Building the NE Mass Route-page 9


New member
Buildingthe NE Mass Route – page 9

Observations a bit North of topic
It's been a few weeks since my last post. Disinterest or simple laziness is not to blame. In truth, warm sunshine and chirping birds are the cause. Awakened by noisy morning tweets (non-electronic) and a dazzling bright sunshine; and pawing my way through the house like a drowsy old bear cast from the comfort of his boughs, I concluded we must be gone from this place, at least for a while. Momma bear concurred...........cubs are fine.......let's be off!
First a weekend in Rockport, Ma.; inquisitive tourists by day, curious Gloucester pub-crawlers by night. Next a week in New Hampshire's White Mountains, an area familiar to our footfall for over 35 years.
Now what does railroading have to do with the White Mountains?
Historically, quite a bit!
The Boston and Maine's snow trains to the North Conway ski areas are a familiar nostalgic memory for many New Englanders. The B&M also served commerce in the east, Conway area and in the west, Lincoln area. The Maine Central, passing through Conway, crossed the mountains through Crawford's Notch, serving industry and passengers alike. Not so well known are the many small privately owned logging railroads which traversed most of what is now the White Mountain National Forest.
From approximately the late 1870's to 1948, the shrill whistles of Porter's and Shay's drove bird, beaver and bear from a still pristine wilderness. Great forests of virgin hemlock, fir, spruce and pine,amounting to 70,000 acres, were harvested from the rocky slopes of this beautiful country; often savagely, with little regard for the fire hazards of slash or the future of the denuded slopes. As late as1920 the Swift River Railroad, at Conway, opened up the softwoods forests along the valley, which included 'King Pine'; trees marked generations before by agents of the (British) Royal Navy, with the arrow icon, signifying those trees were meant for use by the Navy.(These were tall straight pine trees meant for masting and spars).
The rail lines were, for the most part, standard gauge, and varied in length from several miles to fifty or more miles. Track and switching equipment were leased from the major carriers, the B&M and MEC. Logging engines were generally purchased, and included saddle tank Porters and Baldwins, as well as the geared Shay's and Climax's.Lumber camps and saw mills dotted the valleys. The mills at Lincoln,NH sawed on until well after WW II.
Lincolnin 1893, was no more than a lodge for hunters and walkers until J.E.Henry & Sons Lumber Co. and the the East Branch & LincolnRR invaded its peaceful valleys. The railroad built a connecting branch to the (what would become) B&M at North Woodstock. Sawmills were built and soon supplying New England with conifer softwoods and deciduous hardwood lumber.
With a connection to the major carriers, the area became a tourist spot; the logging railroads offering excursions into the remote back country. Such was the introduction of the general public to the White Mountain area. The logging railroads helped to open the mountains. Lincoln owes its birth to the logging industry, as do several other White Mountain towns and villages.
The area is still being logged today, but through the supervision of the Nation Park and National Forestry Services. Gone are the logging railroads, leaving little more that their cleared roadbeds. Those roadbeds have become footpaths and trails for the recreational public. Some roadbed became roads. The scenic Kankamagus Highway, starting at Conway, has at its base the roadbed of the Swift RiverRailroad. It terminates at Lincoln, built over the roadbed of a branch of the EB&L.
Small logging railroads are a part of railroading history past and present. Their contribution often being more than economic; opening up large tracts of wilderness for settlement and recreation. They are worthy of consideration when planning our virtual empires.
For those interested in logging railroads in general, and New England logging in particular, I recommend reading Logging Railroads of the White Mountains by C.Francis Belcher representing the Appalachian Mountain Club, and distributed by The Globe Pequot Press, Inc.
I have included some photos of antique equipment still found in the area. These include: the EB&L'sNo.3, a Porter saddle tank engine with a pair of logging bogies, on display at the entrance to the Loon Mountain Ski Area; a Maine Central 2-4-0, BAR reefer and BAR boxcar located at the Conway Scenic Railroad roundhouse at North Conway; a snow pusher and an outside braced boxcar, long abandoned at a siding at Bartlett.
Link to White Mountain Railroading: Railroading
And what does this blog have to do with the NE Mass Route?
Absolutely nuthin'!
Thanks again for spending a few patient minutes with my ramblings.