The Souhegan Rail Road was a railroad that never was.
Both the Wilton Railroad and Souhegan Rail Road were destined to connect existing rail lines with the village of East Wilton in Wilton, New Hampshire. The Wilton Railroad received a charter in 1844 to build a line from Nashua/Nashville through East Wilton to Marlow. In 1846, a charter was granted for a competing project, the Souhegan Railroad. The Souhegan proposed to construct a railroad from Souhegan (today's Merrimack Village) in Merrimack through Amherst to East Wilton.
The proponents of the Souhegan Railroad claimed that its route was shorter from Merrimack than from Nashua and and that the extra traffic from the town of Amherst put the Souhegan project in a financially better position. Starting in Merrimack would have meant that the Souhegan would have an interchange with the Concord Railroad, and with that proponents hoped that by presenting a strong case for the Souhegan that the Concord shareholders would support their venture.
Construction began on the Wilton Railroad in 1847. A map of the proposed route of the Wilton Railroad from that year shows the Souhegan Railroad proposal now only going as far as Amherst. It can be safely assumed that the traffic from Amherst alone was not enough to financially support the Souhegan and the project died.
There may have been some truth to the financial claims in the proposal of the Souhegan about the route from Nashua not having enough traffic. The project stalled once Danforth Corner in Amherst (later known as Ponemah) was reached in 1848. An infusion of cash from the Nashua & Lowell Railroad allowed the Wilton Railroad to continue on, reaching Milford in 1850 and East Wilton in 1851.
Interestingly, the name was reincarnated in the 1930s as a crazy idea for an industrial branch. A group of men decided to create a railroad company for the mile long siding of the McElwain Company tannery. Charles Nute shared his story in a booklet called "Merrimack Memories." The excerpt can be read below as provided by the Merrimack Historical Society. For years afterward, the siding for McElwain was nicknamed the Souhegan River Branch by the Boston & Maine Railroad crews.
Merrimack's Souhegan River Railroad by Charles Nute, published in the booklet "Merrimack Memories"
Courtesy of the Merrimack Historical Society
At one time, the Governor of New Hampshire belonged to one of New Hampshire's most celebrated lines of track, Merrimack's Souhegan River Railroad.
If you have never heard of the famous line of track, you're not alone. This long forgotten memorabilia began in 1934. Angus Morrison, the station agent for the Boston and Maine, was trying to think of a way to repay the gift of race track passes he received from a friend while traveling by train in Wisconsin.
After receiving permission from the McElwain Company (shoes), he had passes made for the 1 1/2 mile of railroad track that the company owned that was an off-shoot to their tannery, and it was promptly dubbed the Souhegan River Railroad. The McElwain Company representatives went even further in suggesting that Mr. Morrison become its president.
The railroad company mushroomed as passes were presented to many prominent people of that time. The first to receive a pass in N.H. was Attorney William J. Starr at his testimonial dinner. This led to more applications for passes and election of a Board of Directors.
The jest continued with the Souhegan River's annual meeting to lead the unsuspecting recipient to believe it was not a hoax. Every officer and director was called upon to make a fantastic report of some phase of the railroads "activities". Discussed in pompous fashion were the company's "earnings" for the year, freight carried, labor problems, salary increases, and condition of the company's rolling stock, which was actually one antiquated inspectors car.
Members of the Souhegan River Railroad once included Governor Robert O. Blood and Lieutenant-Colonel John I. Moore, commanding officer of Grenier Air Force Base in Manchester.Charles Nute