Wiscasset. Wiscasset. Wiscasset.

I don’t know where to begin this blog post. Luckily, knowing stuff like that isn’t important. Something else I don’t know is what drives the energy, enthusiasm, and almost overwhelmingly positive attitude that drives the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum. This place has assumed the status of legend in my mind. They’re not just restoring a collection of narrow gauge equipment, they are restoring a railroad. What they’ve accomplished is impressive, but it’s their attitude that impresses me most. Everywhere there is a sense of “We can. We will. Wanna help?”

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I’m standing in the car park and this is one of my first views of the Museum grounds. A couple of vintage Ford trucks, the car shop in the background, and the pit for the new turntable they’re building. Yup, it probably always looks like paradise everyday.

Work on the new turntable pit is progressing nicely. Alongside, work continues on the bridge. Perched high in the air, supported on a trailer frame, the turntable bridge is simply massive. It would be neat to visit when its time to install the bridge.

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Inside the shop, there was just so much to take in. As I wandered around, I remembered a thought I’d had earlier at the Sandy River and again at the Boothbay museums: these are not collections of shop equipment in some patchwork still life exhibit. This is a working shop consumed with the work of building and maintaining a railroad. This is something real, current, and relevant.

Back outside and a walk across the tracks to the station. Inside, time to buy tickets for train rides and look through their gift shop. The shop was well stocked with interesting things. I really should have stocked up on genuine Kennebec Central spikes and, ooh, what’s that? A copy of Linwood Moody’s book?! This book is so important to me. I can just about always pick it up to re-read again.

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Meanwhile, #9 arrives. There’s time sort through gift shop stuff later. Right now is a time for action. Action of the kind that gets tickets for train rides. Yup, lots of tickets.

As at Boothbay, each service is actually a pair of trains. Leaving first is number 9 with a set of coaches and following is the Museum’s Ford railcar. Number 9 leads the train, bunker-first, to the current end of track. The Ford waits outside the loop while the engine completes a runaround move. While the engine ties onto its train, the Ford moves into the loop opening up the main for the run home.

Midway, on the return trip, the Museum planned a photo run by. Everyone off the train. Then the railcar arrives and is parked in the loop. With the line safe and clear, time to back the train off stage while we all find our places in a photo line. While all this is going on, photos like this one just seem to happen. Doesn’t it all look like a perfect scene?

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So many recollections of Maine narrow gauge railroading recall the sight of a Forney in command of its train and only moments later, we were treated with just that sort of spectacle:

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This is not quaint and sleepy railroading. This is the communication of purpose.

Now, imagine a couple of gondolas of coal for the Veterans Home in Togus tucked into that consist…

Stepping off the train and time for more exploration. Steve and I wander off to check out the newly built car shed. The building is massive and is a tremendous investment toward providing shelter for the Museum’s collection, protecting it from the weather. Every piece of equipment on the railroad is the product of the work of the Museum’s amazing team of volunteers. Buildings like this are doing more than just housing a collection but in providing this shelter, they are protecting the commitment of those who make it all possible.

As we wandered around the site the crews were busily working with a small diesel to move a caboose out of the shed and onto a waiting train for the next round. We’re a part of this. Steve and I have tickets to ride in the Ford railcar this time!

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This time, it was fun to chase the train up the line as riders in the railcar. I can’t imagine a better place to sit and watch #9 running around its train than from a seat in this car. The machine itself looks like an absolute pile of fun to operate.

The Ford has a really neat turntable built into its frame to make turning it easy. Having watched this process on a previous run I could barely contain my enthusiasm. “Can I try?” I asked and I was thrilled to be given the chance. The whole process is quite simple and really fun. Since I was busy with the work, I don’t have a photo of me in action but I did find this Youtube video:

High on the experience of learning to turn this fascinating machine earlier, I enthusiastically asked if I could push my luck further: “Need a hand with that switch?” I asked and “Go ahead” was all the encouragement I needed. First the stub turnout up in the loop at the top of the line and again as we left the loop, departing from the second photo run by. I’m so grateful t have had a chance to help out and immerse, deeper, in this moment.

On our return trip we were treated to a very special photo op featuring the Ford on a run by across the Humason Brook Trestle. What a special treat to enjoy, during an afternoon filled with non-stop and seemingly never-ending great moments.

I just can’t stop smiling. Thankfully places like this exist.

I can’t wait so long to go back. I’ve got this membership to the WW&F now burning a hole in my imagination and I’m keen to spend more time helping out. It’s something I want to be a part of. It just all feels so good.


The Museum maintain a terrific web site to chronicle their work and update on coming events. Their gift shop is also online and well worth supporting. You can also buy a membership and learn more about how to get involved: wwfry.org

 

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2 comments

  1. Sounds like a fantastic experience! It’s great that everyone has such a great attitude. I’ve volunteered at places that don’t have that great attitude and it’s difficult to get stuff done when people are concerned with internal politics and bickering. A “can do / will do” attitude is fantastic!

    1. The people do make the difference. Not just having the right people but the right team attitude so that everyone can find a place to be and feel like they are contributing value to the work.
      /chris

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