Author Topic: Brief Flurries of Wanderlust Talk: The Extension to Wellington  (Read 4558 times)

Roger Whitney

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Brief Flurries of Wanderlust Talk: The Extension to Wellington
« on: December 15, 2011, 01:05:41 PM »

   Most railroads, in their beginnings, had grandiose dreams of expansion to far away places.  Probably a lot of this came from a little greed on the part of the railroad’s financial fathers.  The Maine two-footers were no exception.  Linwood Moody states that the Monson had these “brief flurries of wanderlust talk” also.
   A promotional pamphlet published by Mitchell Construction Company described Monson’s proposal for expansion in 1887.  It was printed by the Monson Weekly Slate, the local newspaper.
   In late 1885, the Maine Legislature authorized to extend the Monson Railroad in two directions. The northern extension would run from Monson Village, through Shirley and then Greenville, connecting with the CP.  There doesn’t seem to be as much information concerning the northern extension as there is with the south. The southern extension however would be built from Monson Jct. to Parkman, Kingsbury and into Wellington 15 miles away to the south.  It was supposed to hook up with the Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad (S&M) which was laying rail up from Pittsfield and had already arrived at Hartland.  The idea was to build a shorter, more direct route between the CP and MEC.  Of course this would have diverted traffic from the B&A.  The proposal would have created the hypotuneuse of the triangle, so to speak. I’m sure the B&A took a dim view of this!
    The plan was to standard-gauge the road using 56 pound rail, sell off the two foot equipment and use the existing 30 pound rails for sidings and yards .  The Monson stockholders voted to change to standard gauge on December 29th 1886.  Mitchell Construction was contracted to do this work.  They projected construction costs to be less than $20,000 per mile.
   It just so happens that the James Mitchell & Co. of Pittsfield was building the S&M from Pittsfield.  The same Mitchell as involved with the Monson proposal?  Coincidence?
        The booklet goes on to say how rich the area is: 1300 farms, a population of 12,500 people (hard to believe in 1886) and 36 “manufactories”, all of course needing transportation services, creating an estimated 86,300 tons of freight per year .  Their first financial estimate was that they would gross $86,300 in freight and $42,000 in passenger receipts.  They were to increase the capital stock to  $700,000 (!) with 6%interest, which, they figured would be $42,000 per year payment on this debt.  “This leaves over 2/3 of the gross earnings of the road for current expenses” points out the proposal.
   Sounds too good to be true?  It was.  The whole scheme collapsed. Moody says that “several miles of road bed was actually graded south from Monson Jct. toward Wellington 20 miles away” but that was all that was ever done. In Moody’s words “that ended Monson ideas of spanning the world”
   In part 2, lets look at some of the reasons why this may have failed and explore the possible route south to Wellington and the S&M.

James Patten

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Re: Brief Flurries of Wanderlust Talk: The Extension to Wellington
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2011, 03:42:42 PM »
The Sebasticook & Moosehead also figured in W&Q expansion dreams.  However at that time there was talk of narrow gauging the S&M!

I wonder if the W&Q had managed to connect to the S&M, then built north to connect to the Monson, then built north to connect with the CP, if the whole kit and kaboodle would have been standard gauged at that time.  That would give the CP a more direct route to the MEC *AND* a closer route to the sea, although I'm sure Wiscasset's harbor doesn't compare to Halifax's (and Halifax is still 1 day closer to Europe).

Cliff Olson

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Re: Brief Flurries of Wanderlust Talk: The Extension to Wellington
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2011, 05:25:26 PM »
About the same time, there was also interest in extending the MEC's Skowhegan Branch to Athens, where it would then connect with an extended Monson RR.  The enabling legislation Roger describes (P&SL 1885, c. 414) actually authorized the Monson RR to extend its road southerly "through any of the towns of Abbot, Parkman, Kingsbury, Wellington, Harmony, Mayfield, Brighton, Athens and Skowhegan, to the Maine Central railroad [sic] in the village of Skowhegan, with the right to connect with said Maine Central railroad in said Skowhegan."  The Monson RR was given four years to complete the authorized extension.  The S&M connection, however, would have been shorter and apparently had become the preferred route by the time the Mitchell Construction Co. booklet was published.