Posts Tagged ‘Bennington New Hampshire’

1. Crossing Sign

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time most likely knows that railroad tracks and rivers played a strong part in my boyhood. The Ashuelot River was just a few yards away from our house to the south and the Boston and Maine Railroad another few yards to the north. When they tore up the Boston and Maine tracks it felt like they tore part of me up with them, so when I noticed some railroad tracks in Bennington, New Hampshire near where I work I knew that I had to explore them.

2. Tracks

After years of walking rail trails with no rails it was a pleasure to see some again.  So many memories came flooding back that I might just as well have been in a time machine. One of the strongest of those was of my grandmother telling me stories about all the terrible things that happened to little boys who dared to try and hop on a moving train. She must have been psychic because that’s exactly the thing that I always wanted to do, and it was only the pictures that she painted in my mind of disfigured little boys that kept me from doing so. It was probably for the best.

3. Spike

It was clear right away that something wasn’t right about these tracks. For one thing the rails were rusty, and rails that see train traffic are always shiny and smooth and look almost polished.  There were also many spikes that had worked their way up out of the ties and no responsible railroad would let that happen. Once I got home I did some research and found that these tracks were once owned by the Milford-Bennington Railroad and originally serviced the Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington, but the 18 mile line was abandoned in 1986 and has been owned by the state since 1988.

The Milford-Bennington Railroad still carries stone in Wilton, New Hampshire and if you’d like to see it you can watch a short video of it by clicking on the word here.

4. Tie Plate

Some of the tie plates were dated 1932, but since these tracks were laid in the late 1800s they had to be replacements.

5. Track

A splice bar is bolted to the ends of two rails to join them together in a track. It is also called a fish plate or joint bar. Spending time on the tracks taught me that by puzzling my mind and pricking my curiosity enough to pick up a book and find out what I could. The tracks also taught me about the thermal expansion of steel and why expansion joints are needed, and why trains go clickety clack when they roll. If you want your child to learn about this world just let him or her walk the tracks for a while. They’ll drive you crazy with all their questions, but it will be the start of a learning process that will most likely stay with them throughout their lives.

6. River View

In places the tracks run very near the Contoocook river, one of just a handful in the state that flow from south to north rather than southward. In this spot the river widens dramatically and is called Powder Mill Pond. The name Contoocook comes from the Native American Pennacook tribe and is said to mean “place of the river near pines.” There are plenty of pines along this river’s 71 mile course.

7. High Water

If you want to know how high a river gets when it floods just look at the trees and bushes along its length.  I was astonished to see that this bit of river stuff was hanging high enough in a tree to be over my head, which meant the river would have probably flooded both the tracks and the road that is just off camera to the right in this photo. I’ve read that the Contoocook is considered a high risk river due to regular flooding.

8. Ice on Log

The ice on this pine log shows how cold it was on this day, one of the very few cold days in the month of December. Even so the temperature was still above average.

9. Crossing

I haven’t seen a tractor crossing like this one in a very long time.  It didn’t look that old but it was nice to see it.

10. Reindeer Lichen

Reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) decorated the sides of the railroad bed. This lichen seems to like to grow in poor, gravelly soil. At least that’s where I find it most often.

11. Moss

In the shade the only real snow we’ve seen this season hung on, refusing to melt.

12. Path

A well-worn path led into the woods and I decided to follow it.

13. Fishing Hole View

As I suspected the path led to a fishing spot on the banks of the Contoocook. The view was fine enough to make it one of those places where you could sit for hours, not caring if you ever caught a fish. I have a sneaking suspicion that my father used to visit such places when he fished.

14. Knothole

I found a beautiful old hollow tree along the path and peeked into the knothole, but there was nobody home. I loved its color and grain patterns, and its oldness.

15. Trestle

The tracks eventually lead to a trestle that crosses a very rocky part of the river to a siding at the paper mill. Since trains no longer run here the tracks are blocked by high fencing, so there was no way onto the trestle, I was sorry to see. The stone piers that hold up this trestle were laid dry with no mortar and it doesn’t look like a stone has moved in nearly 150 years. The stone is granite that was most likely cut very nearby from ledge, bedrock or boulders, as the railroads used to do.

16. Trestle

Many of the secondary piers are made of heavy 12 X 12 inch wooden beams, which are common on railroad bridges in this area. The wooden deflectors tell me that this spot must see some serious ice in winter. I’ll have to come back and see in February.

17. Tracks

You can’t go home again they say, but if you pay attention you can find little pieces of home tucked here and there; maybe in a meal, an aroma, a song, or a place. I was able to easily walk back into boyhood on this day and that’s always a welcome experience. Everyone should have that chance at least once.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision; that true instinct for what is beautiful, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. ~Rachel Carson

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!




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