Locomotive 9

Locomotive #9, before undergoing restoration. Photo courtesy of Wally Johnson.

Locomotive 9, shown here, was built in 1891 by the Portland Company, Portland Maine, for the Sandy River Railroad.  It was the 622nd locomotive built by the Portland Company, one of ten two-foot gauge locomotives built by that manufacturer.  This locomotive gained four different numbers over its 40+ year operational history: SRRR #5, Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes (SR&RL) #6 in 1908, Kennebec Central (KC) #4 in 1924, and finally WW&F #9 in 1933.

The locomotive is nearing the end of a multi-year rebuild, see pictures and descriptions of work on the locomotive here, on the Discussion Forum.

On the Sandy River Railroad
SRRR #5 moving past some early Sandy River Railroad boxcars, probably during the 1890’s. WW&F Railway Museum archives.

SRRR #5 was built in 1891 by the Portland Company of Portland, Maine.  Builder’s plate number 622, it was the second two-foot gauge engine built by the Portland Company.  Sandy River Railroad officials were so impressed by its predecessor, SRRR #4, that they ordered another similar locomotive the very next year.  The Sandy River Railroad at the time was a busy railroad, connecting with the narrow gauge railroads Franklin and Megantic (F&M) at Strong and the Phillips and Rangeley (P&R) at Phillips, and meeting the standard gauge Maine Central at Farmington.

#5 performed adequately during its years of service, becoming damaged in several accidents and roundhouse fires.  #5 briefly bore the name “N. B. Beal” when it first arrived, in honor of Nathaniel Beal, an officer of the Sandy River for many years.

On the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad
SR&RL #6 in January, 1908 (right after the SR&RL consolidation), hauling an F&M flanger and least two cars out of Strong Station. The two men are fireman Charles French and engineer Dan Cushman (l-r). Photo courtesy of the Boothbay Railway Museum archives.
SR&RL #6, on the roundhouse tracks at Phillips. This picture clearly shows the newly painted engine. Photo courtesy of the Walker Transportation Collection.
#6’s days on the SR&RL are numbered. Here she is, stored cold, on a side track some time prior to her sale to the Kennebec Central. The year is unknown. Photo courtesy of the Walker Transportation Collection.

In 1908, the Sandy River RR merged with the Franklin & Megantic and Phillips & Rangeley railroads, thus formalizing a union that had informally happened since their beginning.  The locomotive numbers were shuffled, with SRRR #5 becoming SR&RL #6.  Business was very good, and the new #6 was kept busy.

However, as the years progressed and larger and larger motive power arrived, the smaller engines started to get shoved aside.  The 0-4-4’s couldn’t compete with the 2-4-4’s and the 2-6-2’s for tonnage hauling.  Business began dropping off as well. Finally, in November of 1924 #6 was sold to the Kennebec Central Railroad, ending almost 35 years of service on the Sandy River system.

On the Kennebec Central Railroad
The engine has been sold to the Kennebec Central, and now sports the number 4. We see her here spotted at the turntable in Randolph Yard. It’s between 1924 and 1929. Photo courtesy of Dick Bolt.

On the KCRR, the new arrival was given the #4.  Her task on this railroad was hauling the coal from the docks on the Kennebec River in Randolph to the Old Soldier’s Home in Togus, a distance of a little over five miles.

Unfortunately the coal contract was awarded to trucks in 1928, and the KCRR could not last long on the meager passenger income.  The KCRR shut its doors that year, and the two engines, #3 and #4, lay dormant until 1933, when the railroad was purchased by WW&F owner Frank Winter.  Winter’s goal was the two operational engines. Both locos were hauled by flatbed truck in mid-winter overland to Wiscasset, the first such move of flatbed trucks in Maine.

On the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway

KC #4 was renumbered to WW&F #9, and put into service.  #9 operated intermittently over the road until early June, 1933, when she was sidelined for a broken frame member.  Sister #8 derailed on June 15, 1933, closing the railroad.  #9 is thought to have operated one more time, in 1934 from Wiscasset to the Top of the Mountain in Alna to show prospective buyers the railroad.

This locomotive was serendipitously saved from the scrapper’s torch through the actions of a group of railroad enthusiasts in 1937.  It was brought to the farm of Frank Ramsdell in West Thompson, Conn.  First Frank, then his daughter Alice, cared for the locomotive until her death in 1994.  The locomotive returned to Maine in February of 1995, thanks to the generosity of owner Dale King, inheritor of the Ramsdell estate.

Currently the locomotive is under restoration, awaiting the day when she can again ride the rails under a full head of steam.  The old engine underwent an ultrasound test on the boiler in 1997.  The results indicated that the boiler is unfit for service in its present condition.  Rather than make repairs, it was decided to preserve the intregrity of the historical boiler and have a new boiler built.

In September 2000, after several years of negotiations, Mr. King signed a long-term lease agreement with the Museum.  This 25 year lease opened the way for complete restoration of this engine.  The Museum chose a boilermaker in 2004, Boothbay Railway Museum. 0 The boiler is expected to be delivered before the end of 2008.  It’s estimated that the complete restoration may be as high as $100,000. Additional details about the restoration may be found here.

#9 is the oldest of the remaining Maine Two-Footer engines, and is one of at least two remaining Portland Company locomotives.

Rebuilding Maine History