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Messages - Roger Whitney

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The Monson Blog / Monson Rolling Stock
« on: June 15, 2012, 10:20:37 AM »

   Most students of the Monson Railroad are generally familiar with what they had for rolling stock.  But for those of you who aren’t, lets take a quick look at what they had.
   Monson started out with Locomotives No.1 and No.2.  They were both built by Hinckley and were nearly identical.  Later in 1913, after 30 years, they were wearing out and were replaced by No. 3 in 1913 and 4 in 1918. They were both built by Vulcan Iron Works.  These were nearly identical also with but a few differences.  This was the only motive power the Monson had, with the possible exception of a motorized work car built by Elwin French.
   Next were the boxcars.  There were eight of them numbered 1 thru 8.  They measured 26 feet long.  Originally in 1883 there were only TWO boxcars, the other six being converted from flatcars.  They were unique in that they had side ladders next to their side doors. See blog number 24.
   There were three different flatcar lengths.  Eight 25-foot cars were numbered 9 thru 16.  Numbers 17 thru 22 were 26 feet long.  And flats 23 and 24 were 26 footers which were purchased after the Boyd-Harvey Lumber company was done with them.  See blog No. 7. 
   Of course the Monson was in the snow belt of Maine so they had to have a snow plow.  But curiously they didn’t have one for years until one was eventually ordered.  When it finally came, it was not numbered.  Also they had a snow spreader built on flatcar No. 9’s body to push the snow back.  It was a curious affair.  If you happen to have my book published in 1988 there is a line drawing of this unique piece of equipment.
   And lastly, the Monson had just ONE piece of passenger equipment. It was a combination car 28 foot 3 inches long, built by Laconia Car company.  It was numbered 3 but early on it was numbered 1. I’ll do a more detailed future blog on this combine.
   Except for a few handcars that’s about it.  Not much is it?  But the fleet served the Monson well for 60 years!

The Monson Blog / The Switzerland of Maine
« on: June 07, 2012, 06:52:08 PM »

   Today we see a lot of travel brochures in restaurants and other public places and in some cases small booklets promoting wonderful places and things to do. This isn’t anything new, as in 1899, some local businesses in Monson published a booklet called “Monson, The Switzerland of Maine”.  Evidently it was time to shout to the whole world what a paradise Monson Maine was.  This booklet used to be kind of rare until a reproduction published in 1995 made it a lot more common.
   It is interesting reading.  There are advertisements from an outfitter in Boston, the Maine Central Railroad, Bangor & Piscataquis and Monson Railroads, Lake Hebron Hotel, J.F. Sprague, Monson’s resident lawyer, the Monson Maine Slate company which is behind all this advertising and finally Hind’s Black Fly Cream!
   The first article on page nine explains how wonderful Monson is.  The mountains and hills are beautiful, Lake Hebron is full of fish, the climate “has no superior” in Maine, (they didn’t say which season!) and there are panoramas everywhere.
   The second article on page 27 gives a rather interesting account of the Monson Maine Slate Company.  There are quite a few facts and figures concerning their product line.
   And so, after reading this 32-page booklet anyone would want to go to Monson! It really is quite a scenic area. And of course the only way to get there, according to the booklet, is on “the petite Narrow Gauge Monson Railroad”!  I think I’ll head up this weekend.  Too bad I can’t hop on the Monson to get there!

The Monson Blog / Re: The Monson Gets A New Handcar
« on: June 07, 2012, 06:50:37 PM »
Thanks Duncan!

The Monson Blog / Re: The Monson Gets A New Handcar
« on: May 31, 2012, 07:34:25 PM »
Steve,  The picture of the Monson hand car looks like a hand crank model with chain and sprocket drive.  If someone has an old Kalamazoo catalog and can find their No. 6 model, we'd have it.  There must be some old catalogs out there!
Wayne, thanks for the extra info on this!

The Monson Blog / Re: The Monson Gets A New Handcar
« on: May 31, 2012, 11:31:59 AM »
Sorry for the sequence mix up with last week's blog!

The Monson Blog / Re: The Big 94 and the Little 4
« on: May 31, 2012, 11:29:39 AM »
Thank you Bill!  I figured someone out there would have more info!

The Monson Blog / The Monson Gets A New Handcar
« on: May 31, 2012, 11:28:07 AM »

   It’s the fall of 1910 and it seems the Monson was in need of a new or additional handcar.  An inquiry was sent out to the Kalamazoo Railway Supply Co. among others.  By November 9, 1910 Kalamazoo had returned a quote giving price and specs for a “No. 6 hand car for 24” gauge track”.
   Evidently it took a while for Supt. Morrill to get around to it as he didn’t reply to Kalamazoo until May 20th, 1911!
   Let’s take a look at Kalamazoo Railway Supply Co. The Kalamazoo Railroad Velocipede and Car Company was founded in 1883 in Kalamazoo Michigan.  By 1901 it had changed its name to Kalamazoo Railway Supply Co. It manufactured hand and push cars, velocipedes, motor cars, jacks, tanks, stand pipes and other products needed for railroad work.  The company survived in various forms until the 1990’s.
   Anyway, Kalamazoo advised that the car be “made with their low gearing of 60:32."  Morrill wanted to know how fast this car could be propelled with that gear ratio.  Later he clarifies that by asking how fast the car can be propelled on LEVEL track.  He further states that the grade the men would be required to propel the car by hand would be about 2%. 
   Even though the Monson letter press is an awesome source of information going out to various parties, the incoming replies have been mainly lost.  In this case I have not found the original Kalamazoo letter in the archives.  It would be really great to know the price and specs and “how fast” it would go.
   Pictures of Monson hand cars are extremely rare, with only one known picture.  On page 10 of the Jones book, and on page 115 of the Kohler book, there is a picture of a hand crank model taken about 1890.  I wonder if this one was damaged or maybe they just needed another one.  The 1916 inventory lists the Kalamazoo handcar, but not the old one in the picture.

The Monson Blog / The Big 94 and the Little 4
« on: May 24, 2012, 11:26:38 AM »

   One of my favorite pictures of the Monson is on page 93 in the Jones Book.  It shows Bangor & Aroostook ten-wheeler No. 94 switching the B&A side of the yard and in the background Monson No. 4 taking on water.  Lets take a closer look at these engines.
   B&A No. 94 along with sisters 93 and 95 were common motive power on the Greenville Branch in the later years of the Monson.  They were designated class D-3 and built by Alco-Manchester in November of 1911.  There were six locomotives in this class numbered 90 thru 95.  With a few minor differences these locomotives all looked alike. This class had 20 x 26 inch cylinders, 63 inch drivers and carried 200 psi boiler pressure.  Fully loaded they weighed 165,100 pounds.  Pictures show that they had various length tenders, some shorter than others.
   These fairly light locomotives were used on the branch to accomidate the weight restrictions on Bunker Brook Trestle.  After steam had disappeared, specially modified (lightened) BL-2’s were used because of this restriction.
   The D-3’s were rather graceful looking locomotives and were typical branch line power for their time.  Roundhouse used to make a very close model of this locomotive called their “Harriman”.  You could even get the short coal tenders.  They looked good but their gearing and motor left a little to be desired.  I had one numbered B&A 93 but lost it in a fire.
   To the right of No. 94 in the picture is Monson Vulcan No. 4. taking on water.  I’ll be talking about watering at the Junction in a future blog.
   Vulcan No. 4 was built in 1918 by Vulcan Iron Works in Wilks-Barre PA.  She weighed 40,300 pounds (3300 pounds heavier than No. 3 according to some sources) and had 30-inch drivers.  This is a little curious.  I have conflicting information on the weight and driver diameter. No. 3 had 33 inch drivers and was a little lighter.  Maybe the Monson brass decided that if No. 4 was a little heavier and had slightly smaller drivers, she’d have a little more tractive effort.  Maybe someone at Maine Narrow Gauge can confirm that No. 4 has indeed 30 inch drivers. Anyway the 10 x 14 inch cylinders and 165 pound boiler pressure was the same.  Both No’s 3 and 4 had the unique Franklin clamshell type fire doors.  I believe these were unique to the Monson.
   You can still see the footings for Bunker Brook Trestle, especially when the leaves are off the trees.  It’s a little hike down a steep slope, but it’s worth it.

The Monson Blog / A Cab Ride to the Junction Part 2
« on: May 16, 2012, 10:47:47 AM »

   In the last blog we stopped at Day’s Crossing flag stop to pick up a few passengers going to the Junction.  We’ll continue.
   Engineer Elwin French gets the high ball from the conductor.  With his left hand he starts the lubricator, then leans forward to put the Johnson bar full ahead, whistles off, releases the brakes and pulls back a little on the throttle.  There’s a hiss of steam as the cylinder drains are open.  We begin to cross the North Guilford  road.  Soon Elwin kicks the cylinder cocks closed and we pick up speed around a long broad curve to the right.
   Fireman Albin Johnson says that from here on, the grade goes down a little steeper, as we get closer to the Junction.  Day’s crossing is at about 700 feet and the Junction is 422 feet.  We’ve got about 3 miles to go.
   After a few minutes we enter a heavily wooded area.  It’s a nice ride in the woods.  Elwin says that they’ve seen a lot of deer in here and train crews have been known to do a little hunting now and then from the train!  No. 3 really isn’t working very hard, but Albin is careful to keep the fire up and a little extra water in the boiler, in preparation for the long down grade ahead.
   The grade starts to steepen a little more by the time we get to Leeman Brook trestle.  Elwin blows for brakes and you can tell the conductor/brakeman is on the ball as we could feel the braking effect.  After Leeman Brook, the grade flattens out a little by the time we get to Ladd Brook Trestle.  This trestle is a little higher than most on the Monson.  It looks like about twenty feet down to the rocky stream bed.
   The grade is pretty flat now as we approach State Route 15 which goes north to Greenville.  Elwin blows for the crossing and we clatter across.  Albin puts a little more water in the boiler and checks his fire. After crossing the road, we curve to the left and the Junction Station comes into view.  Engineer French applies the steam brakes and comes to a halt spotting the combine right at the platform and walkway which connects to the station.  The conductor calls out that all passengers depart here for points north and south on the B&A 
   We thank the engine crew and head to the B&A station.  Maybe we can get a cab ride on the B&A! We’ll have to ask Agent Giles Fogg.  But wait!  Maybe we can watch the Monson boys switch the yard!

The Monson Blog / A Cab Ride to the Junction Part 1
« on: May 10, 2012, 11:24:04 AM »

   Many of us have been fortunate enough to have had a cab ride in either Monson 3 or 4 at sometime or another.  My first was at Edaville way back in the ‘60s when I was a kid.  Later I’ve had the experience of enjoying the Portland waterfront as viewed from a Monson cab.  Moody said that he didn’t ride the Monson cabs much because they were a “little too soon” and “cracking a skull and parting a man’s hair in the middle.” I never had much trouble with that and it was worth a little part in my hair anyway.
   Lets go into the station and get a ticket …maybe we can get a cab ride too! Harold Morrill is in the station office sitting at his desk.  As we come in, he comes to the ticket window.  He is a very polite man and we ask if we could ride the cab. We buy a ticket (40 cents each) and  Mr. Morrill said just ask the engine crew for the cab ride.
   Albin Johnson was firing and Elwin French were running No. 3 today with a light train.  We asked the crew if we could ride the cab. They said sure come up. It was only a few steps “up”. Albin politely asked us to stand behind the engineer so he would have room to swing the coal scoop.  Like everything else on this two-footer, the scoop was really pretty small com pared to the big B&A engines.
     Elwin was busy adjusting the Detroit lubricator while Albin put the finishing touches on his fire.  The low rumble of the injector indicated he was putting a little water in the boiler, probably to keep it from popping off.
   Elwin, who was running today, asked Albin who was firing if he was all set.
   Albin replied in the affirmitive, shutting off the injector and closing the blower valve. Elwin started the lubricator, shoved the Johnson bar full ahead and pulled out on the throttle a little.  He whistles off and is immediately on Water Street. 
   We cross Mill Brook which is really just on the south side of Water street.  Albin informs us that we have about half a mile to go to Stevens Crossing.  By now we’re rolling along nicely about 10 mph.  A few light shovels of coal go on the fire.  Albin explains that it will be an easy trip down as we have a light train and we will be dropping from about 800 feet in elevation to 422 feet at the junction. 
   Just before we get to Stevens Crossing, we roll along on a long narrow fill which seems to be heavily ballasted with waste slate. Elwin says that there was a long 645 foot trestle here built when the railroad was built. Somewhere around 1890 they filled it in with wasted slate from the quarries. It averaged about 15 feet in depth and took them about a year and a half to fill it all by hand labor!
   Elwin blew for Stevens crossing, and Albin started the injector.  Its about another half mile to the Portland Monson Slate Company siding and long shed. Albin said they used to haul a lot of slate from here, but business has dropped off for several years. You could tell, there were a lot of weeds growing up between the rails.
   Another half mile and we rumble over Hammond Brook trestle.  Albin opens the unique Franklin firedoors and puts a few scoops of coal on the fire. The grade then levels out a little and then drops down slightly as we cross over Pullen’s Cattle Pass and approach Day’s Crossing and the flag stop. 
   There’s a flag up at the shelter indicating someone wants to get on the train, so Elwin applies a little steam brake and comes to a smooth stop at Days.  Albin starts the injector again and cracks open the blower valve. We’re about half way, maybe a little more to the junction.
   The next blog will take us the rest of the way!

The Monson Blog / Stub Switches on the Monson
« on: May 04, 2012, 01:58:38 PM »

   One of the unique features of the Monson was it’s stub switches and harp (sometimes called banjo) switch stands.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that the railroad was built with them, but that they never changed them for the split switch type.
   Linwood Moody stated,  “No split switches followed the ante-bellum stub switches with their so called banjo switch stands.”  “Ante-bellum” means before the civil war.  He also stated that at the slate plant  ”there were stub switches enough to have rebuilt the Georgia Railroad after Sherman’s nefarious orgy”.  I love those Moodyisms! In all the Monson books, there are numerous photos of these switches and stands.
   Lets take a closer look at these unique switches. 
        A stub switch is one that has both mainline rails approaching the ends of the rails of the diverging routes. A simple switch mechanism, consisting of a long lever is mounted on a cast iron bracket called a harp or banjo switch stand.  The lever is connected to the rails with a sturdy bar which aligns (bends) the movable rails with the rails of one of the diverging route(s).                                         This is fairly old railroad technology common in the Civil War era.  Why the Monson was built with this in mind must have been something to do with the stub switches being cheaper, a common theme for the whole life of the Monson.     
        Anyway, the rails leading up to a stub switch are not secured to the ties for a considerable distance. Rail alignment across the gap between the rails is sometimes braced to keep the gauge. Stub switches require literally bending the rails to align them with the diverging route. Hence the term “bending the iron” when referring to throwing a switch. Generally these switches cannot be used for high speed because of the danger of the rails not aligning just right.  Also in winter, a lot more snow has to be removed to make the switch functional.  Another problem is that in very hot weather, expansion of the steel in the rails can cause the movable rails to butt up against the stock rails, making switching impossible until the rails have cooled and contracted. I have never heard of this problem with the Maine two-footers because most stub switches were designed with enough gap to compensate for this.
          The WW&F Railway Museum has a three-way stub switch at the throat of the Sheepscot Yard.  Take a look at it sometime.  It works well in the yard, since trains move very slowly in that area.

The Monson Blog / Dismantling the Monson
« on: April 26, 2012, 11:42:08 AM »

        Note: My apologies for missing last week’s blog. I fully intend to have the blog come out every Thursday at noon.  I was on “vacation” in Abbot doing some emergency house repair, just a few miles from Monson Junction! Not much of a vacation though!

   The last two blogs dealt with the end times of the Monson Railroad, so I might as well finish this depressing subject.
   October and November 1943 saw no activity on the Monson.  There must have been some bidding going on with various junkmen.  Ultimately the track was sold to Rochester Iron & Metal Company of Rochester NY. According to the Jones book, scrapping started in December of 1943.  The rolling stock, except for a few flatcars, were pushed into a nearby quarry pit and the car bodies toppled over the edge. The bodies were burned. Then the rails to the quarry were removed. I wonder which quarry? The salvageable scrap was then taken to the Jct (how? Maybe I’m a little out of sequence here) and loaded onto gondolas for the trip to New York.
   There doesn’t seem to be much documentation of the junking of the road.  Jones’ book states that pictures are pretty rare.  It seems strange, that with the railroad such a big part of Monson life for 60 years, that it’s junking seemed to go largely unnoticed by the townspeople, at least the photographers.  Past WW&F President Larson Powell, however was there and took some pictures.
   Engine No. 3 was steamed up and pulled the dead No. 4 to the Junction.  I have heard tell over the years that the No. 3 was in such bad condition during this time that her severely worn running gear pounded and squealed so bad you could feel it through the fabric of the locomotive. Paul Jackson was running and I don’t know who was firing, but hardly any maintenance was done, just enough to get by. Slowly the scrap train made it’s way to the junction tearing up the tiny 30 pound rail as it went. I wonder on what date the last train actually left Monson for all time? (Or at least until 1997) That rail was then transferred to the B&A.  The transfer must have been by hand!  What a job! And in the middle of the winter! Anyone who has worked on the WW&F track crew knows how hard that is in warmer weather, let alone winter!
   Engines 3 and 4 were winched onto flatcars and sent to Rochester. Soon after, what was left of the company was purchased by the Monson Power and Light Co. More on that later.  The Monson Railroad was gone!
        Moody’s benediction at the end of his second Monson Railroad chapter is especially moving.  It is a lament for all the Maine Two-Footers but seems especially appropriate for the Monson. “…from the first 8-miler to the last 6-miler the short fascinating era of the lilliputs had burst into being like a proud burst of music in 1877.  It had bloomed and boomed through 67 years maybe with George Mansfield’s enthusiasm and faith as an impetus.  It had wilted, withered and died in 1943….And maybe gone to seed with his fond benediction.”

The Monson Blog / The Monson After Passenger Service
« on: April 12, 2012, 11:56:02 AM »

   Last week I wrote about the end of passenger service on the Monson.  But what happened after the little Laconia Combine was pushed into a siding and abandoned?
   Passenger service ended on November 1, 1938 and longtime supt. Morrill retired a month later on December 1, 1938.  It looked like the end was near.  But the Monson survived for another 5 years! 
   The Monson ceased to become a common carrier soon after the termination of passenger service. Since the slate company owned the railroad for a long time prior to this, it became just another industrial railroad.  According to Bob Jones, the slate company stated that they could operate a locomotive and 28 cars for less money than it would cost to purchase and operate trucks. They were counting on the fact that even though the railroad was deteriorating, they could still operate until the equipment was so broken down that it was unusable.
   Despite the slate company’s view of not operating trucks, they never-the-less began to appear. Trains began to run less frequently and only if there was a slate shipment too big for the trucks. The Monson still had the mail contract which went by truck.  But there was polishing sand to be moved to the slate finishing sheds and the only practical way to move it was by the railroad.  It took three flatcars with side boards to equal a standard gage gondola, and it all had to be shoveled by hand from the B&A and later off loaded at the finishing sheds in Monson. They must have had some coal to haul for the slate company also.
   In February of 1941, the Monson had the distinction of being the last of the original Maine Two-Footers when the B&H was finally abandoned.  It evidently hit the Monson boys pretty hard. But demand for slate increased after December 7, 1941.  Business boomed but it was too late!  By that time, the infrastructure of the Monson was in such disrepair that it couldn’t handle the demands on it. Derailments to and from the junction each trip were common place.  The train crew was about the only employees left and had to do any track repairs necessary to get over the line.
   On July 12, 1943 the slate company received permission to begin common carrier service by motor truck and on August 14, 1942 the company applied to the PUC to cease all operations and dismantle trackage.  On October 4, 1943 permission was granted.
   Another blog will discuss the dismantling of the Monson.

The Monson Blog / Monson’s Last Timetable
« on: April 05, 2012, 12:09:48 PM »

   Few things in the history of any railroad is sadder than the announcement of the end of passenger service.  On the Monson, riding to the Junction meant getting there in Combine No. 3 AND sitting next to your friends and neighbors you knew most of your life.  Kind of a dual purpose social-and-business event. You could catch up on the local gossip (news) and I’m sure that sometimes business was transacted too.  These were the golden days of the Monson when the combine always had passengers and the horseless buggy was a “fad”.
   But all things change.  The automobile slowly made it possible for the people of Monson to go anywhere they wished at any time and in the solitude of their private car. But the price, for that private transportation, was losing the social aspect of riding to the Junction and visiting on the way.  A slower way of life was passing, but few realized it.
   The last timetable was issued on September 26, 1938.  The Monson met the B&A train to Greenville at 9:28 am (train No.9 westbound) and train No. 12 at 3:33pm (eastbound).  By this time there were very few passengers and probably the mail contract was about the only paying “customer”.  Soon after this last timetable was published, it was announced that passenger service would end on November 1, 1938. 
   Bob Jones, in his Monson book, relates that on the last passenger run, the engineer of “No. 12 (B&A) whistled extra long as it headed eastward”, and Engineer French on No. 3 “replied in kind”.  “Then the locomotive (No. 3) with the combination car in tow chuffed slowly northward with the last revenue passenger train to run on the Monson Railroad”.  I wonder how many passengers were on that train to observe the passing of an era. Maybe no one noticed.
   Jones states some interesting figures concerning Monson’s passenger service:  the little combine traveled approximately 625,000 miles and made over 100,000 trips over the six mile road in it’s 55-year history.  A lot of miles, a lot of memories!
   Even now when I stand by the Junction station in the beauty of a crisp fall day, I imagine that I can hear No. 3’s 3-chime whistle off in the distance lamenting its passage into history. Try it sometime…I know you’ll hear it too!

The Monson Blog / The 6th Maine Regiment Rides the Monson
« on: March 29, 2012, 11:47:39 AM »

   Most of the two foot railroads in Maine held special excursions from time to time. On August 9, and 10, 1905 the 6th Maine Veterans met in Monson for their Association meeting. 
   Before we go on let’s look at a very brief history of the 6th Maine Infantry.  Many of you I’m sure are better versed in the history of the 6th Maine, and can add some here. It was mustered into service in Portland on July 15, 1861 and mustered out on August 15, 1864, completing their three year enlistment.  They saw service in most of the battles of the civil War up to the time they were mustered out.  They were most notable in their action at Maryes Heights at Fredricksburg.  The 6th Maine was at Gettysburg and played a prominent roll on day one. A monument commerating their action states that the 6th Maine  “Held this position (west of Gettysburg?)?July 3, 1863.?In afternoon moved to support of centre, then to Big Round Top.”  They then distinguished themselves at Rappahannock Station Virginia on November 7, 1863 where they were very prominent in that fight.  Many of the veterans were mustered out in 1864 but some were transferred to the 1st Maine Veteran Regt. and the 7th Maine.
   Back to the excursion…..The new superintendent, Harold Morrill, organized a warm reception for them in Monson Railroad style.  A flatcar with seats and railing installed was coupled in front of the engine followed by the coach coupled behind it.  Morrill stated that “that should be enough room for them.”  This was an early glimpse of future operations when the Monson engines were in the middle of the train. (see September 22, 2011 blog)
   The veterans were then taken for a tour of the railroad with an hour stop over at the slate company’s shops to see the operations there.  It must have been a grand time!  But this wasn’t all for free.  A special excursion rate of 40 cents was charged the veterans.
   Maybe someone would know, but I wonder why the 6th Maine chose Monson for their meeting?  I know the 20th Maine Company B (I think) had a lot of Piscataquis County boys in it.  Was it that way with the 6th Maine also?  Anyway, everyone must have had a good time.  Considering the average age of combatants in 1861 might be around 20 years old, the veterans in 1905 were an aging group and the bench seats on the flatcar combined with the freight springs in the trucks must have been a little uncomfortable!

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