Not so long ago, the trains rumbling along the tracks in Durham carried only freight, a last remnant of the bustling era of train travel that started in the mid-19th century and continued until 1967, when passenger service came to an end. But in 2001, the passenger train came back.
That first year, some 5,000 riders climbed aboard Amtrak's Downeaster, which runs between Boston and Portland. That same year, Steve Pesci '87, '92G, special projects director in the campus planning office, and his colleagues won $1 million in federal grants for a renovation of the historic train station, home of the UNH Dairy Bar. By 2007, when construction began, ridership was up to 55,000. It was time for that new station.
"We are fantastically lucky," says Pesci, who notes that UNH is one of only a dozen or so universities in the nation to have a rail station on campus. The train, he says, is actually part of the reason some students choose UNH. "They tell us it makes a big difference that they can get around, especially to Boston and Portland, without needing a car."
In August, the Dairy Bar reopened. Along with many modern improvements, artful touches of the past have been preserved or recreated. Giant windows on the western wall, for example, bricked over for many years, have been uncovered. An exhibit of historic photos tells the story of the station itself, which was moved to Durham from Lynn, Mass., in 1912. Today, it's an ideal spot to wait for the next train, ice cream in hand, and learn the story of a century-old gem, now renovated and ready for a busy future.