Reprinted from Winnipesaukee.com
forum. Original source unknown.
The Wolfeborough Railroad was incorporated
on July 1, 1868. Until then, the stagecoach and the steamboat
were the only means of travel in or out of Wolfeborough.
At once a committee of local businessmen set about the
task of finding someone to build and operate the railroad.
Several railroads were contacted, and routes
suggested. But the final choice for builder was the Easter
Railroad. The Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway Railroad,
a tool of the Eastern, had already laid out their line
north to a point in Wakefield, NH, which was to be called
Sanborn's Station. With this as a starting point, a right-of-way
westward to Wolfeborough was obtained.
In November of 1871, ground was broken near
Mast Landing and the project was underway. Crews worked
hard through the fall and winter in order to bring the
line to grade. Trees must be cleared and tons of granite
must be blasted, forming two sizeable cuts. The granite
excavated was used as base for the causeways across Crescent
Lake and Lake Wentworth.
On January 6, 1872, the Eastern R.R. signed
a lease to operate the Wolfeborough line for the next
68 years. The P.G.F. & C. had continued their tracks
northward to tap the traffic to the White Mountains, leaving
the Wolfeborough as a branch.
The line was 12.03 miles, with another 1.33
miles of siding and other trackage. 56 pound rail was
used throughout, and all locomotives and rolling stock
were provided by the Eastern.
On August 19, 1872, the line was opened
to traffic. To mark this long awaited occasion, a gala
celebration was held in honor of the first train. A consist
of five coaches stood ready on the station track, a gleaming
Eastern 4-4-0 locomotive on the point. All rides were
free this day, and the train was full.
Glancing at his watch, the conductor gave
the signal and the first passenger train left Wolfeborough.
The schedule called for stops at Mill Village (now Wolfeboro
Falls), Federal Crossing, Cottonborough (now Cotton Valley),
and Wolfeborough Junction (originally Sanborn's Station).
Later, flag stops were added at Lake Wentworth and Pike's
In Wofeborough, the track had been extended
westward across the main street and out the main dock
in order to connect with the steamboat traffic on Lake
Winnipesaukee. This was now the meeting point of three
railroads: the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad
by way of their steamboat, “Lady of the Lake”,
the Boston and Maine Railroad by way of their newly commissioned
steamboat, “Mount Washington”, and the Eastern
Waiting-room facilities on the dock were
housed in a first floor room of a factory building. This
had been used by the steamboat passengers before the coming
of the rails. But, on Christmas Eve of 1899, fire destroyed
the building, along with several others in the downtown
area. The next year a new station was built on the dock,
bringing the total on the line to eight. this new terminus
of the line was called "Lake Station", and the
building now serves as Dockside Restaurant.
Business boomed as eight passenger trains
a day rolled up and down the line. Carriages from local
inns and taverns met each train, competing for the tourist
dollars. Baggage, mail, newspapers, and freight now arrived
by train, making the railroad station a center of activity.
In later years, even the Circus would come to town over
the rails. Progress had surely come to Wolfeborough.
Years went by and competition among the
railroads eased. The Boston & Maine purchased the
Eastern, and all of its properties, on June 30, 1892,
having controlled them by lease since 1884. Service on
the branch was unchanged.
The railroad changed the pace of life in
the once remote community, as the increasing tourist traffic
turned Wolfeborough into a bustling resort town. Fast
economical rail transportation to the big cities now made
it possible to work in Boston or Portland while living
in Wolfeborough, commuting daily by train.
On March 27, 1895, Wolfeborough Junction
was renamed Sanbornbille, and by 1903 the Boston &
Maine's Eastern Div. was headquartered there. It was already
a sizeable servicing facility, with car shop, paint shop,
seven-stall roundhouse and machine shop, water tank, and
large coaling dock, as well as freight and passenger stations.
The passenger depot housed a large Armstrong Restaurant
which served all north and southbound trains on the main
line to North Conway, as well as traffic on the branch.
Times were good.
But on the afternoon of April 8, 1911, tragedy
struck! A workman was cleaning one of the shops prior
to going home. He threw some trash in the stove and lit
it off. The insulation between the chimney and the roof
had worn away and before he knew it, the roof was ablaze.
The flames spread quickly, fed by oil soaked timbers and
rags. When the sun came up the next morning, the shops
and enginehouse lay in smoking ruins.
The damage was such that the B&M decided
not to rebuild the facilities, and the Division offices
were moved south to Dover. Only a three-stall enginehouse
was rebuilt on the site. Fifty men lost their jobs, and
things would never be the same for this once thriving
Business on the Wolfeboro (by now the “ugh” had been dropped from the spelling) declined, and the
next few years saw many changes. In 1922 the Boston &
Maine sold their steamboat “Mount Washington”,
due to the lack of revenue from that operation. In 1927,
self-propelled rail cars began taking over passenger service.
Except for a few extras, Wolfeboro would see only a fraction
of the tourist service it once had. On May 16, 1936, the
3:05 outbound saw the last scheduled passenger train on
the line. the 12-mile branch was looking at a freight
By the mid-1960s, service was down to three
days a week, and B&M was beginning to have thoughts
of abandonment. The two remaining shippers on the line
protested. The O.P. Berry Co. shipped in building materials
from British Columbia. But the line was losing money for
With the 1970s came a man from Pennsylvania
who was interested in purchasing the Wolfeboro to operate
a tourist railroad. The B&M had not yet closed the
line, and with a sale would go an agreement to keep the
freight service alive.
Negotiations went on throughout 1972 and
during that time equipment began arriving. August 19,
1972, was the 100th anniversary of the line and, although
no papers had yet been signed, B&M allowed the owners
of the newly formed Wolfeboro Rail Road Co. to celebrate
A 25-ton Plymouth gas locomotive was used
to power the "“Anniversary Special.” It had arrived
a few weeks before from the Stewartstown R.R in Pennsylvania,
where it had served as their #6. Now, dressed in a fresh
coat of maroon and lettered as Wolfeboro R. R. #9, she
proudly rolled a consist of a flat car and caboose into
town, where and anxious crowd awaited.
After a few local speakers marked the occasion,
a short train ride was offered. The flat car was lined
with chairs, which were quickly filled, along with the
caboose. The first passenger train in many years left
Wolfeboro and made its way 6/10 of a mile east, through
waist-high weeds, to Wolfeboro Falls and back.
The sale of the line was made final on December
19, 1972, just four months after the 100th anniversary.
More equipment arrived for the restoration
and the crew worked hard toward a projected opening in
the summer of 1973. As per agreement, the line had to
be kept open year round for freight service. This was
accomplished through the winter months with the Plymouth
and a 1902 “Russell” snowplow, which the WRR
had purchased from the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad
in northern Maine.
By spring of 1973, the roster boasted three
old wooden coaches, two steel coaches, a flat car, a snowplow,
the Plymouth, and newly arrived, a self-propelled railcar
and a 1926 Baldwin steam locomotive.
The self-propelled car was being leased
from the Strasburg R.R. in Pennsylvania and had quite
a history. It was a wooden car of 1885 vintage from Lancaster,
Oxford & Southern Railroad. Originally a combine,
the railroad converted it to a self-propelled car in their
Oxford shops in 1913. One of the first such cars ever
built, it is the last remaining LO&S equipment. Between
the time it was retired from the LO&S roster and acquired
by Strasburg, it spent a few years in service on the Grasse
River Railroad in New York. It would be restored to operating
condition and become the Wolfeboro's #10.
But the pride and joy of the WRR was #250.
This was a 2-6-2 "Prarie" type steam locomotive.
It was outshopped by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Eddystone,
PA in June of 1926, and carried builder's number #592329.
#250 was built for the Tatum Lumber Co.
of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but under a lease agreement
was lettered Bonhomie & Hattiesburg Southern. The
railroad later purchased the engine. Having been retired
in the late 1950s, it was put in storage until 1963, when
it was purchased by the Wannamaker, Kempton & Southern,
a tourist line in Pennsylvania. In 1972, #250 was purchased
by the WRR and stored, pending its move to Wolfeboro.
The '73 season began with #9 and two steel
coaches running between Wolfeboro depot and Willey Brook,
a seven-mile round trip. While, at the Fernald enginehouse,
#250 was being rebuilt and retubed to Federal specs. On
August 1, 1972, the giant engine rolled into Wolfeboro
under a full head of steam. Her black paint gleamed in
the summer sun as she began her new life on WRR. Steam
passenger service had returned.
Fans came from all over the country to ride
behind the 2-6-2, some even who knew her in the past on
Mississippi rails. The WRR's first year was good and saw
over 20,000 passengers riding the rails.
Each year business increased. By 1974, railcar
#10 had been restored and placed in service, sharing the
schedule with #250. This freed #9 for switching duties
and extras. The WRR was becoming quite a railroad.
With operations on the Wolfeboro going so
nicely, in 1975 the owners turned their thoughts toward
expansion. The state of New Hampshire was in the final
stages of purchasing the 78-miles of trackage between
Concord and Lincoln, from the Boston & Maine. The
WRR submitted a bid to lease and operate the line, and
On January 28, 1976, the papers were signed,
and the Wolfeboro took over operations on what was to
be known as their "Central Division".
The potential for revenue looked good. There
were already several shippers and receivers on the line,
with more expected. The old Franconia Paper Co. mill in
Lincoln was about to reopen with a recycling operation.
This was to mean car-loads of scrap paper going in and
finished rolls of newsprint going out.
The potential for tourist passenger service
looked to be even better than back on the Branch. The
route ran through the middle of the Lakes Region, and
north into the White Mountains, offering some spectacular
The search for motive power took them into
the neighboring state of Maine where, in December of 1975,
they purchased Maine Central RS-3 #557. This diesel road
switcher was built by Alco-GE in December of 1953, serial
number 80567, and would provide ample power for the railroad's
needs. The engine was moved to the enginehouse in Lakeport,
N.H., where it was painted, lettered, and numbered #101.
Also moved to Lakeport, from Wolfeboro,
were the two steel coaches, the “Russell” snowplow,
and an ex-Grand Trunk caboose. This was to be the beginning
of the “Central Division” stable of rolling
But success on this line Just wasn't in
the WRR's future. A severe winter and several massive
wash-outs from spring run off, as well as accidents and
derailments, hampered operations. These events ran operating
expenses far higher than anyone could have foreseen. The
mill's reopening was not successful, and the few loads
which were shipped out went by truck. The 425 cars handled
during that first year fell short of the 2,100 which had
The revenue from passenger service had been
good. Week-end excursions between Concord and Lincoln,
in both spring and fall, had been successful, especially
during the autumn foliage season. Through the summer months,
the daily shuttles between Laconia and Meredith had proved
to be a great convenience to those traveling to and from
But the losses had been too great- So, on
February 12, 1977, the Wolfeboro Rail Road ceased all
operations on the line, turning it over to a new contractor.
With this act, WRR's short lived “Central Division” passed into history, for the time being
During the 1976 season, WRR was looking
around for a larger railcar to take over the duties from
#10, which was proving too small for the traffic. The
search ended in Mont Joli, Quebec. The Canada & Gulf
Terminal Railway had a retired railcar and trailer which
would fit Wolfeboro's need perfectly.
Motor Train #405 had been built for the
New York Central System in 1928 by the J.G. Brill Co.
of Philidelphia, as NYC's M-206. In 1937, it was renumbered
to M-405. This 73 foot unit was built as a Mail-Baggage-Passenger
car, and served the NYC on its Toledo & Ohio Central
line, as well as others. It was sold to the Canada &
Gulf Terminal in 1947.
Trailer Car #501 had originally been built
as a Brill Model 75 self-propelled car. The unit was outshopped
in 1926 by the Ottawa Car Mfg. Co. as Canada & Gulf
Terminal #100. It was converted to a trailer in 1949.
The two units had been used together on the C> for
many years. They were transported to Wolfeboro and went
into service on the branch in 1977.
Economic conditions in the country were
on a downward trend, and the price of gas was headed in
the other direction. It was a poor year for tourists and
it showed in the summer revenue. With the losses incurred
during the “Central Division” venture,the future
of the little railroad was once again in doubt.
On November 10, 1977, an ad appeared in
the Wall Street Journal offering the 12-mile line, and
its equipment, for sale.
Sale of the line would be the ideal remedy.
Fresh capital could put the books in the black and keep
the operation going. There were several who inquired over
the next year, but were unable to acquire the necessary
The company struggled through 1978, but
when the season ended in October, it was decided not to
reopen in '79. Instead permission was requested from the
I.C.C. to abandon all service on the line. It was hoped
that by selling off the engines, rolling stock, and real
estate, the company could recoup their losses and pay
off their debts.
The townspeople protested the abandonment.
The railroad had attracted a sizeable amount of tourist
business, from which the local merchants had benefited
Public meetings were held between the. area residents
and the State Transportation Authority. The State was
asked to purchase the line and lease to a private operator,
as they had done in the case of the Concord-Lincoln line.
The state suggested that perhaps a local
company could be formed to buy the line. In response to
this, in July of 1979, the Wolfeboro Steam Railroad Corp.
was formed and stock sold. Again the State was asked to
purchase, allowing the new Corporation to lease and operate,
The NHTA was sympathetic to the cause, but,
their interest was in freight traffic. As the WRR only
had two infrequent customers, they were powerless to act.
They did, however, offer a sizeable grant toward the purchase
of the line by the WSRC, but, because of legal reasons,
had to later withdraw the offer.
In the meantime, a group of businessmen
from the New York area had become interested in the branch.
After long negotiations, the line was sold
and the new owners planned to resume operations in the
spring of 1980. For the second time, the Wolfeboro line
had been saved. The future was looking a little brighter.
During 1979, while the line was idle, the
motive power roster was depleted somewhat, #9, the line's
first locomotive, had been out of service for some time
and was the first to go. It was sold to a scrap dealer,
for use in his yard. #10, having been on the WRR through
a lease, was returned to the Strasburg R.R. Probably the
most important loss was #405, and trailer unit #501. They
were sold to the Old Colony & Newport Railroad in
This left the new owners with only steam
locomotive #250. While it is a fine engine, and the prime
attraction, it is neither economical nor good for the
machine to be run everyday, without leaving time for preventative
maintenance. So a second unit must be found.
Their search led them to Proctor, Vermont,
where they found Otter Valley Railroad's #1, and leased
it for the 1980 operating season.
#1 was ex-Boston & Maine #1175, an Aico
S-3, built in September of 1950. Since retirement from
B&M, in 1965, it had served three owners. Virginia
Electric Power, Silcott Railway Equipment Co., and Continental
Forest. It was delivered to the WRR on May 24, 1980.
The new company had the crew readying things
for their first season in the tourist railroad industry.
Trackwork and landscaping had been carried out on several
sections of the 12 mile right of way. The rolling stock
had been gone over and a few pieces received fresh paint.
Even #250 was spruced up with paint and lettering. Everyone
was very optimistic about the coming year.
The Grand Opening Celebration took place
on May 31, 1980. Wolfeboro's radio station, WASR broadcast
the festivities, while a Dixieland Band took charge of
entertaining the visitors.
The first e/b train left Wolfeboro depot
at 11:00 A.M. behind a Boston & Maine GP-7, #1569.
0V #1 had been scheduled to handle this train but, having
only recently arrived, had not received its operating
papers. #1569, clad in flags and bunting, would handle
trains for the first week.
The celebration continued and, at 2:20 P.M.,
the new President of the WRR stood on the track in front
of the steam train. After some words of welcome to the
crowd, he raised his hammer and, with a few well placed
blows, drove the “Golden Spike”.
The crowd cheered amid the ringing of bell
and the screams of the whistle as #250 eased the 2:30
e/b out of Wolfeboro. The branch was now embarking on
its third life, with high hopes.
The season went well and everyone was pleased
to see the trains running again. But before the 1981 season,
they met with a major obstacle. Locomotive #250, like
all other WRR equipment, had to pass Federal Inspections
each year, in order to operate on a railroad licensed
by the I.C.C. Before the steam engine could begin the
'81 season, it must be retubed.
The crew set about the task of tearing down
the Big Baldwin as it was decided to, not only replace
the tubes but give her a thorough going over. Many old
parts were remade and replaced. By doing this, #250 would
be good for many more years of service. In 1982 the super
heaters would be replaced.
In 1981, the search for motive power was
renewed. 0V #1, having been leased for only one season,
was back in Vermont. But the hunt was successful and the
stable of Iron Horses was increased by two.
First to arrive on the property was a 45-ton
Whitcomb center-cab diesel locomotive. This 1945 vintage
switching unit had been built for the U.S. Government,
and later sold to the Guyon Pipe Co. at Harrison, NJ.
The WRR crew was dispatched to Harrison, where they assisted
on loading the engine aboard two trucks. It was offloaded
at Fernald enginehouse January 14, 1981, and became WRR
Next on the scene was an ex-Boston &
Maine S-3 #1186. It was built by Alco in June of 1952
and carried serial number #80052. The engine was delivered
to Sanbornville interchange by the B&M's gravel train
on February 5, 1981. The number was retained by WRR.
During the early 80s, the railroad gained
recognition through film as motion picture and television
crews used the line and equipment for various productions.
In June of 1980, it was the Center for Television
in the Humanities, from Atlanta, GA. They were working
on a film called “King of America” for Public
Television. It would focus on the lives of Greek immigrants
as they crossed America around the turn of the century.
The Wolfeboro Rail Road had bee chosen for its vintage
equipment and scenic location.
In June of 1981, a film crew from NHK-TV,
the Japanese Broadcasting Corp., arrived on the WRR property
to begin filming scenes for "Flags Over Portsmouth",
a 5½ hour program for Japanese television. The
film would depict the events surrounding the signing of
"The Treaty of Portsmouth" in 1905 between Russia
Also in '81, an independent film crew used
locomotive #250 to film a study of steam power. A portion
of this production would be shown as an exhibit at the
1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, TN.
#250 was even featured in a locally produced
stereo record album. This unique recording captured the
sounds of the 1926 Baldwin as she went about her daily
chores on the branch. Hisses, groans, bells and whistles,
along with all the other sounds that only a steam locomotive
can make, were preserved for future generations. The little
railroad was getting a taste of stardom!
During the last few years, the Wolfeboro
has extended their range of activities. For eating delights,
visitors may board one of several “Sunset Dinner
Specials”, where a variety of cuisine, from lobster
clam bakes to chicken barbecue, is offered. Some dinners
are even served up with live music and dancing.
For a lighter mid-day treat, one can visit
the “Chew Chew Station”, in Wakefield. Here
the variety ranges from the crew favorite to the roundhouse
special, grilled and deli sandwiches, salads and dessert.
A unique eating experience.
Special events now include several annual
happenings. Each August 19th, the WRR celebrates its birthday,
aided by the local Railroad Club. Late spring brings out
the runners for the "Race The Iron Horse" road
race. This 6.5 mile course pits the runners against the
mighty #250, and the outcome is always a surprise.
The Labor Day Weekend “Wild West Train
Robbery” had become a must with young and old alike.
Masked outlaws hurry to collect for Muscular Dystrophy
from eager passengers as the Sheriff and his posse bear
down on the fleeing villains. Proceeds from this event
go to local and national charities.
In the 112 years of existence of the Wolfeboro
Rail Road, its patrons have seen many changes. The dream
of a little town came true on that August day in 1872,
when the first train began a chapter in the history or
Wolfeboro. The railroad was one of the prom factors in
building the town into the summer resort it is today.
Twice the line has fought for its life and won, each time
getting a little stronger.
Here's wishing them a long and prosperous future.