The Hippo


May 29, 2020








Charles Martin at MainStreet BookEnds

Where: MainStreet BookEnds, 16 E. Main St., Warner
When: Saturday, Aug. 12, at 1 p.m.
Contact:, 456-2700
More on the book:

Rail trail expert
Martin on new edition of New Hampshire Rail Trails

By Eric Saeger

 Charles F. Martin knows more about New Hampshire rail trails than anyone else in the state, thanks to the research required to write his 2008 book, New Hampshire Rail Trails. 

For years, it was the source for Granite State rail trails, detailing how to access them, what they look like and their past lives as railroads. But it wasn’t long before the trails changed, extending farther and seeing surface improvements with crushed gravel or pavement.
Martin, who lived in New London for years, tried to keep up. He published an eBook with new information, but readers disliked that you still needed the first edition. So he bit the bullet and wrote New Hampshire Rail Trails, 2nd Edition, published by Branch Line Press last fall, an updated look at the state’s large network complete with 133 maps and more than 180 photos. Research involved re-visiting all the trails on his bike and checking in with rail trail organizations and historical societies. 
“Probably the biggest thing is there’s been a movement to connect town trails into regional trails,” Martin said via phone. “The regional trail that’s the most important is called the Granite State Rail Trail, which will go from Lebanon all the way down to the Mass. border in Salem, and a little bit further on.”
Martin and his wife have since moved to Colorado to be close to their children, but they’re back in the Granite State this fall. While here, Martin plans on conducting some long overdue promotion work for the latest title, which includes at stop at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner Saturday, Aug. 12, at 1 p.m., with fellow rail trail aficionado Tim Blagden.
As an avid biker and history- and nature-lover, it’s natural that Martin loves rail trails so much and wanted to be part of their development. Years ago, he joined the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail, which overlooks the line traveling from Boscawen to Lebanon. Then he began exploring others. 
“I thought I could have a lot more impact statewide than I could on just this one trail, so I started doing research for the first edition of the book. Of course, like any other book, it took a lot more effort than I ever thought it would, but it also got me in contact with the other trail groups,” he said. “Without sounding brash, I’d say it’s the source for New Hampshire rail trails. Of course, that’s a very limited field; nobody else has put in the kind of effort that I have to survey the entire state.”
Some of the trails that needed updates in this new edition include those in Keene, where there are now two major bridges connecting trails; those in Goffstown, which now connect with Manchester’s trails thanks to the new bridge crossing the Piscataquog River; and those in Laconia, which lengthened to twice their size. He also mentioned trails in the southern tier of the Granite State Rail Trail (Windham, Derry, Salem, Londonderry) and the one close to his old home.
“When the first edition of the book came out, the Northern  Rail Trail in Merrimack County only had a few miles. Now, when you take [the trails within] Merrimack County and Grafton County, [the Northern Rail Trail] stretches 58 miles,” Martin said.
The book also goes in depth looking at historical trail artifacts, from tumbling-down factories to tell-tales, some of which still exist in New Hampshire. Tell-tales, which look like dangling metal rods hanging from telephone poles, trace back to when trains needed workers to manually set each car’s braking system, forcing men to hop from car to car. The noise of the train hitting the tell-tales would alert that a bridge or obstacle was approaching, and that workers should move out of the way.
Martin said he hopes the book gets more people on the trails, or at the very least, lets people know they exist.
“Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts have some excellent rail trails, but I think one of the things about New Hampshire that’s unique is just the density. Wherever you live in New Hampshire, there’s going to be a rail trail fairly close to you,” Martin said. “They’re kind of like linear parks. They’re not doing people any good if they don’t know about them and use them. I’m not the only one pushing people to use these trails.”

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