You’ll be taken on a leisurely, narrated bicycle tour of the existing and future rail trail network
that radiates from Northampton, Massachusetts.
This all day tour will take-in the right-of-way of four different former railroads, (Boston & Maine’s Mass
Central and Mt. Tom Branches and the New Haven Railroad’s Canal Division and their Williamsburg Branch.
The ride has been divided into three different sections.
This will start at the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn (SMTI),
located at 62 Chestnut St in Florence and head west on the City of Northampton Bikeway.
After a short 1/2 mile segment of on-road riding on Rt 9, we'll head into Leeds
and explore railroad archaeology still visible on the future rail trail along the Mill River.
The educational component of the ride will focus on history of the New Haven Railroad's
Williamsburg Branch, the industrial villages of Florence and Leeds and the politics of trail building.
This segment is about 8 miles+— and will return
to SMTI for a bathroom break if needed.
This segment will begin at SMTI and head east on the City of Northampton Bikeway, through
the Stop and Shop parking lot, across Rt 5 and then head onto the soon to be built extension of the Norwottuck Trail.
We will then cross Damon Road and head east on the Norwottuck Trail (aka the Mass Central
Branch of the B&M Railroad). Heading east along the state's regional gem, we will discuss the history of one of the B&M
most storied branchlines as well as a discussion of the politics of building long distance trails.
In the interest of time, we will not do the entire 10 miles of this trail—only
about 5 miles. Then we double back on the Norwottuck and head on-road—on Route 9 into downtown Northampton for a discussion
of the concepts that make streets attractive and accommodating for bikes and
pedestrians, design of rail trails, and a short history of downtown Northampton and the long diverted Mill River.
This segment is about 14 miles+—as we break for
lunch at one of downtown Northampton’s notable eateries.
Starting from the restaurant in downtown Northampton we will bike south along the former
New Haven Canal Division right of way out of town.
This unfinished section is about 1 mile in length and then we are on road—on Route 10 for about
3 miles into Easthampton where we will meet up with the newly built Manhan Rail Trail.
The Manhan is a rare trail in that it takes in two different former railroad branchlines.
In this this case, the Boston & Maine RR's Mt Tom Branch which runs east from downtown Easthampton to the Connecticut
River at Mt. Tom Junction while the other line is the New Haven Railroad's Canal Division.
We will jump onto the rail trail right where
the two corridors comes together in downtown Easthampton. We’ll explore
approximately, 2.2 miles on the Mt Tom Branch and
2.0 miles on the Canal Division.
The educational component will focus on the politics of trail building, the meaning of
the abundant railroad archaeology found along the Manhan Rail Trail and the economic development aspects of rail trails.
There will also be a discussion of the brownfield redevelopment (contaminated former
industrial areas) along rail trails and how these are remediated.
We will then retrace our route back to Northampton and back to the Sugar Maple Trailside