Many people are familiar with the Conway Scenic Railroad, which for many years has traveled the Mount Washington Valley rails from North Conway to Crawford Notch each summer and fall. And perhaps they have heard of, or even remember, the snow trains that ran from Boston to North Conway from the 1930s to the 1950s.
In 1931 the Boston & Maine (B&M) Railroad had an innovative idea that proved to propel the winter sports industry in the Eastern Slope region of New Hampshire to the forefront of skiing in this country. Snow trains already had been successful in Europe and Canada, and with winter sports beginning to take off in northern New England and B&M looking to increase ridership, executives saw an opportunity. The first snow train left Boston’s North Station in January 1931 for destinations in central New Hampshire. The train was a huge success that winter, and in the following season, operators added a trip to North Conway to usher in the beginning of the winter sports boom in the area.
The trips attracted the gamut of riders from families with young children to the 20s and 30s single crowd to the older generation, some of whom did not ski but just rode the rails for the experience. The influx of people was of course a big boon to the region. Already a summer destination, the Mount Washington Valley was now experiencing a vital economic growth in the winter. These once popular excursions brought hundreds of skiers to the slopes of Cranmore each winter, helping to popularize skiing in the area. But once the trains stopped running, perhaps due to the rising popularity of the automobile, a little piece of romantic history was lost.
Last winter, the Conway Scenic Railroad decided to bring some of that romanticism and history back, with a snow train from its station in North Conway along eight miles of rails to Attitash Ski Area in Bartlett. It proved to be a big success. The trains ran daily for the two weeks around the Presidents Week holiday. It was a popular and successful experiment.