Established in 1882, the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad was a narrow-gauge railway that connected Bridgton, Maine with Hiram, which was located on the standard-gauge Maine Central Railroad (for freight transfer, cars had to be off-loaded from one to the other on parallel sidings). The line was an important link for the Bridgton-Lakes Region area, connecting it to the outside world for both freight and passengers, which encouraged the summer tourist trade.
In 1898 the line was extended from Bridgton to Harrison, at the northern end of Long Lake. The Maine Central Railroad purchased the B&SRR in 1912, but by the 1920s competition from trucks and buses severely cut into the railroad's financial well-being. Re-organized in 1927 as the Bridgton and Harrison Railroad, it operated until 1941, when the equipment was sold and the track torn up and sold for scrap. Much of the rolling stock went to the Edaville Railroad, an outdoor museum in Massachusetts, and is now on display and in use at the Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum in Portland, Maine.
The Bridgton Historical Society holds a variety of documents and artifacts relating to the Bridgton narrow gauge railroad. A large, recently acquired collection (96.14, described below) of business papers augments other documentary holdings, photographs, an important scrapbook, and a large quantity of artifacts and memorabilia, some of which is displayed courtesy of Downeasters Depot. Detailed Right of Way and track maps of the line complete these important holdings.
Bridgton & Saco River Railroad Papers (96.14)
This collection consists of approximately 1,600 pieces (4 linear feet) of business records generated by the Bridgton & Saco River Railroad, or by other companies (mostly the Maine Central Railroad) doing business with the Bridgton & Saco River. The records detail passenger and freight business at the various stations along the line, and with other lines, 1890-1900 (primarily 1897-1900). Documents from the B&SRR include Accounts of Merchandize Received & Forwarded; Reports of Tickets Sold; Abstracts of Footings and Way-bills, etc. The collection includes similar documents generated by the Maine Central Railroad, as well as divisions of revenue and corrections in interline ticket sales.
A few of the documents in the collection were generated by other companies, including the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co., 1900; Boston and Maine Railroad, 1890-1900; International Steamship Co., 1890, 1897; New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Co, 1899-1900; Pennsylvania Railroad Co., 1900; Portland and Rochester Railroad, 1898; Portland and Rumford Falls Railway, 1897, 1898; Portland Steamship Company, 1890-1900; Thomas Cook and Son, 1899, 1900; Lake Shore and Michigan Southern; American Express Co., and several other railroads.
Gordon MacLeod Scrapbook,
"Two-Footers Down in Maine"
Compiled by Gordon Bird MacLeod,and donated by him to the Bridgton Historical Society in 1993
This is a 12" X 16" scrapbook of approximately 100 pages, containing roughly 240 photographs, numerous scale drawings and blueprints, along with clippings and assorted ephemera relating primarily to narrow-gauge railroads in Maine. Although the bulk of the material deals with the Bridgton & Saco River Railroad (Bridgton & Harrison Railroad after 1927), there is a significant amount of material dealing with other lines as well, including the Monson Railroad, the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railroad, the Kennebec Central Railroad, and the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad. There is also a small amount of material relating to the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad.
B & SRR Track Map, Primary Sheets
B & SRR R.O.W. & Track Maps
Misc. docs. In Bridgton Machine & Lumber Co. Coll., ca. 1910-1917
Engine #5, the last steam locomotive built by the Portland Company (in 1906).
Interior of B&SRR Car - Everett Brown & Guy Andrews
Engine #8, the largest of the B&SRR locomotives, stands "at the ready" for its next job. The last narrow gauge engine built for statewide service, Engine #8 weighed 38 tons (compared to the road's first engine which weighed only 15 tons) and was built by Baldwin in 1924. It became the "workhorse" of the road and once carried a record 14 carloads of coal. It is now, almost 80 years later, still turning in a stellar performance at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum in Portland, ME, thanks to the perseverance of Phineas Sprague, Jr.
The busy Bridgton Yard during its heyday with the various Depot and town buildings in the background and the B&SRR cars in the foreground.
This photo from the McLeod Collection reflects a switching operation at the Bridgton Depot in July 1935 with the 2-4-4T Engine #8 at the helm.
This birds-eye photo of "The Notch" provides one view of the long grade that was 600 feet above sea level between Bridgton Junction in Hiram and the Bridgton Depot. Imagine yourself challenged, as were the B&SRR workers, during the fall and winter of 1882 trying to create this stretch of track or later, when the tracks in this section became near impassable because of compacted snow and ice and you had none of the modern equipment now available -- only picks and shovels! (Mead Collection)
The outbuildings at the Bridgton Depot are silhouetted as the B&SRR train, with its tiny engine puffing mightily, pulls out for her next journey.
Personifying the "little engine that could", B&SRR Engine #5 (the last of the steam engines built by Portland (ME) Works -- purchased in 1906 and serving the road for 20 years) is dwarfed at the Bridgton Junction yard in Hiram by its "big sister" of the Maine Central Railroad (Engine #510). Little remains of that yard today, but much of the roadbed and turntable pit can be found. (Ed Bond collection)
Engine #6 leads the way as it pulls away from the Harrison Station with carloads of passengers and freight. (Outland Collection - courtesy of L. Card)
Another birds-eye view - this of the B&SRR trestle-work leading to the Harrison Station on the shores of Long Lake which became the road's "northern terminal". This stretch of trestle was the longest on the railroad and was, like other trestles, eventually filled in to eliminate maintenance and provide a more permanent roadbed. (Outland Collection- courtesy of L. Card)
Shown here is the "Y" track, built for the B&SRR about 1/2 mile south of the Bridgton Depot yard, as it expanded operations to run to stations in North Bridgton and Harrison using tracks laid across Portland Street, past Pondicherry Mill and the Farmers Exchange, over a steel girder bridge atop Stevens Brook, and then heading from Lower Main Street down to he western shore of Long Lake. The steel bridge over Stevens Brook remained in place until it was recently sold to a collector.
Passengers at the Sandy Creek Station wait with anticipation the call for "All Aboard!" The initial construction train had first arrived at "Pinhook" (as it was then known) on January 12, 1883; by the mid-1920s the Sandy Creek way station had been deactivated as the B&SRR faced mounting economic realities. Although the station is long gone, the area has changed little and the roadbed into the woods can still be found and followed most of the way to Hancock Pond.
The very first train appeared at the Harrison Station on August 3, 1898. Depicted here is Engine #6 with its passenger cars as it prepares to depart.
Jury-rigged though it may have been, this B&HR Railbus #3, pictured here at Bridgton Depot, served its purpose well - with the help of some "down-home Yankee ingenuity." The little bus was built with little money and little materials. Faced with an embattled cash problem, the Narrow Gauge crew concocted the self-propelled "contraption" in an early demonstration of the concept of recycling. Using a Chevy Sedan and substituting some light sheet-iron wheels under the front and more wheels under the rear and a "trailer" behind, with its own set of wheels (that had once been used on old boxcars), the rail workers were able to inspect and maintain tracks at a low cost. (One observer noted the only recognizable part was the "Chevrolet radiator!")
Engine #8 is shown here during backfilling operations at Hancock Brook, one of the beautiful sites located along the route of the B&SRR. This stretch of backfilled roadbed with its beautiful stone arch is still visible today, over 60 years after the railroad's demise. (Outland Collection)
(Photo postcard of B&HRR) This postcard view of the B&HR (Bridgton & Harrison Railway), successor to the B&SRR, reflects the determination of its owners to "make a go of it." Chartered in 1928, the B&HR officially took over operations of the road on June 12, 1930, and eventually became the last commercial service Two-Foot Narrow Gauge railroad in the country.