Posted: 1/1/2022 11:00:45 AM
Modified: 1/1/2022 11:00:06 AM
There was a time when railroads stretched far and wide, connecting remote communities in New Hampshire as well as across the country. As a child, I roamed the tracks in the Concord area, wondering about the 40 years my grandfather worked for the Concord-based Boston & Maine Railroad. As I walked the rails on a hot summer day, I often thought of the many times my grandfather crossed the same rails decades before me.
By the end of the 19th century, Concord was well known as a place to find employment. As the farmers left their fields and the soldiers returned from the war, there were jobs available at Concord. Two of the largest employers in the state of New Hampshire were located in Concord; the railroad and granite industries created job opportunities and people made Concord a career destination. In an era when a career was the adventure of a lifetime, you were hired by the railroad or one of the many granite companies where you would spend the next forty years.
I recently walked the rails in Penacook, gazing at the empty lot that was once occupied by the small railroad depot at Penacook. The rails still shine in the midday sun, as they have been for over a century and sometimes longer. The trains that traveled these long, silent rails nearby were home to some of the best locomotives known, some locally built at the south end of Concord at the Concord Railroad Yard. The first locomotives were fueled with wood, followed by coal. The engines were steam powered, and wood and coal heated the water, creating steam and energy to ride the rails. Over the years, locomotives carrying freight and passengers were powered by diesel engines, eliminating the need for the firefighter to feed short lengths of wood or shovelfuls of coal to maintain steam.
My grandfather, Martin Spain, spent his youth growing up in Concord like his father before. His first adventure in the world of work followed his father and grandfather to Rattlesnake Hill to the granite quarries early in the morning. His father had a small quarry aptly named Spain Quarry, located west of the popular Perry Quarry where we spent our summer days swimming. After Martin spent a year or two working on the hill, he ventured out to Railroad Square and applied for a job as a carpenter with Boston & Main Railroad, with time progressing in his career towards the railroad jobs that followed. He often spoke to my father, along with the stories that were passed on to me many years ago, about old locomotives running on the tracks. Although he spent his decades as a railroad worker, there was always a sparkle in his eyes when he spoke of the very first locomotives in the Concord area, the original wood stoves were still coveted by all for many. many years.
I remember his stories my father passed on to me about his days with the railroad. There were a lot of humorous tales, legends made, stories to be told and then some stories to never be repeated. The old Boston & Maine locomotive known as the Warrior was a wood-fired steam locomotive. It was the last of the trains to be given a name, after 1894 most locomotives were simply referred to by numbers. The Warrior, also known by its number 440, has made countless journeys with passengers between Claremont Junction and Concord. This wood-burning stove housed the old-fashioned fireplace and large square headlights that had not been seen here since 1900. In the winter of 1884, the Warrior was carrying passengers as part of the Concord & Claremont branch each year. day.
Old wood-burning locomotives were plentiful in these areas during the latter part of the 1800s. The Warrior was joined by other wood-burning burners such as engines named General Pierce, Carroll, CW Clark, Grafton, Crombie, GW Nesmith, James Ketell, Contoocook and the King Lear.
Old trains roamed the tracks in the face of dangers every day, men enjoyed a camaraderie unmatched in other careers. It was common to help each other and use the hours productively. A custom of the 1890s was for train attendants to transport products or other items for their own convenience. It was not uncommon to see the General Pierce or the CW Clark rolling down the rails to Concord with large boxes and canvas bags and crates located on the front footrest containing everything from produce to live pork. .
As my grandfather grew older and his forty years as a railroad worker at Boston & Main Railroad were drawing to a close, his young colleagues showed him a lot of kindness. My grandparents owned a house on the east side of North State Street, high above the railroad tracks below. Before my grandfather retired, he walked from his house, through a wooded area on a worn path to the railroad tracks. The young engineer who left the marshalling yard to the south would be watching Marty Spain, standing near the tracks. He would stop to pick up my grandfather and get down to work to accomplish the assigned goals for the days. Yes, the men who worked for the railroad looked after each other and their families.
As a child, I often spent time with my grandmother on North State Street, rolling down the hills and looking towards the same train tracks below. My grandfather had passed away many years before I was born, but I always felt a deep connection with him. One summer, as I was visiting my grandmother and playing in the same yard my father before me called home, I saw an opening in the woods behind his house. I ventured out and saw the worn trail leading into the forest, down the hill to the distant train tracks. I asked my grandmother on the way in the woods, waiting for a simple answer. Her eyes were shining and she smiled at me, it was the day I discovered Marty’s Trail. A trail that I often walked when I was very young, in the woods no further than the train tracks. I was walking in the same footsteps my grandfather once walked many years before.