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North Conway, NH
The Boston & Maine Railroad has a long and interesting history. Over the period from about the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of this century the railroad grew in leaps and bounds consolidating and adding main lines and branch lines to itsí vast New England empire.
North Conway traces its beginnings as a railroad terminal to the early 1870ís when predecessor line, Portsmouth, Great Falls and Conway, commenced operations. The Eastern Railroad, another B&M ancestor, had constructed a line from Boston to Portland, Maine in the early 1840ís. Fierce competition and the usual overbuilding of multiple rail lines in those years eventually led to the consolidations which became the Boston & Maine Railroad.
In 1871, construction began on an extension to the branch from the Eastern Railroad that had ended at Union, NH. Wakefield, Ossipee, Madison, Conway, and then North Conway were reached. In those days, North Conway was a sleepy summer resort village. The White Mountains of New Hampshire were just starting to be popular with an increasingly prosperous middle class clientele, able to escape from hot muggy summers elsewhere.
In North Conway the railroad built an imposing passenger station, a four stall roundhouse, turntable, freight house and other facilities. Two years later, the line was extended to Intervale Junction, NH and connected with the Maine Centralís Portland to Ogdensburg route. For many years, the abundant forests of the White Mountains provided much timber which was shipped out of North Conway. In the 1930ís the railroad initiated winter ski train specials to the White Mountains. These specials ran well into the 1950ís on weekends bringing in hordes of skiers and outdoor buffs. Specials ran from Boston and even Worcester. Mount Cranmore near North Conway became a top ski resort in the Granite State.
Summer is also a special time in the beautiful White Mountains, and the B&M, in conjunction with the Maine Central operated a daytime passenger train from Boston named the Mountaineer. This trains routing took it from Boston to Littleton, NH via Dover, and the Conway branch to Intervale, where it joined Maine Centralís rails through Crawford Notch. It returned to B&M trackage at Whitefield for the short run to Littleton. Head end traffic was always a prominent part of this trainís makeup until highway competition squeezed the railroad out. Steam power included Class P-3 Pacifics and K-8 Consolidations. What a sight the line must have been in the 1930ís through the end of steam in January 1952. Double headed "Snow Trains" and summer passenger extras kept the rails shiny and the depot at North Conway buzzing with railroad activity.
In December 1961, B&M ended passenger service which by now had dwindled to a Budd car consist. Eleven years later, B&M would exit North Conway when all operations north of Mount Whittier (West Ossipee) ended in October 1972. The final freight, a load of granite destined for West Chelmsford, Ma., pulled away from North Conwayís now boarded up depot on Halloween, October 31, 1972.
Then two years later, Conway Scenic Railroad acquired the property and began to form a tourist railroad operation. Steam and vintage diesel returned to the branch line. The depot was saved, restored and converted for use with the tourist operation. The location has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the summer months, North Conway is a very popular tourist destination, and the railroad and its unique depot are at the center of it all.
Just recently, the railroad again began operating special trains north through the very scenic Crawford Notch area. Perhaps one day soon, steam may be run and the lonely whistle of the locomotive will once again be heard echoing from the mountain sides.
North Conway, NH. Built in 1874, this is one of the most unique depots in New England. Described by some as a Victorian interpretation of Russian provincial architecture, the depot was saved from demolition and today is the focus of the Conway Scenic Railroad.
John C. Dahl photo.
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