Stony Brook Railroad

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Stony Brook Railroad
Willows station site on Stony Brook RR.JPG
Willows Junction in Ayer, where the Stony Brook (foreground) splits from the Fitchburg Railroad
SystemPan Am Railways
Formerly Boston and Maine Railroad
StatusActive (freight only)
TerminiAyer (1848-1946)
Willows (1946-1961)
North Chelmsford
Line length10.8 mi (17.4 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Stony Brook Railroad was a short line railroad that ran off the Nashua and Lowell Railroad's main line from the village of North Chelmsford to Ayer, Massachusetts (then the village of South Groton) where it connected to the Fitchburg Railroad. Passenger service last ran on the line in 1961, but it is still used by freight traffic.

The Stony Brook Railroad was named after Stony Brook, which follows the line for several miles before joining the Merrimack River.


The railroad was chartered in 1845 and opened in 1848, by the citizens of Lowell to connect its city with the south and west. A few months before the new line opened, the Stony Brook owners entered into an agreement with the N&L to run the line for them. The SBR never owned its own rolling stock, so the line became an intricate part of the N&L which operated jointly with the Boston and Lowell under the unofficial name of the Boston, Lowell and Nashua Railroad.

During its early years, the Stony Brook line was not very profitable for the N&L, but the company kept the line open to keep it out of the hands of it rivals, the Fitchburg RR.

The line came under the control of the Boston and Maine (B&M) and it became part of the main freight line between Maine and the south and west to avoid going through Boston.

By 1911, freight and some passenger trains that used the Worcester and Nashua line were rerouted over the Stony Brook. In 1928, the line was double tracked to handle the increase in traffic. A western wye was installed at North Chelmsford so that all trains between Nashua and Ayer could use this line.

The Bar Harbor Express used the Stony Brook line every night, passing through without stopping on its route between Washington, D.C. and Ellsworth, Maine. Another national passenger train, the State of Maine Express also rolled through at night with no stops on its route from Portland, Maine to New York City. These trains ran between 1911 and 1960. Regular passenger service on the line ended in 1953.

In 1946, the B&M decided to relocate the connection of the Stony Brook and Fitchburg lines two miles east of Ayer Station to eliminate the parallel running of the two tracks. The Stony Brook track from the Willows section of Ayer to Ayer Junction were abandoned, and a new connection with the Fitchburg line was made at Willows Station. In 1957, the second track was taken up from Willows to Graniteville and from Westford to North Chelmsford.

Today, the Stony Brook line is still operating as part of the main freight line for Pan Am Railways through Massachusetts. With trains coming through from Maine and the Nashua, New Hampshire, area every day, it is the busiest part of the old Guilford line in the state.


KML is from Wikidata
  • Karr, Ronald D. (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England - A Handbook of Railroad History. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-02-2.
  • Karr, Ronald D. (1994). Lost Railroads New England. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-04-9.