Maine Two Footers / Franklin & Megantic Railroad

   

By 1883 Franklin County was ready to build Railroads following the success of the bustling and flourishing Sandy River Railroad... thus the Franklin & Megantic was born.

Construction begins
Construction on the F&M, as it was always called, began in 1884. 14.6 miles of 25lb rail rapidly left the Sandy River at Strong, it climbed sharp grades and nosed its way around scenic curves on its ascent to Salem, at the 8 mile post, and on to Kingfield at 14.6 miles.

Shortly before Salem the Mount Abram branch switched off. The Mountain Branch, as it was known, was just short of two miles long. Its main purpose in life was to supply logs to the F&M. It only lasted until all the usable logs were taken. The branch line was removed in the early 1900s.

The track
The Sandy River RR had been fortunate in its prosperity. The F&M wasn't so lucky -- it was usually broke! The track was rough, there was no money for improvements but the F&M managed to struggle on.
After about 10 years they managed to replace the 25lb rail with the heavier 35lb rail. The weight of the rail isn't the only factor in good track work. Solid well tamped ties (sleepers) are an important factor. The poor ballast and rough track situation was solved in an interesting way.

The killer caboose
When the F&M was about 12 or 15 years old, it came under the control of a banker from Gardiner, Maine. The banker declined to spend any money on the line. Eventually he relented under the pressure of protests and decided to visit the F&M to see for himself. When the F&M staff learned of his impending visit they got ready for him.
In order to show the gentleman just how hard his track rode they selected the old rickety caboose for the presidential train. The caboose was not only bad to ride in, it was pretty well shot besides! It never did fly to pieces, but no one was sure it wouldn't.
When the guest of honour was finally aboard the killer caboose, the train highballed.
Yarnsters swore that long before the train flew ofer the summit he was lying flat on the heaving floor of that killer caboose. That was partly because no one could have stayed right-side-up, and partly because he was getting hell scared out of him at every turn of the 18-inch wheels. His senses apparently advised him that the lower his centre of gravity, the better chances of his survival.
The Special made it, and in record time! Official approval of repairs to the roadway and track were unanimous... the story ended.

Conditions not always ideal
Snow was one of the F&M's biggest problems. Deep drifts filled the cuttings more often, faster, and packed down harder than the Sandy River line (at least that's what the F&M crews reckoned. From the first winter, 1884-85, the lilliput trains were continually getting themselves lost in snow drifts and having to be shovelled out by hand. Some of these occasions made railroad history in Franklin County!

Memories
The Franklin & Megantic didn't seem to be as packed with colour and roaring romance as its Sandy River Neighbour, but what it lacked in that kind of appeal was more than compensated for in scenic splendor and steam-and-cinders railroading. Its midget trains hammered the tiny rail joints, bucked alpine snows, and fed its communities and connecting line for nearly 30 years, before it finally lost its identity by a total merger with the other Franklin County lilliputs.

Kingfield & Dead River Railroad

Just after the Phillips & Rangeley Railroad was built, the owners of the F&M arranged a sister company to build track as a northern extension from Kingfield. It was called the Kingfield & Dead River Railroad.

The road grows
The Kingfield & Dead River Railroad was opened in 1894 and ran from Kingfield to Carrabasset, a distance of 9 miles. It's main reason for existence was to open the new forest areas owned by the barons who were also shareholders of the railroads. There was also a "westward-ho" type of dream to open up the area to colonists.

On Paper
The K&DR was only a "paper company". The F&M owned it and the F&M ran it. It had no engines or rolling stock. Carrabasset was only an agency station which it shared with the US Post Office. In 1900, an additional 6 miles of track was added from Carrabasset, to take the trains into the agency station of Bigelow.

The branch
The Alder Stream branch was added to the K&DR. It left the mainline just north of Kingfield and ran 2-1/2 miles west to the lumber site. The branch survived until just before the first world war.

 

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