Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

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Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:23 am

Anyone know the history of the Madison (Bingham) Branch and the Hinckley (Skowhegan) Branch?

Just trying to imagine why a there wasn't a connection between Skowhegan and Noridgewock. Would have been easy to follow the river, I'd imagine. Especially back when the branches were built, possibly even when they came under one ownership (anyone know what year?). The distance from Hinckley to Madison probably would have been nearly half of the distance from Oakland to Madison, so perhaps the Madison branch would have seen better maintenance as it would have had a better return. There's no sign of any industry, past or present, between Oakland and Noridgewock, so I don't think it would have missed anyone.

Also wondering if anyone knows when the Bingham branch was cut back to North Anson and when it was cut back to Madison? And when Skowhegan rail service ended/under what circumstances?
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby trainsinmaine » Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:48 am

There was a proposal many years ago to connect the two lines to Skowhegan and Madison, and it would indeed have gone alongside the south side of river between Skowhegan and Norridgewock. An old-timer I knew who was raised in Skowhegan prior to World War I claimed that they actually graded some roadbed between the two towns, but I've never detected any evidence of it. (Then again, Route 2 is much wider than it used to be, and the highway may have claimed some of the ROW.) I have seen an old map that depicted the proposed connection, so there must have been some momentum behind the plan.

In further regard to a rail connection --- sort of --- between Skowhegan and Madison, there was an interurban trolley that operated between the two towns from 1900 till around 1932. It followed Route 201 to Lakewood, with a spur around the Lakewood Theater. The route continued alongside Golf Course Road --- you can discern where, if you use your imagination --- and then traversed along Route 43 into downtown Madison, where it made a big loop. Photos of it are very hard to come by; I don't think I've ever seen more than two.

The Skowhegan Branch of the MEC operated into downtown Skowhegan until 1952, IIRC. Afer that, service was cut back to what is now the New Balance shoe factory. That was discontinued in 1974, I think (I'd have to check that date; I may be a couple of years off). At that point, the roadbed was abandoned north of the Scott Paper mill (now Sappi) near Hinckley. When I moved to the area at the end of '76, it was evident that the ROW had been only recently removed. It's barely visible nowadays.

Service on the Somerset between North Anson and Bingham was discontinued in 1977. The rails were removed in the spring of 1978. I have old slides of the removal project.
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby trainsinmaine » Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:57 am

Service on the Somerset between Madison and North Anson continued into the '80s. I don't know how regularly the trains ran. They served the North Anson Reel mill. The mill closed in '90s and sat dormant for quite some time, after which Cousineau moved in. As you're probably aware, Guilford upgraded the line in the late '90s in anticipation of restoring service to the mill, but an industrial accident there, and the downturn in the economy, put the kibosh on all that and the line has lain dormant for at least ten years. I'm not even sure at this point whether trains are even running to the Madison Paper mill.
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby MEC407 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:15 am

Moved to the MEC forum.
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:41 pm

trainsinmaine wrote:There was a proposal many years ago to connect the two lines to Skowhegan and Madison, and it would indeed have gone alongside the south side of river between Skowhegan and Norridgewock. An old-timer I knew who was raised in Skowhegan prior to World War I claimed that they actually graded some roadbed between the two towns, but I've never detected any evidence of it. (Then again, Route 2 is much wider than it used to be, and the highway may have claimed some of the ROW.) I have seen an old map that depicted the proposed connection, so there must have been some momentum behind the plan.


Wow, had no idea there were actual plans. Any idea when this proposal was being mulled over? And it was definitely on the Rt 2 side of the river (kind of figured it would have been)?

trainsinmaine wrote:I'm not even sure at this point whether trains are even running to the Madison Paper mill.


They're not. Came to an end in late 2013 or early 2014. I imagine service would have continued had it been economical to keep the line in good shape, which probably would have happened had the connection between Skowhegan and Noridgewock been built in the early 1900's.
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby sleepingtree » Sun May 24, 2015 10:51 am

I'm very interested in the Bingham end of the branch. Particularly in regards to the track layout in the early 50s. If anyone has or can point me towards photos of Bingham between 1950 and 1978, I'd be very interested in seeing them.
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Re: Madison/Bingham Branch vs Hinckley/Skowhegan Branch

Postby trainsinmaine » Mon May 25, 2015 2:40 pm

The person to talk to about this is Walter Macdougall of Milo, Maine, who wrote a book on the Somerset Railroad (later the Bingham Branch) about fifteen years ago. Google him and send him a note. He knows everything there is to know about the line. He's a delightful guy and I know he would be pleased to provide whatever information you're seeking.
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