Look out, the circus is coming through town

NASHUA – A slow train is coming that could make the morning commute between Hudson and Nashua a circus.

Police reported Tuesday that passage of a large freight train would force the closure of the railroad crossings on East Hollis and Crown streets for at least 45 minutes this morning.

Pam Am Railways informed police that the tie-up will start at 7:30 a.m., affecting east-west travel on one of the few, and busy, traffic arteries connecting Nashua and Hudson, police Lt. Bruce Hansen said.

Contacted later, Pan Am Railways officials doubted that a passing Ringling Bros. Circus train will slow down the morning commute. Company officials said the train wouldn’t arrive until 10 a.m., long after commuters had reached work, and that they wouldn’t close the East Hollis Street crossing.

Either way, one fact is certain – today, a Ringling Bros. Circus train of about 60 cars will pass through the city on its way to Manchester for some Verizon Center performances.

The train will carry elephants and all sorts of circus equipment, two Pan Am Railways officials said in a telephone conference call. Most of the cars will continue to Manchester, but some will be removed and stay at a rail yard off Crown Street, they said.

“It’s a normal switching move: crossing at Crown Street and shove the cars into the spot and that’s it. We have our police to expedite the move,” Pan Am Railways executive vice president Sidney Culliford said.

The train won’t reach Nashua until 10 a.m. at the earliest, Culliford said. Pan Am Railways has shuffled the Ringling Bros. train through the area for the past four years and it hasn’t been a problem, he said.

But Hansen said police were told that Boston and Maine Railroad – the subsidiary of Pan Am Railways – would shut down the crossings at East Hollis and Crown streets at 7:30 a.m. and for about 45 minutes.

Further complicating matters was that the railway told police that Bridge Street’s railroad crossing could be partially closed, Hansen said. “Cars might be able to sneak through Bridge Street,” he said.

Traffic stoppage on East Hollis Street is cause for alarm, but a halt of vehicles on Bridge and Canal streets would be cause for a double alarm. The two streets merge before the two-bridge span that connects Nashua and Hudson and is often the scene of traffic jams, even when no trains are passing.

Nashua and Hudson have only two connecting points over the Merrimack River: the Sagamore Bridge (as part of the F.E. Everett Turnpike’s Exit 2 ramps) and Taylor’s Falls and Veterans Memorial bridges, which are separate spans but are part of the same roadway, Route 111.

As it is, traffic slows considerably during rush hour on Route 111 near the Taylor’s Falls and Veterans Memorial bridges. Streets on both sides of the bridges can seem like parking lots when there are no road problems other than heavy traffic.

Hansen urged motorists to consider alternate traffic routes. For many commuters in the north sides of Nashua and Hudson, that would mean driving great distances to pass the Merrimack River Arther south or maybe even traveling north to Manchester.

Those not willing to travel far will just have to wait and see when the circus comes to town.