This is definitely the time for foliage trips in New England. This one was by train, not our usual method of car travel. We've taken several excursion trains on road trips before, but this recent one on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad in Meredith, NH, was our first and it was also the final outing for the line's Fall Foliage Special.
If you're curious about the name Winnipesaukee, there are a few interpretations. It's said to derive from the Abenaki, an Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands of the U.S. and Canada. According to some, it means beautiful water in a high place or the smile of the Great Spirit. It's the name of the state's largest lake, Lake Winnipesaukee located in the Lakes Region at the foothills of the White Mountains.
The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad operates on a rail system formerly used by the Boston, Concord & Montreal (BC&M) line which dates to 1848. Passenger operations began in 1892 and ended in 1965. This line served as one of the primary routes north through NH for tourists coming from several large eastern cities (Boston, Hartford, New York) to the lakes and mountain regions of northern NH and to areas further north like Vermont and Montreal, Canada.
In the early 1900s, the rights to the rail line were sold to the Boston & Maine Railroad (B&M) which kept the line active between the Lakes Region and Lincoln, NH to support paper mills and other businesses. Freight service ended when the last paper mills closed in the mid-1970s. The State of NH purchased the rail line and offered it for lease.
In the mid-1980s, Ed and Brenda Clark of Lincoln, NH, reached an agreement with the state to create a tourist railroad, the Hobo Railroad, which opened in June 1987. In the early 1990s, the Clarks leased another section of the same rail line along Lake Winnipesaukee which led to the 1991 opening of a second tourist railroad, the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. The Hobo Railroad operates from late May to late October and from Thanksgiving until before Christmas. The Winnipesaukee line operates from late May through late October.
To reply to a blogger's query, the Hobo Railroad runs a Santa Express Trains starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and operating weekends to mid-December. All on the train gets to meet Santa & Mrs. Claus. Young children get a letter to complete for him and every child gets a gift.
|Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad train|
This train ride was on the last fall excursion and while this was a fall foliage tour, my ability to take well composed and non-blurry photos from a moving train didn't produce good results. (Like others, I do much better on foliage walking excursions.)
Nevertheless, I tried to capture some of the foliage from our coach seats with varying degrees of unsuccessfulness.
|Window views on Fall Foliage train excursion|
One of the most unexpected sights was seeing several deer herds, not from Santa's stable, but from the Bonnie Brae Deer Farm which operates on 200 acres of farmland in Plymouth, NH. Established in 1994, the family run business is one of several in NH and raises red deer for breeding stock, velvet antler, and venison sales. The same family runs a tree farm, where Christmas trees are grown year-round and people can either cut their own or select from pre-cut ones during the holiday season.
|Deer farm and Christmas tree farm views|
|More views on fall excursion train trip|
The only other stop was at the historic Ashland Railroad Station in Ashland, NH. This historic train station, located on Depot Street, was built in 1869 and remodeled in 1891. It's a well-preserved example of a rural 19th-century railroad station and is now a museum operated by the Ashland Historical Society. The station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
|Vintage and current day photos of Ashland, NH, train station|
The former railroad station is a single-story wooden structure, with post-and-beam framing, and a slate roof. The track side at one time housed the station agent's ticket office, and the other side was a passenger waiting area. The rail line was built through Ashland and the first station opened as a combined passenger and freight station of the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad (BC&M) in December 1849. That building is still at its original location on the other side of Depot Street. It's privately owned; the interior has been remodeled for use as a residence, studio, and gallery.
In 1959, as cars, trucks and planes began to replace train service, regular passenger service at Ashland ended after more than a century of service. The next year the B&M Railroad sold the station to a private owner. After his death, his widow donated it to the Ashland Historical Society.
Members of the historical society dress in period dress to greet and talk with passengers on the fall excursion trains.
|Members of Ashland Historical Society at train station|
The society restored the station from 1997 to 1998 for use as a railroad museum and meeting place under a federal transportation aid program administered by the NH Department of Transportation. Dedicated in June 1999, the museum is considered one of the best preserved late 19th century railroad stations in NH. It houses an increasing collection of railroad artifacts, images, and documents in the original three public rooms, the two connected waiting rooms and the station agent’s office, which are open to visitors.
Historical society members were available to answer questions about the station and also to accept donations for its continued preservation.
|Coach cars were decorated for the foliage excursion|
If you are visit NH during fall foliage season, this train excursion is recommended. Our first trip on this tourist railroad was a wonderful outing. It was indeed good to be out again.