Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Roger Whitney

Pages: 1 2 [3]
The Monson Blog / A View From Homer Hill
« on: November 10, 2011, 02:47:03 PM »
   There were several quarries north of Monson Station of which there are quite a few pictures.  North of the station there was the Monson Pond, Eureka and Kineo to name a few. The road going down to the former Moosehead Furniture (Chapin Ave.) goes between Monson Pond and Kineo quarries. The furniture complex was the former slate finishing sheds. If you haven’t seen these huge holes in the ground, you really should take a look the next time you go through Monson.  They are a real sight to behold.  More on the quarries in a future blog.
        But the Monson also hauled a lot of slate from the Homer Hill operations too.  Homer Hill rises up on the northwest edge of the village about 140 feet above the village center. Hebron Pond, Dirigo and Eastern quarries (left to right) were located on the southeast slope. On page 11 of the Jones book there is one of my favorite pictures of the Monson.  It shows one of the Hinkleys along with the combine sitting up on Homer Hill.  This picture was taken facing the southwest. In the background is Russell Mountain in Blanchard about 6 miles away, and to the far left is Lake Hebron.  The date would be in the early wood burning years before 1900 because of the balloon stack of the loco.  
   How did the railroad get from the station on water street (807 feet elevation) to the Homer Hill quarries(947 feet elevation)?  The line to Homer Hill ran north of the station between the engine house and the car shed, curved slightly to the left, crossing Chapin Ave.  After crossing Chapin Ave. it passed Imperial quarry on the left and then crossed the Greenville Road which is now Route 6 and 15.  On the west side of the road is where the grade gets pretty steep.
         According to the map on page 137 of the Jones book, the grade made a steady left hand curve which eventually ended in two fishhook spurs to Hebron Pond and Dirigo quarries.  However in the picture, it looks like there is in fact a switchback.  The map is dated November 26, 1917, so many changes to the trackage probably happened to accomidate the expanding quarries.
         There must have been some interesting operational challenges operating this branch. Since Monson locomotives weren’t turned, they had to back up the steep Homer Hill branch (5%) which would create a potential low water problem in the boilers.  They must have had to carry the water pretty high to cover the crown sheets.  And then getting loaded flatcars DOWN the 5% grade must have provided some excitement at times.
          Today this is private property with an operating quarry up on the hill.  Driving by the site on the Greenville road, it is rather difficult to actually see where the grade was. However using Google Earth and the MyTopo Historical topo maps, you can pretty much follow where the right of way went up Homer Hill.

The Monson Blog / “….a nice eight miles an hour”
« on: November 03, 2011, 11:44:22 AM »

        Opposite page 39 in the Moody book, he stated that the train was going “a nice 8 miles an hour”.   That was nearing the end of scheduled operations when he visited the Monson.
   But how fast did the Monson trains run before then?  Lets look at some timetables and do some figuring!
   June 4, 1906…..the timetable showed five trains a day.  Using the scheduled times and doing the math, this was about 18 miles per hour.  This is an average, as the flag stop at Days Crossing had to be figured in.  Even though the stop at Day’s couldn’t have been long, it took time to brake, stop and start again.  So probably Stanley Stevens, was doing better than 18 miles an hour.

June 4, 1906
Lv.   Monson       550      900     1200  355   625   
Arr.   Monson Junction   610   920   1220   415   645
Lv.   Monson Junction    618   947   1228   432   712
Arr.   Monson      638   1007   1248   452   712   
      18 miles an hour 

        The June 4 timetable had 61.6 scheduled miles per day running. And then there were unscheduled freights between the advertised.  Train crews had to be pretty busy.
   But times changed by 1925.  Only two trains were left on the schedule and they averaged about 10.5 miles an hour.   But there’s an anomaly here.  Most trains on this schedule took 35 minutes to reach the junction but the first train of the day took 55 minutes!!  What took so long?  Was there a lot of switching at the Portland-Monson siding just south of town?

May 1925  Timetable         
Lv.    Monson      835   320       
Arr.   Monson Junction   930   355
Lv    Monson Junction   1000   408
Arr.   Monson      1035   443
            10 miles an hour

   The September 1935 timetable shows two trains, but taking 30 minutes to go the 6.16 miles, a little faster than in 1925.   

Sept 30, 1935 Timetable
Lv.   Monson      825   240     
Arr.   Monson Junction    855   310
Lv.    Monson Junction   930   322
Arr.   Monson      1000   355
            12.32 miles an hour
   So it looks like the Monson never burned up the rails with fast running, like the SR&RL did on the Rangeley run, but they racked up some serious mileage. Maybe that’s why Moody said the 30 pound rails were in great shape as far as wear was concerned when they scrapped the Monson. Back in 1906, they ran 19,280 scheduled miles a year. Not bad for a six mile railroad!

The Monson Blog / Two Sand Domes Are Better Than One
« on: October 27, 2011, 10:54:37 AM »
Two Sand Domes are Better Than One

   The two “machines” (Morrill liked to call them that) which Monson bought from Vulcan in 1913 and 1918 had a very distinctive look to them.  They didn’t have the same look as the reverse curve roofs of the Hinckley’s or the bold look of the Baldwins or the clean lines of the Porters that the other two-footers had.
   But what makes them look different at first glance?  The Monson Vulcans had TWO sand domes, not just one.  This begged the question…. how many other two-footers had two sand domes?  Out came all my two-footer books. It turns out just one.  WW&F No. 6, a  Baldwin, was the only other Maine two-footer with two sand domes.  No. 6 was a big prairie type with a longer boiler and had room for those two domes.
        But it turns out the Monson Vulcans were the only Maine two-foot forneys to have two sand domes.  Kind of an interesting bit of useless trivia, but I’m sure the Monson was glad to be able to sand the drive wheels when running in either direction for those tough 5% grades!

The Monson Blog / Flatcars 23 and 24: The Boyd-Harvey Connection
« on: October 20, 2011, 11:09:25 AM »
Flatcars 23 and 24: The Boyd-Harvey Connection

   NOVEMBER 10, 1916-  In a letter to the Monson Slate Co. management (now the owners of the Monson Railroad since 1908) Superintendent Morrill advised them that he had traveled to Portland and bought two flatcars and two four-wheeled trailers from Perry, Buxton & Doane, a used equipment firm.
   These were originally numbered 1 and 2 but Monson renumbered them 23 and 24.  But where did they come from?  Lets look at a little northwoods history…….
   The Carry Pond and Carry Brook Railroad (CP&CB) was built in 1911 as a two-foot railroad. It was owned by the Boyd-Harvey Lumber Co. to haul lumber and mostly cedar ties from the Penobscot watershed to Moosehead Lake.  It started at or near Seboomook which is located at GPS 45.880n, 69.736w  in the northwest region of Moosehead Lake. It then followed Carry Brook in a westward direction for several miles and meandered 14 miles up into the Penobscot River watershed.  You can trace some of the railroad row using on-line historical topo maps ( and Google Earth. 
        A sawmill was located three quarters of a mile from the Moosehead Lake end of the railroad to cut mainly railroad ties.  The ties were then dumped into a three quarter mile sluceway where they were dumped into Moosehead Lake. It ran under private ownership until the last two years, when it was run by the USRA (war administration). Equipment consisted of a dozen flatcars, a number of Portland Co. log trucks and an 0-4-0 ST “dabble tank” locomotive.
   The railroad was dismantled in 1918-1919. However some of the flatcars may have been “surplus” because six became available in November of 1916 and the railroad lasted into the war years.  Why would they get rid of  their flatcars?
        However, sometime in 1919, the railroad equipment as well as the sawmill machinery was loaded on a scow owned by John E. Lamb of Rockwood, hauled by the steamboat VIOLET to Rockwood and unloaded at the MEC wharf at Kineo Station.  The 0-4-0ST was stored for 3 years at Kineo.  According to Mr. Lamb, owner of the scow, the  locomotive “looked like Monson #1 or #2 but had a “dabble Tank”.
   Anyway, another entry states that six flats were unloaded from the “Lamb scow” at Greenville Jct. and shipped out on the B&A to Portland where Morrill heard of them, went down to Portland and bought two of them.  (One source says all 6 were shipped directly to the Monson via the B&A, but I haven’t seen ANY evidence that any more than two were bought by the Monson) The new flats were of heavier construction than what the Monson originally had, and had an additional 2 ton capacity. They were also longer and a little wider. The CP&CB flats were 28’6” long and 6’8” wide as opposed to Monson’s existing flats being 26’ long and 6’6”wide.  The new cars had a  22000 pound capacity and cost the Monson $200.00 each. Morrill seemed delighted to have them! The two trailers were constructed of  hard pine and oak and cost $25.00 each.  They were used to haul waste slate for ballast. 
         Now………… what is a “dabble tank”?  Same as a saddle tank?  A saddle tank two-footer? The ST designation suggests that.  And what happened to the other six CP&CB flatcars?  Anyone know? Maybe it’s all buried in the Maine P.U.C. records of 1918…….

The Monson Blog / Monson Railroad Begins Operations 128 Years Ago
« on: October 13, 2011, 11:04:22 AM »
Monson Railroad  Begins Operations 128 Years Ago

         October is always a special month not only because of the change of the seasons with all it’s brilliant colors, but it is also the month when the Monson Railroad started regular operations.  The railroad was chartered on November 1, 1882 and by the end of the summer of 1883, it was “built”.  “Built” can be a relative term!
         The first run was on Wednesday, Sept 5, 1883 with great fanfare!  Even though the railroad commissioners and parties had great things to say about the new two-footer, the little secret hardly mentioned in the newspaper clipping was that it was largely unballasted!  Imagine that!  Making a trip to Monson over freshly laid track with very little ballast!  And with the railroad commissioners along for the ride!  What would today’s WW&F track crew think of that? 
          Anyway, it took another month after the first run to get the track in better shape so the railroad could actually operate.  On or about October 15th (which was a Monday in 1883) seems to be the date when regular operations began.  Even though it is not the date when the railroad was organized or the corporation actually started existence, it seems to be a fitting date for its anniversary.
           A future post will go into the first run in more detail.

The Monson Blog / Harold Morrill- Grand Patriarch of the Monson Railroad
« on: October 06, 2011, 11:32:36 AM »
Harold Morrill-  Grand Patriarch of the Monson Railroad

   Most students of the Monson Railroad recognize the name of Harold Morrill.  He was superintendent of the Monson from 1905 to1938 and was a pillar of the community who possessed an incredible range of abilities. Today he might be called a renaissance man. Lets take a closer look at the life and times of Superintendent Morrill.
         Harold was born in Brownville, Maine on May 27 1864. His family moved to Monson in 1876, attended and graduated from Monson Academy. In 1884 at age 20, he went to work for the newly built Monson Railroad as fireman and brakeman.  Romance was in the air and on December 24, 1885 he married Hattie Flint of Abbot.  They had 2 daughters.
         Harold studied telegraphy and in 1887 became the official telegrapher for the road and kept that job until 1938 when he retired. Two years later he was set up to engineer and remained in that position until the summer of summer 1904, when he was promoted super after long time superintendent Wilmot Esterbrooke died.  He was also in charge of maintenance and repairs for the locomotives and rolling stock.  This is evident in later correspondence with Vulcan when they were negotiating specs for their new locomotive in 1912.  He really knew what he was talking about.
In 1918 he became American Express Agent and assumed the jobs of conductor baggage master, freight agent, ticket agent and dispatcher; all holding these jobs until retirement.   
         He was not only a railroad man but a civic minded one also.  In 1886 he was raised in Doric Lodge A & AM and became master of that lodge in 1897.  He was a member of the Monson Baptist Church and sang in the choir.  He was on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, the Monson Academy. As if that wasn’t enough, he served on numerous town committees.
         But time was passing by.  His wife’s health was failing and on December 1, 1938 he retired from the Monson Railroad ending 54 years of service, 34 years as superintendent. His wife of 54 years passed away the next year on May 17, 1939.  He must have been heartbroken and lonely as he went to live with his daughters. Slowly, failing health took it’s toll.  On May 7, 1945, Harold Morrill passed away at the age of 81.  His funeral was held on May 9 at the Monson Baptist Church and burial was in Abbot. Hundreds were present to pay tribute to this great man, Patriarch of the Monson Railroad.

         Note:  I’m distantly related to Harold Morrill (and proud of it). Harold was the brother of my great great aunt.  It’s a little distant in relations, but in my family, it still counts.  Every time you go to Moosehead you pass Harold’s grave.  It’s directly across the street from the Abbot town office on Route 15, very near the tall pine tree.  There is a monument with the name Morrill on it.

The Monson Blog / Monson No. 3 Arrives! Morrill Not Pleased With Builders
« on: September 29, 2011, 10:26:02 AM »
Vulcan No. 3 Arrives!  Morrill Not Pleased With Builders

        This could have been the headlines in the local newspaper but wasn’t.  After reading a lot of Harold Morrill’s correspondence, you kind of get a feel for his personality.  On occasion it is somewhat amusing the way that he politely but FIRMLY let the offending party know he was not pleased! See bullet 5 below.
         As the year 1911 moved in to 1912, the Monson realized they needed to renew their motive power.  Both their Hinckleys were just worn out.  When it was decided to use Vulcan Iron Works to build their new loco, Harold began an extensive period of correspondence with Vulcan “specing out” the new “machine”.  From the overall gist of the correspondence,  Supt. Morrill had some issues with Vulcan, especially when No. 3 was delivered!
Finally the big day came when Vulcan No. 3 was delivered at Dover Maine.  He had it weighed there and it came to 34700 pounds light.  He figured it would weigh 36000 loaded and ready to go. In a letter dated February 28, 1913 to the general manager Geo. F. Barnard, he listed several concerns.
           *There was only one safety valve when it needed two, as required by ICC
           *There was no plate on the boiler back head stating the max pressure
           *However a stamping on the boiler back head indicated the number of the boiler,             the date and “275 lbs”.  Harold quickly pointed out that according to specs, 165 was the correct pressure.
           *There was no water glass as required by the ICC

Reading the letter you can feel Superintendent Morrills pressure rising!

           *There was no builders’ specification card as required.  Harold had had trouble with Vulcan before and reminded Mr. Barnard that he had contacted the Chief Inspector of Locomotives in Washington DC to please forward a copy of the rules and regulations as required by the ICC to Vulcan (in case they didn’t have a copy)! I love it!
           *Coal capacity was severely limited.  There was “no chance for any on the floor”. Specs called for a capacity of 1800 lbs.  Harold adds a little acidly that it (coal bunker) wasn’t close to that and that “this is not very convienient….”
            *Harold wants to “know at once” what the steam pressure is supposed to be and also the spec card.

   They hauled the new “machine”, as Supt. Morrill sometimes called it, dead from the Junction and then didn’t put it in service for a few months.  However eventually Morrill was satisfied, as the loco became a real workhorse for the Monson Railroad.

The Monson Blog / Monson's Unique Train Makeup
« on: September 22, 2011, 11:49:19 AM »
Monson’s Unique Train Makeup

        Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of pictures of the Monson engines in the middle of a string of cars?  Especially in the later years of the railroad?  I have always wondered why and I have a theory.
   It is well known that Superintendent Morrill was frequently badgered by the ICC to make modern improvements to the railroad.  Moody mentioned it several times in the chapters on the Monson. “The Monson trainmen seemed to be content no matter how their train was made up”.   However Moody may not have been aware of the ICC vs. Monson Railroad issues. The Monson trainmen may not have been too pleased! Morrill managed to stave off the ICC folks for years and made very few concessions, seemingly able to beat them at their own game.  Harold Morrill was a very smart and shrewd business man!
   As near as I can recall, ICC regulations at the time stated that two-track road crossings had to have either a signal man or some other device other than a sign for the double crossing, but not for one track.  I may be in error here.  I’m sure Allan Fisher could set us straight on that.  The Monson yard had a run-around siding.  But on pages 74, 92 and 125 of the Jones book there are pictures of the run-around cleanly cut to the north edge of Water Street.  I own another picture which verifies the same on the south side of Water Street effectively making two stub end sidings out of what was a run-around.
   My theory was that Morrill cut the siding (basically creating a one-track crossing) in order to beat the ICC….but it also meant that there was no way for the train crews to make up a train in the usual manner (locomotive in front) short of “poleing” especially if they had freight from the quarries.  But “the Monson trainmen seemed to be content” so they just ran to the Jct as is. 
   So back to the Monson yard siding which was cut.  Why else would they have disabled a operationally valuable section of track if it wasn’t for that?  Anyone want to chime in??

The Monson Blog / He Didn't Exactly Have Her Hooked Up To Center
« on: September 15, 2011, 07:50:38 AM »
He Didn’t Exactly Have Her Hooked Up To Center

      “He didn’t exactly have her hooked up to center.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from the Monson Railroad Chapter in Linwood Moody’s book on page 36. Moody was a master of understatement at times!
      Moody was talking about the grade between Monson Station and the Monson Maine Slate Company plant .57 miles north of the station………and the position of the Johnson Bar.  This was a lever in the cab which not only controlled the direction of the locomotive, but it’s power also. More on that later.
       With today’s wonders of technology (GPS, Google Earth, etc.) and the help of an old topo map, we can do a little figuring on this grade. It is about .57 mile from the plant to Monson Station and the first .3 mile was quite a steep grade.  Moody thought it looked like 10% but stated it was probably less.  From the Monson Maine Slate Company plant yard at 743 feet, the MRR had to climb 59 feet in the first .3 mile for an average of 3.7% to where it leveled off at around 802 feet in elevation.  Probably some sections of this grade were steeper for short distances, maybe even 5% confirming Moody’s observation and hinted at in Harold Morrill’s correspondence. For the rest of the .27 mile to the station, it went from 802 feet to 815 feet, a less than 1% grade.
         Anyway, back to the Johnson bar. When “down in the corner”, steam was admitted for most of the stroke of the piston for maximum power and when “hooked up to center”  steam was admitted for a small part of the stroke, using the expansive properties of steam when less power was needed. The engineer had to have had her “way down in the corner”  at full stroke to get the maximum power from the cylinders and the throttle pretty far open to get the power to push the two loads up from the slate plant.  And the fireman had to have a real hot fire too!
           The good news was that with the locomotives facing south and going uphill from the plant, the crown sheets were fully covered with boiler water much more than usual due to the tilt of the locomotive. It is interesting speculation that the reason why the locomotives were facing south and never turned may have been because of this.  Someone would have to work the geometry on this, but I bet if the locomotives were facing north going down that steep grade, the water over the crown sheets would be dangerously low, if any covering the sheets at all.
          Most of the pictures I have seen of the Vulcans climbing that grade show the engine pushing instead of pulling. In a letter to Geo. F. Barnard, general manager (transcribed by long time Monson historian Merwin Wilson) dated March 14, 1913, Harold Morrill stated that the new Vulcan #3 could easily haul two loaded cars of slate up from Monson Maine Slate Company. That seemed to be the test for Monson locomotives.

Wilmot L. Estabrooke: First Superintendent of the Monson Railroad

   This interesting piece came courtesy of the Androscoggin Historical Society from Sprague’s Journal of Maine History, Volume 2 dated February 1915.  Wilmot Estabrooke was the Superintendent of the Monson Railroad from 1883 to the time of his death in 1904 and was a highly respected member of the community. He was a member of Onaway Lodge # 106 IOOF.

Wilmot L. Estabrooke
     The following beautiful lines were from the pen of Prof. William Smith Knowlton of Monson, Maine, upon the death of the late Wilmot L. Estabrooke of Monson, who was for many years the popular Superintendent and Conductor on the Monson Railroad, a short line that connects Monson village with the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad.
   He died in Monson, August 22, 1904, and this was written by suggestion of Bangor Division, 403, Order Of Railway Conductors of which the deceased was a member, under the title of

"Wilmot L. Estabrooke, Promoted."

Brothers lament!  His last run is made.
    The red light shone bright on the track;
With the speed of the wind he made the last grade,
    And the train will never come back.

That heart that beat so kindly for all,
     In the casket lies silent today,
Bedewed are the flowers, the crepe and the pall
     As they bear it sadly away.

That kindly "All right" we shall hear nevermore;
      That smile shall nevermore see,
Till we enter the train for the evergreen shore
      And meet by the jasper sea.

"All aboard" will soon be the message to all,
      Our  "pass!' will be countersigned through;
God grant we be ready, whenever the call,
      With a heart as faithful and true.

The Monson Blog / Monson RR Blog Site Startup
« on: September 06, 2011, 07:29:36 PM »
Hello everyone!  I started this back a few years ago, however life happened and I wasn't able to continue.  But I"M BACK!  I'll be posting some short articles periodically which hopefully you can enjoy, offer your opinion, criticise, tear apart or otherwise heat up this Monson RR site.  Forgive me if there are posting errors as I'm new at posting on this site.  Suggestions are welcome.  Lets get going...Whistle for Water Street Crossing, Johnson bar down in the corner, kick open the cylinder cocks, release brakes, crack open the throttle, bell ringing, ...see you at the Junction!

Monson Railroad / The Peanut Roaster
« on: November 13, 2009, 09:51:22 AM »
Here’s a bit of worthless tidbit but never-the-less, part of the local lore of the Monson Railroad. Peanut roaster you say….what’s that got to do with the Monson?
Well it seems sometime after Vulcan 3 and 4 were purchased and after WWI, some of the locals started calling the train the “Peanut Roaster”.  Someone must have got on  the Monson Combine and rode to the junction, then the B&A, then the Maine Central, then the B&M and headed south…….way down to Dixie.

Down south they raise peanuts among other things.  Raw peanuts aren’t really that good but ROASTED peanuts are.  Now to roast those peanuts, you have to have a roaster.  Attached is a picture of a 100 year old peanut roaster and the front end of No. 3.  Now if you use your imagination, this roaster MIGHT look like the front end of the vulcans.  Forget No. 3’s stack, turbo gen and headlight. See a similarity?  I wonder if the peanut roaster was made by Vulcan too!

Anyway, the name caught on with the Monson folks and it stuck.  Useless info right???  But kind of fun anyway.

Monson Railroad / Monson RR Blog
« on: November 09, 2009, 01:58:20 PM »
Hi all you two foot fans!  I'm thinking about a Monson Railroad Blog.  I've been a huge fan of the Monson for most of my life and did a book on the Monson back in 1988. There's been a lot of new info lately.  What do you folks think??  Is there enough interest??

Pages: 1 2 [3]