Ride the Sandy River

If I remember correctly, Ride the Sandy River was a title of a book that Pacific Fast Mail published in the mid-1970’s describing the largest of Maine’s two foot gauge railroads. I’ve seen a copy but I’ve never owned one. I’ve no doubt that it is a classic work and for many it is a source of inspiration driving a life long passion for narrow gauge railroading. Page after page of superb recollections and an album of photos showing the railroad throughout its life. Yes. A classic.

The following is certainly not that. On with the show.


I had been here once before. I figure it must have been about twenty years now. I had been in to visit Train and Trooper in North Yarmouth. Alone it was a superb visit on another fantastic road trip to northern New England. Late one evening, I pointed my “trusty” old Honda Prelude toward Phillips, Maine. I had not thought about coming here but it was in talking with Matt and Martha Sharp, at the hobby shop, that really made me want to. It was my last narrow gauge stop on that trip and after, I’d point the car toward Calais and eventually, home. I guess it’s fitting that this trip, as part of the National Narrow Gauge Convention a couple of weeks ago, would start at the end.

Some neat trackage at the yard. Note the neat siding and partial turnout in place to reach the loading ramp where Monson #3 would be unloaded when it arrived last July. Also in place was what I thought looked a lot like Hudson portable track. Later, I’d learn that the portable track was from a peat bog.


Only a couple of museum volunteers around and not a train in site. Plenty of time to explore, take a few photos, and enjoy the moment. After all, we’re standing on the Sandy River’s right-of-way.


All of a sudden, we’re not alone. Running light, Monson’s #3 has made it’s way up the line. It’s seen here taking on water. It’s still pretty quiet . Beside our gang of four, it’s just the railroad’s own volunteers. Once again, we’ve stepped back in time.


While the crew finished their business with #3, we jumped back in the car and toward The Stone Fort. Walking up the line, toward the turntable and engine house, it’s hard not to be nostalgic and feel once again like we’re stepping back in time.

A string of cars on a nearby yard track and the Franklin and Megantic flanger nearby only further add to the scene.

Everyone at the Sandy River museum was welcoming and friendly. We were encouraged to explore the site. Each bay of the engine shed seemed to have something underway. While we were exploring, #3 has made its way back down the line and has arrived in town. It will be turned on the turntable, itself an interesting study of action.

The operating plan was to run a passenger train from the yard out to the station to pick up the busload of Convention waiting there. While that train was out, #3 would tie onto the waiting freight cars for a photo freight run. There isn’t much track to use, so each movement was planned strategically so that the right engine was in the right place, at the right time. Hard to not think about this all as inspiration for a model railway – no shortage of operating potential here!

Meanwhile, it’s showtime!

So many terrific opportunities to attempt run-by photos or train meets. What a terrific visit. I can’t thank everyone at the museum enough. Everyone was so welcoming and inviting. Their pride in their work was so obvious and it was easy to feel at home.

Before closing out this post, I wanted to further thank everyone at the museum:

The woods are dry. Really dry. As a precaution, fire fighting equipment was readily at hand and the museum’s own fire fighting car would be attached to any typical day’s train;

When everyone had arrived, the museum was positively crawling with railfans. Everyone’s attention was on getting that perfect vantage point for their photo and it creates a chaotic environment. Operating a railroad is serious work and made all that much more challenging with so many bodies on site. Throughout it all, the museum’s volunteers were the model of professional behaivour.

The museum have a terrific website. Check it out:


Categories: How I think

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