Updated May 2015


We are going north to Boxford! Topsfield Selectmen signed a license with National Grid for 1.6 miles of trail allowing us to use their property. The grass and compacted soil surface is dry (for the most part).

             Your Rail Trail Committee will be really gratified when kids ride bikes to Pye Brook Park for their games and recreation instead of being driven. Maybe their parents will even accompany them on the trail.

             We need 99 year lease in order to qualify for state and federal grants but that will likely be several years before that happens. We don’t like to ask for donations, and haven’t done, so as we have been able to build the first 2.3 miles of trail without asking. In the meantime we will need lots of help from volunteers as well as donations to improve the trail. Please visit the Friends Of Topsfield Trails (a non-profit 501(c)3 organization to make a generous donation.

             Boxford, Georgetown and Newbury are also focused on getting the National Grid license.


What’s next? Completing the trail going north for 1.6 miles to the Boxford town line is, and has been, our goal for 20+ years! This section of the trail, and the trail going north to Newburyport, is owned by the National Grid utility company. We have joined forces with Boxford, Georgetown and Newbury to get the trail completed.


Rt. 97 crosswalk. With what your Rail Trail Committee learned from the work on the Rt. 1 crosswalk described below we completed a similar project for the Rt. 97 crosswalk by the canoe launch. By installing the equipment ourselves we realized almost $10,000 in cost savings which has now depleted all the funds in our last Dept. of Conservation and Recreation grant. Please consider donating through the www.FriendsOfTopsfieldTrails.com.


U.S. Rt. 1 crosswalk. With funds from our most recent Dept. of Recreation and Conservation your Rail Trail Committee hired a traffic engineering firm to design a crosswalk for the TLC crossing of U.S. Rt. 1. The design was completed and submitted to the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation for their approval. That approval was granted and the crosswalk markings installed through the generosity of the Institution for Savings. The remainder of the work including an “accessible” crossing (yellow tactile mats), installation of solar powered RRFB (rapid rectangular flashing beacons) were installed by a licensed contractor. Just in time for the 2012 Topsfield Fair the crossing has now been made much safer.


Please pick up trash you see on the trail. Your efforts will help keep the TLC a pleasure. We’d rather not put up signs to remind trail users of this. The Rail Trail Committee is picking up trash, planting grass seed on the trail shoulders and working on trail erosion issues from recent rains.


Bicycle racks. Besides the crossing light described below the Rail Trail Committee and its volunteers have been busy installed bicycle racks that were provided at no cost to the Town through a grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. Eleven new racks including four bright red ones have been placed at along side the trail at the Proctor School, Main St., Rt. 1, and at the Fairgrounds Rt. 97 parking lot crossing. The North Shore cyclists have donated a bicycle repair stand which sits just south of Main St.


A big THANKS to the Iron Horse Preservation Society, the non-profit that removed all the rails and ties for our trail. Iron Horse also installed the stone dust surface that was paid for by the Rail Trail Committee DCR grants.


How do you safely cross U.S. Rt. 1 on the trail? There is a trail end sign on the west side of Rt. 1. Officially, the Topsfield Linear Common (TLC) ends at this point and resumes on the other side of Rt. 1. With the new grant your Topsfield Rail Trail
Committee received from the Mass. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation the committee and Selectmen are waiting for a cost estimate on some type of traffic control signal design at this location. This trail enhancement will also greatly benefit Topsfield fairgoers.


The Topsfield Linear Common trail surface is now complete from Washington St. to the Wenham town line– a distance of almost 2 miles! The town of Wenham installed stone dust from the Topsfield town line across Rt. 97 for another 1000 ft. towards Danvers. You can now mountain bike from Topsfield center over Rt. 114 in Danvers– a distance of 7.5 miles! Several groups of riders tried this out during the Essex County Historical Commission recent Trails and Sails weekends last month.


With the heavy rains the Topsfield Fair lost a lot of parking spaces. Many folks parked their cars in Topsfield center and walked the trail to Rt. 1 to access the Fair. Besides avoiding traffic and saving the parking fee trail users got some exercise enjoying the new trail!


All rails and ties have been removed from Topsfield. The trail is now clear and usable from Washington St. to the Wenham town line, continuing through Wenham and Danvers to just past Rt. 114! The next step is to put the final surface of stone dust on the trail from Summer St. to the Wenham town line. Enjoy this recreational treasure this summer. Donations can be made through the “Friends”.


Work is expected to resume in May on the trail with tie removal from Maple St. to the Wenham town line.


Topsfield Fair goers made good used of the trail last October. They parked and walked from Topsfield village center to the Fairgrounds on Rt. 1. During August the trail was inaugurated by a wedding procession going from St. Rose to a resident on Pemberton Rd. They entered the residence through the back yard abutting the trail.


Removal of the ties has been proceeding much slower than expected, Topsfield Fair traffic counts, spillway and Ipswich River Bridge work and a new grant!

             Tie removal and trail smoothing by the Iron Horse Preservation Society has progressed much slower than anticipated. Phase II of the TLC now has its base course and Topsfield Fair enjoyed walking from the village to the Fair. It must be noted that the trail is not officially open and there is no provision for crossing Rt. 1. A cedar fence newly installed by the volunteers prevents users from going straight across Rt. 1 as they must exit to the left. We are told Iron Horse will shortly resume finishing the top course of stone dust on Phase II work will resume on removing ties to the Wenham town line.

             Work on the Ipswich River Bridge and Spillway to prevent further trail erosion and contain the new trail surface has been completed by volunteers. The work took place over the Labor Day weekend. While one crew worked on the bridge and spillway while another crew prepared the trail from Summer St. to Rt. 1 with siltation barriers to keep soil out of the resource areas.

             Rt. 1 is a state route and any traffic controls installed has to have sate approval. To that end a traffic count has just been completed by the Topsfield Police and the Highway Departments recording the number of vehicles and speeds over a 2 week period. The data is now being analyzed by our consultant and the Mass. Dept. of Transportation. The result may be a permit to control speed, or erect a traffic warning or stop light.

             Your Topsfield Rail Trail Committee recently received a grant for $41,000 with a 25% match from the Department of Conservation and Recreation. While not yet decided these funds will likely be used to finish the trail to the Wenham town line.


Conservation Commission approves extending the trail south to Wenham

             The Topsfield Linear Common got the green light to go south (3/10/10) to build the trail in those areas under the Conservation Commission’s jurisdiction. During this month and next all the remaining rails and ties from Summer St. to the Wenham town line should be removed creating another 1.9 miles of trail! The work is being performed at no cost to Topsfield by a non-profit organization called the “Iron Horse Preservation Society”. Most of the removed rails will have a next life likely carrying cars once again or used for homeland security. Good ties will be offered as landscape timbers while those that have decayed over the years will be chipped and either taken to a licensed creosote tie burning co-generation power plant or licensed land fill.

             Meanwhile, discussions are continuing with National Grid to either license or lease the northern 2 miles of trail.


Wetland delineation of the Topsfield Linear Common

             In preparation for continuing construction of the TLC going south from Summer St. to Rt. 1 the wetlands are being delineated. The next step will be to get approval from the Conservation Commission to proceed with a trail design and construction pending, of course, available future grant funds.


Safe Crossing of Rt. 1

             Topsfield has a permit from MassDOT to collect traffic data, number of cars and speeds on Rt. 1, by the trail crossing. With this information we will continue exploring what type of safe trail user crossing system the state will allow.


Ipswich River Railroad Bridge redecked—Oct. 4 and 28, 2009

             With a generous $2800 grant from the Essex County Trails Association the Friends of Topsfield Trails was able to put a new deck and railing on the Ipswich River Bridge. ECTA provided funding for the materials and labor provided by the Friends.


Ribbon Cutting and Reception—Oct. 17th, 2009

             Please join us at the Topsfield Library, by the Common, at 1 PM on Oct. 17th for a reception. At 2 PM we will walk to the trail head on Washington St. then proceed on the Topsfield Linear Common for a short trail walk to Main St. for the Ribbon Cutting ceremony and a few short presentations.

             This day is also “Topsfield Trails Day”. There will be three trail walks in the morning sponsored by the Town Recreation Committee.  Please visit www.TopsfieldRecreation.org for details.


Phase II Forum & Railroad History Presentation

             At 7:00pm on the evening of Oct. 22nd there was a forum to discuss the construction plans for Phase II of the Topsfield Linear Common. This phase is from Summer St. to Rt. 1. Before this presentation there was a multi-media presentation by Richard Symmes of the Beverly Historical Society on Topsfield’s railroad history. About 20 people came to share their memories of the railroad in Topsfield.


Spillway bridge re-decked on Sept. 19th

             The “Spillway” is a short bridge just before the Ipswich River Bridge. On Sept. 19th a crew of volunteers replaced some rotted ties and covered all of them with a new deck and railing. Check the photos with this link.

             The steel Ipswich River Railroad bridge should also be re-decked this autumn thanks to a grant from the Essex Country Trails Association.


Phase I Completed on Sept. 10

             The trail construction is now complete with the asphalt surface in front of Topsfield Station, from Washington St. to Summer St., a distance of about 3000 ft. When we reach Rt. 1 in Phase II we’ll have almost 1 mile built!


Construction from Construction from Main St. to Grove St. tennis courts

             The easement for the Topsfield Linear Common’s alternate transportation corridor should be filed any day now. This allows the Topsfield Selectmen to approve the construction contract for the last segment of Phase I which will run from Washington  to Main Streets. Construction is expected to take place during July.


Conservation Commission Gives Green Light

             At the May 27th meeting of the Topsfield Conservation Commission work on the trail was approved within the wetland. Volunteers will remove two sections of curved track, which are a safety hazard, near Maple St. The rails on the Ipswich River Bridge will be removed and replaced with a wooden deck and the nearby spillway will also receive a wooden deck. Finally, the “rail stop” near Amerigas on Rt. 1 will be relocated to Main St. This work is being done by the Topsfield Historical Society. The “stop” will commemorate the railroad in Topsfield and will be accompanied by a large sign containingrailroad history and photographs.


Phase I is under construction

             On March 16th the Topsfield Selectmen approved the recommendation of the Rail Trail Committee to award a $21,840 contract to K & R Construction of Boxford. Phase I of the Topsfield Linear Common was divided into four segments for the bid process. The first segment is from Washington St. to the Proctor School tot lot. Segment B continues to the end of the Proctor School property behind the tennis courts. Segment C is the property owned by Grove Realty Partners and includes Topsfield Station. The last segment, D, is from Main to Summer Streets. The contract award is for Segments A, B and D. Segment C is almost ready to be approved by the Selectmen.

             The Rail Trail Committee and many volunteers will be taking care of a myriad of details like clearing the path through the woods by the tot lots, installing signs and guard rails through the Park St. Parking lot.

             Construction should be completed by early June. We are starting the survey work on Phase II which continues the trail to Rt. 1. Please visit the Rail Trail Committee and the Friends of Topsfield Trails at the Strawberry Festival on June 13.


Phase I

             Following Informational Forums for both Phase IA and IB agreement has been reached on the trail alignment and design of the trail Topsfield Selectmen are now evaluating the bid construction package for all of Phase I (Washington to Main St.). It is expected the package will be sent out in early February. Construction, as funding allows, will start in the spring of 2009.         


$50,000 Grant Received!

             The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced a $50,000 challenge grant for developing recreational trails. Your Topsfield Rail Trail Committee applied for the grant and was awarded $50,000. This requires a 25% match in volunteer time, donated services and materials, or cash. The grant was awarded in October, 2008. the DCR awarded a total of $600,000 and Topsfield’s share represented a large portion.


$40,000 Grant Received!

             The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced a $50,000 challenge grant for developing recreational trails. Your Topsfield Rail Trail Committee applied for the grant and was awarded $40,000. This required a 25% match in volunteer time, donated services and materials, or cash. The grant was awarded in the the Spring of 2007 and funded this fall.

             It is expected that 1/3 mile long Phase I (see below) of the Rail Trail, commonly called “TLC”, or Topsfield Linear Common, will create the trail from Washington St. to Main St. If enough funds are available the trail will be extended to Summer St.

             Another $50,000 grant was applied for from the DCR in October, 2007 but it has yet to be awarded. We anticipate applying for the 2008 grant in October, 2008.


$2000 ENHC Grant Applied For and Received!

             Your Rail Trail Committee has applied for (Feb. 2007) a $5000 grant (with a $5000 match) to be used to develop Phase I (see below) of the TLC. This grant is to be awarded this summer. A grant in the amount of $2,000 was awarded. This grant required a 100% match.


MBTA lease update.

             After 10 years of work the MBTA and the Town of Topsfield has finally mutually agreed on a lease. This lease is for the southern 2 miles of trail starting roughly at the Grove St. tennis courts and continuing on to the Wenham town line off Rt. 97.


Topsfield Receives National Park Service Grant Awarded.

             Topsfield, along with the towns of Danvers, Wenham, Georgetown, Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury applied for and received a grant from the National Park Service. The grant is for “Rivers and Trailways” program to help us plan for the rail trail.

             Since the grant was awarded the towns of Wakefield, Lynnfield as well as Peabody have met with us. The trail, if completed, from Danvers to the new Hampshire border would be about 29 miles in length.

             The grant was for 2 years and has now expired.


Topsfield and 7 Other Communities Received $800,000+ earmark.

             From the efforts of our U.S. Representative John Tierney we were granted an earmark for $800,000 under the SAFETEA-LU program on the list of "high priority projects" to design. engineer, permit, and construct the "Border to Boston Bikeway" rails-trails project, from Salisbury to Danvers. MassHighway has taken on this project with local direction from each town. They have added a significant amount to the earmark and the 25% design project is expected to be awarded this September.             To help access the funds an “Implementation Plan” was prepared by the Metropolitan Area and Merrimack Valley Planning Commissions with the assistance of committee members from the towns involved.

             The funds will be used for trail design and planning as well as community outreach. Part of the trail design will include the services of landscape designers to address trail neighbor concerns regarding privacy and security.

             The Commonwealth’s Department of Transportation set up a task force, similar to that for the Blackstone River Bikeway, for studying all phases of the project. An Implementation Plan is now available. Please visit the new website at www.BorderToBoston.org.

             The 25% design has been awarded to Faye, Spofford and Throndike, a design firm that has worked on more miles of rail trails than any other organization in New England. Work is starting in early 2009 and is expected to take 2 years. The scope of work includes determining the exact alignment of the trail, wetland determinations and permitting, and the important analysis of how Rt. 97 and Rt. 1 can be safely crossed.


NationalGrid utility corridor.

             NationalGrid has recently approved a one time mowing permission to prepare the trail for state consultants to walk the trial. The Towns of  Boxford and Georgetown are being used as model towns for the permitting process. When that is complete, or nearly so, Topsfield will start the process.


From where will the money come to design, build and maintain the trail?

             We do not anticipate asking the Town’s people for funds. Funds may be available from the Federal TEALU (Transportation Enhancement Act) program as well as many other sources including the State’s Department of Conservation Services Urban Self-Help Program and support from the National Forest Service Rivers & Parks Program. Be assured the Rail Trail Committee will leave no stone unturned to gather the necessary resources to complete the trail. Many grants require some percentage of the funds come from the requesting town. These funds can often come from donated services. We are very fortunate to have talent in many different areas on the committee that should qualify. One example is this website.

             With a stone dust surface installation and maintenance should be very low cost. This might be handled by a combination of grants, donated services, volunteers or fund raisers.


Can the train come back to Topsfield?

             The MBTA lease has a 90 day reversionary provision that allows them to remove the trail and install track. While we feel this is unlikely it is actually state law that the railroad right-of-way cannot be sold without the permission of the State Secretary of Transportation. NationalGrid will have a similar requirement. In the latest lease included is a commitment that the MBTA will relocate the trail.

Topsfield Rail Trail Committee

“TLC” - Topsfield Linear Common