, derailleurs, pedals, brakes, even your basket and panniers. Many people have recommended Simple Green, but any good biodegradable cleaner will do, I try to stay away from harsh chemicals because i don’t want to lose the ancient decals on my bikes.

Tires – Check tires for splits, cracks,and tread for uneven excessive wear. Replace the tires if needed. Tires and tubes are relatively cheap, and much cheaper than having blow out on the road just because it needed to be replaced.

Wheels – Clean the rims with a cloth and rubbing alcohol, some of the road tars are tough to remove. If your bike is ancient like mine, rust and spots on the chrome can be tackled with a good chrome polish. There is even biodegradable non toxic chrome polish that even kids can use. Check the balance of the wheel does it spin straight or is it untrue? If you can make the minor adjustments to the wheel with a spoke wrench go for it, if not take the wheel to the shop and get it up on a truing stand. Uneven wheels cause brake wear, difficulty steering and a bumpy ride.

Brakes – Check the brake pads, make sure they are wearing evenly. If they have any uneven wear, get new ones, they are another inexpensive item that can save you lots of trouble being replaced before they become a problem. Check the brake cables, do the pads strike the rim at the same time when applied? Adjust the brake arm tension screws so the brakes are even.

Chain – Elevate the rear wheel and spin the pedals, you may need help doing this unless you have a stand, you can always use the bike rack on your car. You should be able to shift through all the rear gears smooth; if it skips any gears try adjusting your rear derailleur. If the problem persists take it to the shop, if you use your bike a lot you may just need a new chain. They are relatively inexpensive and are another thing to keep in perfect working order to prevent problems on the road. If you can change the chain yourself you probably don’t need my advice, I only have 3 gears and they are all internal.

Lubrication – get out the bike lube, apply even coat to the chain, on the inside and outside of each link and between the pins and rollers. Let is set and then wipe off the excess with a rag. Apply lube to all the pivot points on the front and rear derailleur, as well as any hinges and levers on the brakes.

Check your gear – If you have a seat bag with essentials, check to make sure everything is in order. For just kicking around town I carry a first aid kit, a spare tube, tire levers, puncture patches, multi-tool, c-wrench, pen note pad, small bungee cords, zip ties, a bandanna, disposable camera.

Springs coming get ready to ride.


Tax dollars at a walk

The Federal Highway Administration funds this marvelous site called which provides encouragement to get out and walk. Aside from basics about personal walking and its benefits, it provides terrific resources for improving walkability of one’s own community.

Walking Solutions:

Visit the site and poke around at all the free downloadable documents, once the damn snow goes away, perhaps a few of us can get out and do a casual audit of the walkability of our community with’s Walkability checklist (download pdf)


reading and riding

In my quest to check out all the local rail-rail trails, I did pick up a few books on the subject.

New England Biking
(2005) by Melissa Kim is your general travel guide. It lists some bike rides in all the states that incorporate road biking and trail biking, but obviously doesn’t focus on rail trails. It does index all these trails by scenery, difficulty, distance etc…if you are interested in expanding your biking opportunities all over New England this is a damn fine book with good general maps and explicit directions (something you don’t often see. (author’s site)

Rail-Trails New England (2007) from the Official Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is the official guidebook to same. It covers trails in various states of development including some that are more appropriate for mountain biking. Lovely book it also includes the contact info for the caretaker organization. Hopefully this book will do nothing but get bigger in future but it is a great overview of the state of multi-use trails in New England. (publisher’s site)

New Hampshire Rail Trails by Charles F Martin is one of my favorite books thus far. Trying to be all inclusive Martin has included proposed but likely trails such as Salem’s Bike-Ped corridor. It has good maps and directions, but the books appeal is the integration of the history of railroad right of way with the present use of the property and dense with images of the roads, buildings, bridges and waterways that surround the trails. I seriously wish there was a similar book for the Massachusetts side of the line. (author’s website)

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