SWIFT RIVER RAILROAD - THE CONWAY COMPANY
The Conway Company had constructed a large sawmill in 1907, just south of the village of Conway, NH, which was one of the largest sawmills ever built in the northeastern United States. Mill production varied from 100-140 thousand board feet of lumber daily. Three different logging railroads were operated over the years by the company to feed this sawmill.
Swift River Railroad, Conway Lumber Co. 1906-1916
Click on map for larger image
Construction of the first one, the Swift River Railroad, began even before the sawmill was built, extending for nineteen miles westward on an easy grade to the headwaters of the Swift River. A total of about twenty-six miles of rail were built. The first train load of logs was delivered to the Conway mill in the summer of 1907
Five different locomotives were used on the Swift River during the ten years of operation. Lacking any steep grades on the roadbed, the engines were all rod locomotives, three of them Baldwin saddle tanks for assignment to do most of the woods work. The company had at least forty-five sets of log trucks or bunks, using a “reach” or connecting timber to span between each pair. Each trainload consisted of 20-25 carloads, averaging possibly 175,000 board feet per trainload. The older settlement of Passaconaway was soon transformed to become the headquarters for the logging activity in the valley. That little village, once housing over fifteen hundred inhabitants, is now completely gone.
The Swift River Railroad terminated in the area of Passaconaway, site of several earlier sawmills. Click on map for larger image.
Ten years of intense logging then drained the Swift River valley of most of the merchantable softwood timber and much of the hardwood. The Swift River Railroad was closed down in 1916, but the next company railroad, the Rocky Branch Railroad, was already in operation.
Click here for photos of the Swift River Railroad
Bill Gove's Composite Logging Railroad Map