The Suncook Valley Railroad

Wolfeboro Railroad
Lakeshore Railroad
More Suncook Valley RR Photos
...ALL ABOARD!!!! stop...CENTER BARNSTEAD, New Hampshire.....carriages awaiting for your journey to the Suncook Ponds......Halfmoon Pond......and Lougee Pond.......We hope you enjoy your trip!......


Pittsfield Station
This early photo shows the train yard as departure time approached. Note the spark screen on the wood-burning locomotive, the Original Number #1. The section crew stands by at the direction of the forman , the man with the whiskers, Mr. Emerson. In the distance may be seen at left of the station house and at right the Town Shoe Shop Building which now houses the Adam's Brothers Shoe Company.
from: The History of Pittsfield, NH - E. Jeffrey Young
1953 by the Town of Pittsfield

Center Barnstead Station - October 1889

Center Barnstead - mcdude collection - photo restored by Dane Malcom - 7/08

TURN UP YOUR VOLUME! (sound added)

Center Barnstead Station - added July 2008 - photo restored by Dane Malcolm


"Crystal Lake in Gilmanton is a glacially-formed lake. Rising at Gilmanton Iron Works (about three miles southwest of Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee) as the outflow of Crystal Lake, the Suncook River traces a generally southwesterly course for about 25 miles through the towns of Barnstead, Pittsfield, Chichester and Epsom, after which it becomes the boundary between Allenstown and Pembroke before taking its final plunge into the Merrimack River at Suncook Village."

"From Barnstead to its confluence with the Merrimack, the Suncook Valley’s namesake stream passes through an idyllic panorama of grazing cattle and sheep, dairy farms, orchards and woodlands characteristic of the America of Currier and Ives. In the mid 19th century, this rushing stream powered numerous grist and sawmills at its many falls. Elsewhere, it provided water to the fertile fields, meadows and croplands of the farms along its course. Blueberries, too, by some act of Providence, once grew in abundance nearly everywhere creating a wild resource readily convertible into a cash crop. Less obvious to the casual observer was a cottage industry supplied by shoe manufacturers of Lynn and Haverhill, Massachusetts, the materials and finished goods transported by cumbersome ox-drawn vehicles. Finally there was the summer business of catering to the parched citizens of Boston, New York and surrounding communities who came to the country to escape the heat of the cities. Many enjoyed the private farm homes while others patronized the numerous hostelries up and down the valley and others came to enjoy the many lakes and ponds.


CLICK HERE for more information on the railroad from Wikipedia

Our Passenger Train - Barnstead, NH - Postmark 1910


Old Postcard - Center Barnstead Station

The valley was becoming a busy place full of potential that could not be realized without modern transportation. In those days that meant one thing - a railroad.

A charter was granted to a group of Suncook Valley investors in 1849 to build a railroad up the valley to connect with the Dover and Winnipiseogee Railroad somewhere near Alton Bay, NH. The charter lapsed due to the opposition of some and the squabbling over the best route for the railroad to take making the raising of needed funds impossible.

See more here

Suncook Valley Engine # 1,2-6-0 at Center Barnstead 1934

Click here to view a 1957 Topo Map tracing to route of the railroad from Pittsfield up to Center Barnstead.


With the advent of the Civil War aspirations to build a railroad were put on hold for a while. "The first regular passenger train departed Pittsfiled for Suncook at 8:45 AM on Monday December 6, 1869 arriving in Suncook at 10:20 AM.. (The spur to Center Barnstead was added later.) The Suncook Valley Branch of the Concord Railroad consisted of 17.37 miles of track and was constructed at a cost of $348,199.19. Train service varied from as few as a single mixed (passenger and freight) train a day in each direction to as many as four trains each way. Trains did not go directly to Concord. There was a loop between Concord and Manchester. The Suncook Branch actually intersected with the loop in Hookset where it joined the tracks on the loop.

1940 Schedule from a City of Concord Directory

Today the Center Barnstead Station is a Private Residence

The Suncook Valley Railroad grew by another 4.46 miles in 1889 when it was extended to Center Barnstead. This was the first leg in the extension to Alton Bay which was never completed. The lease was purchased by the Concord and Montreal who ran two passenger trains plus a freight train daily and a milk train on Sundays. In 1895 the lease was bought out by the Boston and Maine Railroad for the next 91 years.

South Pittsfield Trestle crossing a brook flowing from White's Pond to the Suncook River

The Suncook Valley Railroad was known to have "service with a heart." It became an integral part of life in the valley.

Engine #2 in Allenstown - April 22, 1949

"The railroad was also the source of some good fun. Take for example the delivery of mail from the Pittsfield depot to the post office in town. At one time the contract for this service was held by Lance Avery. He kept the horse (named "Dolly") and express wagon used fro mail transfer from the train in a barn located on Cram Avenue near the depot. It was not unusual for Lance to hitch Dolly to the wagon and leave her standing in the driveway in anticipation fo the train’s arrival from Hookset and Suncook. When Dolly heard the train whistle down the valley, she would become restless and uneasy, anxious to get to the depot for she knew her duties well. Now it happened that the express agent at the time was Frank Hutchins who was something of a joker, especially it seems if a little fun could be had at someone else’s expense! Frank was well aware of Lance’s routine and how Dolly reacted to the sound of the whistle. Once in a while Frank would stick his head out the door at just the right moment and shout, "Come on Dolly!," at the top of his lungs. Thereupon Dolly would head off for the Depot unattended at a brisk trot. To the rear and on foot would come an exasperated Lance Avery in pursuit at a gallop shouting, "Whoa!" (And possible a few less printable epithets), all to "Hutch’s" great delight!"


"Naomi Avery relates an equally amusing prank played on some of the local bachelors who thought they had a week-end of female companionship lined up. Back at the turn of the century stops (by the train) were always made, and they were not all on the timetable. One such stop was at the crossing just below the "Bosco Bell." Now for those of you who do not remember the late 1800s and early 1900s......The "Bosco Bell" (now a convenience store / gas station on Rt. 28) was a hotel and/or boarding house type of establishment...for the convenience of guests, stops were made to pick up or leave guests.


One week-end the management had made arrangement for a couple of "Boston Belles" to visit to furnish companionship for the lonely make residents of the "Bosco Bell." There was quite an assortment of gentlemen gathered on the veranda as the train whistle sounded at the crossing. Could be thay all hoped to catch a glimpse of a well-shaped ankle when the ladies descended from the train. Two fellas had already gone to the crossing to assist the ladies and to carry their overnight bags. Much to the disappointment of all, the train just whistled. The engineer touched his cap in salute and the train continued on its journey to Barnstead Parade.


The men on the veranda turned and went back into the Bosco Bell. The week-end would be a dull one without the girls to liven things up. Now there is more to this story. It seems that a couple of Pittsfield boys had learned of the impending visit. Thinking it would be a great joke to disappoint the Bosco Bell, they had hitched up their carriage and had been waiting at the Pittsfield Depot for the train.

The Pittsfield Depot

CLICK HERE for another photo of the Pittsfield Depot (circa 1900)

The men on the veranda turned and went back into the Bosco Bell. The week-end would be a dull one without the girls to liven things up. Now there is more to this story. It seems that a couple of Pittsfield boys had learned of the impending visit. Thinking it would be a great joke to disappoint the Bosco Bell, they had hitched up their carriage and had been waiting at the Pittsfield Depot for the train.

The Suncook Depot - Old Postcard

Professing to be ambassadors of the Bosco Bell, they escorted the girls to their carriage for the drive to Barnstead. The only problem was they took the long way there, probably giving the girls an extensive tour of Pittsfield, and the girls never arrived at the Bosco Bell until 2:00 AM on Sunday!....!"


Old Postcard

By 1924 the Suncook Branch was losing money for the Boston and Maine so they petitioned the courts to abandon it. The line was taken over by a local concern as a short line independent railroad. The first in New Hampshire! It remained a short line, in slow decline, until 1952 before it was abandoned for good. Equipment and tracks were leased from the Boston and Maine. Two round trips daily were conducted. The trains ran now only to Suncook instead of Hookset. The train lost money in its first year and also experienced its first derailment between Barnstead and Center Barnstead mostly likely the result of poor maintenance of the tracks during the declining Boston and Maine years. The Suncook Valley’s mail contract represented a major portion of its "bread-and-butter" traffic throughout the railroad’s independent life. Without the mail the railroad would not have survived the depression. Milk was also very profitable traffic and often moved in passenger trains to insure the care and expeditious movement it required. The railroad actually made a profit from 1925-1927 and in 1929 but ran a deficit in all the following years.

November 1924 Derailment between Barnstead and Center Barnstead

The volume of business of one particular perishable - blueberries - was so heavy in season that the little trains became known to Valley residents as "The Blueberry Express" or simply "The Blueberry." Wild blueberries grew all along the route in summer. Hundreds of cases were shiped out by rail to waiting grocers in southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts and even as far away as Connecticut and New York. The berries were sweet and juicy and no doubt the objective of numerous unscheduled stops by the train crew and passengers alike when in season.

Old Postcard - No Date



Most of the narrative and a few photos are taken from a fascinating book called "The Blueberry Express - A History of the Suncook Valley Railroad" by the Suncook Valley Railroad Historical Society - John C. Hutchins, Editor - Published by Flying Yankee Enterprises - Littleton, MA

This concludes our ride on the Suncook Railroad. Please watch your step when leaving the train and welcome to the lake!



After the demise of the railroad the New England Railroad Enthusiasts planned several private excusions in the mid and late fifties before the tracks were removed.