“All hail to the Iron Horse, now and forever! Thro’ out all our broad country the truest and best.
He will browse on the forest and drink from the river and work all day without stopping to rest.”
Lewiston Mayor Jacob B. Ham | Grand Opening of Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad | November 17, 1886
Original Local Railroad Lines – 1854 (Photo courtesy of John Hikel)
Numerous sources have been used to assist us in compiling the ongoing story of the history of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad. Our thanks to Hartland Historical Society Members Maggie Smith, Nathaniel Foss Jr, Wayne Libby & Brenda Seekins for sharing their research notes, photos and newspaper articles. Special thanks to R. Michael White who graciously made his research notes available to us which he compiled in the early 1980s on the history of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad from reports of the Maine Railroad Commission, Richard Dole’s 1961 research document and other sources. We are also grateful for the many other pieces of information and photos shared with us which are individually noted below. Information from various books on the topic was also used with these book titles noted at the bottom of the page.
~ Before the Iron Horse ~
As we look back on the history of the railroad coming to Hartland in 1886, we first pause to reflect on its significance to the town and its future. Up to this point, its citizens and businesses were fairly isolated from the outside world with travel basically limited by foot or by horse; sometimes with the luxury of a buggy. Regular stage coach runs or boat rides to Pittsfield down the Sebasticook River were available, but they were slow, cumbersome journeys and nearly impossible during winter months.
Moving freight out of town or supplies into town was equally difficult with the Linn Woolen Mill estimating a cost of about $2 per ton to reach the nearest railroad exchange in Pittsfield from Hartland by horse drawn wagons. The efficiency, speed and year round capability of the railroad opened new horizons for both the people and its businesses whose cost of moving goods dropped to pennies on the ton.
Ironically, bringing the “Iron Horse” directly to town would also mean the beginning of the end of the booming hotel business at The Park House & Hartland House. Traveling salesman no longer needed to book long stays to reach their customers and former Stage Coach customers welcomed the shorter, more comfortable train ride without an overnight stay. The railroad was a long awaited and welcomed sight to the Town of Hartland but it also eventually changed the character of the small town forever.
The Hartland House Hotel & Livery Stable
One of the earliest known references to local interest in a rail line to Hartland was from a special Town Meeting in November of 1867 to discuss and vote on a Belfast & Moosehead Rail proposal which was in its formative stages. In spite of a 92-3 vote in its favor, not much was done.
The next mention of a railroad came at a special December 1869 Town Meeting where a proposal for a Pittsfield to Hartland to St Albans line was voted down. At another special Town Meeting the following year, Thomas Fuller’s motion to purchase $40,000 of shares “when a corporation presented acceptable plans for a proposed railroad to Hartland” was accepted and passed. A committee made up of Archibald Linn, John Rowell & James Fuller, Jr was appointed to gather further details from various railroad companies.
In a special Town Meeting in March of 1873, citizens voted to invest $26,000 in the Wiscasset & Moosehead Railroad Company, noting, “Whenever the company presented plans satisfactory to a committee consisting of Thomas Fuller, Dr. Harris Pushor, Prince Thompson, J. Tibbetts and James Fuller, Jr” While this particular line never developed, Wiscasset would eventually enter into the railroad business years later.
1883 Map of Hartland before the arrival of the railroad with the depot to be located next to the Fairgrounds
~ The Birth of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad ~
For some 20 years, numerous public and private discussions were held on the topic of bringing a railroad to town. Various plans came and went but by the mid-1880s a suitable railway system option for both the citizens and potential investors was finally found and Hartland was about to give life to the Sebasticook & Moosehead Lake Railroad.
In order to build a railroad line into Hartland, an overall estimated capitol investment of $126,000 was needed for construction of a track, depots and a trestle as well as the purchase of a locomotive and rail cars. A commitment to buy $18,000 worth of shares by the town (5% of its evaluation) was approved by voters with another $13,000 of share purchases committed to by individuals in Hartland. A $1,000 per mile ($8,000) commitment was also made by the Maine Central Railroad. The majority of the remaining balance of the required capitol was committed to by New Brunswick, Canada investors Thomas Temple and Wesley Vanwart; both major political and financial influences in the development of railroads in Canada and the Northeast.
When it was all said and done, the final out of pocket cost for Hartland to get into the railroad business was $3,000. The $18,000 bond to invest in the railroad stock approved by the voters was sold by Hartland Lawyer James Bradbury to a bank in Medford, Massachusetts releasing the town from the debt. The $13,000 worth of committed individual shares ended up being just $3,000 as $10,000 was raised from outside investors from Portland and Boston.
The original proposal for the Sebasticook & Moosehead Lake Railroad was to build the new rail line from the existing Maine Central Railroad terminal in Pittsfield and extend it all the way to Moosehead Lake in Greenville. The project called for first building the line to Hartland then onward to Harmony and eventually connecting to Monson where a railroad line was desired to transport slate from their quarries to customers outside of Maine. The line would then connect to the north from Monson to Moosehead Lake. While there was never outright opposition to the proposed railroad, subtle signs of local discontent over the plan are seen in many of the newspaper articles of the time.
A series of newspaper articles and editorials were published in the Pittsfield Advertiser over the course of project. They were copied from the Pittsfield Library microfiche public files several years ago and generously donated by Hartland Historical Society Member Maggie Smith.
Pittsfield Advertiser – February 18, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – April 15, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – April 15, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – May 13, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – May 20, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – May 27, 1886
A well deserved article recognizing the work of Greenville Jefferson Shaw and his personal efforts to promote construction of a train line into Hartland. Shaw, owner of Shaw Tannery along with Linn Woolen Mill owner Archibald Linn, were leading advocates for a rail line from the beginning using their mighty financial and political influences to bring a railroad to town.
Pittsfield Advertiser – July 8, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – July 15, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – July 22, 1886
On Saturday, July 24, 1886 stockholders of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Lake Railroad Company met and voted in the following Board of Directors: Thomas Temple of Fredericton, New Brunswick; James Mitchell of Melrose, Massachusetts; Wesley Vanwart of Fredericton, New Brunswick; James O. Bradbury & Greenville J. Shaw of Hartland. At the same meeting the following officers were elected: Thomas Temple, President; David E. Thompson, Secretary; James Mitchell, Superintendent; James O. Bradbury, Solicitor & Treasurer. They still had to await final approval to build by the Maine Railroad Commission.
Pittsfield Advertiser – July 22, 1886
Although the final decision of the Maine Railroad Commission was still pending, Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad obviously felt confident enough it would be decided in their favor and on Monday, August 16, 1886 construction of the new rail line was begun.
Pittsfield Advertiser – August 12, 1886
~ The Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad becomes Official ~
Following a series of meetings at the various towns involved in the plans of the new railroad line as well as numerous hearings held by the Maine State Railroad Commission, the final hearing of the commission to approve the planned construction was held on August 19, 1886.
Decision of Maine State Railroad Commissioners in the Matter of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Lake Railroad Extension
August 19, 1886
The petitioners (of Hartland), a corporation duly organized under the laws of the State, ask this Board to approve the location of their road, as provided by section 6 of chapter 51 of the Revised Statutes. Under the provisions of the above statute, it is made the duty of this Board, on presentation of such petition, to appoint a day for a hearing thereon, and such notice thereof as the Board deems reasonable and proper shall be given, in order that all persons interested may have an opportunity to appear and object thereto.
If at such hearing the Board of Commissioners approves the location, and finds that public convenience requires the construction of such road, such corporation may proceed to construct the same.
At a hearing on said petition, which was held, after due notice, at Hartland in the county of Somerset on the 23rd day of August, 1886, and from a personal examination of the route by the Board of Commissioners, it appeared that the petitioners had made a location of their proposed road, from the village of Pittsfield, on the line of the Maine Central Railroad, through and along the fertile valley of the Sebasticook River to and into the village of Hartland, a distance of about eight miles, and as located is apparently an easy route to construct and maintain a railroad upon.
It further appeared from the evidence adduced at said hearing that the yearly transportation of freight along the line of said route between Hartland and Pittsfield, by the present modes of transportation, amounts to 78,071 tons; that at said village of Hartland there is a valuable water power which is now utilized to a considerable extent in several important manufacturers, among which is the woolen factory of Archibald Linn; that the highway leading from Hartland to Pittsfield at certain seasons of the year, by reason of heavy teaming and character of the soil, is nearly impassable and that by reason of the difficulties thus encountered, the average cost of transportation between the above-mentioned points, is two dollars per ton.
At the aforesaid hearing no objection was made to the location of said proposed road except that certain owners of land near the proposed terminus be changed so at said proposed locations as to avoid crossing certain streets and valuable house lots in that vicinity.
After a reexamination and inspection of that portion of the location as made, it was deemed advisable by us to withhold our approval and to adjourn our said hearing, to again meet at the Lancey House in Pittsfield on the 13th day of August at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, which we then and there did, for the purpose of giving time for the petitioners to make a re-survey of that portion of their proposed route, and to have any additional evidence or objections that might be offered relating to such changed location.
At the adjourned bearing which was held at the time and place above named, it appeared that a material change had been made from the line first located in reaching its terminus at the station and line of the Maine Central Railroad. The objections to the first location in that locality had been to a great extent obviated by the change, still new objections were made by Messrs, Connor and Gould of Pittsfield on the ground that the amended location and line is near their buildings, thus subjecting them to inconvenience and also to danger from fire, etc.
While we fully appreciate the disadvantages these proprietors may suffer, we are fully convinced that this amended and final location is in the right place, all things considered. No public enterprise, such as the location and construction of a railroad can be accomplished without subjecting some individuals to inconvenience and loss for which the law makes ample provisions.
At said adjourned hearing, it was also suggested by those interested that a change in the final location of this road be made, about a mile north of the Pittsfield terminus on lands of Mrs. Parks and her son, Mr. B. F. Parks, but alter due consideration we deem such proposed change to be uncalled for, for the reason that it would throw the line from a quite direct course, thereby increasing somewhat its length and without affording a corresponding advantage to the land owners; entail a considerable increase of expense in the construction of the railroad, involving a long haul of a larger amount of material, and from one end, to form a continuous embankment, while the line as located will now cross a mound of earth so cut by the grade line that the excavation and embankment very nearly balance, and the natural surface of the ground conforms much to the required grade.
We have also duly considered the protests and suggestions made by Mrs. Wright of Pittsfield and of Messrs, Pooler, Estes, Dyer, Goodrich and others of Palmyra as to said location over their lands, but have come to the conclusion that, there, as elsewhere throughout, the road is properly located with due regard to the rights and privileges of all parties in interest, and after careful consideration we issue the following certificate of our approval:
In accordance with the foregoing petition, upon which notice had been given, as ordered, the Board of Railroad Commissioners met on Friday, the twenty-third day of July, A. D. 1886, at Hartland, in the county of Somerset, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, at the East Somerset Agricultural Society Hall in said town, at the time and place designated in said order of notice, and gave a hearing thereon to all persons and parties who appeared for that purpose, and having carefully examined the route of said proposed road indicated by the accompanying map, profile, report and estimate presented by said petitioners. We hereby certify our approval thereof, and that in our judgment the public convenience requires the construction of said road as prayed for.
John F. Anderson, A. W. Wildes & D. N. Mortland
Railroad Commissioners of Maine
With the August 19, 1886 Railroad Commission formal decision made, construction began in earnest on the 8.1 mile line from Maine Central Railroad’s Pittsfield terminus to Hartland Village. The massive project, contracted to James Mitchell, his sub-contractors and a labor force of Italian immigrant workers, included provisions it be completed within 90 days. A deadline Mr. Mitchell seemed confident he could meet.
Pittsfield Advertiser – August 19, 1886
Pittsfield Advertiser – September 2, 1886
By early September of 1886, work was reported coming along very well and on schedule. On September 15th, 3,100 cedar rail ties were delivered to Pittsfield by rail via Belfast from New Brunswick.
By early October, a small, wooden topped trestle (the only trestle on the original line) which crossed the Meadow Brook inlet to the Sebasticook River had been completed near Thompson’s Stop and track was being laid at an average rate of 1/2 mile per day. On October 23rd, the rail’s connection to the Maine Central Railroad line in Pittsfield was made allowing a dedicated work train to haul rail, ties, gravel & workers up the line. In late October, the large construction crew had completed the road bed and had laid all the rails with just a couple of miles of ballasts left to finish. On Friday, October 29, 1886 the first train to ever run the entire new 8 mile railroad extension made a test run into Hartland from Pittsfield roughly 70 days after construction began. It was one of the fastest pieces of railroad construction on record.
The granite trestle near Thompson’s Stop with Pittsfield Avenue in background – c1905
Remnants of the Thompson’s Trestle from Pittsfield Avenue side – 2018
Trestle near Thompson’s Stop on Meadow Brook (Google Maps)
Biddeford Daily Journal – November 8, 1886
“A genuine railroad boom seems to have sprung up in this State of ours. Within ninety days the Sebasticook and Moosehead line has been completed from Pittsfield to Hartland, 8 miles, and measures are being taken to immediately push it to Harmony, ten miles further north.”
Lewiston Journal – November 4, 1886 (Reprinted by the Pittsfield Advertiser – November 11, 1886)
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The Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad located their new Depot and Train Yard in Hartland Village on Outer Main Street (RT. 23-Canaan Road) next to the East Somerset Agricultural Society Fairgrounds. Its locomotive turntable was completed on December 21, 1886. The Depot also became the location of the Hartland American Express Telegraph Office. In 1893, It became one of the 6 original destination phone lines of the then St Albans & Hartland Telephone Company.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
~ “All hail to the Iron Horse, now and forever! ” ~
On Wednesday, November 17, 1886 the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad was officially opened and dedicated with a Grand Opening Celebration throughout Hartland. Large crowds from Hartland and from around the area gathered to celebrate the momentous day.
Pittsfield Advertiser – November 18, 1886
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Column 5 Column 6
Initial plans for the new railway had called for the line to be extended to Harmony Village soon after the 1886 opening but finances were pulled back and the extension plans were postponed. The Monson & Athens Railroad had built south from Monson while the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad built north, however the Monson end of the line was also stopped at a connection with the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad.
The Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot is seen below circled in the background from a 1905 photo looking back toward town from the Fairgrounds with the Canaan Road-RT 43 to the left. The Depot sat between the Fairgrounds Main Exhibition Hall (large dark building) and future Masonic Hall (white building).
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
The Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad was originally an independent share holder owned railroad receiving a share of revenues from traffic transferred to Maine Central Railroad at Pittsfield. While it was able to cover its expenses through the early years, it was barely making a profit and by the mid-1890s was unable to clear its operating expenses most years.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
In 1892, Wesley Vanwart of New Brunswick, a major initial investor of the line, was elected as President and on May 2nd of that year, the company took out a 1st mortgage for $35,000 and a 2nd mortgage for $25,000 which included all its rolling stock and the franchise. On October 1, 1895 these 2 mortgages were superseded by a new $250,000 mortgage. (Compiled from the 1961 research notes of Richard Dole)
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
On July 13, 1899 the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad’s 1895 $250,000 mortgage was executed by the Lakeside Press of Portland and was taken into receivership by Z. D. Lancaster of Pittsfield who obtained the franchise and the right to take tolls for the next 10 years. The approximately 93 bond holders of the 1895 mortgage were made stockholders and the mortgage was foreclosed on March 23, 1900. From 1899 until 1910, the railroad was operated by several receivers including Lancaster, Alvin B. Thompson of Pittsfield and Rufus Burns of Pittsfield. The company was reorganized on August 12, 1903 with the same name but did not receive discharge from the mortgage until September 21, 1910. (Compiled from the 1961 research notes of Richard Dole & R. Michael White)
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Hartland Depot
1890 “Map of the Railroads of the State of Maine” with the existing route of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad at the time.
1890 Railroad Map (Courtesy of Mike Andrews)
~ Onward to Harmony…Almost ~
With its financial status stabilized for the time being, attention turned to completing the rail line’s original plans for its ultimate destination into Harmony Village. Those plans were once again truncated when the Maine Railroad Commission only approved an extension of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad line as far as Main Stream in Harmony on Great Moose Lake in their March 1891 meeting on the matter.
Though the partial extension was approved, further delays disrupted completion of the line and a 4 year extension for the project was granted by the Maine State Legislature on February 11, 1895. The exact route of the Main Stream extension was approved the Commission later that year on August 26, 1895.
One final detail of the proposed rail route extension was submitted to the Commission in a September 18, 1895 petition to determine the type of road crossing at the Athens Road-RT 43. The meeting was held at the Park House in Hartland on October 2nd and it was determined by the Commission, “The crossing was ordinary and not dangerous and could be crossed at grade.”
Work on the line continued and by the end of 1895, 5 miles of the 7.4 mile road bed extension had been graded however it was far from completed. More work was done in 1898 & 1899 in an attempt to complete the project but it would not be ready to open until early 1901.
Unknown Railroad Officials noted at the new Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Sebasticook River Trestle
Most of the manual labor employed by the railroad to build the original line into Hartland and later the extension to Main Stream was done by Italian immigrant workers. Over 150 of them worked year round, including the winter months, in several separate crews to complete the work.
They built a small temporary “Italian Village” in Hartland on the property of Bertha Rowell on the Athens Road (near the future Lambert home) past the RT 43 railroad crossing. As noted in a January 11, 1896 Lewiston Journal article, “Their mud huts consist of sod & poles and are about 10 feet long by 5 feet wide and are shaped like an inverted V; very steep to shed water. In one end is a doorway which is kept a fire, and though the interior is not particularly attractive, it is comfortably warm even in cold weather.”
These men performed back breaking manual labor in the face of severe weather and extremely dangerous working conditions and were also victims of the railroad’s ongoing financial woes; often their paychecks were withheld from them for weeks.
Italian immigrant workers pause during work on the Main Stream Extension
On January 10, 1901 the new 7.4 mile extension of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad line from the Hartland Depot to Main Stream in Harmony on Great Moose Lake was finally opened. Its route first crossed the Outer Main Street (Canaan Road-RT 23) from the Hartland Depot running behind Pleasant Street (RT 43) for about 3/4 of a mile where it then crossed RT 43 near the old Furbush Homestead. It followed along the shore of the Sebasticook River for about 1/2 a mile before crossing the river at the new train trestle making its way first along the northern St. Albans shoreline of Great Moose Lake then onward into Harmony to Main Stream.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Trestle crossing the Sebasticook River from Hartland to St. Albans – 1908
The original intention of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad rail line extension was to ultimately connect to the Monson Railroad and eventually to Moosehead Lake in Greenville, but it also provided a much easier and regular traveling alternative for year round & summer residents, sportsmen and day visitors to reach the Great Moose Lake area.
St. Albans side of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Sebasticook River Trestle
The route for the rail line’s extension to its Main Stream destination in Harmony brought it right along the St. Albans side of Great Moose Lake’s shoreline crossing numerous privately owned camp properties along its path. As part of the owner’s Right of Way (ROW) compensation package, the railroad agreed to lifetime Flag Stops at ANY of these ROW lots along the proposed shoreline route.
Railroad extension to Main Stream along the St Albans shoreline of Great Moose Lake
When the new extension opened, only two stops were regularly scheduled at The Wild Goose Club and Main Stream. However, the train routinely made unscheduled stops at a couple of smaller established Flag Stops as well as several Flag Stops along the shoreline route.
A sheltered Railroad Flag Stop along the shore of Great Moose Lake in St Albans
The ROW deal was an ideal compromise for camp owners as it allowed them to board or unboard the train at anytime from the convenience of their summer homes. Those who had to work could flag down the train in the morning directly from their camp then ride it back that afternoon. Camp folks could also catch the train into Hartland during the day and have an hour and a half to run errands and shop before jumping back on the train to camp. No matter the reason, the ride from Great Moose Lake into Hartland cost a nickel each way.
Railroad running along the St. Albans shore of Great Moose Lake from Harmony
The seemingly amiable ROW deal eventually became a logistics nightmare for the railroad crews especially during the busy summer months when many local folks and out-of-towners lived at camp full-time. The train would often have to make 6 stops within a mile; some of them just 100 feet apart. A slight but steady incline along the lake route headed northbound made restarting and stopping the train very difficult.
Railroad extension to Main Stream along the St. Albans shoreline of Great Moose Lake
Adding to the physical strains of stopping and starting a 60,000lb locomotive and its cars, the train conductors also had to make out a hand written cash fare slip for every passenger who boarded along the run then record them into the daily log. Along with these single rider stops, several groups of riders boarding the train from the camps were a common occurrence. When a half dozen folks with their children flagged the train down, they would unintentionally cause quite a delay on the run and create a mountain of receipts for the conductor to log.
Regardless, a deal was a deal and Flag Stops along the shoreline rail route became a vital and regular part of life on Great Moose Lake for decades as seen in this photo from around 1914 of a group of ladies waiting to flag down the next train near Camp DeLancey on the St. Albans shoreline of the lower lake.
(L-R) Front Row: Marion Baird | Annie (Linn) Lancey | Beatrice (Carey) Baird
Back Row: Clarabelle (Osborne) Linn | Myra (Brown) Moore | Crystal (Bowman) Deering | Elizabeth A. Linn
An updated 1901 Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Schedule included the 2 new stops along the Main Stream Extension.
New Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Schedule – 1901
The opening of a new quarry provided an additional source of local granite for the railroad and other local structures. A dedicated side rail would soon be built to enable the massive blocks brought down from the quarry to be loaded and transported by rail to their destinations.
Stone Magazine Article – 1902
Hartland Historical Society Member Harlan Emery recalled stories about Cyr’s Granite Quarry as told to him by his father, Harold Emery, of a loop road built from the mountain side down to the railroad siding located near Northeast Cove which was used to transport the cut granite via carts to the train then back up to the quarry. These large granite carts relied mostly on gravity to get down to the rails and not horsepower.
The next to last stop on the extended rail line before the final Main Stream stop was the Wild Goose Club Landing for their Castle Harmony compound. The Wild Goose Club also installed a dedicated rail siding at the landing where they parked their private Pullman Coach Car while members and guests stayed at their wilderness retreat. The club’s original “Commodore” Henry Hastings was a huge proponent of the original railroad project.
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Wild Goose Club Landing – c1922
~ The Iron Horses of Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad ~
The infrastructure of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad makes up an important half of the railroad’s story of course, but without its trains, it would be nothing but an idle bed of crushed rock and rails. Leading these lines of passenger and freight cars was the mighty “Iron Horse” which had changed the course of railroad history across the United States since the first locomotive driven railroad line opened in the 1820s. Over the course of its 25 year existence from 1886 to 1911, the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad owned and operated 5 known locomotives presented below in order of their purchase with a brief summary compiled in part from the original research by Richard Dole of their history.
The 1st Sebasticook & Moosehead locomotive was a used, light duty Type 4-4-0 purchased on September 17, 1886 for $2,500. It was built by the Taunton Locomotive Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts (Builder Number 267) and completed on December 6, 1866. It was originally built for the Agricultural Branch Railroad which became part of the Boston, Clinton & Fitchburg Railroad. It was leased to Old Colony Railroad Company in 1879 who numbered it Locomotive #87. Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad renumbered it as Locomotive #1 and also named it “Hartland”; its only known named engine. It was retired from service in 1895.
The “Hartland” is seen below hauling Combine #3 in Pittsfield sometime between 1886 and 1892. Combine is short for Combination Car which had compartments for passengers, baggage, express or mail depending on the needs of the railroad. In the photo, Combine #3 appears to be a passenger/baggage car but likely hauled express or mail, too. (Photo courtesy of R. Michael White)
Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad – Locomotive #1 – “Hartland”
The 2nd Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad locomotive was a new 0-4-4T (known as a “Forney”) purchased in 1892. It was built by the Rhode Island Locomotive Works (Builders Number 2807) in June of 1892 and purchased by Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad later that year and numbered as Locomotive #2. It was exchanged in 1896 with Maine Central Railroad for a Portland Locomotive Works 4-4-0.
Following the exchange of locomotives, Maine Central Railroad renumbered the former Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Locomotive #2 as MEC #105 until 1900 when it renumbered it again to MEC #3. It was scrapped in January of 1920.
Former Sebasticook & Moosehead Locomotive #2 as MEC #105 (Photo from the David Larrabee Collection)
Former MEC #105 renumbered as MEC #3 (Photo courtesy of Allan Houghton – Original photo by Walter Fogg)
The 3rd Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad locomotive was a used 4-4-0 acquired in 1896 in exchange for their Forney Locomotive #2 with Maine Central Railroad. It was built by the Portland Locomotive Works (Builders Number 189) and completed on May 24, 1871. It was sold for $11,338 to the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad numbered as Locomotive #5 and named the “Fryeberg”. In 1888, Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad became part of Maine Central Railroad’s Mountain Division and the engine was absorbed into the MEC roster (unknown MEC Locomotive #) until the exchange. Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad renumbered it repeating it as Locomotive #2. It was scrapped in 1901.
The 4th Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad locomotive was a used 4-4-0 purchased in 1900 from Maine Central Railroad. It was built by Rhode Island Locomotive Works (Builders Number 2131) and completed on September 9, 1899. It was built for the Upper Coos & Hereford Railroad Company and numbered as Locomotive #5 before being purchased by Maine Central Railroad and renumbered as MEC Locomotive #129. Following their purchase, it was renumbered Locomotive #3 by Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad. After the Maine Central Railroad buyout of Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad in 1911, it was renumbered as MEC Locomotive #83.
Former Sebasticook & Moosehead Locomotive #3 renumbered as MEC #83
The 5th Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad locomotive was a used 4-4-0 purchased on May 3, 1901 for $700. It was built by the Portland Locomotive Company (Builders Number 150) in 1869. It was purchased by the Somerset Railroad in 1875 numbered as Locomotive #2 and named “Old Point”. Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad also renumbered this engine as Locomotive #2. It was sold for scrap for $400 in 1911 following the Maine Central Railroad buyout.
~ The End of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad ~
“Like many other regional railroad systems, Maine Central Railroad grew by accretion and consolidation with numerous smaller roads. The Maine Central Railroad itself first appeared on October 28, 1862 out of consolidation of the earlier Androscoggin & Kennebec Railroad and the Penobscot & Kennebec Railroad. In 1874 the company went on to absorb the Leeds & Farmington Railroad, the Portland & Kennebec Railroad, and the Somerset & Kennebec Railroad. In 1888 it took over the Maine Shore Line Railroad. In 1901 it swallowed the Knox & Lincoln Railway. In 1911 it gobbled the Washington County Railway, the Somerset Railway, the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad, and the Androscoggin Railroad.” (Courtesy of the National Park Service “Steamtown” Online Collection)
As part of the New England transportation monopoly organized by the New York Railroad and the New Haven & Hartford Railroad, Maine Central Railroad (MEC) leased the financially troubled Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad beginning on September 13, 1910 then purchased the company on February 8, 1911 with the official merger set to go into effect on July 1st of that same year.
Maine Central Railroad Company Merger Notice – June 15, 1911
To Agents, Conductors and Connecting Lines:
“On July 1st the Washington County Railway, the Somerset Railway and the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad will be merged with the Maine Central Railroad Company. The Washington County Railway becomes a part of the Eastern Division; the Somerset Railroad and the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad become a part of the Portland Division.
After July 1, 1911 there will exist but one interest, the Maine Central Railroad Company, divided into three operating divisions: The Portland Division, the Eastern Division and the Mountain Division. It has been decided that June 26th, the date of the general change to the Summer schedule, is near enough to the actual date of the merger of its subsidiary lines on July 1, 1911 to have everything appear in our timetables under the general heading of the Maine Central Railroad.
Therefore, the Summer folders, the display in the public guides commencing with the July issue, all our newspaper ads carrying timetables, and everything printed in places where Maine Central Lines may now show, to be combined under the one head of Maine Central Railroad.”
~ The Line to Harmony…Finally ~
Immediately following their purchase of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad, a petition was presented by MEC to complete the final 2 mile extension of the line to Harmony Village from Main Stream on Great Moose Lake. A public meeting was held on November 3, 1911 at the Main Stream Depot by the Maine Railroad Commission where “no opposition was heard” and the proposal was officially accepted on November 9th.
The line extension was immediately built into Harmony Village and opened to the public on August 19, 1912. The entire line from Pittsfield to Harmony then became officially known as the Maine Central Railroad Harmony Branch.
MEC Locomotive #83 arrives for the first time in Harmony – August 19, 1912
Following the subsequent completion of the line to Harmony, the new Maine Central Railroad Harmony Branch Mileposts were noted in 1912:
- Milepost 0: Pittsfield Depot
- Milepost 3.9: West Palmyra (Flag Stop at RT 2 RR Crossing near Ell Hill)
- Milepost 6.1: Thompson’s (Cool Road RR Crossing off Pittsfield Avenue/RT 151)
- Milepost 6.3: Goodrich’s (Flag Stop at RR Crossing on Pittsfield Avenue)
- Milepost 8.1: Hartland Depot
- Milepost 8.6: Dupont’s (Flag Stop probably at RR Crossing on Pleasant Street/RT 43 )
- Milepost 13.2: Cyr’s (Flag Stop near Northeast Cove on Great Moose Lake)
- Milepost 15.0: Wild Goose Club Landing (Flag Stop)
- Milepost 15.5: Main Stream (Great Moose Lake, Harmony)
- Milepost 17.5: Harmony Depot
Maine Central Railroad Harmony Branch Route (Courtesy of Nat Foss, Jr)
During the years of its operation, the railroad also provided convenient shipping to and from Harmony for its residents & businesses of a variety of products including lumber, livestock, Christmas trees, potatoes, milk and as importantly, the mail.
Passengers await to board the first Train at the Harmony Train Depot – August 19, 1912
Former Harmony Railroad Ticket Office – 2012 (Photo courtesy of Harmony Historical Society)
Up until this point, the ROW deal with Camp Owners along the shores of Great Moose Lake had been rolling along smoothly in spite of the additional strain on the Trains and its Conductors except for one particular day, as the story is told, when the ROW agreement went sour.
Soon after Maine Central Railroad had taken over Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad, an old S&M Conductor by the name of Bert Pettengill decided…on his own unauthorized authority…to put a stop to the stops. One morning in 1912 he nailed notices to trees along the shoreline route declaring that all flag stops were abolished immediately.
The camp owners were furious and in a telegram sent (collect) to MEC Superintendent MacDonald declared that since the railroad had violated its agreement on flag stops, they no longer recognized the ROW and all trains would cease and desist from crossing their properties. Within moments, Superintendent MacDonald fired off a blistering telegram to Pettengill and by that afternoon all the flag stops were restored.
(Compiled with information from, “All Aboard for Yesterday! A Nostalgic History of Railroading in Maine” by J. Malcolm Butler)
The existence of a local rail line connecting to the rest of the country was at least one of the major contributing factors to the H. C. Baxter & Brothers Canning Company locating their new facility in Hartland in 1913. Baxter would become one of Hartland’s largest commercial users of the rail line shipping millions of pounds of vegetable products via train from their plant located on Outer Pleasant Street. Baxter had a private connecting side rail which was 666′ long capable of holding 5 freight cars.
H. C. Baxter & Brothers Canning Company
1911 marked the official end of the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad but its successor continued full service as the Maine Central Railroad Harmony Branch Line over the next few decades transporting countless thousands of passengers and tons of freight in and out of the region.
MEC Rail Map System – 1932
Hartland’s large manufacturing industries utilized the railroad over the decades to bring raw materials into their facilities and then ship their finished products back out across the country including the Linn Woolen Mill, American Woolen Company & H. C. Baxter & Brothers Canning Company. Smaller industries such as Moor’s Sawmills and later Walter H. Moore & Son Woodworking and Griffith Woodworking Mill as well as numerous local merchants utilized the railroad such as Hartland Grain & Grocery who eventually had a grain storehouse near the depot.
The “Maids & Matrons” Band arrive at the Hartland Train Depot (Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith)
“Maids & Matrons” Band with original Railroad Storage Building in the background (Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith)
“Maids & Matrons” with Railroad Storage Building & future Masonic Hall in the background (Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith)
When the Hartland Tanning Company opened up for business in 1936, they also relied heavily on the railroad to bring in processed “blues” from all over the country. The Tannery soon renovated the former Railroad Storage Building using it as their “Hide House” to store the incoming blue hides before they were transported to the plant by truck. Most of the finished leather product shipped out from the tannery by truck.
Hartland Depot with the new Tannery Hide House to the left (Photo courtesy of Brent Shaw)
In 1942, the original Hartland Depot was razed by Hartland resident Raymond Gregorie and his crew.
Original Hartland Depot Demolition – 1942 (Photo donated by Maynard Ross)
Original Hartland Depot Demolition – 1942 (Photo donated by Maynard Ross)
Carl Randlett’s former Hartland Grain & Grocery Grain Storage Building which sat on the fairgrounds side of the tracks was converted into the new Hartland Depot & Railway Express Warehouse. Carl had built the building in 1905 before moving his bulk grain storage across from his store on Main Street in the late 1930s.
New Location of Hartland Depot – 1942 (Photo donated by Maynard Ross)
Drawn in 1942 before the original Depot was razed and published the following year, this map shows the rail route through Hartland Village
1943 Map of Hartland with Maine Central Railroad Harmony Branch Route
A 1954 publication by Maine Central Railroad includes side rails existing at the time on the Harmony Branch through Hartland. The single page for the Harmony Branch has been cropped and included below. (Digitally converted and shared by Peter Violette)
Front Page Headline
West Palmyra Side Rail
Thompson’s Side Rail
Hartland Village Depot & H. C. Baxter Canning Company Side Rails
Cyr’s Side Rail
Mainstream Side Rail
Harmony Village Side Rails
~ The End of Railroad Service to Hartland ~
As passenger service declined into the 1960s, partly due to the advent of an interstate highway system for automobiles and increasingly reliable airline service, the railroad began shedding many of its passenger services on their smaller branch lines throughout their system by reducing them to freight only service. Inevitably, even these freight branch lines themselves would cease to exist.
Sebasticook River Railroad Trestle
In 1966, service from Hartland to Great Moose Lake & Harmony was discontinued and soon after those tracks and the Sebasticook River Trestle were removed. Limited freight rail service into Hartland from Pittsfield continued for several more years before it was abandoned in 1983. The tracks were removed and the entire line eventually became part of the trail system for snowmobiles and summer off-road vehicles. Less than 100 years after it was built, railroad train service to Hartland was gone forever.
Numerous books written on the history of the early railroads of Maine including references to the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad
are available at libraries or for sale online. Included among the many available books are:
“Maine Railroads: A History of the Development of the Maine Railroad System” | Edward Everett Chase | 1926
“All Aboard for Yesterday! A Nostalgic History of Railroading in Maine” | J. Malcolm Butler | 1979
“The Best of Maine Railroads” | Ron Johnson | 1985
“Downeast Depots” | Robert F. Lord | 1986
Edward Chase’s book is available for free download at: Bangor Public Library