Service to Suncook

Sept 24, 1924 - Mar 12, 1936

The Suncook Valley Railroad initiated independent operation on September 24, 1924.   The road began operation over the leased B&M Suncook Loop trackage (from the east side of the Merrimack River at Hooksett north to Bow Junction) on May 12, 1936.  This page is intended to discuss B&M rail service to the village of Suncook in between those dates.


B&M Passenger Service

Passenger service is generally well covered in B&M Employee and Public Time Tables.   A more comprehensive study of passenger service, including via interurban and bus, will be included here at a later date.  Of important note is that the B&M curtailed service over the Hooksett bridges on January 11, 1935.  Some preliminary paragraphs follow:

The B&M experimented with a variety of passenger scheduling schemes to provide service to Suncook for the first 3 years after the Suncook Valley Railroad began independent operation.   Finally, in April of 1928, a scheme was settled upon that was to be used rather consistently until B&M passenger service on the Suncook Loop was curtailed in 1935.  From 4 to 6 daily trains were used over the years, most of which were Boston-Concord (primarily 300 series) or Concord-Portsmouth runs (3600 series trains,) although a Concord to Worcester train, Train 812, was a regular in later years.

The general scheme was as follows: an early train (812 after 4/28) would arrive and depart prior to SV Train 2, although this was occasionally not the case early on.  One or two mid morning trains ( 303 and 3601 after 4/28) would meet the shortline train, exchanging passengers, mail, express, and milk, after which SV Train 1 would leave for valley points.  Until the spring of 1928, a noon train would stop in Suncook, although no connection was made with the shortline.  In the afternoon, SV Train 4 would arrive.  A connection was made with southbound B&M Train 3604 during the entire period, with but one exception that will be shortly mentioned.   SV Train 3 then left for Center Barnstead.  During the early years, an evening train would sometimes be scheduled to stop at Suncook.

Beginning in the winter or spring of 1927, and continuing until August 8 of that year, a very different scheme was put into effect.  Rather than using regular NH Division trains that came off or on the main at Hooksett, two round trips from Concord, numbered in the 3700 series, were used to serve Suncook alone.  The trains that would have otherwise been used for the service were rerouted up the main on the Bow side of the Merrimack River.  The reason for dramatic change was that the B&M had temporarily closed the Hooksett bridges, presumably due to damage from the spring thaw.  The condition of the Hooksett covered bridges was never very good during the 20's, as special notes in the B&M Employee Timetables attest to speed and braking restrictions.  Such concerns would again effect the railroad, as the bridges were closed permanently on January 11, 1935, while complete destruction came a little more than a year later.

B&M Freight Service

Freight service to Suncook has proven to be more difficult to pin down, but recent research is yielding a clearer picture of the operations.  However, photographic evidence, to date, remains non- existent.  One of the most important sources of data are B&M Freight Train Symbol Books.   Currently, six such books from the period of interest are "known" to much of the B&M community: FTSB #14, dated 12/20/26; FTSB #16, dated 10/31/27; a FTSB #17 supplement, dated 9/25/32; FTSB #24, dated 9/24/33; FTSB #27, dated 4/28/35 (to be posted on this site soon;) and FTSB #29, dated 4/26/36.   Each book explicitly calls out how the B&M planned to serve Suncook at that point in time.   A number of B&M memos exist that also give limited additional information about freight service on the Loop.  B&M Merchandise Car pamphlets also shed some light on Suncook freight service.  Two from the 1924-36 period are known to exist: 4/1/29 and 5/1/30.  (If you have knowledge of any additional FTSB or Merchandise Car pamphlets from this era, I would greatly appreciate you sharing them with me!)

B&M Suncook Locals, 12/20/26

The 1926 FTSB shows that a pair of local trains was assigned from Concord to Suncook and from Suncook to Concord on a daily except Sunday basis, correlating exactly with the frequency of SV mixed trains.  Running south after Train 812, the turn arrived in Suncook to leave cars for Suncook Valley Train 1.  Facilities served at Suncook included the Suncook freight house, the three large Suncook Mills complexes-the China, Pembroke, and Webster cotton mills, Fowler Brothers’ grain mill, Fred Saltmarsh’s coal and wood yard, and E. Baker & Co.’s coal pocket.  The Pawtuckaway Box Company, located just north of the Suncook freight house, appears to have closed its doors prior to 1924.

Three times weekly, freight service was supplied to Hooksett, and we know the train at least occasionally crossed the Hooksett covered bridges from the note in the Symbol Book regarding running back to Concord via the main.  The Suncook local would have served the Dundee Mill, where crash, a coarse cloth used for toweling and coats, was woven until about 1928.  Furthermore, it appears that this was the sole freight service to the Hooksett depot and freight house, as no other locals ran Concord to Manchester.

After arriving in Concord at around 9:45 AM, the Suncook local then made a trip part way up the Claremont Branch to serve the quarries on Rattlesnake Hill near West Concord, also known as Garrison on the B&M.

No provision for evening service to Suncook can be found, which would have delayed outbound merchandise service until the next morning.  The nature of traffic originating from some of the customers served by the B&M's Loop, however, demanded more timely outbound shipments of L.C.L., and the railroad responded to its customers needs.  An S.E.Miller, General Superintendent, B&M, memo from August 22, 1927, states that the local, "runs from Concord to Suncook and return twice and does the so-called Stone Hill work."  This added trip provided much improved service for Suncook and Valley shippers and would be included in the next FTSB operating plan.

B&M Suncook Local, 10/31/27

The 1927 FTSB showed a very similar operating scheme to that of 1926.  The round trip was now officially one local, rather than the previous two, and it was run on the same frequency as the previous year.  It arrived shortly after Suncook Valley Train 2, and only minutes before B&M Train 303 was to arrive from Boston for the scheduled meet. <Reinterpret time!>

Again, freight service was supplied to Hooksett three times weekly, and it is believed that this train ventured across the Hooksett bridges in order switch the freight house on the west side of the river.   However, there remains a possibility that the two Boston-Concord locals, one each direction daily, could have provided service along the NH Division main line through Hooksett.

Arriving back in Concord around 9:00 AM, the Suncook local continued to run to Garrison to work the quarries.   However, after that work was complete, the local would make a second trip to Suncook to pick up any LCL cars at the freight house or dropped by SV Train 4 at 3:20 PM.   Presumably this train had to make it back to connect with the southbound merchandise train, O-B 2, in order to best serve Suncook and Valley shippers.  O-B 2 arrived at Concord at 7:00 PM and left at 7:50.  Complicating this however is the fact that B&M Train 3604 was due to leave Concord at 3:40 PM.  It was scheduled to arrive in Suncook at 3:56.  The local surely could not be counted on to pick up merchandise cars and run the distance back to Concord in less than 20 minutes.  We can therefore conclude that the local waited until after the passenger train had left, which would give it three hours and 20 minutes to make the round trip and get the car spotted in Concord to be sent south in O-B 2.

The April 1929 Minute Man Freight Service Merchandise Car pamphlet shows that a daily Less-Carload-Lot (LCL) car was sent from Nashua to the Suncook Valley RR scheduled to permit next morning delivery.   In addition, a car left Boston’s “A” House (located in East Cambridge,) destined for Suncook as well.  However, this latter service was only guaranteed to deliver merchandise the second morning.  It was not a direct car, so presumably, goods were sent to Concord where they were then transferred to another car at the Concord freight house.  The 1927 FTSB leads one to believe that both of these cars would have come into Concord in Train B-O 1.   This train left Boston with merchandise cars at 9:15 PM, and picked up and dropped similar cars at the major cities enroute.  Nashua was scheduled for 11:45 PM, arrival in Concord was 3:15 AM.

Two daily merchandise cars were scheduled for Suncook in May 1930.  The first left Boston “A” House in East Cambridge providing next morning LCL service.  The other left Nashua, NH, providing the same frequency.  Unfortunately, a complete 1930 FTSB is not known to exist at this time, but the originating and terminating times shown in the Merchandise Car pamphlet and a loose FTSB page for O-B 2 dated 11/6/1930 can be compared and contrasted to other information available to begin to shed further light on this service.  More coming here

By 1932, the FTSB indicates that any Nashua car would have been picked up by 49’s Extra and dropped in Concord, while B-U 1 would have hauled Boston LCL direct to Concord.   Due to the freight scheduling efficiencies introduced ca. 1930, B-U 1 made it into Concord at 10:10.   The schedule for 49’s Extra is not known, but it did arrive before B-U 1.

Early in 1930, the former Dundee Mill property was leased by Emerson & Stillman, later Emerson Manufacturing Company, who manufactured furniture.  A siding located on the east bank of the Merrimack, known as the Cotton track, was used by this and other off line customers.   (See the Hooksett Sidetrack Chronology for more information.)  By May of that year, the B&M understood that Emerson's growing business was already beginning to be lost to trucks, due largely to the limitations of the tri-weekly morning service they offered to Hooksett.  Moving quickly to stem the tide, the B&M instituted changes to improve the service offered: some minor staffing changes at the Hooksett depot enabled the agent there to better meet Emerson needs, and, effective May 19, the Suncook local provided daily except Sunday afternoon freight service to Hooksett, allowing the B&M to better expedite all shipments offered by Emerson.

In a the next section, the B&M efforts to reduce costs on their operation of the Suncook Loop will be detailed.  However, some of the details shared in B&M memos investigating costs also shed light on the existing operating scheme.  In the spring of 1931, the new District Superintendent A.W. Perkins received statements from his subordinates that confirm that the Concord-Suncook-Stonehill local continued to operate.  Mr. Perkins went on to suggest that perhaps Symbol freights W-C 1 or M-O 2 may be available to switch the Hooksett House track if the SV began tending to the Cotton track on the east side of the Merrimack.  (This is also the source of my contention that the Stone Hill switcher was passing over the Hooksett covered bridges to switch the freight house as early as 1927.)

B&M Suncook Locals, 9/25/32

By the fall of 1932, the B&M had changed the format of their FTSB.  The scheme reported had also substantially changed from 1927.  The effects of the Depression were taking their toll on most scheduled services, but Suncook still required its minimum 2 trips daily in order to handle regular and LCL traffic.  Reflecting the changes required, the B&M had combined the Bristol & Franklin local that existed in 1927 with the Suncook local.  It now left Concord for Suncook at 7:05 AM.  The earlier departure, however, means that the local met the northbound Worcester-Concord passenger train, #812, rather than #303.  The Suncook Valley schedule was also changed, and it arrived in time to connect to this earlier passenger train as well.   (No further arrival or departure times are given for the service.)  Additional schedule times are available for this service, as the Bristol trains, 3901 and 3902, appear in Employee timetables due to their being mixed trains.

With the general reduction in service that occurred in response to the ever worsening Depression, the southbound train from Lincoln lost its symbol freight status, was cut back to Concord, and was required to make the evening run to Suncook and Hooksett to provide LCL service on an as needed basis.

B&M Symbol Freight F-C 1 and Suncook Local, 9/24/33

As the Depression wore on, the B&M continued to modify its freight services to accommodate the lower traffic levels.  In Suncook, this meant that there would no longer be a dedicated morning local service.  Instead, the B&M began running Symbol Freight F-C 1 to Suncook on an as needed basis after it otherwise completed its run to Concord.  It was scheduled to arrive in the capital at 8:30 AM, which allowed it to get to Suncook in time for the Valley connection- SV Train 1 was not scheduled to leave Suncook until 10:00 AM.  The variable service nature implied by the B&M’s schedule is a foreboding sign of things to come.  Meanwhile, the Bristol and Franklin local was restored to its previous status without a morning Suncook trip.

In order to make the evening connection for outbound merchandise, the Lincoln to Concord local continued to run to Suncook or Hooksett as required.

B&M Symbol Freight W-C 1 and Suncook Local, 4/28/35

(Discussion on FTSB 27 to be inserted here.)

B&M Symbol Freight W-C 1, 4/26/36

The April 26, 1936 B&M ETT gives a look at freight service to Suncook after the Hooksett bridges were closed.  The Worcester to Concord symbol freight, W-C 1, has now assumed the duties.  After arriving in Concord around 8:15, that crew was assigned the job of running to Suncook or Hooksett as required.  The continuing suggestion that the service frequency is variable helps one to understand the situation leading up to the SV leasing the Loop trackage.  No mention is made anywhere of afternoon runs to Suncook, so a distinct possibility exists that afternoon merchandise service from Valley points had been curtailed entirely.



Equipment

Only limited information has become available about the equipment used for these various services.   As the trains that operated on the Loop were comparatively minor passenger and freight locals, they were not extensively photographed, and with the attraction of the Suncook Valley itself to rail fans visiting the area, they were just that much less likely to have film expended on them.

There is a small number of photos showing details of the Concord-Portsmouth trains, but more research in this area is warranted.  In particular, two Al Hale photos of Concord to Portsmouth Train 3604 at Suncook show A-44a 1161 on 5/10/30 and A-41f 1011 on 9/23/33.  Another photo (presumed to be 3604 due to direction and the sun’s position) has 1007 doing duty.

There is even more limited information available regarding Train 303.   It is also known that B-15c 1475 hauled Train 303 north from Boston on 12/29/34, while a B&M company memo expressed that an advantage to relocating 303 to the main if service were discontinued via Suncook would be that a heavier locomotive than the B-15 in use at that time would be possible, which could then in turn reduce the need for extra trains to haul additional sleeping cars from Lowell when patronage warranted.  Photos taken after the period of interest discussed here does show that P-4 pacifies were used on this train after WWII, while dieselization introduced GP-7's in 1952.

No photographs are known to exist of B&M freight service in Suncook.  However, we know that the last B&M train to operate over the Suncook Loop prior to its lease to the SVRR was X246, which had run down to the Emerson mill at Hooksett on 6/6/36.

, while Engine 1482 (another B-15c) hauled extra coaches to Suncook for the 1935 NARE Bike & Hike excursion after scheduled passenger service had been terminated.  Some inferences may also be drawn from other resources.  B&M ETT’s do show weight restrictions on the Suncook Loop, probably due to the wooden bridges over the Suncook River and Merrimack River at Hooksett (the Soucook River and Merrimack River at Bow Jct. crossings were on steel bridges.)  Interestingly, if it were not for the China Mill located in Allenstown, only the Suncook Valley train and B&M trains continuing on to the west side of the river at Hooksett would have had to cross either of these wood bridges.

The heaviest locomotives permitted on the Suncook Loop were the K-4e 2-8-0 in freight service and the J-1 4-4-2 in passenger service.  The B&M had 8 K-4 locomotives, including 2 of the ‘e’ subclass.  The other six had been previously rebuilt as compounds, and later restored back to simple expansion.  All remained on the B&M’s roster in 1924, but were retired by 1928.  There were 6 J-1’s on the roster in 1924; three remained in May 1936.  One had been superheated making it a J-1c, while another received both that treatment and Walschaerts valve gear, creating the only J-1f.   Some comparative figures on various locomotive classes are shown below to help illustrate what we know from this:

ClassMax Axle LoadingTotal Weight
J-1f46,000#87 tons
J-1c41,50083
K-5a35,75082
J-140,60080
B-15c43,40076
G-11b59,50075
G-11a52,90073
C-15h36,00073
B-15a41,66872
B-1540,93471
G-10*43,50064
A-41f41,50064
G-10*41,00061
A-40c38,00060
A-41a-e37,00057
SV #132,00056

* Minuteman Steam and Jeff Rousseau's Data list show differing numbers for the G-10.

It would seem that after the last K-4 locomotive was retired, the largest freight engine permitted on the Loop would have been the B-15c moguls.  Additional loading data may yet turn up, but these numbers corroborate what we already know.  It would appear that all 2-6-0’s and 4-4-0’s on the B&M, as well as G-10 0-6-0’s, were suitable for the Suncook Loop.  The J-1 Trailers and C-15 ten wheelers that were remaining were numerically insignificant, and while they could theoretically show up in Suncook, the likelihood of seeing them was probably very small.

A review of photographs taken by Al Hale, now residing at the Beverly Historical Society, most frequently show 0-6-0 switchers being used on most short haul locals.  On the other hand, some longer trips appear to have used 2-6-0 and even 2-8-0 locomotives.  There is a series of photos taken on the Franklin Branch in the late 30’s that show a G-10 there, but that line explicitly allowed that class, as well as K-7’s and J-1’s of various subclasses.  Re Stone Hill Switcher in 1931... the B-15 moguls currently used on the Claremont branch would be unable to switch the quarry tracks in their current state of disrepair.  At that time, a G-10 0-6-0 was being used for that service.

Another factor we can take into account is the turntable at Suncook.  There was a 50’ Sellers table installed after independent operations began, located just north of Ferry Street in Suncook, that the Suncook Valley used to turn its locomotive for the northbound run.  Presumably, the B&M was permitted to use the table as well for the local freight, but we do not know this for certain.  First, the table was located on the Suncook Valley proper- not the Suncook Loop, so the Suncook Valley would have to had granted the B&M trackage rights, albeit only a few hundred feet.  Two, it is possible that the B&M local’s engine made one half of its trip running in reverse.  If the local did use the turntable, however, it limits what power could have been used due to wheelbase and weight limitations.  A 50’ turntable was of sufficient length for Class G-10 0-6-0’s, all 4-4-0 type locomotives, and B-15 moguls with the early style tender only.

During the mid 1920’s, the B&M invested in a number of gas cars.  Intended to provide cost effective passenger service on low density routes, it is seems reasonable that the Suncook Loop could have been a candidate for the use of this equipment.  An April 7, 1927 gas car assignment list shows that one of the 180 series cars was assigned to a Concord to Worcester run, of 161 miles roundtrip.  This mileage corresponds to a NH Division routing, and not the “back door” via Henniker.  The April 24, 1927 ETT does not corroborate this, as there is no northbound Worcester to Concord train scheduled as a counterpart to southbound Train 812.  However the January 15, 1928 ETT shows that two additional runs have been added between those points, 8113 and 8122, and that these trains traveled via the Suncook Loop.  However, this service did not last long, as the two trains were annulled between Manchester and Concord by Supplement to the ETT, effective April 2, 1928.  There is no photographic evidence to support this claim that gas cars once traveled though Suncook; one is left only to weigh the merits of the paper trail.

Lastly, there are but a few photos of W-C 1 and its southbound counterpart, C-W 2, and unfortunately they are all from the postwar period.  Despite this, it can be noted that the power for this train during that later timeframe was either a K-8 consolidation or a single F-2 diesel, certainly not the sort of locomotives allowed on the Suncook Loop!


Sources:

Special thanks to Brent Michiels and Bruce Davison for their invaluable assistance.

B&M Employee Time Tables, Southern Division, #55 though 61A, B&MRRHS collection,
B&M Employee Time Tables, #1 though 21, author’s and B&MRRHS collection,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book #14, effective 12/20/26, courtesy Tim Gilbert,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book #16, effective 10/31/27, courtesy Scott Whitney,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book supplement to #17, effective 9/25/32, author’s collection,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book #24, effective 9/24/33, courtesy Jacob Klerman,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book #27, effective 4/28/35, author’s collection,
B&M Freight Train Symbol Book #29, effective 4/26/36, B&MRRHS collection,
B&M Minute Man Freight Service Pamphlet, Though Merchandise Cars, issued 4/1/29, courtesy Tim Gilbert,
B&M Minute Man Freight Service Pamphlet, Though Merchandise Cars, issued 5/1/30, author's collection,
B&M Steam Locomotive Class Data, courtesy Jeff Rousseau,
The Blueberry Express, edited by John Hutchins,
Bulletin, B&MRRHS Vol * No *, the 1934 locomotive assignment article,
ICC Finance Docket No. 10948, B&M Abandonment, submitted 11/14/35, decided 11/21/35, author's collection,
ICC Valuation Survey documents, B&M Valuation sections 23.1, 23.6, & 29, author's collection,
Minute Man Steam, by Harry A. Frye,
Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps, Village of Suncook, maps drawn July 1923, October 1929, & revised December 1939/October 1948, author's collection,

Posted 8/15/04.  Updated 12/13/13.  Copyright by Earl Tuson.

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