Edaville Railroad's Final Years and the Return to Maine

In the late 1940's, virtually all of the surviving equipment from Maine's once expansive network of two foot gauge railroads was trucked south to South Carver, Massachusetts to become the Edaville Railroad. Almost 50 years later, on September 19, 1993, most of the equipment was trucked back to Maine in a massive convoy of antique trucks to become part of a museum. I was fortunate enough to witness the two footers in operation several times, and to be present when the equipment made its final exit from Massachusetts on some of the same trucks that had moved it south in the 1940's.

A little background and history is in order first. The two foot gauge railroads covered several sections of the State of Maine starting in the late 1800's. These shortline railroads fell prey to the Depression and competition from trucks, with the last roads shutting down around the time of WWII. In 1946 and 1947, Ellis D. Atwood purchased most of the remaining equipment and had it trucked to his cranberry bogs in South Carver, Mass.

In South Carver, Atwood set up a 5 1/2 mile loop trough his bogs and used the trains both to service the bogs and to haul paying passengers. The operation was named Edaville Railroad, a name formed from Atwood's initials (E.D.A.). Over the years the railroad evolved into a "Family Fun Park"; with an emphasis on carnival type rides, bright lights and extravagant Christmas displays. Many non-operational display locomotives and cars of various gauges were also added. Edaville Railroad became a local institution, and drew visitors from far and wide.

 [THUMBNAIL] B&M 2-6-0 Mogul #1455 on display at Edaville. This venerable standard gauge locomotive has since moved to Hyannis, MA, where is is on display. The smoke at right is from two 2-foot gauge steamers.

 [THUMBNAIL] B&M/MEC 6000, the Flying Yankee/Cheshire articulated streamliner on display. Although the interior was in dismal condition, and the exterior cosmetics were poor, the stainless steel carbody remained in perfect condition even after decades on display.

 [THUMBNAIL] Mason Lumber Climax #4 on display. This standard gauge Climax has since moved to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg.

One of Edaville's most spectaular displays was the annual Railfan Weekend. This event featured "long" (10+ car) double headed passenger trains, freight specials, and a vast railfan/model railroad fleamarket. Railfan weekend was also a chance to see rare equipment, such as the last SR&RL railbus, which rarely came out of storage. I was fortunate enough to attend the very last Railfan Weekend ever held at Edaville.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville #7 and #8 get a heavy passenger train rolling during Railfan weekend. The smoke and steam is not all for show; these locomotives are really working to accelerate a long train out of the station.

 [THUMBNAIL] Closeup of Edaville #8 during Railfan Weekend.

 [THUMBNAIL] SR&RL Railbus #4 on display during Railfan Weekend. This railbus was one of two built by SR&RL's shop crews, and is the only survivor.

 [THUMBNAIL] A section car on display during Railfan Weekend. I believe this is one of the section cars built by SR&RL crews to ease crew transportation and access for maintenance work along their remote route.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's the railroad ran into financial problems, and shut down in 1991. The equipment sat outside and unprotected until 1993, when it was purchased by the newly formed Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum in Portland, Maine. The purchase of the equipment saved what is surely the largest collection of two foot gauge equipment on the continent from sale at auction. The museum announced that the equipment would be moved to Portland during September, 1993. Even better was the news that the equipment would move in convoy pulled by a fleet of antique trucks provided by members of the American Truck Historical Society.

On the 18th of September, 1993, I arranged to stop at Edaville one last time, since I was passing nearby on other business. It was the day before the "Big Move" north, and we expected that preparations would be nearing completion. When we arrived at Edaville that day we found that we could walk, or even drive, right in. The days of nine dollar admission and little tickets to prove you had paid were long gone, and security was nil. Many of the freight and passenger cars and some of the locomotives had already been loaded on trailers and hitched behind the trucks. The old trucks, some with direct chain drive, were almost as interesting as the cars and locomotives. Almost every patch of ground was covered with trucks and trailers, and some of the streets were packed full of trucks parked nose to tail. The lawn where the Railfan Weekend fleamarkets had been held had become a vast muddy parking lot.

As we walked around, the volunteers were working rapidly (maybe even franticly) to get the rest of the equipment loaded for the next day's move. Passenger and freight cars were loaded on trailers with a forklift by simply lifting the cars off their trucks and setting them onto trailers. Many cars were in such bad shape that they sagged several inches at either end as they were lifted. Although not the ideal way to load cars, it was effective and fast. Locomotives and other heavy pieces of equipment were pushed and pulled up a ramp onto the trucks. We watched Number 8 as it was pushed up a ramp onto a heavy-duty trailer donated by Hallamore, a major heavy hauling company.

The mood was dismal. Dozens of people stood around in the rain talking about the first time they had seen the two footers running; the first time they had ridden behind the little steamers; and other reminisces about the now closed operation. The atmosphere was somewhat like a funeral, for we all knew that the trains probably would never be back.

Talking to the volunteer workers we determined that the equipment would leave in convoy at about 7:00 AM the next day, to be out of the state by 10:00 AM, which was when the over the road special movement permit expired. As we drove away, we were all thinking "It would be nice to see the convoy leave tomorrow," but no one wanted to be the one to propose the idea of getting up at 5:00 AM to be on the side of the highway at 7:00 AM. When someone finally mentioned the idea, we all agreed at once. That evening we called around to find a camcorder to borrow, got the other equipment out and planned the best spots to wait for the convoy.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville cars on trailers awaiting the Big Move, 18 September 1993.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another car awaiting the trip north.

 [THUMBNAIL] Still more cars awaiting the Big Move.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville #8 being pushed up an inclined loading track, 18 September 1993.

The next morning we rolled from home at an obnoxiously early hour, arriving roadside at 6:45 AM. We picked a nice spot a few miles north of Edaville along northbound Rte. 495, set the cameras up a bit above road level, and then settled down to wait. By 9:00 AM we were getting tired of waiting and tired of the very strange looks we were getting from passing drivers. We decided to pack up the gear, go north to the next exit, turn around and drive south to Edaville to check on the status of the very late convoy. About half a mile north of our spot, while moving along at 70+ mph we passed a rest area filled with people clearly waiting for the convoy. Quickly deciding not to head south, we darted across the grass between the rest area and the highway, picked a spot with a nice wide view, and set up our gear. A better photo spot couldn't have been found, as we had a wide open view of the highway and the trucks would be rolling up a slight grade, promising great sound from the old tractors.

About half the people in the rest area were there to see the railroad equipment and the other half were there to see the antique trucks. Surprisingly, we seemed to be the only ones in the rest area with a CB radio. Talking to other folks up and down the road, we established a series of checkpoints to alert everyone when the convoy approached. We also got countless questions from passing trucks and cars, wondering about the vast number of people standing by the side of the road and on the overpasses. As people from all over eastern Massachusetts turned out to say goodbye to Edaville, it began to look a bit like a Presidential funeral, with hundreds of people lining the roads and overpasses.

A bit before 10 AM, a trucker said over the radio "You'll never believe what I just saw coming onto the highway". Within seconds everyone in the rest area and on the side of the road knew: the convoy was finally coming (so much for being out of state by 10 AM!). Just then two police cars pulled into the rest area, one blocking the entrance and the other rolling along ordering us out!!! It turns out that the rest area was a planned inspection stop for the convoy. But the police had waited until the trucks were less than 10 minutes away before they cleared us out!

There was no time to find another good location, and waiting for the convoy to leave the inspection stop wasn't an option, due to time constraints. We tossed the gear in the back of the truck and roared out of the rest area while getting off a CB warning about the stop to the rest of the crowd waiting roadside. Several cars and trucks drove across the median and parked in the rest area on the other side of the highway, but we figured that trying to cross two lanes of speeding traffic and then run back across on foot wasn't the safest idea in the world.

We dashed north to the next exit, turned around, and raced south towards the oncoming convoy. CB reports indicated that we were closing with the convoy at a combined speed of over 100 mph, and that they were barely a couple miles south of us. We got off at the next exit, parked the truck in the first available place and ran out onto the overpass, arriving just as the lead police cars in the convoy passed under. Soon the convoy itself was passing under, with locomotive bells ringing and flags flying on the trucks. Trying to shoot videotape through chain link fence while attaching the camera to a tripod is a bit difficult, but I managed to do it (barely). Arghhhhhh...the perfect photo spot spoiled by the State Police....shooting through chain link is no substitute for wide open shots.

We filmed and photographed the convoy through the chain link "suicide fence" and then jumped back in our truck to follow the trucks up to the rest area. Because the Police had closed the highway entrance ramps to allow the convoy to pass, there was a long line of cars waiting to get on the highway. After we got past some of the traffic we were able to drive right beside the convoy while I videotaped from the passenger side window. Traffic on the highway was reduced to 30 mph or less as the convoy slowed to a stop in the right lane prior to pulling into the rest area. There were three groups of people on the road that day, the rail and/or truck fans, who were trying to photograph, film and follow the convoy, and the poor unsuspecting folks who suddenly happened upon a line of 40 antique trucks carrying antique trains down a 70 mile per hour highway at 30 mph. The third group was of course the convoy, with its State Police and Blue Knights motorcycle escort. The Police motorcycles put on quite a show as they raced along at 60+ between the lanes of nearly stopped traffic trying to catch up to the front of the convoy after blocking onramp traffic.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville cars rolling upgrade along Route 495, 19 September 1993.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville #8 rolls along Route 495.

We parked the truck on the side of the highway and walked back to the rest area to see the trains and trucks. Photography of any sort was difficult in the narrow, tightly packed rest area, but we got a few shots. Then, due to other commitments later in the day, we had to leave. It was sad to see the Edaville trains for the last time in Massachusetts but it is good to know that they are being well cared for at their new home in Maine.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville #8 during the first inspection stop.

 [THUMBNAIL] Edaville #4 during the first inspection stop.

Later that day, on I-95 in New Hampshire and Maine, southbound traffic ground to a complete halt so everyone could stare at the convoy rolling north on the other side of the highway. The convoy arrived at its destination, the old Portland Locomotive Works, at dusk that day.

Equipment Rosters

Equipment moved September 19, 1993 included:

Equipment moved before September 19, 1993 included:

Other equipment moved to Portland:
Equipment remaining at Edaville as of September, 1994:
(all owned by Maine Narrow Gauge RR & Museum)

Subsequent Developments

Not all of Edaville's equipment went to the Maine Narrow Gauge RR & Museum. All of the standard gauge, 3 foot gauge, other non-2 foot gauge, and 2 foot gauge display equipment was sold off to a variety of new owners. This equipment has been scattered all over the country, and much of it has vanished from view.

One piece of equipment which has not vanished is Edaville's largest display item, the B&M/MEC Flying Yankee/Cheshire articulated streamliner. It was removed from the Edaville grounds a month after the "Big Move", and now rests beside NH Route 302 in Glen, NH. It is now owned by the State of New Hampshire, and is to be restored for operation on the "Mountain Route" through Crawford Notch, when funds allow.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Flying Yankee as it sat beside Route 302 in Glen, NH, from 1993 to 1997. In Decmeber 1997 it was moved to the Claremont & Concord's shops for restoration.

The "Big Move" was not the end of the line for the Edaville property. From the time the operation first closed down, there were local proposals to revive it in some form. These proposals finally came to fruition in 1996 when a new company, using a variety of second-hand equipment, resumed operations on the Edaville property.

However, the reprive for Edaville was short-lived. By November of 1996 the new operators had fallen behind in rent and utility payments. The power was shut off just before Thanksgiving, and the operation was forced to close. Deprived of revenues from the usually busy holiday season, the company seemed to stand little chance of paying off the bills and resuming operations.

In 1997 yet another operator arranged for use of the Edaville grounds. This group, South Carver Rail, operated trains a few times in 1997, but their effort made no further progress.

In 1999, however, things began to improve. A new operator arranged use of the site, demolished old buildings and built new ones, and re-opened Edaville in September.

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