Raymond Historical Society


trainWhen searching for remnants of abandoned railroad lines, one cannot do much better than a depot. The railroad station was the focal point of the American small
town in the latter half of the 19th Century and in the first half of the 20th. Towns that still claim a standing railroad station into the modern day are truly a minority. Towns which retain stations nearly identical to the way they stood when the last trains left town are even scarcer.

A rural community nestled on the Lamprey River 21 miles from Manchester, Raymond, NH is one such town.
1850 brought with it the Portsmouth & Concord Railroad, later acquired and operated by the Boston & Maine.
Though the railrods linked Raymond's residents and products to the greater world, is was but a rural branchline and like many of New Hampshire's small railroad towns, development never really exploded. Other than a few busy industries, Raymond was still a relatively quiet place.

One reason for this was that the major population and industrial centers of the Merrimack Valley to the west
and the seacoast to the east were not all that far off. The introduction of state highways in the mid-twentieth century amplified this closeness, and suddenly passenger rail could not stand up to the family automobile.

Passenger service on the Portsmouth Branch dried up in 1954, although mixed train service survived into the 60's with the addition of wooden combine coach #2093 onto the rear of local freights. Aftger the combine's sale in 1960 to the Strasburg Railroad (where it can still be ridden today), passenger tickets for the steel freight caboose could be purchased until the sale of tickets at Portsmouth ended. It's likely ridership mostly consisted of railfans!

Though passenger traffic was gone, the freight connection from the capital region to the seacoast still kept trains running regularly. Local freights C-9 and C-10, operating between Concord and Portsmouth, trundled over the branch until the early 1970s, usually powered by GP7s and RS3s. The large Manchester Sand & Gravel pit off of Onway Lake Road was a busy customer until 1971 and a tannery in town did rail business until 1972. Even with a plastics plant opening in 1976, increasingly-shorter local freight Y-5/Y-6, and later CO-1, usually passed on through town to Epping where feed, gas and brick were delivered.

In the late 1970s the B&M was increasingly interested in abandoning the branch yet high-and-wide moves to the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant and as-needed freight service as far as Epping kept the trains running. However, the deteriorating physical condition of the line could not justify service and derailments were common even with speeds at an agonizing 5 MPH or slower. The last trains passed through Raymond in 1980 and possibly 1981.

Though it had lost its rail service, Raymond still held onto its depot. Constructed in 1893, it was not the first but actually the third railroad station to serve the town. Upon the end of passenger service it was sold to private ownership and housed a number of businesses over the years before being purchased in 1979 by the Raymond Historical Society. The station is a real gem; a survivor in a region whose small town stations are mostly either distant memories or relocated and severely altered.

Not only does the station survive in great condition, but the Historical Society it houses has on display several pieces of railroad equipment a NYC refrigerated boxcar, a small Plymouth locomotive, an inspection motorcar and a 1932 Boston & Maine N-5b caboose. The Raymond Historical Society recently began an initiative to restore its rolling stock, with the caboose taking first priority.

The group has decided on the classic blue and red B&M scheme of the late 1960s and 1970s, the final scheme this caboose wore and the image Raymond residents would have seen as the railroad made its final appearances in town. Previously their caboose had worn both the pre-war and Minuteman maroon schemes while on display. EnviroVantage, a local contracting firm, has offered to do the work per diem, and the group will be working with Jim Abbott of Highball Graphics to supply decals.

Rick Kfoury - B&M Railroad Society