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Westboro Rail Yard demolition hits tipping point in West Lebanon

  • Mike Lemieux, owner of Pine Hill Construction, demolishes the sandhouse at the historic Westboro Rail Yard in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Once the property is cleaned up city officials hope to lease the land from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation in order to turn it into a park. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Mike Lemieux, owner of Pine Hill Construction, looks at the sand house at the historic Westboro Rail Yard in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Several structures at the site are in the process of being demolished, including the bunkhouse, roundhouse, sandhouse and chimney. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Construction worker George LaBrie Sr., left, and Mike Lemieux, right, owner of Pine Hill Construction, watch as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu uses an excavator to tear down a portion of the sandhouse at the historic Westboro Rail Yard in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/13/2021 5:30:18 AM
Modified: 10/13/2021 4:58:26 PM

WEST LEBANON — Construction workers on Tuesday knocked down the dilapidated sandhouse at the Westboro Rail Yard, a key step in a demolition project that Lebanon officials hope will help clear the way for a riverside park and trail link along the Connecticut River.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, joined by state and city officials, was on hand to mark the demolition, and he promised the state will follow through with a lease between the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the city of Lebanon to make the park a reality. The state owns the site but leases part of it out for active rail operations.

“Absolutely, no question about it,” Sununu said when asked about the lease for a park with the city, which is still being negotiated. “The plans they have put forth are absolutely awesome. The connectivity that they are trying to provide, the public access, with the trail system that they have envisioned, and extending that, for the public access, it’s awesome.”

Sununu, with a TV news crew and news photographer on hand, also took the controls of an excavator for five minutes and slammed and clawed with the bucket at the wooden sandhouse, which had trees growing through its roof. Once the walls were torn apart, observers could see piles of sand, which had once been used to de-ice the rails, in the structure.

Crews with Pine Hill Construction, based in Claremont, started work on the $756,430 demolition project last week and had already taken down a bunkhouse at the rail yard. Two workers on a boom Tuesday afternoon were also dismantling a 70-foot smokestack at the site.

The ruins of the old roundhouse are next, though part of the structure is also being remediated for suspected asbestos contamination.

The brick roundhouse was built in 1890 and was used to service Boston & Maine locomotives.

Lebanon civil leaders and city officials have been talking for years about cleaning up the 22-acre site — though part of the rail yard remains in active use for shipping propane — and are pleased that demolition is underway. The Pine Hill contract calls for the work to be completed by Nov. 19.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for redevelopment in downtown West Lebanon. It’s not the first step, but it’s an important step,” Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara said, “because this will become a public space now, and hopefully this will serve as the interconnection between the Mascoma River Greenway and trails going north.”

Lebanon officials want to create a riverfont trail along the Connecticut, running under the rail bridge to West Lebanon and connecting to a small park near the Lyman Bridge off Route 4.

Sununu, when he arrived at the state-owned site, expressed surprise that the crumbling buildings were still standing.

“Why hasn’t somebody taken this down? This is the kind of stuff that drives me crazy,” he said.

City Manager Shaun Mulholland said that DOT “is amenable” to leasing much of the rail yard to the city, especially along the river, but is likely to keep a section by the railroad tracks, which the city had also sought, for future rail use.

As part of the demolition, which was approved last month by the Executive Council, Lebanon has agreed to take the bricks from the demolished structures and grind them up to use as road base in the city.

“The value of the estimated tonnage of demolition debris is estimated to be $278,000. We charge $150 per ton for disposal of this waste material at our landfill. We are donating that service as our part of the project resulting in no charge to the state for disposal of the non-hazardous waste,” Mulholland said by email. “The asbestos and lead paint is going to a licensed facility which is not in the city.”

While officials applauded the beautification and revitalization efforts that the demolition will make room for, state Rep. Laurel Stavis, a Democrat who lives in West Lebanon, noted that there was a fading history to the rail yard, including a visit in November 1847 by U.S. Sen. Daniel Webster to celebrate the opening of the Northern Railroad to Lebanon.

“The ghost of Daniel Webster is looking down,” Stavis said of the New Hampshire statesman.

John Gregg can be reached at 603-727-3217 or jgregg@vnews.com.




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