The Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge is an iconic structure located in Keene, New Hampshire, that offers a glimpse into the region’s rich transportation history. The bridge was built in 1847 and is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the era’s engineers and builders. Lucian Tilton was the head architect of the bridge and he had a lot of assistance from William Scollay who was another well-respected bridge designer. The bridge spans the Branch River and was a key element of the Cheshire Railroad’s route between Fitchburg, Massachusetts and Bellows Falls, Vermont.
The bridge’s unique design and construction make it a true marvel of engineering. The arch spans a distance of over 68 feet and rises 48 feet above the river below, making it one of the largest stone arch bridges in New Hampshire. The bridge is constructed from locally sourced granite and limestone and features intricate details such as the tapered arches, decorative cornices, and finely crafted keystones.
The Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge served as an important transportation link for over 100 years, carrying trains across the Branch River. However, with the decline of the rail industry in the mid-20th century, the bridge fell into disrepair and was in danger of being dismantled. The railroad was abandoned in 1972. Thankfully, in the 1990s, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation purchased 40 miles of the railroad and the bridge. It would then be converted into a rail trail for walkers, bikers, and runners.
Today, the Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge is a beloved landmark and an important piece of the region’s history. Visitors can walk, run, or bike across the bridge and take in the stunning views of the river and surrounding landscape. It is a key stop along the present-day Cheshire Rail Trail. The bridge is a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. The bridge is owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) and administered by the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) as a trail crossing over the Branch River.
- Opened: 1847
- Original function: Stone arch railroad bridge
- Architect(s): Lucian Tilton and William Scollay Whitwell
- Year added to NRHP: 2012
- NRHP number: 12000504
- Status: Open to pedestrians only – pass at your own risk
- Admission cost: Free
Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge Location
- Address: Marlboro Street and Swanzey Factory Road
- Town: Keene
- State: New Hampshire
- GPS: Lat 42.9141592 Lng -72.2531165
- Parking notes: There are small dirt parking areas on both sides of the bridge on Marlboro Street and Swanzey Factory Road
- Parking directions: Marlboro Street (HERE) and Swanzey Factory Road (HERE)
- Location directions: HERE