The Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad
“There are not a lot of places in the world where you can be hiking through a remote wilderness and suddenly stumble upon rusting locomotives.” - Maine.gov
Nonetheless, the Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad has exactly this, locomotives stuck in time from their days serving the lumber industry in the region.
The railroad was built in the late 19th century and played a key role in the economic development of the area, transporting logs and other goods.
The Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad was a logging railroad running in northern Maine during the turn of the last century. Logging railroads have existed in almost all forested areas of the US, and were particularly common in the far northeast. It ran about 17 miles from Eagle Lake, ME to Umbazooksus Lake, and then terminating at the north end of Chesuncook Lake.
What sets this line apart from the numerous others that existed was that good chunk of the tracks and two locomotives still exist nearly 100 years after abandonment of the line. This line would replace an earlier tramway which existed for the same purpose on a smaller scale.
|Image: Chesuncook Lake 1954 USGS Map showing the track of the old tramway and railway, long abandoned by this point.
After the end of operations, it was deemed too costly to remove the locomotives which powered the line, leaving them in a remote forest for perpetuity, so even today, you can stumble upon this abandoned train in seemingly one of the least likely locations you could think of.
Somehow, these locomotives remind me of Duke's plight from Thomas the Tank Engine. Is that where I got my love of finding abandoned railroads from?
|Wow. Looking back 25-something years after I first saw this episode as a small child is eye-opening.
Today, the locomotives are rusting away, the rails still visible under them, and the area is owned by the State of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands which, in my opinion, documents these fascinating locomotives very well. That being said, while the locomotives are visual reminders that exist today of the operation, the line had a pretty cool history outside of them, including a huge wooden trestle over the Allagash Stream.
|Image: Trestle over the Allagash Stream, c.1970's. Looks good for 40 to me! (Maine.gov)
In addition, numerous people have made YouTube videos of the journey to these steam engines, and do a better job than I could of explaining their existence. Here's one of the most extensive below:
Thanks as always for reading!