The Development of the Railroad in Millinocket
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
“When the development of Millinocket commenced, the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Company immediately built new and more commodious stations, enlarged the yard, laid new tracks, and built a spur track from the main line to the site of the proposed mill. These improvements cost more than $50,000.
The plant gives an immense amount of business to the railroad, for all the coal, lime, sulphur and other supplies must be brought in by the road, and the finished product must go out by that same road. The product is at present 260 tons of paper daily. This would require a train of about 17 freight cars every day of the year. The railroad facilities are all that can reasonably be desired, and the railroad management has extended every accommodation possible from the very beginning of the great enterprise.” Quote from 17th Annual report of the Bureau of Industrial & Labor Statistics for the State of Maine, 1903.
Prior to that date, about 1892, the B & A RR was granted approval for a railroad line between Brownville and Presque Isle. The reason a line was needed was to transport potatoes! Work began in July 1893 in the wilderness with rugged men struggling to lay tracks through the forest, fighting black flies, mosquitoes, food shortages and the weather. Along the way, the tracks were put down from Brownville to Norcross and North Twin Dam and passing through the area that would become Millinocket. The tracklayers prevailed and in December the first train arrived in Houlton over an American railroad.
In 1885, heated boxcars began hauling Aroostook County potatoes to points south. In October of 1893, there was a frost-proof water tank and pumping station, section-house and one siding at the spot near what would later become the town of Millinocket.
As the railroad was being extended, Charles Mullen and others were planning for the paper mill and in 1899, the railroad constructed a spur line from the main line to the mill yard. This track was mostly finished when work began on the mill. The project attracted numerous onlookers and the railroad ran excursion trains so visitors could observe the construction. The first excursion train came down from Caribou. Later ones came north from Bangor. This was 1899!
Before long, Great Northern Paper would become the Bangor & Aroostook RR’s most valued customer and Millinocket it’s busiest freight yard.
(See book titled Bangor & Aroostook, The Maine Railroad by Angier & Cleaves for more detail, copy at museum).
On display at the museum is an original B & A bell, a chair from the railroad station, a conductor’s hat and a wooden shovel used to remove snow from the railroad yard. Also, many railroad photos are available for viewing!