How to see ‘Ghost Trains’ deep in the Maine woods

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff
Posted April 21, 2017, at 7:32 a.m.

WINSLOW, Maine — Shane Morrison is putting together a convoy, and he plans on rolling it across Maine to one of the state’s more remote and unlikely reminders of its logging history.

On Aug. 4, Morrison will lead a backroad trip into the North Maine Woods in the First Ghost Train Convoy to visit the abandoned steam engines and tramway between Eagle and Chamberlain lakes.

Morrison said he organized the event for his group, Central Maine Jeep Owners, but the trip is open to anyone.

“My wife and I run the [Central Maine Jeep Owners] group, and for some time we had been discussing a trip to Eagle Lake to see the trains,” Morrison said. “We decided to create this event and see if there was any interest, and it kind of exploded.”

So far the trip’s Facebook page has racked up close to 700 people expressing interest with nearly 50 confirmed to take part.

“It did start out just for the Jeep owners,” Morrison said. “But we decided to include everyone who would like to come.”

The plan, he said, is to meet up at a campground in Abbot for an overnight on Aug. 4, then start the 90-mile drive on back, dirt logging roads north early the next morning.

The group will camp out again Saturday night and return to Abbot on Sunday.

The two 100-ton steam engine locomotives at the north end of Chamberlain Lake are the most visible reminders of the long abandoned 13-mile railway in the middle of the North Maine Woods that in the 1920s transported up to 6,500 cords of pulpwood per week to the tramway and transport via a system of rivers and lakes to mills in Bangor and beyond.

Rusty rail cars, tracks, coal burning furnaces and smaller artifacts still remain. In 2012, a small team of volunteers restored a section of the old 3,000 foot tramway — a system of cribwork, rails, inch-thick cable and iron that moved logs over a narrow section of land between Eagle and Chamberlain lakes.

The entire site is on what is now the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and, as such, is subject to federal protection and regulations.

“I’ve talked to officials at the waterway and they are enthusiastic about the trip,” Morrison said. “But we do have to follow their rules.”

Among those rules, he said, is only 12 people at a time can make the 2-mile hike in to view the site.

“I can respect that,” Morrison said. “It’s one thing to stand there with 11 other people, it would be another to have to be there with hundreds of people standing around.”

Morrison, who said he has never been to the site, does plan a pre-convoy scouting mission.

“We don’t want to get the whole group lost,” he said. “Of course, that is also part of the fun of these kinds of trips.”

Most of the trip will be on privately owned paper company roads and Morrison said respecting the right of way of the working loggers and truck drivers is a priority.

He said waterway officials have also told him they will have one of their rangers at the site to give tours and explain some of the history of the area.

If there is time, Morrison said, the group may stop on the way back to view the old B-52 crash site at Elephant Mountain on Moosehead Lake.

There is no cost to take part in the convoy, but there is a $10 per vehicle fee to enter the North Maine Woods. Participants should also plan on having enough fuel for the roughly 200-mile round trip, or a method of bringing extra fuel. Details are available on the event’s Facebook page.

http://bangordailynews.com/2017/04/21/outdoors/how-to-see-ghost-trains-deep-in-the-maine-woods/ printed on May 30, 2017