SHUT OFF FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
Bridgton & Saco River R. R. Temporarily Out of Commission. Tracks Buried Under Coating of Ice. Big Crew Pick Forty-two Miles of Ice Before Traffic is Resumed.
Bridgton awoke Monday morning to find itself practically shut off from the outside world as far as transportation and mail service was concerned. Saturday night there was a fall of several inches of snow, which completely covered the tracks of the Bridgton & Saco River R. R. The snow was followed by a heavy rain Sunday, which converted it into slush, there being a rise in temperature from Saturday night to Sunday forenoon, of over 40 degrees. Sunday night the weather again turned to freezing temperature and the soft slush and water which in many places had buried the tracks of the railroad out of sight, was transformed into solid ice, upon which the flange digger of the road made absolutely no impression. This sealed the road for the time being as effectually as if there had been no rails present.
Sunday afternoon one of the heaviest engines of the road, No. 6, was sent out to clear the line, hauling the flange digger. At Sandy Creek the forward truck of the locomotive took the siding, which the truck following remained on the main line. This put a stop to operations in this direction, as there was no locomotive on the Junction end of the line and it was impossible to get another locomotive by No. 6. The wrecking crew worked until sometime past three Sunday morning before the big engine cold be got back on the irons. In the meantime the track in advance had been completely frozen over.
No. 3, sent over to clear the track from Bridgton to Harrison, came to grief about 10.30 Sunday night, before it had reached the Mill street crossing. At a point between Portland and Mill street, the locomotive took to the tall timber and the engineer and firemen were obliged to quickly shut off the steam valve and jump for their lives. The engine came to a halt several feet from the track, plunging into a small hollow by the side of the line and tipping partially over on to its side. It was not until Tuesday afternoon that it was back on the tracks again.
In the meantime the S. O. S. call had been sounded. It was found that the flange digger has absolutely no impression upon the ice and that the locomotive was not heavy enough to crush it, but that the ice held their weight and that the rolling stock of the road was useless. While the situation was a peculiar one, it was also of a serious nature. Passengers who had planned to leave Bridgton Monday morning and whose duties demanded their presence at the point of their destination, found themselves entirely hopeless, as far as the railroad transportation was concerned. It was impossible to get any mail out of town, nor was there any way of getting the mail and daily papers into the town. Bridgton was completely isolated and a desolate and homesick feeling spread over the whole community.
The Central Garage came to the rescue and put on a jitney bus between Bridgton, Portland and way stations. This however, solved only part of the difficulties. There was still the problem of mail facilities. Post master Frank P. Davis took the situation up with the authorities immediately. He discovered that he could have the mail come over from Brownfield or from other main line points, at his own expense. This did not appeal to him and he looked up higher authority, with the result that Tuesday morning the service was partially resumed. A team was sent out from Harrison, collecting mail from that place, North Bridgton, Bridgton and way stations along the narrow gauge line, and receiving the mail which had accumulated at the Junction, brought is back to Bridgton and other places.
As soon as the gravity of the situation became apparent, large crews of men were put on the tracks with pickaxes and the work of picking the ice away from the track was begun. It will be easily seen, however, that this was something of a task when it is realized that it was necessary to pick nearly all the way. The distance from Harrison to Bridgton Junction is about twenty-one miles. The ice on both side of both rails had to be cleared away and it can therefore be reckoned as a good 42 miles of picking.
A crew started at the Harrison end and one at the Bridgton end, working toward each other. Several crews were put on the line between Bridgton and the Junction and Tuesday forenoon a large crew of men were sent up from Portland to help. Every effort was put forth to clean the tracks and begin operations again and Tuesday forenoon it looked as through there might be a train through that night, but it was well into Wednesday before the track was cleared.
Monday evening Miss Charlotte Abbott, Miss Maud Turner and Jesse Libby, passengers on the up train of the Mountain Division, Bridgton Bound, found themselves stranded at the Junction, with no means of reaching home. A telephone message was sent to Bridgton and a team was sent to convey the party home. They reached Bridgton in the wee small hours, somewhere between two and three in the morning, cold, hungry and disgusted.
(This article was originally published by The Bridgton NEWS on January 19, 1917.)