Manchester and Lawrence Railroad

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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.[1] As of June 2012, 2.5 miles of track remains in place in Salem.[2]


  1. ^ Parry, Eric (April 16, 2009). "Derry rail trail group nears goal to fund paving". Eagle Tribune. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  2. ^ Whipple, Steve (April 2009). "Bikers are all aboard Rail Trail plan". Methuen Life. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 

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