Although no one alive today ever saw the original tracks in place, they started at the train station (also occupied by Walsh’s Tin Co.) that later became the Colonial Theater, then the Andover Playhouse, then an adjunct to the Old Town Hall, and finally part of the parking lot for the Memorial Hall Library.
The original depot was located diagonally across the street from the old post office, which made the delivery of mail and packages convenient. From the depot, the tracks took a direct route that made sense in those days, and we must remember there were many fewer houses. They ran from the depot to behind where the Baptist Church is, then diagonally along Central Street to the front of the Rose Cottage at the corner of Chestnut and Central streets (where Lafayette once slept), to behind where St. Augustine School is now, then under School Street, where a bridge was built to support the street, across Phillips Street, along the south side of Abbot Street, through Spring Grove Cemetery, “across the plains of Ballardvale” (as Bessie Goldsmith mentions in her booklet cited below) to a station in Ballardvale, and finally into Wilmington.
Nathanial Whittier, the original superintendent of the railway, constructed and ran the workshops that employed 75 men near the Essex Street depot to service the trains. His house was near the corner of Whittier and Summer streets, and Whittier Street is named for him. M.C. Andrews, a young man of 19, was the first conductor and the only passenger on the first train that was greeted by cheers.
In my early teens, I first saw a part of the old track bed. The Warner family of Ballardvale showed me a long stretch of rail bed and it amazed me as it was so far from any other tracks in Andover, but more than that, it made me wonder about a lot of things that must have happened in Old Andover. Today, if I had a time machine, the arrival of the first train in Andover is one of those events I’d visit.
(The above facts are taken from an “Andover Townsman” article written by Kay Noyes on April 19, 1956; “The Townswoman’s Andover,” Bessie Goldsmith, Andover Historical Society, 1964; and a fact or two discovered by me.)
Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. His email address is BillDalton@AndoverTownie.com.