B&M Freight Traffic
in Hooksett, Spring 1931
Freight service was in flux thoughout America in the early 1930's, and Hooksett, NH, was no different. With overall carloadings down, the B&M was looking carefully for ways to cut expenses by better matching service levels to customers' shipping activity. Accordingly, B&M NH Div Superintendent A.W.Perkins was involved in examining B&M service on the road's Suncook Loop, a low density branchline that connected to the NH Division mainline at Hooksett and Bow Junction and to the Suncook Valley Railroad at Suncook.
Early in 1930, the former Dundee Mill property, located across the Merrimack River from the mainline, was leased by Emerson & Stillman (formerly the Emerson Chair & Novelty Co. of Derry, NH, afterwards the Emerson Toy & Chair Co, and finally Emerson Manufacturing Company,) which manufactured furniture. A siding located just to the north, known as the Cotton track, was used by this and other off line customers. (See the Cotton Track chronology for more information.) By May of that year, the B&M understood that Emerson's growing business was already beginning to be lost to trucks, due largely to the limitations of the tri-weekly morning service they offered to Hooksett. While 298 waybills, nearly all LCL, were generated from Emerson business in April, 15 to 20 "large truck loads" failed to generate revenue for the railroad. Moving quickly to stem the tide, the B&M instituted changes to improve the service offered: some minor staffing changes at the Hooksett depot enabled the Station Agent, George Keating, to better meet Emerson needs, and, effective May 19, 1930, the B&M's Suncook local provided daily except Sunday afternoon freight service to Hooksett, allowing the B&M to better expedite all shipments offered by Emerson (provided their L.C.L car was ready not later than 3:00 PM.)
In late 1930, Mr. Perkins instructed Mr. Keating to begin to collect data on freight traffic handled though his agency. Keating's territory included, besides the Cotton track, two other sidings, the House track located just north of the depot and joining the Loop track just below the covered bridges over the Merrimack, and the Old House track south of the mainline bridges down behind the Catholic church. Several on- and off-line customers were served by one or another of these tracks. Mr. Keating accumulated the records for four months and submitted them to Mr. Perkins on May 2, 1931.
Mr. Keating reported his records differently for January than he did the following months (apparently due to a misunderstanding.) The January records document: Shipper, Consignee, Destination, and Goods, only, and consequently are useful differently than the February through April records.
The records appear to show that Emerson may have been acting as a contract manufacturer for other operations. No Perry Wood Toy Co. is known to exist in Hooksett or nearby, while Hitz, Jacobs, & Kassler is a (NY based?) toy manufacturer best known for the dolls they produced. Some of the sorts of customers that Emerson sold their products to are documented: Woolworth's is well known, while Namm's was a department store in Brooklyn. One wonders if Aaron Schwartz refers to a sale to F.A.O. Schwarz. The memos from May, 1930, do add a bit: "Straight cars may be made to Butler Bros. Jersey City, to Blooingdale (sp.) Co., Long Island City, NY. and A.I.Namm, Brooklyn, NY."
A few other customers beyond Emerson are of note. The previous fall, the B&M replaced the NH Division bridges over the Merrimack River as part of the system wide infrastructure improvements initiated in the late 1920's. Bethlehem Steel was the contractor, and the removal of the old bridge accounts for the carload of scrap, with more to follow in February. The stone, timbers, and piling represent the removal of the temporary trestle work that had been installed immediately downstream of the bridge, used to divert traffic while construction was underway, while the ballast that came in was presumably used in the realignment of the tracks just north of the bridge. Nassikas was a poultry breeder in Hooksett. Mount St. Mary's was a large convent about a mile east of the mill, climbing up out of the valley. At this time, the convent received coal at the House track, but by as early as 1934, began to receive their fuel at the Cotton track.
February-April Car Data
Beginning in February, Mr. Keating began recording precise details of the specific loaded railcars seen on the Hooksett sidings. Gone are the listings of LCL traffic, but as many destinations specified coincide with January data, reasonable conclusions can be drawn.
Posted 3/9/17. Updated 12/15/17. Copyright retained by Earl Tuson.