“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Portsmouth in Rockingham County, New Hampshire — The American Northeast (New England)

Portsmouth NH Marine Railway

Portsmouth NH Marine Railway Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James R. Murray, August 10, 2016
1. Portsmouth NH Marine Railway Marker
In 1833 a group of prominent Portsmouth merchants organized The Marine Railway Company and installed a set of tracks from the water to the brick machine house still standing near this site. When coupled with two horses, the machinery would, as the owners proclaimed, "draw vessels of 500 tons and upwards, entirely out of the water, placing them in a situation where any part of their hulls can be inspected or repaired with great dispatch." The Portsmouth Marine Railway Company continued to operate until the mid- 1850's. Thereafter the wealthy merchant Leonard Cotton bought it and ran it as a private venture. The railway ceased operations somewhere around 1875, though the tracks remained in place well into the 1980s.

Three Masted Schooner on the Gloucester Marine Railway
This image, from the 1800's while not of the Portsmouth Marine Railway, is typical of marine railways of the time. It frequently was necessary to repair the damaged hull of a ship, to clean it of barnacles, or to recopper it.

Headhouse on the Marine Railway
This structure housed the machinery associated with the Marine Company operations. In

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subsequent years it has served as a private dwelling, a fish store, and a theatre company.

Walling's 1850 Map
In the 1800's Portsmouth was lined with commercial wharves. This map from the 1850's shows at least 37, most of which were named for their owners. The largest, not far from the marine railway, was nearly 400 feet long.

A "Careened" Ship
Before the invention of the marine railway, ships were "careened" (beached on their sides) in order to provide access to their hulls. This was done by attaching lines to their masts and rolling the vessels onto one side as that the opposite side was accessible for work at low tide.

Ships along the Portsmouth Waterfront
A forest of ship's masts circled the Portsmouth waterfront through most of the 1800s.

Funding for this historic marker was provided by the City of Portsmouth, 2015.
Erected 2015 by City of Portsmouth NH.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1833.
Location. 43° 4.591′ N, 70° 45.115′ W. Marker is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in Rockingham County. Marker can be reached from Marcy Street. Marker is located behind the Players Ring Theatre Building in

Portsmouth NH Marine Railway Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James R. Murray, August 10, 2016
2. Portsmouth NH Marine Railway Marker
Marker is part of the City of Portsmouth Visual Labels Program
Prospect Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 105 Marcy Street, Portsmouth NH 03801, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Liberty Pole and Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); Black Yankees and The Sea (within shouting distance of this marker); Portsmouth NH Red Light District (within shouting distance of this marker); Oracle House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Portsmouth Navy Yard (about 300 feet away); Point of Graves (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Point of Graves (about 500 feet away); Sheafe Warehouse (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Portsmouth.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2016. It was originally submitted on August 10, 2016, by James R. Murray of Elkton, Florida. This page has been viewed 349 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 10, 2016, by James R. Murray of Elkton, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Sep. 21, 2023