1916 topo map showing the route of the Portsmouth and Dover.
I would like to thank Mr. Lloyd Rosevear of Dover NH for renewing my
interest in this short railroad line. Lloyd was kind enough to go out and
photograph the remnants of the line in Dover.
The Portsmouth and Dover went through the following towns.
(all in NH)
An interesting former customer
on the line was the Sawyers Mill.
The Formation of New England Railroad Systems book refers to this line
as the Dover and Portsmouth. Mr. Lindsell's book cited below refers to
it as the Portsmouth and Dover. Because the line was backed by the Eastern
RR I have decided to use the Portsmouth and Dover name. From the perspective
of the Eastern, the new line ran from Portsmouth, which the Eastern already
served, to Dover which was not yet served by the Eastern RR, therefore
I think that Portsmouth and Dover is probably correct. Please email me
if you believe this to not be the case.
The Portsmouth and Dover is pretty short, only about 11 miles long.
to The Rail Lines of Northern New England, A Handbook of Railroad History
by Robert M. Lindsell, it was built in 1874. The section from Newington to Dover point was abandoned in 1934, the next section to go was from Dover Point to Sawyers in the beginning of world war II, and from Dover to Sawyers lasted all the way up to 1986. The section from Portsmouth up to Newington is still in use today and is known as the Newington Branch.
Passenger service ended in 1933.
The first abandonment, which was from Newington to Dover Point, would have eliminated the bridge that crossed between those two points. The second abandonment was likely due to a lack of industry or any other customers south of Sawyers. There was one customer near Sawyers that saw service up until the late 80's. That's the reason that that part of the line stayed around for so long.
It's interesting to note that while this was the most direct route between
Dover and Portsmouth, the two cities were also connected by the Portsmouth,
Rockingham Jct., Durham, Dover route and also the Portsmouth, Kittery,
North Berwick, Rollinsford, Dover route as well. With passenger service
gone in '33 there was little reason to maintain the direct connection.
I suspect that the bridge played a large part in the demise. I suspect
it was too costly to maintain and the solution was to simply get rid of
According to the "Formation" book, the "Dover and Portsmouth" was built because the Cocheco RR wanted to be bought out by the B&M, when that didn't happen, they reincorporated and got permission to build from Dover to Portsmouth. By building to Portsmouth they could play the Eastern against the B&M. If the completed Cocheco were sold to the B&M the B&M would invade Eastern Territory in Portsmouth. If it were sold to the Eastern then the Eastern would have a route into Dover NH and beyond.
Mr. Lindsell says that the Eastern built the line as a way of serving industry along the river in Newington and as a shorter route from Dover to Portsmouth and the ports there.
"Formation" does acknowledge that the line was backed by the Eastern
but leaves me confused as to how the Cocheco really played a part in it's
My opinion is that the Eastern probably decided to built this line on their own for the reasons that Mr. Lindsell stated, that being to serve the industry in Newington and to provide a shorter route from Dover to Portsmouth, an excellent excuse for the Eastern to build into B&M territory to steal business.
It's possible that the B&M took over the Cocheco to stop the Eastern at Dover and keeping them from getting a through route to the Lakes Region. .
If you can get your hands on the "Formation" book, I recommend it, I
also highly recommend Mr. Lindsell's book as well.
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