Mountain Division

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Mountain Division
(Maine Central Railroad)
Frankenstein Trestle, White Mountains, NH.jpg
Frankenstein Trestle in the White Mountains
Locale Portland, Maine to St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Mountain Division (later the Mountain Subdivision) is a railroad line that was once owned and operated by the Maine Central Railroad (MEC). It stretches from Portland, Maine on the Atlantic Ocean, through the Western Maine Mountains and White Mountains of New Hampshire, ending at St. Johnsbury, Vermont in the Northeast Kingdom. The line was abandoned in 1983 by MEC's successor, Guilford Transportation Industries (GTI). Guilford retained a stub between Portland and Westbrook. A section in New Hampshire remains in use by heritage railway Conway Scenic Railroad.

History[edit]

Built as the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad before acquisition by the Maine Central Railroad (MEC), the line initially provided transportation for summer visitors to grand Victorian hotels, including the Bay of Naples Inn in Naples (reached by connection with Sebago Lake steamboats), the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, and the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. Cool, clean air at Sebago Lake and the White Mountains provided a refreshing escape from the heat, humidity and smoke of 19th-century cities. Autumn foliage and winter skiing extended the tourist season. The Flying Yankee train-set operated as the Mountaineer from Boston to Crawford Notch via Intervale Junction during World War II,[1] but passenger service had been reduced to a single daily round-trip between Portland and St. Johnsbury by the 1930s. The train between Portland and St. Johnsbury usually consisted of a RPO-express car, a baggage car and a single coach after the 1920s; and substitution of a stainless steel combination for the coach and baggage car reduced the train to two cars for the last several years before the end of passenger service in 1958.[2]

Crossing the Willey Brook Bridge towards Crawford Notch in 1906

The Mountain Division was the shortest route from Portland to points west of Chicago. It saw relatively heavy through freight traffic from termination of the joint operating agreement with the Boston & Maine Railroad (B&M) in 1953, until abandonment in 1983 when GTI favored B&M routing. The westbound grade was 2.2% for 18.5 miles from Bemis (Notchland) to the summit at Crawford Notch.[3] MEC operated 2-6-6-2 Mallet locomotives #1201-1204 on the Mountain Division from 1911 through the 1920s. The Mallets had been built for the B&M's Hoosac Tunnel in 1910 and were sold to MEC when Hoosac Tunnel was electrified the following year. The Mallets were built to burn oil, but were converted to burn coal after local fire departments had difficulty extinguishing oil fires.[4] Two large firemen were required to hand fire the coal-burning Mallets westbound.[5] One Mallet was stationed in Portland, another at Lancaster on the Beecher Falls Branch, and a third at the Bartlett helper wye, while the fourth Mallet was undergoing maintenance.

USRA Light Mikados (Maine Central class S) handled freight trains on the Mountain Division after the last Mallet was retired in 1931; and class O 4-6-0s handled local trains and (often in tandem) provided helper service. EMD F3s and GP7s replaced steam locomotives in 1953.[6] Four or five diesel locomotives were typical head-end power for diesel-era freight trains; and a pair of EMD SW7s or non-dynamic-braked GP7s often provided helper service westbound. First generation diesels were replaced by similar numbers of EMD GP38s, ten GE U18Bs and two ALCO RS-11s. Helpers were less common with these second generation diesels.

Legacy[edit]

Heritage operator Conway Scenic Railroad operates summer and fall excursion trains on the portion of the Mountain Division between North Conway through Crawford Notch to Fabyan.

The segment from Westbrook, Maine to the Maine–New Hampshire border is owned by the Maine Department of Transportation ( MaineDOT) remains derelict, although MaineDOT has long-term plans to reactivate the line for freight and commuter rail service.[7]

MEC's parent company, Pan Am Railways, retains ownership of the section of the line to Westbrook, which it operates as the "Mountain Branch."

Route mileposts[edit]

Sebago Lake Station in 1907, Standish
Steamboat landing at Sebago Lake Station in 1907 (note transfer of freight from boxcar to left of steamboat)
The Bay of Naples Inn in 1913, Naples
The Fabyan House in 1908, Bretton Woods
The Mount Washington Hotel c. 1910, Bretton Woods

Beecher Falls Branch[edit]

The Dominion Lime Company built a railroad in 1887 from the Quebec Central Railway at Dudswell Junction to Lime Ridge, Quebec. In 1888, the Upper Coos Railroad built a railroad north to the Quebec border from the Grand Trunk Railway at North Stratford, New Hampshire. In 1889, William Bullock Ives' Hereford Railway purchased the Dominion Lime Company railroad and extended it south to connect with the Upper Coos Railroad. MEC leased the Upper Coos Railroad and the Hereford Railway in 1890 and built a connecting Coos Valley Railroad in 1891 from North Stratford to the Mountain Division at Quebec Junction. This line was operated as the MEC Quebec Division until Maine Central terminated lease of the Hereford Railway in 1925. Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) later operated over some of the line through Quebec. The Upper Coos Railroad and Coos Valley Railroad were purchased by MEC in 1931 and operated as the Beecher Falls branch of the Mountain Division. The former Coos Valley Railroad was dismantled in 1948 when MEC negotiated trackage rights over the B&M to Groveton, New Hampshire and over the former Grand Trunk Berlin Subdivision from Groveton to North Stratford.[8] The remaining line north of North Stratford operated as the North Stratford Railroad after 1976.

Route[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson P.139
  2. ^ Johnson P.149
  3. ^ Johnson P.13&54
  4. ^ Johnson P.67
  5. ^ Johnson P.70
  6. ^ Johnson P.223
  7. ^ Quimby, Beth (2011-03-04). "Advocates of trail to Fryeburg say rail project throws plans off-track". Portland Pres Herald. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  8. ^ Peters, Bradley L. (1976). Maine Central Railroad Company. Maine Central Railroad. pp. 14–15. 

References[edit]

  • Johnson, Ron (undated). Maine Central R.R. Mountain Division. 470 Railroad Club. 
  • Lewis, Edward A. (1974). Vermont's Covered Bridge Road. The Baggage Car. 
  • Maine Central Railroad (1917). Hand-Book of Officers, Agents, Stations, and Sidings. Edwin B. Robertson. 
  • The Secretary of Transportation (1974). Rail Service to the Midwest and Northeast Region. U.S.Government Printing Office.