Site No 2: Rte. 152 Railroad Bridge. If this were 1830, there would be orchards here – all the way to Exeter Road. Dr. George Kittredge owned this land. Elected to the state legislature, he saw potential in railroads, and by 1836 he was a director of the Boston & Maine Railroad Company. He persuaded the railroad to run its northern line where it is today –right through his land.
The rails were shipped from Liverpool, England, arriving on schooners that unloaded at the Newfields Landing. In 1841 the first passenger train reached town at Rockingham Junction. Rail service arrived here in town a bit later. And everything changed.
Trains took the place of gundalows, and transported everything—coal, lumber, machinery. Farmers sent cattle, eggs, and poultry to market by rail. Hunters on the Bay sent plucked waterfowl in barrels to Boston hotels.
Around the train station, warehouses took over the old orchards. Kittredge Square was a flurry of activity. When newspapers arrived, they were hauled downtown in a red handcart. That handcart can still be seen at the Stone School Museum.
During the Civil War, troops and supplies moved everywhere by train. When the country entered World War I, parades and bands escorted Newmarket men to the Depot. A more solemn escort attended the caskets returning from the front. Railways were important during World War II as well.
But there was local service too: A summertime run to Hampton Beach. Trips to Exeter, Durham or Dover for athletic events. An evening of dancing at the Rockingham Ballroom. And train service became a lifeline for many factory workers who commuted to Haverhill, Exeter, or Dover after the Newmarket mills closed in 1930.
Passenger rail service continued until 1959. The train was called the Buddliner, but it had nothing to do with beer. Newmarket resident Ron Lemieux recalls a trip he took to Lawrence to visit his aunt. He was eight years old, and he traveled alone—with his own little suitcase and a string of 20 lollipops to enjoy on the trip. Ron also tells a family story involving death on the railroad tracks during the 1930s.
On a happier note, the discontinued Newmarket-Manchester line is now a year-round recreational path. And in 2001 the Amtrak Downeaster brought passenger rail travel back to the area. But it no longer stops in Newmarket.
For Site 3, continue past Railroad Avenue to the Maple Street intersection.
END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.
From the railroad bridge on South Main Street, before the mills came to town, in 1823 lookING north towards Durham were walnut and oak groves with orchards bearing a variety of fruit. Looking south were apple orchards that went all the way down to the tannery yard at the far bottom of the hill.
The mills bought up orchards and houses, reconfigured Main Street, and drastically changed the layout of the village—all before the railroad.
The railroad came to town because of the work of one man — Dr. George W. Kittredge. Dr. Kittredge practiced medicine in town between 1825 and 1879. He was well respected and admired, and within 10 years of setting up practice here, he was voted to the NH State House of Representatives. The astute businessman saw the promise of the railroad, and got a position on the State Railroad commission— soon to become a director of the Boston & Maine Railroad Company for twenty years 1836-1856.
It was during this time as Director that he persuaded the railroad to run its northern line from Boston to Maine through Exeter, Newmarket, Durham and Dover – which coincidently ran through his land (from Exeter Road to the Durham Line over the Lamprey River). That transaction made him a considerable amount of money.
The rails themselves came from Liverpool, England to Boston; they were then reshipped on schooners for the voyage up the coast to the Newfields Landing. On July 21, 1841 the first regular passenger train reached Newmarket at the Rockingham Junction. Eight years later in 1849 the rail reached as far as the Newmarket village enroute to Durham and beyond.
Railroads took over the transport of freight into and out of town, ending the gundalows’ commercial role in sailing two centuries up and down the Bay. Soon coal, lumber, machinery and finished goods and foodstuffs traveled by rail. Local farmers sent cattle, eggs, and poultry by rail. Even hunters on the Bay sent feathers and plucked waterfowl in barrels to Boston milliners and hotels.
In June 1887, 140 cans (1196 quarts) of milk were sent to Boston from this Depot every day. The largest producer was John Bartlett of Lee, whose daily average was 25 cans. Milk from farmers farther south on the line shipped from Rockingham Junction.
The station at Rockingham Junction, where the north-south and the east-west lines met, was the first to have a depot building. The downtown Newmarket station depot was not built until later. In 1910, an elderly man at the Boston station asked for a ticket to “Lamprey River.” The ticket master told him that they hadn’t used that name for about half a century, but he got the old man on the right train to town. It seems that names differentiating the two stations had evolved over time.
In 1900, every train used to stop at Rockingham Junction for ten minutes or more. The rail from there through downtown Newmarket and on into Madbury and Durham was a single track, so trains were held at the Junction till the tracks were cleared. At that time Mr. Graves ran a good-sized restaurant at the Junction; he had a man on the trains coming north from Exeter passing out menus to potential customers. In 1909 double tracks were installed, and the restaurant went out of business.
Here in town, freight warehouses soon replaced the old orchard. (Newmarket’s first indoor bowling alley was here in an old warehouse.) Grant’s livery stable, a stone’s throw from the station, carried mail from the depot to the post office. Daily newspapers were taken by a red cart to the Exchange & Express building, adjacent to Griffin Hardware (Site No. 14). One of these is on display at the Stone School Museum.
By 1910 the ridership was such that The Newmarket Ticket Office boasted it had the best month in the past ten years with August’s total ticket sales reaching S2037. Special trains ran from town to Hampton Beach, to and from Exeter and Durham and Dover when there were special baseball games between town teams. Later on there were special trains to and from the Rockingham Junction as passengers got all dressed up and headed to the Rockingham Ballroom. And when the mills closed in 1930, the rail was a lifeline for many factory workers commuting to work in Haverhill, Exeter, and Dover.
During times of war, parades and bands escorted men to the Depot and saw them off. A more solemn escort attended those caskets returning home.
Civil War troops and supplies moved throughout the country by rail. In 1864 companies of men came home to New England by steamer to Boston and then by train to vote in the election to return Lincoln to the Presidency; then they returned back to the front.
During WW I, the rails were a national priority. The National Guard Co. L, 6th Mass. Infantry was assigned to guard the railroad in town. On May 25, 1917, Joseph A. Smith (age 23 of Boston) and Edward O. Watson (age 20 of Everett) were struck and killed by a train while on duty. Funeral services were held in the Congregational Church after which townspeople and color guards escorted the coffins to the Depot for their final trip south to Boston.
Rail Service Passes Us By
Passenger services continued in Newmarket until 1959. The passenger cars used were called Buddliners. Newmarket resident Ron Lemieux recalls taking the train from Newmarket to Lawrence, MA to visit his aunt. At eight years old. Alone.
I remember being put on the “bud liner” in the late 50’s to go visit my aunt in Lawrence…….imagine an eight year old being put on the train today by themselves! I was given a small suitcase and one of those long strings of multi flavored lollipops…the kind wrapped in see-through cellophane strung together (about 20 total)…
After the last Buddliner pulled out of the station heading south to Boston, Newmarket’s depot closed its baggage doors, and B&M sold the building in June 1959 to Edgar Moisan for use by the Rockingham Gas Company. Later it became the office of the New England Barricade Company. Other buildings would become private homes.
Today’s Rail Activity:
Since its first run in 2001, ridership of the Downeaster passenger train has continually increased (with the exception 2020/21, during the Covid-19 pandemic).
It runs from North Station in Boston to Brunswick, Maine, with 10 intermediate stops. The train operates five daily round trips; with local stops in Durham and Exeter –but not Newmarket.
Large freight trains whistle as they run daily north and south, and occasionally a freight car can be seen along a spur line at Rockingham Junction. However, for the most part the freight trains no longer stop.
The owner of the railroad freight line for the past 30 years has been Pan Am Railways; however, CSX announced Nov. 30, 2020 that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire Pan Am Railways, Inc. The 1,800-mile railroad in New England expands CSX in reaching Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, while adding Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to its existing 23-state network. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.