St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad

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St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad
St Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad logo.png
Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad Locomotive.jpg
Portland Company locomotive Coos c. 1856
Reporting mark SLR, SLQ
Locale western Maine, northern New Hampshire, northeastern Vermont
Dates of operation 1853–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge , 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) broad gauge until about 1873
Headquarters Auburn, Maine and Richmond, Quebec

The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (reporting mark SLR), known as St-Laurent et Atlantique Quebec (reporting mark SLQ) in Canada, is a short line railway operating between Portland, Maine on the Atlantic Ocean and Montreal, Quebec on the St. Lawrence River. It crosses the Canada-U.S. border at Norton, Vermont, and is owned by short line operator Genesee and Wyoming.

The line was built by the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad in the U.S. and the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway in Canada, meeting at Island Pond, Vermont south of the Canada–United States border. Major communities served include Portland and Lewiston in Maine; Berlin, New Hampshire; Island Pond, Vermont; and Sherbrooke and Montreal in Quebec.

Route[edit]

History[edit]

The line was proposed as a connection between Portland and Sherbrooke, Quebec in 1844 by Portland entrepreneur John A. Poor. Portland was desperate to connect its ice-free port with Montreal, and Maine was at risk of being eclipsed by a similar proposal running from nearby Boston, Massachusetts. Montreal saw an advantage in linking with the smaller port at Portland and Poor's idea became a reality.

Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad[edit]

The Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad was chartered in Maine on February 10, 1845, New Hampshire July 30, 1847 and Vermont October 27, 1848 to build a continuous line from Portland northwest into northeastern Vermont. William Pitt Preble was the railroad's first President. The line was originally built to the Portland gauge of 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm). Construction started in Portland on July 4, 1846. The first section, from Portland to Yarmouth, opened July 20, 1848. Further extensions up the Royal River to Danville (now Auburn) opened in October, 1848, and to Mechanic Falls in February, 1849. Construction then proceeded up the Little Androscoggin River to Oxford in September, 1849, and Paris in March, 1850. Construction was then completed down the Alder River to the Androscoggin River at Bethel in March, 1851.[1] Simultaneous construction of Portland gauge connecting railways occurred from Danville and Mechanic Falls. Sections into and within New Hampshire opened to Gorham on July 23, 1851 and Northumberland July 12, 1852, and the full distance to Island Pond, Vermont on January 29, 1853.

The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway was chartered to build the part of the line in Quebec, and on August 4, 1851 agreed to meet the Atlantic and St. Lawrence at Island Pond. Regular operations began April 4, 1853 between Montreal (Saint-Lambert) and Portland.

Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad locomotives[edit]

A&StL # Name Date Type Weight Drivers Cylinders Works & number GTR #[1]
Pathfinder April 1848 British built (retired)
July 1848 British built; purchased from contractor (retired)
Bristol September 1848 British built; purchased used (retired)
1 Montreal September 1848 4-4-0 23 tons 60" 15x22 Portland Company # 2 101
2 Machigonne 30 December 1848 4-4-0 23 tons 60" 15x22 Portland Company # 5 102
3 (1st) Oxford 24 February 1849 4-4-0 22 tons 60" 15x22 Portland Company # 6 103
4 William P. Preble 16 May 1849 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 14x20 Portland Company # 8 104
5 Waterville 30 December 1949 4-4-0 22 tons 66" 15x20 Portland Company # 13 105
6 Coos 1 February 1850 4-4-0 22 tons 66" 15x20 Portland Company # 14 106
7 Felton January 1851 4-4-0 22 tons 60" 15x20 Portland Company # 19 107
8 Railway King June 1851 4-4-0 24 tons 54" 17x22 Portland Company # 20 108
9 Casco December 1851 4-4-0 22 tons 60" 14x20 Portland Company # 28 109
10 Forest City January 1852 4-4-0 22 tons 66" 15x20 Portland Company # 29 110
11 Danville March 1852 4-4-0 20 tons 60" 13x20 Portland Company # 30 111
12 Falmouth May 1852 4-4-0 22 tons 60" 14x22 Portland Company # 32 112
13 Daniel Webster 11 November 1852 4-4-0 22 tons 60" 15x20 Portland Company # 36 113
14 Cumberland January 1853 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 16x22 Portland Company # 40 114
15 Nulhegan 27 January 1853 4-4-0 21 tons 66" 14x22 Portland Company # 42 115
16 Paris 11 April 1853 4-4-0 23 tons 72" 15x22 Portland Company # 43 116
17 Norway April 1853 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 16x22 Portland Company # 41 117
18 Yarmouth 23 May 1853 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 15x22 Portland Company # 45 118
19 Amonoosuc June 1853 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 15x22 Portland Company # 46 119
20 Gloucester 24 June 1853 4-4-0 23 tons 66" 15x22 Portland Company # 44 120
21 Vermont 20 September 1853 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 16x22 Portland Company # 48 121
22 Gorham 16 November 1853 4-4-0 22 tons 72" 14x22 Portland Company # 49 122
23 J.S.Little 1 December 1853 4-4-0 23 tons 72" 15x22 Portland Company # 56 123
24 United States March 1854 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 15x24 Hinkley Locomotive Works # 504 124
25 Canada March 1854 4-4-0 24 tons 60" 15x24 Hinkley Locomotive Works # 505 125
26 Jenny Lind 1850 4-4-0 25 tons 60" 15x20 Portland Company # 18 (retired)
27 Consuelo 1852 4-4-0 23 tons 60" 13x20 Portland Company # 31 (retired)

Grand Trunk Railway[edit]

Four months later, on August 5, 1853 the Grand Trunk Railway leased the two companies, giving the Toronto-Montreal line an extension east to Portland. A branch was also built from Richmond, Quebec northeast to Point Levi, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. Grand Trunk enlarged their waterfront facilities at Portland by purchasing land from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[1] The increased traffic from Portland and Point Levi to Montreal placed significant demands on the small train ferry (car float?) service across the Saint Lawrence River at Montreal, and this was replaced by the Victoria Bridge by 1860.

The locomotives burned wood exclusively until the cost of seasoned firewood increased during the winter of 1871-72 to make other fuels competitive. Peat from Quebec was used briefly before coal became the standard. Coal was used exclusively between Portland and Gorham by 1879, but use of wood continued for a few more years north of Gorham.[1]

Interchange with standard gauge railroads became a problem during the 1860s. Grand Trunk equipped approximately 1,000 freight cars with experimental "sliding-wheels" in 1863 at company shops in Sarnia, Ontario, and Pointe-Saint-Charles in Montreal. Gauge could be adjusted by removing and inserting axle pins on special tapered-gauge track segments at interchange points. Safety problems were reported despite high maintenance costs. All lines west of Montreal were converted to standard gauge on October 3 and 4, 1873. Grand Trunk purchased 200 standard gauge locomotives (including 62 from Portland Company) and converted 135 old locomotives. Ten thousand standard gauge bogies were purchased for conversion of freight cars. The railway from Portland to Montreal was standard-gauged in September, 1874.[1]

During the week preceding the change, each section foreman made sure all ties on his section were properly adzed and clear of gravel. Spikes were laid out beside each tie, and some sidings were re-gauged before the main line. Two eight-man squads were assigned to each five-mile section. They slept by the track with their tools on the night of September 25, 1874. Work began at Portland when the last Portland gauge train from Island Pond arrived at 2:00 am September 26, and the main line was ready for standard gauge trains by 9:00 am the same day. The change resulted in nearly complete replacement of locomotives on the New England line, since most of the Portland gauge locomotives were sold or scrapped. Five new "Burnside" 2-6-0 locomotives from Rhode Island Locomotive Works had arrived in Portland from Boston to resume service.[1]

The GTR line to Portland was built during the boom period for New England textile mills, and various mill towns in northern New England soon saw an influx of French Canadian workers who quickly found work in the region.

Grain elevators were constructed at Portland to facilitate storage and loading of Canadian wheat for export. The first elevator was built on Galt Wharf in 1863. The elevator with capacity for 150,000 bushels burned in 1873, and was replaced with a larger elevator in 1875. Portland Elevator Company built an elevator with capacity of one million bushels in 1897; and New England Elevator Company built the largest elevator on the Atlantic coast at the time, with capacity of 1.5 million bushels, in 1901.[1]

By 1881, all wooden bridges had been replaced by iron and stone structures, and steel rail had replaced early iron rail. Fourteen steamship lines were serving the Grand Trunk wharves at Portland by 1896 with connections to Bristol, London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Antwerp. Fifty steamships visited Portland that winter, and as many as seven could load simultaneously from the Grand Trunk wharves. More powerful 2-6-0 mogul locomotives increased freight train length from 16 to 30 cars.[1]

Passenger train service included the Seaside and White Mountains Special (later called the International Limited) from Chicago to Portland equipped with plush silk and mahogany-finished Pullman dining, sleeping, parlor, and observation cars including a library and a barber shop.[1]

Canadian National Railways Berlin subdivision[edit]

The GTR's bankruptcy in the early 1920s saw it nationalized by the Canadian federal government, which merged it into the nascent Canadian National Railways (CNR). Unfortunately for Portland, the CNR also included various other rail lines to ice-free Canadian ports in the Maritimes, notably Halifax, Nova Scotia, and their now ex-GTR mainline to Montreal soon became a secondary mainline under CNR as traffic dropped significantly. Within a decade, annual export tonnage leaving Portland declined to 21,000 tons, from an average of 600,000 tons during the early 1920s.[1]

Paper mills remained a major source of traffic. Annual car loadings in 1973 were 12,758 for Berlin, 5,794 for Groveton, and 1,161 for Mechanic Falls; but Boston and Maine Railroad carried some of the traffic for the New Hampshire mills.[7] Dressed meat from Chicago to Maine continued to use the shorter Canadian routing as long as railway reefers remained competitive with highway trucking.

From 1934[8] to 1939 the twice-weekly Maine Coast Special from Montreal left the Grand Trunk at Yarmouth Junction to follow the Maine Central Railroad to Portland's Union Station and then the Boston and Maine Railroad to the beach communities of Old Orchard Beach and Kennebunkport during July and August. The CNR class U-1 4-8-2 locomotives pulling as many as 17 car trains around Dominion Day would be serviced at Rigby Yard in South Portland before making the return trip. Daily except Sunday passenger trains 16 and 17 continued to carry a railway post office between Portland and Island Pond through the 1950s. These trains remained popular with summer vacationers from Montreal; and summer weekend service continued until 1967 after daily train service ended in 1960. Passengers were transported by bus from Portland station to Old Orchard Beach. Portland station was razed in 1966.[1]

Despite the decline in traffic being handled over the line, its strategic connection to the Atlantic Ocean for Montreal saw other use arise during World War II. Bauxite from British Guiana was shipped via rail from Portland to avoid shipping losses to U-boats during the Battle of the St. Lawrence.[4] The Portland–Montreal Pipe Line was built to carry oil from terminals in South Portland to refineries in Montreal; the pipeline followed the GTR route along certain parts and is still in use today. Wharves at Portland were used by the United States Navy as Casco Bay became destroyer base Sail during the Battle of the Atlantic.[9] Grand Trunk Piers housed a Navy supply pier and training schools for combat information center (CIC), night visual lookouts, surface and aircraft recognition, search and fire control radar operators, gunnery spotting, anti-aircraft machine guns, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) attack.[10]

CNR (CN after the 1960s) continued to operate the Portland-Sherbrooke line as its Berlin Subdivision but traffic continued to decline and by the late 1980s, following deregulation of the U.S. railroad industry, it became a candidate for divestiture to a shortline operator.

Locomotives with long-term assignments on the Berlin Subdivision[edit]

Number[1] Builder Type Date Works number[11] Notes
141 Rhode Island Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1874 657 class A-14a retired 1924
261-262 Rhode Island Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1882 1216-1217 class B-11a retired 1927
650 Grand Trunk Shops 2-6-0 1896 1263 class E-6a retired 1937
713 Grand Trunk Shops 2-6-0 1900 1314 class E-7a assigned to the Lewiston, Maine branch and preserved in 1957
732-734 Dickson Manufacturing Company 2-6-0 1900 1184-1185 & 1189 class E-7a retired 1935-47
861-862 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1907 31679 & 31761 class E-7a retired 1941
1601-1604 ALCO Schenectady 4-6-0 1906 40625-40628 class I-8a returned to CNR system in early 1930s
2574-2576 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-0 1907 42058-42060 class N-4a retired 1958-59
2611-2612 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-0 1907 43548-43549 class N-4a retired mid-1950s
3406 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1913 52789 class S-1f retired 1956
3410-3411 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1913 52793-52794 class S-1f retired 1956
3414 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1913 52797 class S-1f retired 1954
3432-3433 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 1913 40255-40256 class S-1f retired 1957
3445 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 1913 40342 class S-1f retired 1956
3701 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1918 59564 USRA Light Mikado class S-3a retired 1954
3703-3710 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1918 59566-59574 USRA Light Mikado class S-3a retired 1956-57
3712-3716 ALCO Schenectady 2-8-2 1918 59576-59577 & 60300-60302 USRA Light Mikado class S-3a retired 1953-59
4442-4450 EMD GP9 1956 class GR-17d
4558-4559 EMD GP9 1957 class GR-17j
4902-4906 EMD GP9 1956 steam generator equipped class GRG-17e
5582-5584 Grand Trunk Shops 4-6-2 1911 1509-1511 class K-3-b returned to CNR system during World War II
7110 Grand Trunk Shops 0-6-0 Tank locomotive 1895 1284 class O-8-a retired 1932
7154 ALCO Schenectady 0-6-0 1907 42330 class O-9-a retired 1942
7155-7156 Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 1908 32892-32893 class O-9-a retired 1939
7158 Lima Locomotive Works 0-6-0 1912 1200 class O-9-a retired 1939
7475 Lima Locomotive Works 0-6-0 1920 6019 class O-18-b retired 1956
7527-7531 ALCO Schenectady 0-6-0 1919 61298-61302 USRA 0-6-0 class O-19-a retired 1956

St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad[edit]

In 1989, the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad was formed to take over operation of the Island Pond-Portland section, and several years later this was extended to the border at Norton. In 1998, following Canadian deregulation, the short line operator formed a subsidiary St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (Quebec) to operate the remaining line from the border at Norton through to Sainte-Rosalie, where it connects with the CNR main line to Montreal.

Reactivated passenger service[edit]

In April 2012, the Maine Department of Transportation put a project out to bid which would "purchase, design, and construct a portion of rail line for future passenger service to Lewiston and Auburn, Maine."[12] The potential passenger route would operate on tracks operated by the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad. As of 2013 prospective operators of a night train from Montréal to Boston are attempting to get access to the St. Lawrence and Atlantic right-of-way for a 2014 passenger launch.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Holt, Jeff (1985). The Grand Trunk in New England. Railfare. ISBN 0-919130-43-7. 
  2. ^ Webb, Edmund Fuller (1875). The Railroad Laws of Maine. Dresser, McLellan and Company. pp. 504–505. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Ron (1985). The Best of Maine Railroads. Portland Litho. pp. 12–13 & 115. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Melvin, George F. (2007). Trackside Grand Trunk New England Lines with John Ames. Morning Sun Books. ISBN 1-58248-193-8. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Peters, Bradley L. (1976). Maine Central Railroad Company. Maine Central Railroad. p. 11. 
  6. ^ Wight, D.B. (1971). The Wild River Wilderness. Courier Printing Company. 
  7. ^ United States Department of Transportation (1974). Rail Service in the Midwest and Northeast Region. United States Government Printing Office. 
  8. ^ Montreal Gazette 16 June 1934
  9. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1975). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume I The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1943. Little, Brown and Company. p. 68. 
  10. ^ "U.S.Navy Activities World War II by State". U.S. Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  11. ^ Clegg, Anthony and Corley, Ray "Canadian National Steam Power" Trains & Trolleys: Montreal (1969).
  12. ^ "Construction Advertisement Plan". Maine Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  13. ^ http://bangordailynews.com/2013/09/05/business/portland-auburn-montreal-passenger-rail-possible-within-the-year/

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad
Short Line Railroad of the Year
1998
Succeeded by
South Central Florida Express