Author Topic: Steam Village in Gilford, NH  (Read 3367 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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Steam Village in Gilford, NH
« on: June 23, 2009, 01:37:11 AM »
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CogBee wrote:
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Hi All:

Does anyone know where I might be able to find any information and/or pictures related to Steam Village that operated in Gilford, NH during the mid-1960s?  It was situated on roughly 40 acres along Route 11, near the Laconia Airport and was only in business a handful of years.  I understand that it was owned and operated by Donald Beckner of Lancaster, Massachusetts and his friend Vincent Callahan.  They had at least two Henschel steam locomotives (which are now at the Boothbay Railway Village), a GE 23-tonner (which is now at the Maine Narrow Museum), and a steam tractor.  They built a depot on the property, incorporating trim work from the Thayer (South Lancaster), Massachusetts depot.  After Steam Village closed, their depot building was moved to nearby Weirs Beach in the mid 1970s, where it was incorporated into a Howard Johnson's Restaurant that was later destroyed by fire in the 1980s.  Up until at least the early 2000s, you could still see the remains of an old trestle and ROW on the property, which has seen a number of business come and go since its Steam Village days, including a bowling alley, a roller skating rink, and a convenience store.  This is basically all I know about Steam Village.  I have a couple of photo postcards, but that is it.  Having grown up in the town of Gilford, and having been a rail enthusiast all my life, artifacts and tid-bits concerning Steam Village have been surprisingly and unfortunately rare to come by.  With this in mind, any help or guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

Sincerely,
NateCB

Steve Zuppa replied:
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I remember seeing a picture of one of the Boothroyd boys in the cab of a locomotive labeled Steam Village at the Walker Transportation Collection of the Beverly (MA) Historical Society. You could google their website or I'm sure one of our guys would chime in with the link. They'd be the folks to ask. Richard Symmes would know.
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Bruce Wilson replied:
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Nate,
I have a small collection of Steam Village memorabilia based on one visit made by my father and I when I was a teen and on the few items located in the years since. I agree with you the S.V. ephemera is scarce.

I do recall that our museum member Ellis Walker worked in engine service on the Steam Village railroad and he wrote about his experiences in one of his (W.W. & F. Ry. Museum newsletter) "Musings" columns.

The W.W. & F. Ry. Museum archives department is in the process of inventorying its collections now and will include Steam Village within its research files. In addition to Steam Village, we will include reference materials on other two foot gage park-tourist and industrial-mill operations. Please keep on the lookout for anything from Pleasure Island, Freedomland, Frontierland, Steam Village, Loon Mountain, Edaville, etc.

At this time, we have within the archives a collection of Freedomland photos showing Edaville equipment in the Bronx, and a nice series of photos showing the (slightly less than two foot gage industrial operation) at the old American Thread Co. plant in Milo, Maine. Please feel free to drop by any Saturday to see these collections.

Nate, If I know you are planning a visit to the W.W. & F. Ry. Museum, I will make it a point to bring my own Steam Village collection for you to see.
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Wanted: Photographs by Linwood Moody, Phil Bonnet, Lawrence Brown and other first generation narrow gage rail enthusiasts. Also seeking collectibles, ephemera and correspondence offered by and exchanged between narrow gage enthusiasts.

CogBee replied:
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Hi Bruce:

Sorry for taking a while to get back to you.  Thank you very much for the information on Steam Village.  It's sounds like I should definitely plan a visit to the W.W. & F. Ry. Museum in the near future.  I would very much enjoy seeing your own Steam Village collection along with anything that the Museum may have in its archives, including the Ellis Walker article.  Actually, I read some more about this article on the Edaville forum last night, and it apparently gives a good synopsis and account on Steam Village and it's short-lived operations (which would certainly be very helpful to me).  I really don't know all that much about it.

I moved to Gilford in 1978, several years after Steam Village closed, so I never got to see it.  But I do remember the railroad depot as part of the old Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Gandy Dancer Saloon complex at Weirs Beach and recall well when the entire structure burned to the ground in the early 1980s.  Also, growing up in Gilford as a train chaser (with my dad), I often passed by that one remaining trestle on the property and wondered how picturesque it must have been in years past with two foot rails and Henschel 0-4-0s steaming across its trusses.  All I have ever seen by means of photographs were a couple of postcards and a bird-eye photo that I spotted at the Laconia Airport some 10-12 years ago.

Anyway, I will keep you posted on my now impending trip to the Museum.  Thanks again...and thanks to Steve on that tip about Walker Transportation Collection.  I will have to touch base with them as well.  I appreciate all the help on this somewhat obscure subject.

Sincerely,
NateCB

Mike Fox replied:
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Nate,
The trip to Walker transportation is well worth it. Many artifacts to be found there. A good rainy day adventure, as long as they are open.
Mike

Steam replied:
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We have a folder of 8x10 photos (about a dozen) of the Steam Village RR. Our good friend Harold Boothroyd's twin brother, Howard, was a regular volunteer up there, as was former Walker Collection volunteer Warren Hay. Both of them have long since passed away. We have much of Warren's photos and negatives, and there may be some Steam Village material among them which hasn't been catalogued yet. I remember riding the train in the 1960s and wasn't too impressed... it was pretty tame stuff when compared with Steamtown and Edaville.

Anyone is welcome to come look through our images. We are open Wednesday evenings from 7 to 10, and Tuesdays from 10 to 4. We usually have someone here on Saturdays, but call before making a trip.

Richard W. Symmes, Curator
Walker Transportation Collection
Beverly Historical Society & Museum
117 Cabot Street
Beverly, MA 01915

978-922-1186

http://www.walkertrans.org (site undergoing revamping)
Ed Lecuyer
Moderator, WW&F Forum