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Jaquith Brook Bridge

Facts 

Overview
Relocated pony truss bridge over Jaquith Brook on Jaquith Rail Trail
Location
Cheshire County, New Hampshire
Status
Open to pedestrians only
History
Originally built in Roxbury and relocated multiple times; dedicated as part of rail-trail on May 6, 2018
Design
Warren pony truss with all verticals
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.94072, -72.03321   (decimal degrees)
42°56'27" N, 72°01'60" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
18/742058/4758502 (zone/easting/northing)
Inventory number
BH 90425 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • August 30, 2020: Added

Comments 

Jaquith Brook Bridge
Posted August 8, 2022, by Steven Lindsey (SteveLindsey60 [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Sentinel article at the dedication of the pony truss bridge.

Decades-old bridge gets new life connecting Harrisville, Hancock trails

By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff Apr 30, 2018 Updated Sep 27, 2018

Jaquith Rail Trail

HARRISVILLE — Sometimes you need a bridge.

And sometimes someone has the bridge you need.

But what are the chances that bridge is sitting in a local sandpit? Great, if you’re the Harris Center for Conservation Education and Harrisville Trails.

The two groups teamed up a few years ago on a project to open a 1.5-mile section of the old Keene and Manchester rail line to the public for walking, running, biking and other non-motorized recreation. The section, which is now open, runs from Jaquith Road in Harrisville to Jaquith Road in Hancock.

However, a big challenge to opening the trail was a gap about 50 feet wide and 50 feet deep over the Jaquith Brook. The railroad bridge that once went over the gully was long gone.

“It required a proper bridge, and that was a major impediment,” Eric A. Masterson, land protection coordinator for the Harris Center, said last week.

In fact, soon after Harrisville Trails, then called the Harrisville Rails to Trials Committee, formed in 1997, its members looked into the possibility of reopening the section of abandoned rail bed, Barbara C. Watkins, chairwoman of Harrisville Trails wrote recently in the town’s newsletter, Common Thread. However, the missing bridge was the biggest challenge, and the committee soon decided to pursue smaller and more practical projects, she wrote.

“The bridge was just too big a project for us, but it has definitely been in our sights,” Watkins said last week.

In the fall of 2015, things started to come together that would make it possible to install a bridge connecting the two segments of the 1.5-mile trail, she said.

The section is being called the Jaquith Rail Trail.

There was this steel truss bridge that had been sitting unused in town, and Tom Weller, a volunteer with Harrisville Trails and an architect, thought it was what the group needed to cross Jaquith Brook, Watkins said. At the same time, the Harris Center was interested in installing a bridge in the same area to open the rail trail, she said.

“Just by chance it all came together. We had a bridge, we had Tom Weller, who was able to do a lot of work, and we had the volunteers, who made incredible donations of their time,” she said.

The bridge was owned by Steve Lindsey of Keene, who donated it to the project.

Lindsey said he purchased the bridge more than a decade ago from the widow of Harrisville resident Lawrence Rathburn. Rathburn, a long-time selectman who had also served on other town boards, had acquired the bridge and planned to use it to cross a wetland to access land he owned, Lindsey said. However, that project never happened, he said.

The bridge dates back to the late 1920s, early 1930s, and was used by horses, buggies, pedestrians and early automobiles in Roxbury, Lindsey said.

When he purchased it, he didn’t have a plan for it, other than he wanted to preserve a piece of historic infrastructure, he said.

The bridge remained on the Rathburn land until Lindsey said he had to move it, and that’s how it ended up in a sandpit in town.

Eventually, Lindsey said he held a contest allowing groups from across New Hampshire to submit proposals about how they would use the bridge. After learning about the rail trail project in Harrisville, he decided to donate the bridge to the project to keep the structure as close to its original location as possible, he said.

While there is a lot of focus on saving covered bridges in New Hampshire, saving steel truss bridges never caught on, he said.

“We’re losing these bridges at an incredible rate. This is what I call a victory. It’s a small one, but we got to savor the small victories,” he said.

The Harris Center had owned parts of the rail trail for many years, and was able to acquire other parcels along the former rail bed, Masterson said.

Besides the Jaquith Rail Trail, the Harris Center, which is in Hancock, also owns a 1.4-mile section of the former rail bed from Hancock Road in Harrisville to Jaquith Road. That section is called Eastview Trail.

Executive Director Jeremy Wilson said the organization raised about $60,000 last year for the Jaquith Rail Trail project, and was able to get grants from the New Hampshire Recreational Trails Program and the Quabbin to Cardigan Partnership.

In addition, several people and businesses donated time and services to help with the project, he said. That included not only installing the bridge, but clearing trees, excavating old drainage ditches, re-grading the rail bed and doing concrete work on the existing abutments, he said.

“These rail trails make really great hiking trails. They get you into the deep woods quickly and are nice surfaces,” he said. “They’re really nice walking trails in the sense that you’re not jumping over boulders.”

The line of the former Manchester and Keene Railroad opened in 1878, and provided train service between Keene and Nashua. The Boston and Maine Railroad took over the line in 1893.

However, the rail line didn’t make it past its 58th year, as use of it declined during the 1930s, and many trestles that were damaged in the Great New England Flood of 1936 weren’t repaired.

Early on in the existence of Harrisville Trails, group members concluded the rail trail is the backbone of the town’s trail system, as all the local trails around town connect to it, Watkins said.

Before installing the bridge last October, group members did smaller projects on other parts of the rail trail, including building two bridges that were 26 feet and 32 feet long, she said.

The section of rail trail in Harrisville that is accessible to the public starts in the village of Chesham near the Marlborough town line, she said. It then disappears into the main road from Chesham to Harrisville before emerging again, she said. From there it now goes to Hancock.

“It was a slow process, but it was well worth it,” Watkins said. “And people want be outdoors more, so this really added to that.”

A grand opening celebration of the Jaquith Rail Trail will be held Sunday, May 6. People interested in attending should meet at the trailhead on Jaquith Road, just north of the junction with Hancock Road in Harrisville, at 1 p.m. Refreshments will be served.