Northern Railway Expanded Reach of Andover’s Businesses to Customers

Talk to be given by historian Ken Cushing

By Jesse Schust
Steam locomotives taking on water in East Andover in 1939. Photo: Lawrence Rising

On Thursday, May 20 at 7 PM, the Andover Historical Society presents a talk about the Northern Railway by Ken Cushing.  A resident of Grafton, Cushing is one of the foremost historians of the Northern Railway of New Hampshire, and he’ll be discussing the history of the entire railway with special consideration of the events and locations in the vicinity of Andover.

Ken’s talks are always very popular.  This year the talk will be conducted by Zoom, rather than in person, with the added benefit that viewers can watch from their homes and have an excellent view of the fascinating photos Ken presents.  We hope you will join us.  In order to attend the meeting, please email in advance to request details of the Zoom meeting.  Contact for full details.

The Northern Railway linked Andover to the rail hubs at White River Junction, Vermont, and Concord – which connected to national and international rail routes.  It is hard to fathom the amount of work that was required to create the rail networks of America. Ken tells the story of our local railway and how it transformed local lives.

In the second half of the 1800s, the expansion of railways allowed Andover’s small factories and businesses to reach customers throughout New England and beyond.  Some businesses were so closely tied to the railway that there were separate tracks that led right to the factories.  For instance, the ice which was harvested in Highland Lake was shipped all over the East Coast of the USA using rail cars that were loaded at the lakeside factory in East Andover.

Food, equipment, tools, and grain products were exported from Andover to markets many miles away.  Local industries harnessed the power of water using many mills along local brooks and rivers, but this productivity wouldn’t have amounted to anything without railways facilitating timely and affordable distribution of goods and materials.

Because railways allowed people to visit the area easily, large hotels sprung up in many places (Potter Place, central Andover, and even halfway up Kearsarge Mountain in Wilmot).  Proctor Academy students arrived by train, and so did seasonal summer residents.  Ken will tell the story of how our local rail route developed and changed local lives forever.