Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington

Maine once had a number of 2' gauge railroads, and several groups have preserved some of this equipment.  Although to our eyes they may not appear much larger than park trains, these were projected as fully functional railroads carrying both passengers and freight over long distances.  We visited the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway Museum, which has installed about 2 1/2 miles of track on the right of way of its namesake railroad, and operates some of the original equipment.

The museum wasn't running when we were there, but we got a great and very complete tour from one of the members, Jason Lamontagne. 

Here's some of the equipment used for revenue service, at least when steam isn't operating.  The two cars seen here were built by the museum, but stored inside is an original Jackson and Sharpe coach, nicely restored.

Jason told me some history of the line, which was quite interesting.  Wiscasset is a small port town with a sheltered harbor on the coast of Maine.  Local businessmen originally projected a railroad from Wiscasset all the way to Quebec.  Because Quebec is usually ice-bound for much of the winter, and Wiscasset isn't, the "riches of Quebec" would be transported down to their hometown for loading onto ships and sent to all parts of the world.  But money was slow in coming in (where have we heard that before?) and in order to start construction, they decided a 2' gauge railroad was the most economical choice.  It got up to Waterville, but that's about it.  This undersized line lasted until 1933.  But I would certainly agree that this was a fascinating niche of the railroading industry.

So the museum is trying to recreate what they can of the WW&F, on the original right of way with as much original equipment as has survived.  That includes two locomotives.

This is WW&F #10, an 0-4-4 Forney built by Vulcan in 1904, which has been restored and operates regularly over the line.

Also in the shop is #9, another 0-4-4 Forney built by Portland in 1891.  It's undergoing a complete restoration.  It has a new boiler and a mostly-rebuilt frame, among other things.  Jason and I discussed several of the issues they've had to face in getting this engine back into service.

The original boiler and frame are stored outside.

Let's look down the track a little ways.  Top speed on this 2' gauge track would be about 35 MPH, I believe. 

I just love three-way stub switches.  Why can't we have one at IRM?

Ordinary water tanks are too ugly, I suppose, for this scenic area.  So here's what they had instead.  This is a very impressive reconstruction.

Now that my daughter and her husband are living near Boston, I hope to have occasion to visit here again when steam is running.  This is a very interesting operation.


David Wilkins said...

The original frame for the 9 encompassed only the drivers and cylinders. The cab floor and frame for the tender were attached directly to the firebox, making the boiler a "frame" element and a structural component of the locomotive. The Portland Company, discontinued this practice with later locomotives. That is why they decided to modify the frame, basically making a new "rear" frame and attaching it to the main frame.

The locomotive literally "hid out" on a farm in Vermont for many years after the demise of the WW&F. They seem like an industrious group of Yankees up there in Maine. Glad to see their excellent progress.

Anonymous said...

You were only a few hours from the main shops of the old Bangor and Aroostook RR at Derby Maine. Be an interesting side trip next time you are here ! I'll make sure you get the good tour for Midwesterners without the New England accent

Randy Stahl

Anonymous said...

A group from BSM and IRM have made a couple visits to the WW&F to do track work. They do track the really old fashioned way... hand carry ties, and a lot of hands on a stick of rail to carry the rail. Glad we use cranes at IRM. We strong armed them into using a compressor and air tamping guns for tamping track. That was a long couple days 12 hours on a gun. Great fun!

Frank DeVries

Ray L. Rhodes said...

I was there a few years ago with two of my son-in-laws and I was underwhelmed with their hospitality(?). It was an operations day so I didn't expect them to drop everything to entertain us, but the apparent chief honcho was almost antagonistic towards us. We went there on a pilgrimage for Roger Hewett, a dear friend and IRM stalwart who had also been associated with this operation.
Trains Magazine Christmas Issue had a photo spread there that was absolutely beautiful. One or two are good enough to be framed.
as unwelcome as we felt at the WW &F, Seashore rolled out the red carpet for their brothers from IRM. All of a sudden, someone remembered their North Shore 420(?)was in need of a line run to test some work that had been done. Of course, since we were there, we might as well go along for a ride. They also have some street trackwork that is more than just functional but exquisite. Some of the pieces could be displayed as modern art. I took some pix but they don't even begin to capture the beauty of these pieces. Most of the National Park Service employees operating the trolleys in Lowell, Mass are also volunteers at Seashore and I also got a warm welcome from them when I was in Lowell the first time.

Randall Hicks said...

Well, that's interesting. My experience when visiting other museums has almost always been very positive. Other people in the field are usually eager to show off what they have, what they've done, discuss problems, etc. And we try to treat visitors to IRM the same way. Of course, If there are paying customers to attend to or you're in the middle of a big project, it may not be possible to drop what you're doing.

In any case, I'm sorry to hear that your experience was otherwise. We happened to be there when no one else was around, so Jason was willing to show us around and talk about the challenges they were facing with making #9 operational. I'd like to go back sometime when they're boiling water.

Another lesson is that we all need to be careful how we treat any and all visitors. If somebody happens to have a bad experience, you never know who they're going to tell about it. Bad word of mouth is very difficult to erase.

Anonymous said...

i am glad to hear that see that you had a visit at the WW&F Museum.

Much of the surviving Two-Foot equipment spent some time at the Edaville Railroad amusement park in Massachusetts. The WW&F #10 is ex Edaville #5 a Louisiana sugar plantation loco that was re-gauged from 30 inches to 24.

The #9 is a real boomer having operated on four of the five Two-Footers in Maine. The museum hopes to have her under steam in 2014; but we all know how difficult that can be.

Ted Miles
WW&F Member

Anonymous said...

Was #9 the locomotive profiled about thirty years ago in a Trains article titled "Sandy River Survivor"?

David Wilkins said...

Yes, the 9, and the remains of some freight cars were on the Ramshell farm. The WW&F group replicated the freight cars, using the metal parts.