In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, travel in the White Mountain
region was difficult, to say the least. The first settlers,
if they were lucky, had foot paths. Often, they used Indian trails.
which traversed parts of the area. The settlements were spread
out and the mountains were a major obstacle to traffic. Attempts
to improve the roads were frequent and usually ineffective. The state insisted that roads be built and paid for by the individual towns. The towns had little money and little expertise in road building. There were many petitions to the legislature for assistance in improving the roads. The legislature adopted a solution that was in use at the time in England. They chartered private corporations to build turnpikes and allowed those corporations to collect tolls.
The turnpikes served their purpose (and are discussed elsewhere
on this website
). Travel by wagon, sleigh and stage coach became possible and other roads were built. Stage service through
Crawford Notch began before 1830 and even earlier around the Lakes region to Conway, as well as from Plymouth north through Franconia Notch. Tourist traffic increased although not all were pleased with the service provided by the stages. Many early travelers have written about their experiences, and we'll add links to some of these accounts to this page.
It was the coming of the railroads that forever changed the region. By the early 1850s, rail service was available to the edges of the Mountains-Gorham and Woodsville. Over the next quarter century, the railroads expanded into the interior portions of the White Mountains. The Cog Railway opened in 1869, and the Portland & Ogdensburg RailRoad was completed through Crawford Notch in 1875. In 1883 rail service was in place from Plymouth to North Woodstock.
The relationship of the expanding Grand Hotels and the railroad companies is complicated and symbiotic. The railroads brought the visitors to the hotels and the hotels provided the reason for people to use the trains. Often, railroad companies were major investors
in the hotels.
The railroads also enabled the large scale logging that developed in the late 19th century. They provided easy access to distant
markets and they encouraged the building of logging railroads. For example, the Boston and Maine railroad often leased track and other equipment to the logging railroads at favorable rates in return for the freight traffic the loggers generated.
We'll be adding maps, details and photos of the main line railroads as well as the logging railroads
An informative article from Outlook Magazine:
Turnpikes, Stage Coaches and the White Mountain Express: Transportation in the White Mountains
by R. Stuart Wallace (click above to read full text)
The Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad, c.1910