Lebanon R.R. History

Lebanon Depot

Daniel Webster addressed a gathering in Lebanon at the opening of the Northern Railroad on November 17, 1847, promising a great future for the “Iron Horse.” The line ran 143 miles from North Station,  Boston to White River Jct, VT

1848 Northern RR Schedule and Rates
– Trains Left White River Junction for Concord:
• 7:05 am and 12:55 pm
– Trains Left Concord for White River Junction:
• 10:30 am and 3:00 pm
Approximate travel time = 2 1/2 hours @ 23 mph
– Ticket costs:
• Lebanon to Concord = $1.75
• Lebanon to Boston = $3.25
– Freight costs Lebanon to Boston:
• $.32 per 100 lbs. 1st Class
• $.27 per 100 lbs. 2nd Class


Scytheville Underpass

When the Northern Railroad was first completed there was an open crossing at the Scytheville end of Mascoma Street.  (“Scytheville” because of the Purmort Edge Tool Company that made scythes there on Slayton Hill.)  In 1859 the Railroad paid for a change in the road and the Scytheville Underpass was built. This picture shows the underpass after it was rebuilt in 1888-1889.  (Photo and info from 50 Old Bridges of Lebanon, New Hampshire by Robert H. Leavitt and Bernard F. Chapman.)

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For many years, tell-tales were important structures found along railroad tracks.
Prior to the modern era of air and pneumatic brakes, a brakeman was required to scale the tops of freight cars, while the train was in motion, and manually set each car’s braking system. This practice was extremely dangerous, making the position of brakeman one of the most dangerous within the industry.  The purpose of the tell-tale was to warn the man, who was concentrating on the job at hand, that an impending obstacle, such as a bridge or tunnel, was imminent down the line. (If he were facing in the opposite direction from the danger, the rods hitting him on the back or the head  would give an instant warning to duck or scramble down the end ladder.)
Thanks to the invention of the airbrake, the practice and need for tell-tales ended. However, many of the structures can still be found along railroad tracks, a historical reminder of the early years of the industry and its dangers.
This warning system was not only useful for the brakemen, but for those boxcar riders who hitched free rides on top of trains:
by Tri-State Tom »”The origin of ‘Tell Tale’ in railroading is short for ‘dead men tell no tales’. They were a quick alert device for a car ‘rider’ atop a freight car in transit to DUCK or HIT THE DECK in advance of an overhead bridge or tunnel. “

Mile Marker 139

Erected before the Civil War by the new Northern Railroad to mark distances from Concord to White River Jct., the mile markers along the rails were relocated when the line was absorbed by the Boston & Maine in 1887. The posts then ticked off the 143 miles from Mile 0.00 at B – North Station, Boston – to the terminus at WRJ – Mile 142.92 in VT. (Thanks to the Northern Rail Trail sitefor this information.)


By the 1890s rail transportation was very heavy on the Boston & Maine Railroad. Lebanon’s Granite State Free Press, June 30, 1893 reported, “There are 34 regular passenger and freight trains over the railroad here every 24 hours. Pretty good for a one track line.”


West Lebanon Depot

Lebanon’s railroad era was brought to a close with the end of passenger service in the 1960s and the eventual abandonment of most of the freight line in the 1980s. The rail corridor was purchased by the State of New Hampshire when the railroad abandoned the line in 1996.

More info of the coming of the railroads into the Upper Valley

Info on the history of the Northern Rail Trail development