Railroads have quite a history in New England.
Rail mileage peaked right during World War One, but began to decline shortly aft.
So what happens to railroad trac when they're no longer used?
You'll find out what one family should be done.
Welcome to Windows to the Wild.
I'm Willem Lange.
Over 170 years ago, the Northern Railroad laid track.
It carried freight and passenger into central New Hampshire.
Well, the Northern Railroad now gone, but some of the track rema.
There's a section of it right he that has come to be used for something quite different from its origina.
Joining me today to discuss this transition, this transformation is the guy w Gary LeBlanc.
Gary, it is such a pleasure.
Pardon me for not rising.
That's fine Will.
But you're the guy who did this, Yeah.
No, I. I saw a purpose for old rails that weren't being used for anyt and we cleared the track and built these bikes.
And people have been enjoying it for the last four years.
Where did the idea come from?
You know, believe it or not, I saw it on Facebook.
Another company was doing it in.
And you'd built these, I guess you call cars, right?
We call them rail bikes.
They are fantastic.
Oh, thank you.
Quiet as can be.
They go like sm.
This one go too fast.
I can't keep up with my partners going faster than I am.
Thinking of my partner.
It's Marshal Hudson.
You've written this line.
Marshal's the reason I'm in Conc New Hampshire, today.
You'll hear his story and get to as we ride the trails together.
I don't know.
Maybe we ought to just do it now.
It's a beautiful we've got the Merrimack River ri.
Imagine the old steam engines coming up this road.
It must have been a sight.
Must have been something.
But before we get too far down the track, a bit of history.
You're looking at the last remaining section of the Norther.
The ties and steel rails were la in 1846.
The tracks extended nearly 70 mi from Concord, New Hampshire, to White River Junction, Vermont.
The railroad moved a lot of frei and passengers until 1890.
That's when it was taken over by the Boston and Maine.
Traffic and the road declined after Worl.
In the 1990's the track was aban.
The track that we're running on originally put down in the late 1800s was the Northern Railroad.
And there's not much of it left I mean basically six miles of tr left of the Northern Railroad from back back in those days.
And we're using about half of that track at this.
So I kind of think that we're we're saving a piece of history by doing this.
What Garry's done is open this historic track to the publi.
You know, if you're up to the task, leg power moves rail bikes along what's left of New Hampshire's Northern Railroad.
How'd you find the place?
Oh, I actually got lucky.
I basically search for my track on Google Earth and spotted this.
And checked it out and then got of the railroad company that own.
Came up and walked it with my so and we decided on which end we were going to use and put this one on the track fi I put a lot into it, researched the industry, researched all the all the compa that were doing that out there, and then made the decision to to try to move forwa.
It just seemed like such a stran to get obsessed about.
Yeah, well, I mean, that was I'm getting close to retirement and I figured, you know, this is that everybody was in close reti says they're starting a railroad.
You know, I had model trains when I was a kid, so I've always the railroad.
I always been fascinated with it you know?
So I figured, these are these ar.
You know, I would enjoy doing th.
You found this place?
Who did you have to deal with the railroad Pan Am on that at the time.
So I had to.
Had to work out a lease with the Gary had a lease in hand and 6.4 miles of railway to boot.
That's when he and his family go.
They built scenic Rail riders.
So then the work began, right?
Yeah, it was very grown over.
I mean, we had a tough time even walking it, and it was so t. Really?
Lots of trees growing up through it.
And you can just imagine.
So we had to go through and clea.
So essentially, I built one four seat bike as a prototype.
You know, and that became our, o that we used to clear the tracks.
We loaded that thing up.
You know, we had four of us on t and put a board across the front and we had a bucket on each side with all the tools in.
It sat my daughter on the board in the middle and the front bumper up there, and the five of us went down the.
We kind of looked like the old C back in the day.
Human engines move the bikes in two directions south on a 2.4 mile round trip.
Then they turn around underneath table and head north for a four mile r. Now when people come out here, they come from all over the plac.
Yeah, a lot of people like to come to New Hampshire to so we got people coming from dow South Carolina, Florida.
We have people coming from Calif Arizona.
I mean, they're all coming out and they get here and they want now, which is kind of incredible you know, attracting people from the U.S. is very good.
And somehow this this railway attracted your attention.
Yeah, I was driving by one day and going up Sewell's Falls Road.
And a lady with a stop sign jump in front of me and stopped traff.
And, you know, you're used to co people flying out.
And so I stopped and waited.
And a few minutes later, these rail carts went across the.
And I thought, that's interestin.
And I pulled into the parking lo and started asking questions.
So I mentioned earlier that I'm here because of Marshal.
I read a story about the Rail Ri in New Hampshire magazine.
It intrigued me and I had to meet the person who.
Now, Marshall, you don't spend y running up and down this little bit of railroad with visiting videographers, rig.
Not usually, No, no, no.
But you're a licensed surveyor.
I'm a land Surveyor Correct.
Working on it?
Well, I'm retired I've kept my license, so I still do a little bit here but I'm retired.
And you've been a farmer, Yeah.
Born and raised on a New Hampshi dairy farm.
Oh, and I grew up with cows and so I kept the farm.
And I own a little gentleman's f. And you're writing?
I don't consider myself a writer but I've been writing lately.
I've been writing for New Hampshire magazine.
Yeah, I've read some of that stuff.
Your'e good Well, thank you.
I hate to admit it, but you real.
Make me jealous.
Well, thank you.
How many bikes do you have?
They all have names.
My family actually named them al.
And we've got some pretty cool names in there.
We went with, like Larry, Moe, C Romeo, Juliet, Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Lou.
And then we've got some Thomas the train show character names as well that the kids kind of enjoy.
Bert and Ernie yup.
Love these little cars you made that was you're saying on the ou the little wheels.
The wheels, right.
The bikes are all aluminum, with the exception.
The axles, those are stainless s It's really quiet.
I mean, they don't rumble on the at all.
Oh, and you.
The lips on the wheels actually hit the joiner plates J.
Just tick them so you kind of get the railroad feel as you're.
Yeah, You get that.
Thump thump thump.
So your best bet is.
Sit on the seat fir.
And then you can lift the leg up from over the back.
Now, if you're wondering, as I was about the effort it takes to pedal a rail bike, keep this in mind.
I have more metal in my leg than find in a small hardware store.
I did have a problem holding my left foot on the peda but our videographer, taped it to the pedal.
I have families that, you know, families will bring their grandparents al.
They'll sit them on a bike.
And, you know, once in a while, the grandparents will throw a pedal or two in her and there and the other people just pick up the slack for them.
Yeah, we take kids, you know, we buckle car seats onto our sea.
So kids of all ages.
So makes a great day for, you know, on a two seater, you know, young couples going on.
Yeah, I guess.
I guess so.
Sort of a test.
We've actually had a couple of w proposals on our tours as well.
Is that right?
Get away from me.
I'm already taken Willem.
Yeah, well, we had a couple propose right ov about the picnic tables at this.
That's another couple proposed at the bridge at the ot.
Did they both say yes?
Marshall's story about the Railr describes more than the experien he writes about discoveries he made along the way.
This six mile section of track, which is what Gary uses for his operation here has three major historical sites.
At least three.
There's three The three signific the Soules Falls Dam would be the first one that was a timber crib dam that went across the Merrima and provided hydroelectric power most of the Concord area for a I.
For who people don't know what is a timber crib dam?
Think of it as like Lincoln Logs.
Put together and spiked in place.
Built into a square and then filled with rock.
And the rock is actually the wei that keeps it from floating.
Keeps the timber from.
From separating and floating awa.
And the next one up is as you co probably the next historical fig would be the old Penicuik railro depot down here.
Now, you know the depot building there.
It's not like it was when it was the Penicuik Railroa station and people were using it regular.
And that's where the train crash.
It was the train that we're on h there's a siding that pulls off onto the front of the depot.
High school kids got the blame.
I don't know that they ever prov some high school kids with a rif the padlock off the switching po you know, and when they unlocked they were able to then turn the switch and the rails sh.
And so a southbound train coming took this took the landing at fu and smacked into the cars on the the box cars that were on the la and smashed.
Oh, what a mess.
No one was killed, but you had t engines and overturned railroad all over the place down here.
The third historic site is just the tracks from where we are on a small island in Boscawen.
It's a statue and a dust that stands 35 feet t. She holds a hatchet and scalps.
Her story is not an easy one to but this as far as we know, the where Hannah Duston committed he her deed.
1697, down in Haverhill, Mass.
It was the frontier at the time, and there was friction between the Native Americans and the English colonists, you k and there was a raid on the on the Colonial village.
Some say it was inspired by the.
They encouraged the Native Ameri to attack the village.
They burned houses and they kill or 30 people in in Haverhill.
And then they took captives, inc Hannah Dustin, her newborn baby, and their nurs.
And they were bringing them to C either to sell to French for sla or for ransom to ransom them back to the to the thing.
And they marched them for days.
And as they were marching from from Haverhill, they got this fa.
And during the night, Hannah Dustin killed the Indians held her here on this island, st a canoe, got into the river and beat feet back down to Haver.
Well, the baby got killed along.
And the controversy here is in t of it, some view her as a hero.
You know, they kidnaped her, they killed h and she killed her abductors and them and escaped back to Haverhi.
If you are from that perspective she's a hero.
Others view her as a villain, you know, the Native Americans were fighting for their land.
The English colonists were pushi out of the way.
They were defending their land, their territory.
And when they brought her here, the the the ones that had captive capted left her with a family here, family of Native Americans.
And so she killed a lot of women and children here on the island, not just the warriors that had t. And then she got in the canoe and escaped down the river.
Well, partway down the river, she turned around and came back and scalped them because she wan that it had happened.
And so you can look at it and sa she could have kept going if she was just escaping.
She didn't need to come back and which kind of takes some of the and makes her more of a more of a villain in the process.
She didn't need to come back and.
There was a bounty on scalps and she collected the bounty.
So they put up a statue to her and the statue had a rough life.
Somebody with a rifle shot off h. Vandals have painted blood on the tomahawk in their hand or on the base of and they've cleaned it up afterw.
And it kind of depends on if you view her as a villain.
And that's one way of expressing your outrage.
Marshall's work as a land survey helped him this story.
There are other gems he's discovered along the way.
Many of them end up in New Hamps magazine.
Yeah, one every month now, right I for the past six years, I've provided, one a month.
The last couple that I've writte that I've enjoyed.
And one of them had to do with a dam up in Warre where I was working with the dam construction crew up there.
And we had poured concrete that and then took it take a lunch br.
And while we were having lunch, Bigfoot came walking out of the and joined us for our little lun.
And I think that's a pretty neat experience.
How many people do you know that actually have had lunch wit.
And then whom I would admit to knowing I could tell you.
So that was a favorite story.
You know, another one.
Did he speak English?
And he eats Pringles potato chip I'm on the case.
Another one that I did recently had to do with a stonew.
Did you read that one?
Stone wall goes down the road an somehow it's a very squared off.
And somehow as it's going down t it rotates 90 degrees and is kind of an optical illusi the way that it happens, because you can't tell where exa starts and where it comes out of.
But it actually makes a twist li bit as it goes down the road and it goes airborne at that poi where it does twist, there's a drainage ditch under t. And so all those rocks are held contrary to gravity.
And it's kind of a unique featur you know, how it's like that and it's kind of a neat thing.
And I found that one just driving down the road.
Yeah, there it is.
Oh, that's great.
You found the builder, though.
I did talk to the builder.
You know, it's a secret, but I did talk to the builder.
So I do know how he was able to.
Able to do that.
That was one surveying job that took Marshall down that dus road to a remote farm in a remot.
It let him do an abandoned cella.
He had the deeds and with some r made a surprising discovery.
Read enough of the deeds and sur.
You catch things that look odd.
When I started looking into it, I discovered that that place was the hideout where the Boston Brinks robbery that took place in Boston in 195 where 11 crooks broke in and cleaned out the Bri counting house.
And they got away with almost $3.
And then the money's never been and they got away clean and left very little clues.
And the Boston police and the FB had very little idea who was beh and who they were looking for.
So the crooks were looking for a to hide out for the six year statute of limi.
And when the statute of limitati had run out, they were then look forward to coming forward and spending the money.
And if you're in Boston and you're hiding out from a cri like that, where do you go?
Well, you go to some little remo New Hampshire place possible.
And I and I found it and I haven't found the money ye.
I'm going to it's got to be there somewhere.
It's like Oak Island.
It could be life for someone that's not ther.
Well, that's exciting.
Or just the same.
You're sure this is the place?
I'm sure it's the place.
Am I sure the money's there?
No I don't know, but I'm sure it's the site.
Back on the tracks.
Visitors can write their own sto when you're outdoors, you know, anything can happen occasionally.
We see some deer out here.
You know, the deer, they'll walk right across in fro you know, down the track.
You know, and they'll turn their and look at you.
And as you get closer to them, t they'll jump off and go through.
So it's kind of cool.
It is nice.
Now, what do they what do they?
This is obviously a different experience for them from.
Yeah, well, I mean, how often an can you go to actually pedal on on top of the railroad tracks.
You know, and it's, it's a kind of a novelty idea in.
And then, I mean, we run along the Merrima so we have some nice views to offer as well.
So they get their exercise.
It's a light workout fo.
And, you know, as long as you ha everybody pedaling on the bike, not that big a pedal.
As long as, you know, everybody to pedal.
And I'm just glad that we get to actuall know then, you know, before they try to rip and make it a rail trail, you know, people can enjoy, you know, riding on the rails an a part of Concord that most people don't see.
I say that you're you're right in the middle of setting it up, but you're not.
You can't hear any cars going by or anything.
You all you can hear is a river running out here on it.
Doesn't get much nicer than that.
It's a nice piece of history.
I'm glad that we're we're getting to use it and I ho we get to continue to get to use.
You know, I love being here, seeing the pe when they when they finish how much they enjoy doing this.
You know, it's just people get d and they're like, oh, we're going to tell our frie and we'll coming back again.
You know, if people come in the summertime then they want to come back in t and do it again in the fall.
And then we get our repeat custo that come back and do it once or twice a year, which I think is great.
Well, as you can see, we've kind petered out a bit, slowed down at the end at the end of th we're just about at the end of t. And we're also at that part of t that I like, least the time we got to say goo.
But we shall.
Marshall, I cannot thank you enough.
We must do this sort of thing ag.
We should do it again.
But not h. Different place, different story.
So we'll be okay.
I'm Willem Lange and I hope to see you again on W to the Wild.
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