Manchester and Lawrence Railroad

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Methuen Train Depot
Guilford switcher on the M&L in Salem, New Hampshire, circa 1993

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.

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.

Despite rapid population growth in Rockingham County in the 1960s and '70s, rail traffic declined. On November 6, 1980, the section of the line from just north of Salem Depot to Derry Depot was temporarily taken out of service, and in 1984 this same section was abandoned by Guilford, having never been reactivated. Three years later service from Derry to Manchester ended, with that section being abandoned in the early 1990s. Part of the line was sold to Manchester Airport to extend one of the runways.

Freight continued to run from Lawrence through Methuen up to the Salem depot until December 1992 when the remaining customers at the depot closed. Service from Lawrence to the Rockingham Park run-around siding continued until March 1999 when the warehouse across from T-Bones closed. The main line and passing track at the racetrack was removed immediately and was relocated south to where Circuit City was located so Guilford could continue to serve the last remaining customer while waiting for approval to abandon service from the STB. All service north of the Lawrence city line ended in June 2001 after Guilford dropped off two covered hoppers to leave behind in Salem and picked up empties. A small stretch in Lawrence continued to see infrequent service until 2011, and it is expected that Pan Am will file a discontinuance with the STB for this section in the not to distant future. The portion of the line in Massachusetts (Lawrence and Methuen) is currently owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA), and all track north of Lawrence has been removed, with some sections still in place in Londonderry (just south of the airport) and staggered spots in Manchester.

Rail trail[edit]

The abandoned roadbed currently serves as a rail trail in Londonderry, Derry and Windham.[1] [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. 

External links[edit]