Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Night Steam

We're off to Maine. Have you ever heard of the "Two-footers"?? Pull up a chair and enjoy!


The Maine Two-Footers

In an age when railroads meant prosperity, thrifty New Englanders decided any railroad was better than none. The result was a group of railroads virtually unique to Maine. To reduce costs, the tracks were built with rails so close together a pair of size 12 shoes set "heel-to-toe" could span the distance. At their zenith, these lines operated over 200 miles of track, ran dozens of locomotives, carried thousands of passengers, and hauled countless tons of freight. The last line closed in 1943. Most of the lines became the victims of competition with trucks.
These railroads, built to the gauge of just two feet, were cheaper to build than the "standard gauge" railroads of four foot, eight and one-half inches. The term "gauge" refers to the distance between the inside edges of both rails. This means that the "Two-Footers" are less than half the size of their standard gauge counterparts, and that all the earthworks and components used to build the railroad could be smaller and less expensive. However small these dimunitive railroads were, they worked just as hard if not harder than their larger bretheren, right up until the end.

Billerica and Bedford Railroad

Massachusetts' Billerica and Bedford Railroad, though short lived, was the direct ancestor of the Maine Two-Footers. George Mansfield was inspired by the 23.5 inch gauge Festiniog Railway in Wales, and saw in it the solution to the expensive construction and operating costs of standard gauge railroads. In 1876 he convinced the people of Billerica and Bedford that a two foot railroad was the answer to their transportation needs, and by November 1877 the eight mile line was operational. Though the line was a technical and engineering success, neither the necessary passengers nor freight traffic materialized soon enough to suit the B&B's financial backers, and the line shut down in bankruptcy in June of 1878.
The B&B rolling stock and rails went to Maine to seed the Sandy River Railroad. The original B&B engine house still stands today in Bedford and is the home of a local railroad historical society.

Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad

George Mansfield brought the remains of the B&B to Maine in 1879 to form the basis of the Sandy River Railroad. The line served primarily to bring timber products from throughout Franklin County to an interchange with the Maine Central Railroad in Farmington. Passenger, agricultural, and other freight traffic were also important to the bottom line. Time saw the formation of other nominally independent two-foot lines which connected with the SRRR, and by 1908 the SRRR combined with the Phillips and Rangeley, the Madrid, the Eustis, the Franklin and Megantic, and the Kingfield and Dead River Railroads to form the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad. At its greatest extent the SR&RL had over 120 miles of track, hundred of freight cars, and over a dozen each of locomotives and passenger cars. It was the home of the only two foot gauge parlor car, and of the largest two foot locomotives to operate in the US. Despite attempts to save the line by closing unprofitable branches, the Depression, the highways, and overlogging took their toll and the line was shut down in 1935.
Much passenger and freight equipment was saved from the scrap heap by private individuals and survives today. WW&F #9, formerly SRRR #5 / SRRL #6, is the sole surviving locomotive from the line.

Bridgton and Saco River Railroad

George Mansfield was the motivating force behind construction of the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad. The B&SR opened in 1883 to provide a rail link the 16 miles from a Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad connection in Hiram to the summer resort of Bridgton and, later, five more miles to Harrison. The line did good business in passengers and freight until highway competition cut into earnings in the 1920s. Reorganized as the Bridgton and Harrison Railway in 1930, the line subsequently saw occasional peaks in passenger travel with the burgeoning railfan movement, but that wasn't enough to offset the effects of the depression. The line line shut down in 1941.
Most of rolling stock and other equipment was bought by fans from the scrapper and ended up at the Edaville Railroad in Massachusetts. Much of this still exists to this day.

Monson Railroad

The Monson Railroad opened in October of 1883 and served primarily to haul slate six miles from the quarries in Monson to an interchange with the Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad at Monson Junction. Though the line had a modest business with passengers and miscellaneous freight, the Monson ran until 1943 to move slate. The line was noted for having the finest roadbed of all the Maine Two-Footers, with an unlimited supply of scrap slate to do the job. The line was also a true time capsule, having virtually no modernization whatsoever over its six decades, save for the purchase of new locomotives in 1912 and 1918.
Monson locomotives #3 and #4 were rescued from the scrap dealer for the Edaville Railroad, and are the sole pieces of Monson equipment to survive today.

Kennebec Central Railroad

The Kennebec Central was formed in 1889 by members of the Sandy River management to serve the National Soldiers' Home, known as Togus, in Chelsea, Maine. The line ran only five miles, from the banks of the Kennebec River in Randolph to Togus. The KC's passenger service primarily carried soldiers from the Home to the big-city temptations in Gardiner (across the river from Randolph), and visitors to concerts and baseball games at Togus; its freight revenues in the main resulted from hauling coal from river barges to the Home. The railroad's modest goals and steady business ensured that it was a financial success for nearly 40 years. A later-built trolley line from Augusta to Togus threatened to draw away passengers, but in the end it was competition from the highways that doomed the KC when the government passed the coal-hauling contract to a trucking concern in 1929. Without the coal contract the books wouldn't balance, so the KC suspended operations. The railroad sat dormant until 1933, at which time the WW&F purchased the entire concern, brought the locomotives to Wiscasset, and scrapped the rest.
WW&F locomotive #9, formerly KC #4, is the sole piece of KC equipment to survive to this day.

Wiscasset Waterville and Farmington Railroad

The Wiscasset and Quebec Railroad opened in 1894 with the lofty goal of connecting the Province of Quebec with the deep saltwater port and the Maine Central Railroad at Wiscasset. The line never made it to Canada, eventually reaching 44 miles to Albion and, later, branching to Winslow. The line did good business with dairy and other agricultural products, timber, mail, freight, and passenger traffic. A failed expansion attempt to the SRRR resulted in bankruptcy and subsequent reorganization as the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railroad. Maintenance of the trestlework at Wiscasset and inconsistent traffic levels continually bedeviled the line and cut into profits. By 1933, now as the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway, the money was gone, and a wreck at Whitefield sealed the line's fate.
Most of the WW&F equipment was scrapped; all that survives, save one boxcar, are on site at the WW&F Railway Museum.

Edaville Railroad

In 1941, Ellis D. Atwood bought most of the remnants of the B&H to work on the bogs of his 1800 acre cranberry farm in South Carver, Massachusetts. Wartime restrictions prohibited him from moving the equipment until 1945, but at that point he brought it down south and began construction of a 5.5 mile loop of track on his property. The original intent was for it to be a true working railroad, but railfans discovered it and soon passenger traffic outpaced its industrial utility. Atwood sought out as much surviving two foot equipment as possible, eventually adding the two Monson locomotives and much SR&RL rolling stock to the Edaville roster. As Edaville grew into a true tourist destination some freight equipment was rebuilt to carry passengers, but a substantial portion retained its original configuration. In 1993, financial problems resulted in the sale of the Railroad and most of the equipment was transported back to Maine to form the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.
Under new ownership, Edaville reopened with mostly new equipment and continues as a railroad-themed amusement park to this day.

Want more info with pictures? Please see the link below:


  1. They still run one here in Portland
    And though not Maine we also have in NH the Mt Washington Cog railway.

    1. What wonderful links - thank you so much for sharing! Maybe someday I'll get back up North and take a few rides!

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  3. Thank you so much!!! I knew about the Edaville railroad, as I was in New England during the 80's early 90's. Never went to see it, but I certainly should have as it would have been the original. But then again, I didn't know the history of the 'two footer' railroads in Maine either.

    Again thanks!

    Cap'n Jan

    1. M. Silvius listed two good links - Would love to take a ride on those trains!