The Nashua, Acton and Boston Railroad

Nashua, Acton and Boston RR
A map of the Nashua, Acton and Boston between Nashua and Westford, Existing railroads are shown in grey and the Stoney Brook branch is prominent through Westford and it’s junction with the NH main line west of Lowell.

The late 1800’s saw somewhat of a boom in railroad construction. This led to an overabundance of railroads crisscrossing the land in the well settled parts of New England. Chartered in 1871, the Nashua, Acton and Boston was one such line. The 24 miles between Acton and Nashua were completed around 1873. The Railroad went bankrupt and fell under the control of the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1895 and ownership in 1906.

In it’s heyday the line saw three passenger trains a day between Nashua and Concord Junction where passengers could connect with trains to and from Boston. The Town of Westford, about half way between Nashua and Acton, is a perfect example of the railroad building boom and subsequent consolidation and or abandonment. In the early 1900s the town was served by three separate railroads and residents had the choice of 8 railroad stations, two of which were only half a mile apart!  Today, only the Stony Brook Railroad exists in Westford and it’s owned by Guilford Transportation aka Pan Am Railways and serves as a main line for freight traffic to New Hampshire and Maine from points west and south.

Westford Arch 2
The upstream view of the stone arch bridge over Stony Brook in Westford, MA.
Westford, borrow pit
Large glacial drumlin mined for gravel to build the tall bill over Stony Brook marsh.
Westford, Fill
The long tall gravel fill that carried the railroad over the marsh.
Westford, trolley overpass
Abutments in the background carried the railroad over a local trolley line.
Westford. overpass over stony brook railroad
This is the abutment for the overpass over the Stony Brook Railroad.
Westford, Stony Brook branch
The Stony Brook Branch, in service to this day.

There is a piece of the Nashua and Acton accessible to us and it’s well worth the visit.  The Stone Arch Bridge Trail off Cold Spring Road in Westford accesses a long tall fill across the marshes of Stony Brook and culminates in a glorious dry laid granite bridge carrying the railroad over Stony Brook itself.  A little further down the ROW the line crossed over the Stony Brook Railroad and also a local trolley line that paralleled the Stony Brook line. The walk is also notable for the two large borrow pits created where two drumlins perpendicular to the line were mined for the gravel that was used to build the huge fills.