All remaining steam locomotives are not relegated to pulling train loads of tourists or becoming pigeon perches at railroad museums. Here’s a couple that escaped those fates, but they are not near an Interstate off ramp.
In the early twentieth century there was a big demand for pulpwood for making paper and such. The spruce forests of northern Maine was a good source. However, it was very remote. Solution? Build a railroad. But this being the Maine wilderness, they weren’t just slapping down some rails and running in some locomotives and cars. That’s where our story begins.
You’ve doubtless seen Ice Road Truckers a million times. Believe it or not, ice roads existed before they were another fake “reality” show. To get the entire railroad into the Maine forest they transported it across a frozen lake in Quebec. Two steamers, two Plymouth (no relation) gasoline switch engines, miles of rails and ties and sixty pulpwood rail cars were brought in, as well as all the rest of the equipment needed to harvest the spruce and get it to the mills. The Great Northern paper company then took over the railroad and logging operations and off they went.
Supplies were shipped by a side wheel steam boat across Chesuncook (say that three times fast) Lake in Maine, much more efficient than waiting for a lake to freeze. Outbound loads of logs went to Umbazooksus Lake (where did they come up with these names?) and floated to the mill, common practice then and now. Up to 20 percent of the nations pulpwood came from these forests.
Then came the Great Depression. In 1933, just six years after all the work it took to build this railroad, pulpwood demand dropped and everything was parked, just where it sat. Remember, this whole operation was isolated, with no connection to another railroad. The Plymouth switch engines were small and were shipped out to work elsewhere, the rest waited for better times that never came. After World War Two trucks did the transporting of logs and that was that. The engine house the steamers were in burned down in 1969, and the mighty locos have been in the elements ever since. Adding insult to injury “souvenir” hunters have stolen anything easily removable from these old workhorses.
Want to see these beasts? As well as the remains of the freight cars and a bunch of other logging equipment? There are maps showing you where they are. Also search the railroad on Youtube for other videos taken by hardy souls making the trek, including one by a hipster sporting a manbun. Let us never see those words on these pages ever again. It’s a long hike, bring extra food and water and insect repellent. Watch out for moose.