WALES , Androscoggin County Maine


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Steam railroads had their start in America about 1820. On July 4, 1828, Charles Carrol of Carroltown (one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence) laid the first stone for the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio rail systems. By 1832, there were 229 miles of railroad lines in the United States. These early lines were in Competition with canal and coastal boat lines. The year 1837 saw a financial panic brought on by too much credit extended for the construction of turnpikes, canals, and railroads. The first railroad in Maine to be of any lasting quality was the line from Portland to Portsmouth, connecting with a line to Boston, called the Eastern Railroad. This railroad was completed and started operation in 1842. About this time, John Poor, a native of Andover, Maine, and several associates started on a railroad project that had a very prominent part in the development of the rail system in Maine. At that time, most of the grain shipped to England and other markets in Europe left from the port of Montreal, Canada. The St. Lawrence River, on which Montreal is located, froze over during the winter and slowed the movement of grain. Mr. Poor offered a solution to this problem -a rail- road line from Montreal to Portland, Maine. Portland was a year-round port and nearer to the foreign markets. After much work and promotion, the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad Company got a charter from the Maine Legislature in 1845, granting the right to build and operate a railroad line from Portland to Danville, South Paris, Bethel and on through New Hampshire to the Canadian Border and at last, Montreal. Construction of this railroad was completed by July of 1853; then in August of that it was leased to the Grand Trunk, a line operated by the Canadian Govern- ment, for a period of 999 years. (jpg of text)

The building of this line stimulated more interest in railroads, and in 1847 the Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad was organized. A line was planned from Danville to Waterville, via Lewiston, Leeds, Monmouth and Winthrop. This railroad is the one we are most interested in, because it later became the main line from Waterville to Portland as part of the Maine Central system. Construction was started in 1847, and by July 4, 1848, trains were traveling as far as Monmouth. By December of 1849, the line was completed, and this area had steam train service. Early railroads were built by large groups of workers, many of them Irish imigrants, who lived in makeshift camps that were moved along the line as construction proceeded. Local people were, also employed to some extent; usually they furnished the horses and oxen for moving gravel and stones for the culverts and bridges. The Androscoggin Railroad received a charter in 1848 to build a line from Leed (Leeds Junction) to Jay, then to Farmington. The track to Jay was laid by August of 1851, but the extension to Farmington was not finished until 1859. This railroad was having rouble with the Androscoggin and Kennebec about the division of freight rates, so it decided to obtain a better position by extending its line from Leeds Junction to Brunswick. In 1860, it received a charter to construct the line that went through Wales along the shore of Sabattus Pond, parallel to what is now Route 132. Construction was completed late in 1861, during the Civil War. Although these small railroads depended on each other for their existance, there was considerable rivalry over revenue sometimes leading to court action. Finally, to correct the situation, in October of 1862,F several short lines were merged into one large system called the Maine Central Railroad. This proved to be a good move, for over the years the Maine Central grew and prospered untio my 1910, by lease or outright purchase, it controlled most of the railroads in southern Maine. (jpg of text)

At the time of the organization of the Maine Central in 1862, Leeds Junciton was an important rail center, with lines from Portland , Waterville, Farmington and Brunswick meeting there. This section of Wales was originally part of the town of Leeds, but in 1851 an area which included the station water tank, work shops, railroad yard, and sidings was turned over to Wales. First called Leeds Crossing because two seperate railroads crossed here, later called Leeds Junction, the area finally came to be know as Leeds Junction after 1859. From 1850 until the 1930's, railroads were the most important means of travel and transportation. This part of Maine was well served by the Maine Central, despite some charges of monopoly, high rates, poor schedules, and the like. The railroad was required to maintain cattle fences along its right of way, and of course there were sometimes disagreements between the company and the farmers along the tracks. Also, sparks from laboring locomotives set many grass fires on the banks and in the fields, and in some cases it took law suits to settle claims. One such law suit was brought about by a fire in 1915 which destroyed a large 3 story store and hall at Leeds Junction. The railroad successfully defended itself, and the new store building had to be erected without any damage payment from the Maine Central. Steam locomotives required coal and water to make steam, so these had to be provided along the line in order to keep engines running At Leeds Junction, water was pumped out of the brook from a small pond created by a wooden dam near the bridge. (This deep water hole by the spill way was an excellent place to fish, and many trout and other kinds of fish were caught there.) Until the late 1920's, there was a large coal shed at the Junction; then the larger engines with bigger tenders had more travel range.(jpg of text)

In 1924 new,heavier rails were put in on the main line from Portland to Bangor to accomodate the larger locomotives (600 series). A large work crew (about 100 men) went over the line that sumer laying as much as 5 miles of track per day. By 1932 the depression was talking its toll of the railroad. On the Brunswick line service was discontinued from Crowley's Junction to Leeds Junction. For several years old railroad cars were stored along the un- used portion of the line; then the cars were hauled to Waterville and scrapped; and, in 1937, the rails were taken up from Leeds Junction to Crowley's Junction and sold for scrap iron. Parts of the old road-bed are still visible today, and in many places snowmobile trails and wood roads follow the old railroad route. Leeds Junction was hit by other attempts to save on operating costs. The 3-man gate-tender crew was replaced by automatic lights and bells, and the gate-keeper's shack, the scene of many hours of story telling, was removed. The gate-tenders, as well as most of the workers on railroad jobs, lived near enough to the Junction to be within walking distance of their work. (I remember one of the tenders well. because he used to cut hair, and on a quiet Sunday morning he would have time enough between trains to cut my hair when I was a child. I'm sure that I wasn't his only customer.) In an attempt to bolster saggin passenger trafic, the Maine Central and the Boston and Maine built a light-weight, 3-unit, passenger Diesel named "The Flying Yankee", for the Boston to Bangor run. This was considered the latest in luxury travel, and it cause quite a stir on Sunday afternoon in 1935 when it came to Leeds Junction to turn around on the wye about the station after it had been on display in Lewiston. More than 200 people gathered to take a look at the new train. This unit was (jpg of text)

used until the war in 1941-1945. Then, larger trains, some with 12-14 Pull- man cars, were needed on the Bangor run. The "Yankee" was put on the Mountain Division until 1957, at which time it was retired from service. It is now on display at Carver, Massachusetts in the Edaville Museum. After the war years, passengers revenue on railroads dropped steadily, and by 1954 passenger trains were cancelled. On June 30 of that year, Engine 470 hauled the last scheduled passenger run from Portland to Waterville. This ending of passenger train service cause changes in the mail service for the Junction area of town. Instead of 3 mails in and 3 mails out each day, we had to be content with 2 mails, and later just once a day service. When the Leeds Junction Post Office closed in the early 60's. this part of Town went R. F. D. out of North Leeds. Once the railroads had cut out passenger service, they closed most stations. The large station at the Junction survived the first round of closings and continued to be manned all three shifts, but by 1962 it had been made smaller and finally was sold and torn down. A small steel building houses today's one-shift operation. Of course, a lot of freight sheds along the lines were closed when the railroads stopped hauling partcar loads. Railroads today will haul only full-car shipments, so small, local loads must be transported some other way. A natural result of stopping passenger service was that the quailty of the railroad-bed was allowed to go down. Section crews were reduced from 8 men per 10 miles of track to 2 men of 12-15 miles. All major repair work is done by large crews with specialized equipmentm, moved from area to area. In the immediate post-war period, the Diesel electric locomotive proved to be more economical to run, so most railroads changed over to (jpg of text)

that type of power, and by 1958 all the steam power had been abandoned by the Maine Central Railroad. The colorful steam locomotive had left the scene. With it went the remaining coal sheds and water tanks and pumping stations. In this modern world, the Diesel has made its place, hauling heavy loads over long distances cheaper than any other means of transportation. Diesel units are flexible and can be combined and still controlled by one engineer. It is common to see three or four of these units hauling up to 175 cars at one time.(jpg of text) -RailRoads by Edson Donnell

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This is a long passage but well worth the time to read. I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. It comes directly from the pages of the Wales Bicentenial. This section was written by Edson Donnell.