January 11, 2007

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Easier 80 years ago
By Jeff Rapsis

Boston is a world-class city, the region’s economic hub. Nashua is close enough to benefit greatly from this. But did you know it was easier to get to Boston in 1925 than it is today?

I have before me a timetable for the Boston & Maine Railroad effective Sept. 27, 1925. With all the talk about reestablishing passenger rail to Nashua, I decided to see what it was like before the rise of the private automobile.

Get this: At the time, Nashua was the hub of several rail lines that reached not only to Boston, but up to Montreal, over to Portland, Maine, down to Worcester, Mass., and out west to Keene.

The Gate City’s main depot was Union Station, at the intersection of Temple and East Hollis streets, where the Nashua Diner now stands.

Going to Boston? You had your pick of 13 trains from Nashua to North Station leaving throughout the day, starting at 5:47 a.m. (arriving 7:03 a.m.) and finishing with a 9:26 p.m. departure.

Several trains covered the route in one hour and six minutes flat, stopping only in Lowell. If you hopped on Train 6 in Nashua at 8:36 a.m., you’d be in downtown Boston at 9:42 a.m. That’s better than you can go by car today, more than 80 years later, plus you didn’t have to pay for parking.

If Union Station was too far out of town, several connections to Boston were listed from Nashua’s “City” station, meaning the depot at Railroad Square where Dunkin’ Donuts stands today. It wasn’t on the north-south main line up the Merrimack River valley but on the route to Milford and the Monadnock Region.

Every day, two trains went up this branch line to a place called “Elmwood Junction” in Hancock, where you could make connections for Peterborough, Hillsborough or Keene.

Also, five trains a day ran each way between Nashua and Worcester, running through the Gate City on a line paralleling West Hollis Street that also connected Nashua directly to Portland, Maine, to which there were two trains a day. Besides calling at Union Station, these trains also stopped at “Main Street” station, another downtown depot near where our current City Hall stands today.

Long-distance trains stopped at Nashua, too. Headed for the Big Apple? Every day except Saturdays, you could board a sleeping car in Nashua at 9:15 p.m. and arrive in New York at 7:36 a.m., all rested and ready for the day. What would be more civilized?

Montreal? Four trains a day. Quebec City? One train a day, direct.

It’s amazing to me to think we once enjoyed this system in Nashua. Not only did it make Nashua the city it is today, it actually made money, too.

What are we waiting for?