A Brief History

 

††††††††††† Chartered on July 19, 1881, the railroad was to be constructed from Hiram Junction ( later Bridgton Jct.) to Bridgton. Previous to the railroad, the locals and the tourists were conveyed by lake steamers, wagons and stage operators, who viewed the new railroad as an unwelcome rival.With the help of George Mansfield, promoter of two-foot gauge railroading-first in Massachusetts with the Billerica and Bedford, and lately of the Sandy River Railroad in Farmington, the railroad organizers succeeded in building their line.

 

The 16 miles were completed on January 29th, 1883.

 

With two Hinkley 0-4-4T locomotives, and freight and passenger cars from Laconia the railroad was ready for business.Laconia built the roadís one caboose with cupola in 1887.The cupola was soon removed by a low hanging wire and this car ran without it for the rest of its days.

 

By 1891, the railroad was turning a profit as mills were opened in Bridgton and more freight cars were ordered and also built by the railroad following the model of Laconia built cars. The first Portland Company built cars arrived in 1895 with others following.

 

While the town of Harrison had supported the railroad concept, it wasnít until 1898 that the two-footer built the extension north from Bridgton with a wye at Bridgton to facilitate trains going northward. The B&SR management had watched for years as passengers and freight transferred at Bridgton for the trip to Harrison, and the new extension was built to grab some of this trade.

 

Coal and later Kerosene and Gasoline were items of incoming freight, while textile mill linen products, wood items and produce went down to the Junction. Unlike the others two-footers with heavy emphasis on one product such as slate; pulp and wood products;lumber and hay; or passengers, the B&SR was a more common carrier line with a wide variety of shipments.

 

In 1901, engine No. 4 which was one of three Porter Company two-foot gauge locomotives arrived. With passenger business on the upswing, the B&SR bought a coach, No. 18, from the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington in early 1912. Engine No. 2 had been sent over to the WW&F. in 1906.

 

Locomotives 5 and 6 arrived in 1906 and 1907, one from the Portland Company Shops and the other from Baldwin. These were both 2-4-4T types.

 

By 1912, the prosperity of the railroad and itís tourist business carrying summer rusticators from the Maine Central at Bridgton Junction to the hotels, inns, and summer camps around the Bridgton and Harrison areas caught the eye of the larger railroad, which had was consolidating its hold on rail transportation in southern Maine and was to be acquired through stock purchase become a subsidiary of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford which was rapidly expanding its regional system.

 

 

In June 1912, the Bridgton & Saco River Railroad became part of the Maine Central system.

 

With acquisition came improvements. Among these were Baldwin - built Locomotives 7 and 8; new, longer and larger cars built by the Maine Centralís Portland Terminal Shops; and a brand new baggage mail car, No. 25, with steel car sills for durability.

 

During the teens, and into the early 1920ís, the B&SR made money, but gradually as the 1920ís wore on competition from the truck and automobile reduced the passenger business. The mills began to suffer labor problems and the relocation of rural companies into more urban areas caused business to be lost. In New England many cloth mills moved south to avoid labor unionization.In 1926, the B&SR defaulted on itís underwriting note and in 1927 court appointed receivers took over running the railroad. This receivership lasted until the financial market crash of 1929 caused them to sell the railroad to the Bridgton and Harrison Railway Company, a locally owned proposition.

 

The B&H officially began new operations on June 12, 1930. That evening, while going to the Harrison Engine house,No. 8 derailed on the old 35 pound rail, and due to the high cost to re-lay track on the entire extension, it was abandoned, reducing the railroad to itís original 16 mile length.

 

To cut operating costs, the railroad experimented with automotive railcars and later acquired Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railbus No. 4.Steam engines, primarily Numbers 6, 7, and 8 were used to haul freight trains and summer camp specials in the early 1930ís. This was especially advantageous to the railroad as during the depression when the Civilian Conservation Corps operated camps in the area and the train carried the workers.

 

Locomotives 4 and 5 were retired in the 1920ís, while No. 6 was put into storage in the mid 1930ís which left only Nos. 7 and 8 to operate the fan trip specials which became popular in the late 1930ís as rail fanning began developing as a pastime.

 

Because it was located only a few hours drive from Boston, numerous specials were organized and well photographed, including color photographs and movies of the railroad. That documentation has proven to be an invaluable asset for those rail historians and two-foot gauge enthusiasts who have come later.

 

Since the railroad was essentially owned by the Town, it gradually became an object of political discussion and debate.Sold for $20,00l in 1940, through intricate maneuverings, Ellis Atwood purchased much of the equipment storing it in Bridgton Junction yard after the railroad was torn up in the autumn of 1941.

 

In late 1945 much of the equipment came to South Carver Massachusetts to operate around Mr. Atwoodís Cranberry Bogs, and by 1994, had been once again transported north to Portland Maine as part of the Maine Narrow Gauge Museumís operating railroad equipment collection.