Rockingham Junction, A Brief History, by Matt Cosgro

Rockingham Junction

Rockingham Junction is located on the Newfields / Newmarket town line, with the line passing through the middle of the passenger station. Rockingham served as a junction point of the Boston & Maine Railroad’s Portsmouth Branch of the Southern Division and its Portland Division Main Line via Dover. At the heyday of train travel, one could find a restaurant, several stores, and other small buildings related to the service that got people from one place to another comfortably. The restaurant had a platform that served the Boston-Portland tracks, while the passenger station had a platform that served the Manchester-Portsmouth tracks.

The beginning hint of a junction was in 1891 when “correspondence has passed between the Rail Road Commissioners of New Hampshire and the managers of the Boston & Maine and Concord & Montreal railroad systems relative to the erection of a union station at Newmarket Junction, from which it is very certain that the station will be built the coming spring.” – March 7, 1891.

Around 1902, the first point of decline and visual change for Rockingham occurred. The R.E. Graves Restaurant (aka. Rockingham Cafe) burned. Another noticeable difference is that the state highway, Route 108, is no longer at grade with the railroad. Route 108 was moved north of Rockingham and built over the tracks. Now Rockingham remains hidden by large trees from the highway.

In the new era of rail transportation, Rockingham Junction has become a shadow of a once-glorious past. The only surviving pieces of Rockingham Junction are the passenger and freight stations, which lie empty, and a telltale on the Portsmouth branch. The only activity one may find at Rockingham is the passing freight and passenger trains that rush between Massachusetts and Maine and the occasional freight train to Portsmouth. In the 1980s, the line from Manchester to Rockingham Junction was abandoned. The rail bed is now a successful example of a rails-to-trails transformation. Along the trail, a few of the stations have been acquired by societies and restored.

The passenger station still carries its colors given to it by the Boston & Maine. The large front entrance that would have welcomed passengers returning home from vacation or trips to Boston remains locked. Inside, remains can be seen of how the building would have appeared when passenger trains served the station. Many of the doors still have markings on them of what was once inside. In the men and women’s washrooms, junk from the ages has found a place to rest. The station, surprisingly, does have a basement, though it cannot be explored because the stairs are gone; pieces of them can be seen on the basement floor. The passenger station is a time capsule that hasn’t been buried.

On the other side of the tracks, the freight station can be found, with various pieces of today’s railroad inside. It is believed that Guilford Rail System, which owns the rail line and operates the freight trains, still uses the building for storage. The roof of the station is in poor condition, with large spaces letting light and the elements in. The old platforms and stairs outside have been rotted through and trees and bushes have made new homes where people once moved bags and crates.

All Published

Stone School Museum

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