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Yesterday and Today
by Bill & Connie Warren
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Boston & Maine Railroad Stations


Yesterday, circa 1890, the Boston & Maine Railroad Passenger Station was situated just off Deer Street and across from Vaughn Street (now only on other side of railroad tracks behind the Portsmouth Herald building). It used to run from Congress to Deer Street prior to the Vaughn Street Urban Renewal Project which started in 1969. To get sited, go to the 1877 "Bird's Eye View" map, look at the railroad tracks at North Mill Pond, and follow them until the curve to the left. At that point, there is the passenger station; just a few hundred yards before the passenger station is the freight station. Or, in the 1968-69 aerial color photograph of the north end, the railroad stations can be seen at the left margin; freight station is fully seen and passenger station has just a corner of the building and part of the parking lot.

Portsmouth was an important stop for the B & M Railroad, as well as the end of the line. On the 1877 "Bird's Eye View" map, along the straight tracks by the North Mill Pond, there is a round house where the engines were turned around to head back to Boston. The importance of the line was due to the Portsmouth Navy Yard that had most of its freight delivered to Portsmouth. And the burgeoning tourist traffic for the hotels, inns, and guest houses that dotted the coastline from Hampton Beach, New Hampshire to Portsmouth and into southern Maine.


Today, the old stations are gone; they were taken down during the urban renewal project for the north end of Portsmouth. The stations (and trains) had seen their once high capacity use (and profitability) plummet. The B & M Railroad tried to keep the services going with the diminishing demand for rail use. From steam engines, coal tenders, passenger and baggage cars (when I was a child) to diesel-electric engines pulling the same old tired cars to shiny stainless steel "Bud" cars (2-3 or more self-contained [engine in either end, and passenger-freight units in between] diesel-electric, small capacity trains; it made little difference. Most people drove their cars and/or took the busses.

Where the stations were is now a parking lot (for the Portsmouth Sheraton) at the Vaughn Street end. Approximately where Maplewood Avenue crosses Deer Street and the railroad tracks was the middle of the passenger station with its parking for horses and buggies nearer the camera. Further down Deer Street, at almost the corner with Bridge Street, where the freight station was, are commercial buildings and parking lots of the right, and another parking area for the building tenants on the left. Thankfully, for aesthetics and to break up our lines of sight, there are trees lining the Deer street, thus hiding-from-view some of the parking lot.

MORE TRAINS:
Read two POEMS about the RR
See Portsmouth RR WRECKS


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