Abandoned Eagle Lake Trains
Some things never change–when I was a kid, I loved trains. Standing by the tracks and watching them go by, putting a penny on the tracks, and building model landscapes through which my H gauge could maneuver. Of course, I got older, but that fascination remained. And there’s a place I can get up close and personal to two impressive engines on the shore of Eagle Lake in northern Piscataquis County. It’s a quite a sight and well worth the 250-mile roundtrip snowmobile tour from The Forks to “the trains”.
The Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad operated the two large engines from 1927-1933. On an average week, the engines and their 12 cars hauled more than 6,500 cords of pulpwood along the tracks to the West Branch watershed. The railroad was the brainchild of Edouard “King” LaCroix and brought wood for the paper-making industry from the region surrounding Eagle and Churchill Lakes over to Umbazooksus Lake, owned by Great Northern Paper. The steam locomotives and their tenders (name of the car that carried the fuel) were originally built in 1897 and 1901. LaCroix purchased them used (thrifty, thrifty!) before moving them to Maine. Once in Maine’s deep woods, they were converted from coal to oil to avoid forest fires caused by coal’s cinders.
History of the Eagle Lake Trains
When the operations ended in 1933, both trains were pretty obsolete and it wasn’t worth the money to move them. They were retired to a shed at Eagle Lake. When the shed burned down in 1966, the trains were exposed to the elements and visitors. A few vandals, too, unfortunately. To prevent them from completely rusting away, the Maine Parks and Recreation Commission painted the trains in 1969. As you make your way through the woods to the two engines, keep your eyes peeled for remnants of the 1,500-foot trestle, which carried both the train and its heavy cargo across the north end of Chamberlain Lake where Allagash Stream enters the lake.
Snowmobile Touring Directions to the Trains
From Rockwood-Kineo, Maine:
From Greenville, Maine:
Run up Moosehead Lake to Kineo or take the trail to Kokadjo. At Kokadjo take the Moosehead Loop/Rt66 Re-route to the Ragged Lake Trail. Head East 4.3 miles. Head north on the Maxfield Brook Trail. Cross over the Golden Road and head north on the Pine Stream Trail 14 miles to Chesuncook Village and the Chesuncook Lake House. Stop at the Lake House to fuel up and get the very latest trail instructions to avoid cutting operations in the area – but confirm they’re open first. The trains are 21 miles from the Lake House
From Shin Pond, Maine
The ride to the trains is roughly 65 miles each way from Shin Pond, ITS 85. Located at about the midway point to the trains, Libby’s makes an ideal lunch and gas stop. From Libby’s, you across Lake Millinocket, through more woods, and down the length of 13-mile Chamberlain Lake to its northwest corner. Not far from where the trail re-enters the woods, you’ll find the remains of the steam-powered Eagle Lake tramway.
Are You a History Buff?
Here are several links we found in researching this blog article that you might enjoy!
THANKS TO AMERICAN SNOWMOBILER, BANGOR NEWS & KEVIN BROWN & MAINE.GOV FOR THESE GREAT IMAGES. See their links above.
Katahdin Region, ME: Snowmobiling to the “Ghost Trains” & Libby Camps (full episode)