Railroad Section Houses of the Maine Central and P & O Railroads through Crawford Notch
It is generally known that there were three popularly known Section houses in Crawford Notch. However, when the Portland and Ogdensburg opened the line there were many more houses, often in sight of each other.
The dwelling most remembered is the famed Mt. Willard Section house. This fortress like building could be seen from US Route 302 along with Willey (pronounced willie not wylee) Brook Bridge, a double span deck girder bridge 104 feet long and 90 feet high at its highest point. The west end of the trestle was made of wood from 1875-1888. The entire bridge was replaced in 1905 with both spans of the bridge rolled out and the current new bridge being rolled in and the bridge reopened in 7 minutes!!!! and.......with no interruption in train service!!
This building was located 83.54 miles from Portland, ME. Built in 1888 for the James Mitchell family it boarded section men that would work the most difficult section of the mountain line from Mile 82.5 miles from Portland to just east of Crawford’s Station:
Section 129. In 1902 James Mitchell retired and Loring Evans and his wife Hattie set up housekeeping in the remote mountain dwelling. Loring was killed by accident in 1913 but Hattie stayed and boarded the section men until her retirement in 1941.
Researched and written by Scotty Mallett. Some photos on this page courtesy of Robert Girouard
Sawyer River Station and Junction of The Sawyer River Railroad to Livermore.
Sawyer River Station
Section Houses on the way East through Crawford Notch
7 constructed by the P&O RR and 1 by the MEC.
Name and Miles from Portland:
*Sawyers River @ mile 74.8 (P&O)
1888-1891 George Rich
1894-1902 John Stevens
1902-1903 Leslie Smith
1903-1905 George Murch
1905-1911 Merville Murch
1912-1927 John McCann
Carrigain Station and Town. The "dwelling" was about a mile west of this scene.
Carrigain Dwelling @ mile 78.8 (later to become Willey house post office) (P&O)
1894-1896 Fred Pingree
1941-1973 Peter King
1973-1990 Private Dwelling
Avalanche Flag Stop later willey house Flag Stop
*Avalanche flag stop @ mile 80.8 (P&O)
1875-1877 Anthony Swift
*Willey House flag stop @ mile 80.9 (replaced Avalanche) (P & O)
1877-1903 William Burnell
1953-1965 Cornelius Griffin
1965-1976- Wellman Rowell
Burned by the Railroad 1988
Aldrige House @ mile 82.5(P&O)
1875-1894 Joseph Aldridge
Guay Place @ mile 83 (P&O)
Willey House Station and flag stop through the years in various states of condition
Willey House Station also housed the post office and telegraph for Harts Location. Their first early morning Presidential election was held here at 7:a.m. November 2, 1948
The first early morning Presidential election vote for Hart's Location was held here at 7:a.m. November 2, 1948
Willey House Station in its final years. By 1984, when these pictures were taken, it had declined to an irrecoverable condition. The railroad burned the building in 1988.
A visitor today might still find the concrete foundation walls and bits of iron stuff laying about. The kitchen cook stove was "off in the woods" the last time I was there in 2004. But, since folks can rarely just leave stuff alone, it's probably gone by now. ("now" being 2019)
The Foremans cottage
The Foremans Cottage was located on the big curve that was built of granite blocks on the side of Mt. Willard. James Mitchell, his family and section men were the only inhabitants of this dwelling. It was located at Mile Post 84 just about 1/4 mile west of the Mt.Willard Dwelling.
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchells "cottage" was built under the cliffs of Mt. Willard and on occasion, rock slides came through the house. The P&O tried to solve the rock problem by chaining some rock together. Thus the area became known as "Chained Rock".
In 1887 after a horrifying night of rock slides, thunder, and lighting, Mr. Mitchell tenured his resignation.
The famed Mt. Willard dwelling was built for The Mitchell's so Mr. Mitchell would stay on. He accepted the offer and did not retire until 1899. In 1887 Mr & Mrs Mitchell, two sons and a daughter moved into the Mt Willard House.
The "Foremans Cottage" was torn down in 1888.
The Foremans Cottage in 1875 with James Mitchell and his wife.
Mt Willard Section House
Mt Willard Section House with Hattie Evans and her children. Perhaps 1920. Their homestead was actually a cheerier place than this photo might suggest. Additional photos are up at the top of this page.
Mt Willard @ 83.5(Maine Central)
1888-1898- James Mitchell
1900-1941- Loring Evans Family
1944-1950-O. Douglas Macomber
Burned by the Railroad 1972
Mitchell Dwelling @ mile 84.0 (P & O)
1875-1888 James Mitchell
** If anyone can offer corrections to the dates and people listed, it would be of great help. All the names and dates above were taken by Scotty Mallett from the book “Harts Location” by Marion Varney
Editors Note: Complete biographies of all the folks mentioned in this article can be found at Marion L. Varney's book, "Hart's Location in Crawford Notch" - 1997
On August 17, 1888 the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad was leased to the Maine Central Railroad for 999 years. Included in the lease were all section Houses, Stations, Locomotives and Rolling stock as well as personnel.
I thought you might be interested in the value assigned to the buildings and furnishings from Intervale thru Crawford Notch. Remember, these are 1888 prices and 1888 spelling!
Passenger Station $100
Desk, Chair and Baggage Truck $30
Passenger Station and Freight House $500
Assorted Furniture $75
Freight House $150
Engine House (6 pits) $1000
Repair Shop $100
Tank House $200
Furniture, Stoves, desks, Freight truck, Passenger Truck $100
Coal Derrick $50
Station Building $75
Section House $400
Section House $400
Tank House $200
Moor’s Brook (spelled Moor’s)
Old Section House $300
Section House $4000
Furniture, 1 room $50
Ticket case, Desk, Stove and Baggage Barrow $55
Total Intervale to Crawfords $9,385
The lease of the P&O was cancelled some 50 years later when the Maine Central bought the remaining shares.
Editors note: If this $9385 was adjusted for inflation the amount would be $260,000 in 2018 dollars.
1966: "Helper" engines on the Frankenstein Trestle, probably returning to Bartlett Station.
Source Material: Life by the Tracks, Virginia C. Downs - 1983
Hart's Location in Crawford Notch, Marion L. Varney - 1997
Crawford Station: February 22, 1910