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Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History
                                 Saco Valley Railroad

 

The construction of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad through Crawford Notch in 1875 was a monumental feat in the annals of railroad building. And with the laying of rails along the upper end of the Saco River, south of the Notch, access was created for the lumbermen to eventually reach many new untouched sources of old-growth timber. One of these areas was a small, rugged, shallow stream near the southern base of Mount Washington, known as Dry River.

Saco River Railroad and Carrigain

                Saco River Railroad with Carrigain, 1892-98
                          Click on map for larger image

In 1891 the Dry River timber came into the ownership of some active lumbermen from Vermont, and the Saco Valley Lumber Company and the Saco Valley Railroad were formed. Logging railroad construction up the Dry River began the following year, commencing at a junction with the Maine Central Railroad (formerly Portland and Ogdensburg RR) at a settlement known as Carrigain. The climb of the roadbed up along Dry River was a difficult piece of track to build and to keep in place. The 6 ½ mile railroad rose an elevation of 1,300 feet , creating an average grade of 6 ½ percent. Washouts and trestle failures in the steep, narrow valley were a constant maintenance expense.

 

The Saco Valley Railroad was a one-locomotive railroad, using a 25-ton Shay geared locomotive built in 1892. The Saco Valley Lumber Company did not operate a sawmill of their own. Most, if not all, of the spruce logs were delivered to the large sawmill in Bartlett, NH. The loaded log cars were taken down to a siding at Carrigain for pick-up by a Maine Central train and transport to Bartlett.

 

Operations on the Saco Valley Railroad did not last very long. Midway through the winter season of 1897-98 logging activities ceased, and the last trainload of spruce logs came down the steep valley, the supply of timber apparently exhausted. The once-thriving settlement of Carrigain faded into oblivion soon afterward.

Carrigan Detail
                           Detail of Carrigain
                     Click on map for larger image

         Click here photos of the Saco Valley Railroad

          Bill Gove's Composite  Logging Railroad Map                     
             

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