On May 16 of 1848 a large crowd gathered on Main Street in Keene. More than 5,000 people eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first train to come to Keene from Boston. With the train’s arrival came the birth of one of Cheshire County’s most important industries and the nation’s most modern technology in the form of The Cheshire Railroad.
The railroad made Keene what it is today – the economic and manufacturing center for the region. Passengers could now travel to Boston in the comfort of a passenger car in 3 hours. By the 1870s, 3 lines, going out in four directions, making connections to Boston, Montreal, New York, and Concord. Businesses and industries located right along the tracks in Keene to take advantage of this new form of transportation. Keene was soon the manufacturing, retail, banking, educational, and social center of the region – and its only city – all of which remains true today.
Passenger service lasted 110 years, until May of 1958, and freight service survived until 1982. The last train into Keene came in 1984. Trucks, Eisenhower interstate highway system, railroad management all combined to end the RR in Keene. The railroad is gone, but much of the rail bed still exists and inspires. The Cheshire Recreational Rail Trail, as it is known as today, is a popular attraction for historians, bicyclists, hikers, walkers, and other recreationalists.
North facing 77-81 Main St
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In Our Collections
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Cheshire railroad documents including correspondence and receipts.
Our photograph collection contains images of trains, railroad lines, and employees.
Many local history books, B&M Employee magazines, and railroad history books can be accessed in our library.
- Cheshire Rail Trail: extends 32.9 miles from Walpole, through downtown Keene, to the NH-MA border.
- Route 101: The Stone Arch Bridge is a stone arch railroad bridge located in Keene, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, United States. The bridge was built in 1847 with a span length of 90 feet.
- Emerald Street, Keene: Cheshire Railroad Roundhouse and Locomotive Shops (now house many shops and businesses).
Film footage of Steamtown USA Monadnock & Northern Railroad, 1962 (Youtube)
Film: Reflection Series: Trolleys, Trains, & Flyers (2011) Avail online: https://www.sentinelsource.com/search/?k=%22reflections%22#tncms-source=keyword
Rail Trail History and Discussion: “After the Trains Left Town” (2017) at the Historical Society of Cheshire County