Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad played an important part in the history of Millinocket! Through the years there have been “special” trains coming through heading for points north. In early days, several “excursion trains” brought people to see the new paper mill under construction. This was before the town was incorporated in 1901.
In the 1930’s, two “snow trains” made stops at Millinocket These were part of the Chamber of Commerce’s Snow Carnival. The train from Houlton had eight passenger cars and the one from Bangor had eleven passenger cars. These two trains brought over 1000 people to town to enjoy the snow carnival festivities.
On February 11,1953, an unusual “special train” made a stop in Millinocket on its way from Derby to Fort Kent. It was called the “Vaccination Special.” A Bangor Daily news article found in a 1950’s scrapbook recently donated to the museum gives the following information. “Vaccination Special Leaves Derby to Help Prevent Flu Outbreak Among Bangor and Aroostook RR Men.” It calls it “one of the strangest trains to ever leave this Piscataquis County village. It carried no revenue-bearing freight, nor any paying passengers, just lots of vials packed in shock-absorbing material. The carefully-packed vials contained enough flu vaccine for each one of the 1300 Bangor and Aroostook employees.” Also on board the train was the railroad’s chief surgeon and two registered nurses.
This vaccine was “the only known protection against the flu virus raging in the U.S.” and needed to be given ten days before exposure to the virus. This train was on a four-day tour of the 600-mile B & A line. The day before on the Derby to Fort Kent run, this train traveled from Derby to Searsport to distribute the vaccine. The article states that this new strain of the virus called “influenza” is similar to the strain observed in the 1951 epidemic.
In Millinocket’s earliest days, residents were faced with diseases such as typhoid, cholera and smallpox which often reached epidemic levels. “Pest houses” were located in several locations in town including a small building on the way to Stone Dam, one on Water Street and another (two stories) on Medway Road. For a time, the Mountain View House was used as a temporary hospital and Levasseur’s Boarding House was quarantined due to the number of cases of typhoid.