Local Historical Societies Showcase Impact of Railroad Era in Our Area

“All Aboard” exhibit at Potter Place Museum

By Larry Chase Andover Historical Society
This HO-gauge model train layout can be seen at the Potter Place train station, but only from the window, as the station is currently closed. Photo: Larry Chase

Funded in part by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities, more than a dozen historical societies, museums,  and other nonprofit organizations in the Central New Hampshire area are collaborating to tell the story of the enormous local impact of area railroads via a year-long, multi-community, multi-dimensional effort titled “All Aboard! Economic, Social, and Environmental Change During New Hampshire’s Railroad Era.”

The collaboration has been organized, and is being coordinated and publicized, under the guidance of an organization called MUSE, which stands for “Museums Sharing Experiences.”

Logo for MUSE 2020 Railroad Exhibits and Programs.

In all, 15 organizations in eight towns are participating. They are:  Andover Historical Society, Boscawen Historical Society, Bradford Historical Society, The Fells (Newbury), Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, Henniker Historical Society, Hopkinton Historical Society, Hopkinton Town Library, Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (Warner), New Hampshire Telephone Museum (Warner), Newbury Historical Society, Penacook Historical Society, Pillsbury Free Library (Warner), Sunapee Historical Society, and Warner Historical Society.

The Andover Historical Society’s “All Aboard!” exhibit in the Potter Place train station showcases photographs and artifacts from the Society’s archives and several never-before-displayed photographs on loan from private collections. In addition, an operating HO-gauge model train layout, donated by Sean McInerney of New Ipswich, will be on display.

Because of the pandemic, the exhibits at this time can be seen only from the outside, through a window at the far end of the station, near the caboose.

The August 2 online concert by Lindsey Schust and the Ragged Mountain Band, which will feature train songs, is another Andover Historical Society contribution to the project.

A New Hampshire Humanities grant of just under $4,000 will be shared among these seven organizations: Andover Historical Society, The Fells, Friends of the Northern Rail Trail,  MUSE, New Hampshire Telephone Museum, Sunapee Historical Society, and Warner Historical Society.  The funds received will be used to develop specific programs and exhibits for museum visitors and event attendees. Andover Historical Society’s exhibit at the Potter Place Railroad Station is made possible with support from New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Learn more at NHhumanities.org.

How important was the coming of the railroad?  The introduction of the Andover Historical Society’s 2020 fundraising calendar tells the story in three sentences:

“With the arrival in 1847 of Andover’s first train, the community was freed from dependence on stage coach travel and horse-drawn freight shipment in and out of the area.  The railroad provided for arrival of additional supplies, goods and services from the outside and allowed for increased prosperity from the ability to ship goods out of the area.  The destiny of the community would be forever changed.”

More about MUSE from its website at NHmuse.org: “Many years ago, the leaders of a variety of small, local New Hampshire museums and historical societies got together to share resources and ideas.  This informal gathering grew into a larger consortium of museums, historical societies, and libraries who recognize the value of collaboration.  Since then, the MUSES have worked together to produce a variety of exhibitions pertinent to the area and relevant to the times.  Whether working together or doing their own “thing,” these organizations  provide a wealth of information and a wonderful experience.”