The survey of the railroad was completed in 1845 by T.J. Carter of Wilmington, Massachusetts, Engineer, and George Stark of Manchester, Assistant Engineer (see Figure 1A-1C). Both men went on to have long and successful careers with a variety of railroads. Timothy J. Carter (1817-1881) attended Phillips Andover Academy and later studied civil engineering. He was consulting engineer on the construction of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1838. In 1850 he moved west and was involved in planning
railroads in the Chicago area, the Wabash line from Toledo to St. Louis, and a short line in Texas. In 1863 President Lincoln appointed him as government director for the Union Pacific Railroad.4 General George Stark (1823-1892) was born in Manchester and was a great grandson of Revolutionary War hero John Stark. In 1836 at the age of fourteen, he was employed surveying the Nashua & Lowell Railroad. He later studied engineering and in 1841 was assistant engineer locating the line from Nashua to Concord. After working on the Northern Railroad survey, he was engaged on surveys for the Vermont Central and Old Colony Railroads. He later served as chief engineer of the Nashua & Wilton and Stony Brook lines, the Boston, Concord & Montreal, the Hudson River Railroad, and the Nashua & Lowell among others.5
The Northern Railroad, approximately seventy miles long, passed through eleven communities beginning in Concord and ending in Lebanon. At Concord the track is 288 feet above sea level; the maximum elevation occurs in Orange which is 778 feet above Concord. At its steepest, the grade does not exceed 52 feet in a mile. Between Boston and Franklin the grade was less than sixteen feet to the mile. Yet there were still considerable challenges along the line. In Concord, these included cutting through a promontory at Farnum eddy. The first steam excavator ever used in Concord was used during the winter of 1845 to 1846. In other locations, including Goodwin Point in Concord and in Franklin, it was necessary to make a new channel for the Merrimack River. “Boston” John Clark was hired to plow out narrow channels between the bends of the river by the use of oxen to let the water through to create new, broad, deep paths. The soil that was removed was used to build the roadbed of the railroad.6 Rivers and streams were routinely rerouted in numerous other places on the Northern line.7 The twenty-two miles from Orange Heights to West Lebanon was the most difficult and costly section to build. Cutting through the Summit Ledge in Orange/Grafton, in particular, was the largest obstacle. Two teams of workers, one at each end of the cut, drilled through the hard stone by hand, with a blacksmith on site to keep tools sharp. Common blasting powder aided the effort. Crews also encountered a large bed of peat in the ledge which had to be laboriously dug out and the area gradually drained. Eventually, the remaining peat was burned.
4. Larz F. Neilson, “Local man was railroad builder”, Wilmington Town Crier, December 30, 2013.
5. H.W. Herrick, “Gen. George Stark” in Sketches of Successful New Hampshire Men (Manchester: John B. Clarke, 1882), 9-12.
6. Alice M. Shepard, The History of Franklin (Franklin: Sant Bani Press, 1996), 261.
7. Carroll: 72.