story of the Sandy River Railroad began in the mid 1870s a little further
south in the state of Massachusetts. George Mansfield, inspired by his
visit to the Welsh Festiniog narrow gauge railway, built the Summer
Heights & Hazelwood Valley Railroad on his farm to show the "locals"
the benefits of the narrow gauge railroading.
1875 George saw an opportunity to push his ideas when the towns of Bedford
and Billerica (Massachusetts) decided they wanted their own railroad to
service the towns. George was able to convince them of the benefits of
the narrow gauge and so the new Billerica & Bedford Railroad was chartered
in May 1876, the first commercial two-foot railroad in America!
Mansfield heads north
In 1878, George Mansfield visited Maine when railroad fever was high.
He addressed civic groups in Farmington, Strong, Phillips, Madrid and
eventually managed to convince the various groups that the narrow gauge
was the way to go. After a year of zero activity, the Sandy River Railroad
was born in March 1879. Work began in June by the contractor T&R Shanahan.
B&B in trouble
As it turned out, work on the Sandy River began at the same time as work
on the Billerica & Bedford stopped!
The Sandy River needed rails, engines and cars. The defunct B&B's
equipment was for sale and the new Sandy River narrow gauge railroad needed
an experienced hand to guide it. George Mansfield of the B&B was now
looking for a job!
Sandy River RR takes shape
There was a problem with the original Appleton survey that prevented it
going ahead. This meant that the 18 miles of light curves and negligible
grades gave way to another route where there was hardly a straight rail!
In the 18 miles there were no less than 74 trestles, the one entering
Phillips was 850 feet long and 40 feet high, many others were not much