Author Topic: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897  (Read 7498 times)

Glenn Byron

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FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« on: December 03, 2009, 03:36:56 PM »
HI All, Let's go back 112 years.  I'll quote The Farmington Chronicle story dated Thursday, Oct. 7, 1897:  The Chronicle Editor is being taken for a carriage ride along the newly opened route of the proposed railroad by Mr. Harry C. Russell, a clerk from the FS&K Office in Farmington. "We were driven down the river to the Falls Village.  On the way down Mr. Russell pointed out the surveyed route- which, after crossing High Street just below the fair grounds (the trains will pass under the road at this point) crosses Blount"s (now Norton's) Brook and swings around back of Herman Corbett's buildings, and continues down to the Falls- all the way being about a quarter of a mile east of the traveled county road, and in sight most of the way.  The deep gully, through which Blount's Brook runs, will be filled over a substantial stone bridge. #  Arriving at the Falls we took the road at the Union Meeting House (turn to the left) which leads now towards Charles Hovey's house: and after driving perhaps forty (rods? gb) in the field owned by Thomas Croswell.  At this point will be located the Falls passenger and freight depot; and here we found the ground broken up to be graded by the road machine.  Continuing on, after quite a curve, we drove nearly due east, and soon came upon the road machine crew, and a short distance farther was a crew scraping.  On the machine was Luther Curtis with eight powerful horses ahead of him- and they were making the dirt fly.  Still farther along was Mr. Currier, the stone-worker, preparing low places and beds of brooks (Bragdon Brook and others) for reception of granite bridges or culverts. While ahead of them all is Leonard S. Keith and crew "bushing out" the four rod strip, moving trees and bushes.  By the way,  Mr. Keith has a novel way felling large trees; he fastens a tackle-and-fall in the treetop, the other end to the trunk of a distant tree, and pulls the tree over, roots and all, after which the tree is cut up into logs or sled- lengths and carted away. ------  After crossing Bragdon Brook, on the farm now owned and occupied by John Childs, (the Hosea Leighton farm) we  could drive no farther- although the crews have removed trees, stumps and bushes clear through to Muddy Brook, on the Weeks Mills Road- so we drove along a woodroad and out into the main road by Mr. Childs' house, the main road from the Falls to New Sharon; thence home."   

Glenn Byron

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009, 03:56:38 PM »
Ok Now We'll jump ahead 112 years and 2 mos.   My guide, Birchard Cook, Mason Rd. Farmington Falls, and I started out this morning at the former site of the Falls Depot and followed the FS&K railbed easterly as best we could toward New Sharon.  We begin where the power line crosses Mason Rd. essentially in a private driveway which follows the railbed in a field.  We bypass the house to the left and get to the back line of the field where the railbed would have turned hard left as shown clearly on the Paul Mills Blueprints.  We are now following the edge of the field about parallel with Mason Rd.  Soon the trail starts veering slightly away from the field but is easily followed by observing the ditches on each side of the railbed.  A few hundred yards into the woods we encounter the first culvert with granite headers forming about  a 1 X 1 X 2 channel for a small stream which is dammed up by  beaver.  My guide says he used to catch 20" trout here before the dam about 25 years ago.  Onward we push and though unmarked, we have crossed the  New Sharon Town Line.  We emerge from hard walking and find ourselves out in the open and a long look ahead is a snowmobile trail right on the railbed with at least a mile view.  Easy walking now and a big snowmobile bridge looms ahead. A 48' flatbed trailer with wheel assemblies removed forms the crossing of Bragdon Brook.  What you see here is the new channel formed when the stream ice jammed in the 80's and cut a route to the right of the old channel leaving the backside of the granite bridge exposed .  The original stream opening is 4 foot wide, 20 feet tall, and 50 feet wide.  A beautiful sight and we can only imagine the work to build this trestle.  I picked one particular base piece of granite on the upstream side, a block 2 X 2 X 5, which figures to 3360 pounds @ 168 pounds per cubic foot, the weight for granite as listed on a Google search.  One top cover granite slab figures at 8064 pounds for a 18 inch X 8 foot X 4 foot chunk. And the upper cover figures 4703 pounds for a 18 inch X 28 inch X 8 foot block.  Now these granite pieces came from Cape Cod Hill about 2 miles away from a quarry on the Smith Farm.  We can only awe at the work this one trestle created.  Remember no usual railroad equipment was used here.  All this was done with manpower, horsepower, mulepower, block and tackle combined with brute strength.  Now the big discovery of the day!  My guide says "Look in the bottom of the stream under the granite blocks."  There is the one foot square wooden timbers sawed at Mr. Atwood's Mill in Farmington Falls in 1897 and still doing their job holding up this whole trestle after 112 years.  My guide says that was what they used to set the granite on under water.  We wondered what type of wood this would be that would last this long.  Well, now we must move on and leave this seldom seen wonder behind still easterly bound straight ahead and easy going.  Another half mile and we encounter another snowmobile bridge over a much smaller stream.  Not much of the granite cribbing is left for us to see.  Probably a 10 foot drop to the stream below but highly obscured by brush filling the gorge, this one doesn't yield any good pictures.  We proceed on a few more hundred yards straight ahead and suddenly the nice trail ends with the snowmobile trail making a hard right.  We look ahead into the heavily wooded railbed and decide two old men have had enough.  Much easier to follow the snowmobile trail and we can barely hear the traffic on busy Route 2 a half mile to our right.  We emerge into a field by a saw mill just east of the Gage Farm and still a mile out of New Sharon and the well known Muddy Brook crossing.  A cell phone call to my guide's wife and we welcome the ride into New Sharon for lunch.  We then climb the Smith Rd., a left turn off the Cape Cod Hill Rd. and meet up with 2 generations of Smith's, one Jim Smith about 80+ years old and a real treat to talk with.  He's just full of old tales and I don't begin to have the time to absorb this as I should.  He says his grandfather, another Jim Smith, died in 1892 but left behind a diary covering the years 1870 to his death.  This diary was typed by Mr. Smith's wife and is available for us to review at a later date through the New Sharon Historical Society.  We viewed one of the quarries quickly and moved back to town.  Now we find ourselves in the back of the town cemetery and find the old FS&K Railbed along the back section just above the Sandy River.  This marks the end of the line as we know it today.  The river crossing was never made.  My guide and I tried to get into to Beal's Brook crossing area west of the Farmington Transfer Station Road but were unsuccessful today.  We did find the railbed in Farmington behind the Shoe Shop which would be near the fairgrounds.  A huge fill was made here of at least 25 feet to a small stream below.  There must be a granite culvert down there somewhere. This would be the Blount's Brook crossing mentioned in the article above.  A brief tour of the University parking lot which would have been on the end of the 1000 foot trestle near Cumberland Farms Store and the end of the day.  46 pictures in my computer, some of questionable value,  but a great day reliving 112 years of history and more when we get back to that diary.  BCNU,  Glenn


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« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 02:56:29 PM by Glenn Byron »

Duncan Mackiewicz

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 04:48:35 PM »
Glenn,
Great story.  Any chance some of those pics could be posted and shared?
Duncan

Glenn Byron

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2009, 05:15:46 PM »
Yes, I have 46 pictures, some of which are useful.  I would be happy to share them, but do not know how to post pictures on this site. Email me and I can send some individually.  Glenn

Dana Deering

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 07:23:55 PM »
I second that, Duncan.  Great story and thanks for sharing it!  I've seen a number of old dams now breached, where you can look down into the stream and see the timbers that supported the whold structure.  I'm always amazed by that.  Not sure what they used for wood, maybe oak or chestnut before the blight.  As long as the wood stays submerged in the silt it will last pretty much indefinitely.  The Brooklyn Bridge piers were built on huge oak planked structures that were submerged in the river and sunk down to bedrock.  Maybe they used chestnut when available since chestnut wood had a reputation for standing up to exposure to moisture, so much so that it was called "coffin wood", since it provided the occupant with the driest possible ride into eternity!

Hunt Dowse

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2009, 10:10:10 PM »
That's a great story and interesting to follow on the old topographic map for the area (http://docs.unh.edu/ME/farm24ne.jpg).  The map is 1924 and most of the locations mentioned are visible.  The main site for the maps is http://docs.unh.edu/nhtopos/nhtopos.htm.  It's interesting to follow the SR&RL, WW&F and others.  Prepare for hours of entertainment, uh, historical investigative work.

Mike Fox

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 01:05:50 AM »
Glenn, please check your messages. I have sent my contact info as I can post them here, as long as the server I use keeps running.
Mike
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Ed Lecuyer

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2009, 02:58:16 AM »
Actually, the better site for historic topos is:
http://historical.mytopo.com

It has a wider area of coverage
It includes additional maps not found on the UNH site
Using it (and linking to it) helps the WW&F in that it keeps me employed :-)


Ed Lecuyer
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Hunt Dowse

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2009, 12:22:28 PM »
Ed, that's a much more comprehensive site for the old maps and the formatting is better, too.
Thanks for the tip.

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2009, 02:03:42 PM »
Glenn,  Thanks for the post. I have only been to the trestle piers in New Sharon and walked the grade behind the cemetary.   Your trip provides a nice description of other parts that are left, it makes me want to see more of the line.

Ed,  Those are great maps.  I've spent some quality time reviewing the ones showing the SR&RL and WW&F.  Some of the maps were done in the 1920's and 30's so the railroads were still in place.   I like how the WW&F is marked on the Albion map as (narrow gage) good stuff.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2009, 02:33:07 PM by Stewart Rhine »

Mike Fox

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2009, 12:11:33 AM »
Glenn, the reason they put the wood in the stream bed was to prevent erosion. I have seen it in several bridges elsewhere in the state. And if the wood remains underwater, it will not rot. They have pulled old growth logs out of mill ponds that were cut over 100 years ago with no damage to the wood.
Mike
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Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2009, 11:06:45 AM »
Not on the FS&K but pertaining to Mikes post ...  If you walk south on the WW&F grade about 1/3 of a mile from Sheepscot Station you will come to where the railroad crossed the brook.  There are 4 wooden sub stringers in the water.  Originally there was a wooden box culvert but it was washed out in 1936.  The timbers, installed in 1894 survived and are in good shape.   They are under the foot bridge that Eric built a few years ago.   It's worth a walk down there to see them.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2009, 04:03:26 PM by Stewart Rhine »

Wayne Laepple

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Re: FS&K Railbed Fall 1897
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2009, 02:35:55 PM »
When I was railroading here in Pennsylvania for a living, an extremely heavy and lengthy fall rainstorm washed away the cinder embankment behind one abutment of a 20-foot bridge across a creek. In making the repairs, we discovered wooden timbers providing the base for the abutments and for the waterway beneath the bridge. The line had been built in 1858, and the timbers were still in good shape 130 years later! The only modernization we could document was when the wooden bridge structure was replaced with steel in 1896. At some point, though, concrete headers were added to the original stone facings to increase the height above the water by about a foot.