Last revised: March 14, 2023
By: Adam Burns
Maine's railroad history is somewhat unique in that the state had a fascinating collection of rare two-foot gauge systems. Most of the museums there highlight this interesting heritage.
The two-footers were built primarily to handle Maine's timber industry and were employed as a cost-effective alternative to building standard-gauge (4 feet, 8 1/2 inches) lines.
This was typically done with 3-foot systems, the common "narrow-gauge" width. However, for whatever reason the two-foot width caught on in Maine and was used extensively through the early 20th century.
The most famous was the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway, which operated from 1895 - 1933. Today, a component of this system has been rebuilt as a heritage railroad and operates excursions for the general public.
Some of these trips include holiday specials. Two other locations in Maine with Christmas-themed events include the Boothbay Railway Village and Seashore Trolley Museum. More information about these may be found below, along with their respective websites which provides more information.
(Boothbay): Located in Boothbay, Maine the Boothbay Railway Village dates back to 1965 when the museum first opened to display railroad memorabilia collected by George McEvoy.
No other place in America features a finer collection of historic, two-foot gauge saddletank steam locomotives; there are currently eight in their collection and four operational. In addition, two others are under restoration.
Six were manufactured by Germany's Henschel & Sohn while two others were built here in the U.S. by Baldwin Locomotive Works. Boothbay Village provides short train rides over about a quarter-mile of loop track.
You can also find more than just trains here including many other transportation artifacts, such as automobiles.
During the Christmas season join them for a holiday celebration on the rails which includes the North Pole Express and Candlelight & Cocktail On The Rails.
(Kennebunkport): Another association dedicated to the heritage of streetcars is the Seashore Trolley Museum.
It is one of the oldest railroad preservation groups in America and, in fact, is the world's oldest and largest museum dedicated to mass transit.
It was formed in 1939 to preserve the region's streetcar heritage, which was ending after the Biddeford & Saco Railroad's discontinued trolley service in favor of buses between Biddeford (where it connected with the Atlantic Shore Line Railway, a large interurban) and Portland (here it linked up with another interurban, the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad).
Since then the museum's collection has grown exponentially to include more than 250 vehicles along with several trolley cars.
Today, the group features several small rail yards to house their equipment (most of which also featured enclosed pole buildings), a visitor's center replicating a depot, and about 2.5 miles of track to host excursions.
One of their specials is the Christmas Prelude, held on select dates in early December. This trolley ride features hot chocolate, hot cider, tea, coffee and other snacks while on board. In addition, they host a similar trip where Santa rides along with the kids.
(Alna): Simply put, this is one of the coolest museums you can visit, countrywide.
The organization is named for one of Maine's famed 2-footers, which began in 1854 as the Kennebec & Wiscasset, intended to link Wiscasset with Augusta via Togus.
However, with no financing or progress the company's name was changed to the Wiscasset & Quebec Railroad (W&Q). Still nothing happened. Finally, after 40 years of delays track-laying began in October, 1894 with intentions of reaching Burnham and Pittsfield.
After more than a year of construction, 43.5 miles was opened from Wiscasset to Albion on November 4, 1895. Unfortunately, promoters hit a snag after the Maine Central would not allow a crossing of its Belfast Branch.
The W&Q would later go bankrupt in 1900 and be renamed as the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railroad on February 5, 1901.
The company managed to grow once more by completing a branch to Waterville via Togus but this proved the extent of its network. Unfortunately, the WW&F was never profitable and ultimately ended operations entirely in 1937.
In 1989 the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum was created to preserve its memory. After acquiring a section of old WW&F right-of-way they have managed to restore 3 miles of track from Alna to above Trout Brook.
In addition, an original WW&F locomotives has been restored along with several buildings. This place is well worth the visit! They also have plans to rebuild more trackage north of Trout Brook.
Be sure and also take part in their Victorian Christmas, offered one day in December only during which time you and the kids can enjoy free rides, a visit from Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
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Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives.
It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.
It is quite staggering and a must visit!