NH Central Railroad: Over the years during the railroad era, there were a number of proposals to build a railroad east from Portland and across central New Hampshire to connect with the Northern RR and therefore the Vermont railroads. In July of 1868, at the same legislative session that created the Town of Ashland, the legislature incorporated the New Hampshire Central RR, which was the New Hampshire part of one of these schemes, running from the Maine border, through the towns of Ossipee, Tamworth, Sandwich, Moultonborough, and Center Harbor, to Meredith village where it would connect to the BC&M, then through the towns of New Hampton and Bristol to connect to the Northern RR in Danbury. This would have made Meredith a railroad junction town, at the intersection of an east-west railroad and a north-south railroad, which would be a great economic boon for Meredith. This apparently aroused some envy in Ashland and a desire to have Ashland be that junction town. The second Ashland town meeting was called in August of 1868 to consider articles to raise up to 5% of the valuation of the town to survey a different route for the RR “through the valleys of the Pemigewasset River and Squam Lakes” and an article on whether or not to borrow that money. No action was taken on the articles, perhaps because of poor attendance. (Only 24 ballots were cast for the election of the moderator.) But, at the annual March 1869 meeting, it was voted to invest 5 % of the valuation of the town in NH Central RR stocks, provided the line was built through Ashland. A significant investment, $50 per $1000 of evaluation on the tax rate if paid out in a single year, although probably that amount would have been borrowed. But another way to reroute the railroad was also proposed. At the June 1869 session of the legislature, a state representative from Sandwich proposed an act to amend the charter of the NH Central RR by substituting the word Holderness for Moultonborough and Center Harbor and to put in Ashland in place of Meredith. These word changes and the topography of the area would have required a new route on the north side of the Squam Lakes, and then down the Squam River valley through Ashland village to New Hampton and on to Bristol. The bill was given to the House committee on railroads, but they asked that it be postponed until the next session. The March 1870 Ashland town meeting voted to support this proposed bill. The town meeting also chose Jonathan F. Keyes as an agent to lobby the legislature for this change. He and the other supporters of the change were not however successful. In 1870, the house at the urging of the Railroad committee again postponed the bill. In 1871, the bill was again sent to the Railroad committee, but they took no action and it died in committee. The charter was not changed, and the NH Central RR was never built. But the willingness of the voters to make a major financial investment in the railroad change shows the importance of railroads in their minds.
Another grand scheme that made the front page of the Plymouth Record in 1895 was the Merrimack Valley and St. Lawrence Electric Railroad, which was planned to start in Haverhill, Mass., proceed west to Hudson NH, then up the east banks of the Merrimack and Pemigewasset Rivers though Franconia Notch and on through Coos County, past the Connecticut lakes into Canada, ending on the St Lawrence river opposite Quebec city. If the line kept to the map shown with the article, it would have passed through Ashland. The Plymouth Record was very enthusiastic about the electric railway and reported that it had obtained a charter in Canada. However, it was never chartered in New Hampshire and nothing came of the plan.
Another proposal that would have actually lessened traffic though Ashland received serious attention in 1912, when the Boston & Maine sent engineers out to survey extending the Bristol branch of the former Northern RR, which ran up the west side of the Pemigewasset from Franklin to Bristol, to extend it to the main line in Bridgewater, creating a new route through Bristol and Franklin to Concord. This was mostly to benefit freight trains, which would no longer have to climb the steeper grades over the Ashland summit, which was actually mostly in New Hampton south of Ashland, and it would have cut 12 miles off the trip from Plymouth to Concord but it would have shifted some freight trains and possibly some passenger traffic away from Ashland. It was also never built.
Two more proposed local railroads will be discussed later in the Tourism section.
Part 2: This presentation of The Railroad in Ashland was delivered by David Ruell to the Ashland Historical Society on September 12, 2019 in the Ashland Railroad Station Museum.