On November 3 and 4, 1927 torrential rains fell over much of New England, causing severe floods and considerable damage to infrastructure. The flood put 946 miles of B & M track out of service. Over 3,000 men were employed to repair the line and rebuild bridges. Following the flood the B & M began a four-year effort of replacing bridges. On the Northern Railroad this resulted in the reconstruction of over thirty-five bridges during this period, including the Connecticut River bridge, sixteen other plate girder bridges, nine wood trestles, three steel and concrete trestles, four wood or I-beam stringer bridges, and a thru-truss bridge.46
A new Twin Span Turntable was assembled at the Westboro yard on February 26, 1929.47 In 1929 the New Hampshire State Highway Department, in cooperation with the B & M Railroad, adopted a plan to eliminate dangerous grade crossings.48 Railroad crossings were eliminated by either relocating highways or constructing overhead passes. In 1933 federal funds to eliminate grade crossings became available under the National Industrial Recovery Act. In 1940-1941 the State’s Grade Crossing Elimination Program eliminated five dangerous crossings in Grafton, Orange, Canaan and Enfield.49 This project resulted in the construction of a concrete tunnel in Grafton (118.46), a concrete encased overhead I Beam bridge in Canaan (124.69) and a frame trestle overhead bridge in Canaan (125.46). [Note all three of these have been subsequently replaced by NHDOT since 2000]. In a few cases, the State simply installed flashing signals at grade crossings.
For example, these were installed in Canaan at Burke’s Crossing in 1937. In the late 1930s, bridge replacements on the line were undertaken strictly on an as-needed basis. Between 1935 and 1940 four bridges were replaced on the Northern Railroad. The turntable at Franklin was removed in 1937, leaving only the pit.50 During the second quarter of the 20th century the Boston & Maine replaced all but one of the overhead bridges that carried vehicular traffic over the train tracks of the old Northern line. It is likely that this was a priority in part due to the growth in popularity of the automobile and the additional weight and wear placed on overhead bridges by automobile traffic.51 During the same period the State Highway Department was busy constructing/replacing a number of bridges to carry larger roads and highways over the railroad. These included a new Thru Plate Girder Bridge that was constructed in Danbury over the railroad in 1938 and a reinforced concrete tee beam bridge in Orange over the tracks in 1942.52 In West Lebanon a three-span continuous deck plate girder was built over the Mascoma River and the B & M Railroad in 1944.53 Other changes along the railroad tracks were caused by changes in rolling stock. After World War II, the B & M modernized its rolling stock by changing its engines from steam to diesel. Along the Northern and other lines, the shift to diesel eliminated the need for water towers and coal sheds. In
47. Annual Report of the State Highway Department, 1930, 7.
48. Annual Report of the State Highway Department, 1941, 11.
49. Frye, 16.
50. Kenneth Story for the Preservation Company, New Hampshire Historic Bridge Documentation for the Welsh Mill Bridge, Canaan (NH State No. 505, 2001, 5.
51. Annual Report of the State Highway Department 1938, 74; 1942, 73.
52. Annual Report of the State Highway Department 1944, 10.
53. Donald B. Valentine, Jr. “Riding the Northern”, The New England States Limited, Vol. IV, No. 4, September 1982, pp 14-15.