DANVERS — A Nevada nonprofit may accomplish in a matter of weeks what some residents have hoped for and others have fought for decades: a 4.3-mile rail trail running from Peabody to Wenham.
The Iron Horse Preservation Society, a small organization in Reno, Nev., is building the rail trail at no cost to the town in exchange for the abandoned rails and ties.
Iron Horse considers it a trade. It gets the rail material at no cost while it turns an abandoned rail line into a recreational trail. Its efforts also preserve the railroad right of way, albeit without the worn-out tracks.
The work in Danvers is the first job for Iron Horse in New England, which also plans to rip up rails in Wenham and Topsfield, creating a connection among the communities.
"I think it's fantastic. It's manna from heaven. It's being done at no cost, which critics of the trail said couldn't be done," said Selectman Bill Clark, the board's liaison to the Rail Trail Advisory Committee and a longtime advocate. "I can't wait to ride on it."
Earlier this year, as a test run, Iron Horse removed 1,200 feet of rails in the Pine Street area under contract by the Danvers Electric Division.
Iron Horse's work began in earnest April 1 to remove the rest of the rails and ties, said Ingrid Barry, president of the Danvers Bi-Peds, a local group that has been advocating for the trail for seven years. She is also a member of the Rail Trail Advisory Committee, and it was Barry who found Iron Horse online.
"She's the catalyst," said Joe Hattrup, Iron Horse's chief operating officer and co-founder with his brother Jim Hattrup, the company's president. Jim Hattrup is also a graduate of MIT, the company's Web site says.