The First Railroads in Maine

The wood block print to the left is from 1836, and depicts what the artist called the Veazie Railroad, or the Bangor, Oldtown and Milford, which was the first railroad constructed in the state of Maine. The first railroads were actually of wood rails laid on log ties, and pegged into place when needed with widen pegs. Later, the wood rails would be replaced with iron strapping, then bars, and finally the t shaped rails we see today.

Initially, horses pulled the rail cars, which were actually stagecoaches and wagons fitted up with special wheels that were grooved or shaped somehow to engage the rails in use. After the early 1800’s, steam engines, having proved successful in other enterprises such as steam boating, began to be built for these railroads.

Today, much of Maine’s history would have been quite different if these railroads had not been constructed. Much of our sporting and early tourist heritage would never had been birthed if it were not for the railroads ability to carry passengers and freight to the out in the boonies sporting camps and hotels.

Aroostook’s potato industry would not have been possible without the railroads freight capabilities to haul the annual harvest to points out of state. Railroads are just another part of who we are, and as such we should take the effort to learn more about this part of Maine history, and if you have the opportunity, please visit some of the railroad museums and displays and think about volunteering at one of the many non-profit societies working to preserve this part of Maine’s heritage.

Early Railroads in the state of Maine

[From History of the Railroads & Canals of the US of A, Henry V. Poor, pub 1860

Androscoggin.

Androscoggin and Kennebec.
Atlantic and St. Lawrence.
Bangor, Oldtown and Milford.
Calais and Baring.
European and North American.
Great Falls and South Berwick.
Kennebec and Portland.

Lewey’s Island.
Maciiiasport Or Franklin.
Penobscot.

Penobscot and Kennebec.
Portland and Oxford Central.
Portland, Saco and Portsmouth.
Somerset and Kennebec.
York and Cumberland.

The first railroad constructed in the State of Maine was the Bangor, Oldtown and Milford, under the title of the Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad and Canal Company, chartered on the 8th of February, 1833. It was opened in the latter part of 1836. It has proved unproductive, in part from the unfortunate location of its line.

The road next constructed was the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth, as a prolongation of the Eastern and the Boston and Maine Railroads of Massachusetts. The means for the construction of the same were furnished chiefly by parties connected with these Companies, to which it was leased on the 28th of April, 1847, for a term of 90 years, with a guarantee of dividends at the rate of per cent, per annum. These, however, have been earned by the road.

The third road undertaken was the Atlantic and St. Lawrence, and was the first attempt at anything like a railroad system for the State, having for its object the development of its resources and the centralization of its trade and that of the interior at its chief commercial city. It was constructed with a view of uniting with the St. Lawrence and Atlantic of Canada commenced at the same time—the two to form one line between the Atlantic Ocean and the River St. Lawrence. It now forms a part of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, to which it is leased at the rate of 6 percent, per annum on its capital. Since the date of the lease the Grand Trunk Company has expended in construction about $1,500,000. This enterprise led to the immediate commencement of the Androscoggin and Kennebec, the Kennebec and Portland, and the Buckfield Branch. The Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad was commenced in July, 1847, and completed in November, 1849. For several years past this road has been united with the Penobscot and Kennebec Railroad, both of which are operated as one line. Its earnings have been sufficient to meet the interest on its indebtedness, but not to divide anything on its share capital.

The construction of the Kennebec and Portland Railroad was commenced in 1847, and finally opened to Augusta early in 1852. It commenced at the point of junction with the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad, but as it adopted a different gauge, the construction of a new road into Portland, a distance of 11 miles, became necessary. This was constructed in 1850-1, The road was necessarily expensive, and the Company for several years past has only been able to meet the interest on its first mortgage amounting to $800,000, and on the extension certificates $202,400, which are a first mortgage on that portion of road. In the season of navigation the road sufiers from the competition of a parallel water line.

The Buckfield Branch (Portland and Oxford Central) Railroad was opened in 1849, but having proved unproductive has been abandoned.

York and Cumberland was commenced in 1849, and opened to Gorham, 10i miles, in 1851, and to the Saco River, 20 miles, in 1853. It has been uniformly unfortunate and unproductive.

The Calais and Baring, a local road, was opened in 1837. Its earnings have been sufficient to meet the interest on its indebtedness, and pay 3.2 on its share capital.

The Androscoggin was opened to Livermore Falls in 1852—to its present terminus in 1859. This road has failed to pay the interest on its last class of bonds.

The Penobscot and Kennebec Railroad was commenced in 1852, and completed in 1855. This road and the Androscoggin and Kennebec are operated as one line. Its net earnings have been sufficient to meet the interest on its two first mortgages, amounting to $1,050,200.

The Great Falls and South Berwick Railroad was opened in 1854, and has proved unproductive. After being disused for some time, it has again been put in operation.

The total amount of share capital and debts of the railroad companies of the State is $17,923,612. Of the share capital, $4,297,300 receives, (with the exception of the Calais and Baring), dividends at the rate of 6 per cent. Of the total indebtedness, interest is paid at the rate of six per cent, on $7,819,718; leaving share capital to the amount of $3,188,411, and debts to the amount of $2,618,183, on which neither interest nor dividends are paid. The total amount of productive capital invested in railroads in the State is

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Categories: Education, historic preservation, history, preservation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “The First Railroads in Maine

  1. Kay

    Where can I find a free online map of the railroads that ran from Maine to Pennsylvania by 1863? (All I know of my great grandfather was that he was born somewhere in Maine (I don’t know his name), and would have traveled to a point somewhere in Pennsylvania by 1863 when my grandfather was born there.)

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