S.R.R.L. Update

The last volume in the Franklin County Narrow Gauges series, The Next Stop is Farmington, is well underway. At the time of the 2016 Narrow Gauge Convention in Augusta, the text was around 180 pages and is now over 280. And this year alone I have edited out over 12,000 words – its sheer size is evident! When will the text be ready for the editor? In a best-case scenario, perhaps by the end of 2018. But I hope to have it wrapped up no later than mid-2019.

The Next Stop is Farmington has very distinct veins. It starts out using news reports, then shifts to Maine Central correspondence and records from 1912-23, for which I have copied over 2,000 pieces. During an April 2016 trip to UMaine, we culled out over 700 scans alone.

One of the new sources is a never-before-published Maine Central records book from 1911-23. Its lineage traces back to R. Dole, who had it at one time. For reasons unknown, Dole never used or disseminated this information. The years after 1923 are receiver records. In April 2016, a second side of the receiver records (partial & hand-written) were made available. This side of the receiver records from 1923-36 is missing from the Maine State Archives. Some of this new information predates the receiver’s appointment.

After my most recent trip to Maine in September 2018 to run down a few remaining items, the last big thing on my to-do list is to find a Ford Model T and Model A body expert. This should polish up chapter 15 and close a number loose ends on those track cars.

If you like the nuts and bolts history, you will be amazed at the sheer amount of new and documented information. The same goes for modelers due to the information discovered in the records book, like the size of the chimney pipes in tank houses and the board sizes used on station platforms.                                         

A Few Highlights in the Book:

    • Chapter two, Track Cars 1903-1922: The Old, The New, & The Cancelled, explores the S.R.R.L. motorized track cars using three separate sources, in conjunction with news reports, to paint a picture of their operations during this timeframe.
    • Chapter 15, Track Cars: 1923, picks up on this theme and explores the track cars built in the Phillips shops, starting with the 1923 car and then the two built-in 1924. Or was there only one built in 1924?
    • The original location of the Madrid Village freight house using a present-day satellite photo of that location. You can also expect to find where it was later moved, along with photos of what the S.R.R.L. turned it into.
    • Detailed S.R.R.L. union information starting in 1910, which leads to the 1912 agreement and carries over into the 1918 strike. A copy of the 1912 agreement shows the immense change in work rules which brought the S.R.R.L. more in line with national contracts, minus the arbitraries. Also a copy of the postdated 1917 contract, from the aftermath of the 1918 strike.
    • You may have seen some of the photos before, but I have tried to put them in better context with in-depth captions that bring together a lot of previously disjointed information. This, naturally, also raises additional questions to explore further. For example, was there a cook car as early as 1910? There was a cook in 1910 and later. Was a camp car being used since 1910?
    • The “nuts and bolts” items used in the S.R.R.L. telephone system, like the size and type of the bell used as the outside telephone ringer at the Farmington transfer yard office.
    • An interesting timeline prior to the construction of the railbuses in 1925.
    • Detailed water tank information stretched out over decades. For example, the water tank built at Bearce’s Mill after Bearce ceased operations. Later it was used as a replacement after a fire destroyed a tank house. I have found only three photos showing both tanks houses built at this location.
    • An article on the S.R.R.L. being used as a troop train, hauling automobiles on flat cars at different times.
    • The probable length and width of the Kingfield engine-house pits based on the interruption of information.
  • In-depth information on the Bell Mills, McCleary’s at S. Strong, Bearce’s, Barnjum, and others.   

These are just some highlights – As always, expect to find a great deal more that has never been covered before!

Update February 2019:

Some confusion with photos of track cars built in 1923 by the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes railroad has led me to consult a Model T expert. Photos of track cars No.1 and No.2 have what is believed to be exact dates and locations. Included with each car is a Q&A with the expert. Along with the expert information, five other track car sources are laid out and woven into the text and photo captions to give the reader a broad picture. For those who closely follow equipment, I didn’t discover anything entirely “new,” but I did piece together a lot of little facts and insights. One example of this is a common photo, which the Model T expert pointed out I misinterpreted. The photo is, in fact, an optical illusion and is not what it appears to be on two separate fronts. An insight from the expert even spilled over into Railbus No.3. Our back-and-forth conversations took all of December to get right, but I have toned it down so it is concise and you can draw your own conclusions from the information presented.

At this point, the first 100 pages of text are 99% done. A few dates need to be double-checked, and I am working on the first round of edits. Every month it seems that something new pops up that has to be investigated further. For example, a mill photo was found in October and I need to confirm its location by a ridgeline in the background. If my suspicions are correct, I believe I know the name of the mill and its dates of operation.


Below is the start of union coverage that will 

continue through 1918.  

Judging by the wording of past years’ articles, I believe there was some type of union, or similar association representation for T&E members. In the last week of January 1910 came the first ever report of the S.R.R.L. engineers being represented by a national union:

     “President J.H. Hamilton and vice president J.P. Carrains financial secretary Waldron, treasurer L. Nelson, F.E. Hollis of the joint protective board and Mr. Ira T. Whittemore, of Portland, member of Great Eastern lodge No.4 of Portland, Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman and Engineers were in Phillips a few days ago in the interest of the order. While here they worked under the dispensation from the grand lodge and initiated all the engineers and fireman of the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad into their order…There are five lodges in the state.”  

Today a lodge is called a committee. A lodge/committee is made up of various locals. The S.R.R.L. engineer’s local, along with M.C. locals, made up this lodge/committee. I assume three of the five lodge locations would have been Portland, Waterville, and Bangor.

Locals do not have to be from only one railroad, as seen in 1910. About 50 years after the 1910 story, one Portland local was made up of only M.C. and B&M road crews.

If the engineers had national representation prior to 1910, then they were now changing that.

In 1910, it was not reported who represented the conductors and firemen. In 1911, representation was by the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (B.R.T.). According to non-newspaper articles in 1911, the B.R.T. local representatives were E. Voter and J.B. Mitchell, through a Portland-based lodge founded in 1896:

     “H.W. Longfellow Lodge, No.82 Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.”

At a large railroad union conference on June 1, 1916, a written answer to a question stated that the S.R.R.L. and the Bridgton & Saco River railroads were not covered under the national union agreement that included the M.C.

Update 8/5/2019

In the last 7 weeks or so all punch list work ceased as I have been focused on five photos and information relating to one particular semaphore/signal at Phillips, and related letters of one for Strong.

The rework all started over an innocent semaphore photo referral I received from late in operations. This led to fixing an interruption error in one photo, then to coalescing disjointed semaphore information that was spread throughout the text. Sizes and shapes of grade crossing posts even became part of the background information. I have had semaphore help from Australia, including such insights as trimming semaphore signal wicks, which picks up where a company letter left off at.

During this seven-week jaunt, a non-semaphore byproduct was discovering photographic examples of all three S.R.R.L. stockcars. Two of the photos are dated to the day; the third is 1915 or later.

Update 3/11/2020

Since the last update, the back and forth over the semaphores ended in December. With the help of Bill Hanks, we have come to an interesting outcome through company records and photos, which should be interesting to most. There is one previously published photo that is speculative; a theory is put forth, and you will have to make your own judgment as to whether the photo shows a Sandy River railroad signal for P&R trains in the late 1890s to 1903.

At the January 25, Springfield Train Show, which I attended with the S.R.R.L. folks, I brought a photo for discussion and showed it to attendees who follow the S.R.R.L. equipment. Days after the show, I asked Wesley Ewell for his estimate of the length of the car in question, which I thought would help identify which of the three cars it was originally, before its non-revenue service use.

Wesley’s answer shocked me: “24 foot and a B&B car.” This sparked a three-week go around which went down a few rabbit holes.

The outcome: It’s a B&B car.

The photo’s stated information has been misinterpreted since the 1950s, and was in fact taken six years earlier than thought.

It now ties into a photo I acquired a few months ago, which then relates to two photos in Two Feet Between the Rails V-II. All four photos show this car in non-revenue service between the late summer of 1910 and no later than August 1914, at two different locations. Due to confusion I had with which B&B car it was, the photo here of No.5/554 has completely changed its meaning. I will only explain it at this time as a “bridge” photo. Some items are still being rewritten to reflect events in a new light. 

As you can see on the front page of the site, the dust jacket is finished and a person has been hired to lay out the book.

The editing process is what the delay is now, the text is done.

May 12, 2020

The book is finished and the process starts this week to have it laid out. Through editing and lowering the font size, the text was reduced from its bloated outline by 70 pages to a final count of 211 pages. I believe it will be under 500 pages when all said and done.

One example of what was left out is an ongoing project to find the original Rangeley station. This has been ongoing for over 12 years with help from Wesley Ewell. It is too complex to explain in writing, it is one of those subjects that has to be explained orally and with photos and documents in person.

The short version is we believe the freight house section of the station is now part of a house 300’ away, but where is the station? This was not the only station to “disappear” in the 1970s – Carrabassett and Reeds stations were here today and gone tomorrow. 

Of the four books, this will be the toughest read due to the amount of both new and corrected information. For people who model, you will have details never published before, like the size of a station platform boards, or upgrades to the Marbles layout:

     “1-Diets #3 Tubular Street Lamp.”

For those who follow the S.R.R.L. equipment, at the end of the book there will be car graphs documenting known car numbers of the F&M (25), P&R (52), and S.R.R. (84) through company records of 1898, 1901-03, and 1907. This predates the cars listed in Two Feet Between the Rails and the 1916 I.C.C. Survey. If you so choose, you will then be able to use company records or photos you have access to and fill in missing car numbers if they were a boxcar or flatcar.

For those who follow the history, there is much for you to consider also. In a lot of cases you will be presented the information but I leave it up to you as to what it means. An example is a published photo that is claimed to be 1916, but is documented to be 1910. A B&B car is in the photo… you will have to decide which one of two it could be. The 1918 strike is covered in a chapter that got its name 8 years ago, despite the fact that history has recently been repeating itself in The Strike & Pandemic.”

The chapters are:



  1 The Shooting Star

  2 Track Cars 1903-1922: The Old, The New & The Cancelled

  3 Meet the New Boss                         

  4 The Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Communications

  5 1912…The Upgrades Begin

  6 The Ongoing Honeymoon       

  7 The Mt. Abram Branch                     

  8 The Barnjum Branch

  9 The 1915-16 Survey                                          

10 The Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes & W.W. I                    

11 The Strike & Pandemic

12 Turntables                                       

13 Train No.17 is in the River

14 Trackcars: 1923

15 Railbuses

16 Crawled, Hobbled, Staggered – Didn’t Roll Into Kingfield

17 The End of a Shooting Star