Willey Brook Trestle, World War 1 Guard Duty

Crawford Notch State Park - Willey Brook Trestle along the old Maine Central Railroad in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. The Mt. Willard Section House was located just to the right of the trestle. This railroad is now used by the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Willey Brook Trestle – Crawford Notch, New Hampshire  
 

Willey Brook Trestle, World War 1 Guard Duty – Many know of the Willey Brook Trestle along the old Maine Central Railroad in Crawford Notch, but some of the history surrounding the bridge is not widely known. And to appreciate this article, a little railroad history is needed.

Chartered in 1867 as the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad, reorganized as the Portland & Ogdensburg Railway in 1886 and then leased to the Maine Central Railroad in 1888 and later abandoned in 1983. Since 1995 the Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides passenger excursion trains, has been using the track. The building of this railroad through the rugged terrain of Crawford Notch was an amazing feat during the 1800s. Above is a photo showing the landscape of the Willey Brook drainage.

The Willey Brook Trestle along the old Maine Central Railroad in Hart's Location, New Hampshire during. This trestle is within Crawford Notch State Park. And since 1995 the Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides passenger excursion trains has been using the track.
Willey Brook Trestle – Crawford Notch, New Hampshire
 

Originally built in 1875 of wood and iron, the Willey Brook Trestle crosses a deep rocky gorge that the Willey Brook tumbles down. This gorge is just east of the historical Mt. Willard Section House which was home to the legendary Hattie Evans.

The Willey Brook Trestle along the old Maine Central Railroad in Hart's Location, New Hampshire during the winter months. This trestle is within Crawford Notch State Park. And since 1995 the Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides passenger excursion trains has been using the track.
Willey Brook Trestle – Crawford Notch, New Hampshire
 

When the United States entered into World War 1 in April 1917, there was great concern that important sites along transportation routes, such as railroad bridges, would be blown up. Soldiers were responsible for protecting these sites. And one month after the United States entered into the war, Private L. Dudley Leavitt and seven other National Guardsmen of the First Vermont Infantry were assigned six weeks guard duty of the Willey Brook Trestle.

The Willey Brook Trestle along the old Maine Central Railroad in Hart's Location, New Hampshire during the autumn months. This trestle is within Crawford Notch State Park. And since 1995 the Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides passenger excursion trains has been using the track.
Willey Brook Trestle – Crawford Notch, New Hampshire
 

In "Life by the Tracks" by Virginia C. Downs, Private L. Dudley Leavitt provides a first hand account guarding the Willey Brook Trestle in 1917. He also references revisiting the trestle and Hattie Evans in 1925 with his wife after his discharge from the National Guard in 1919. During his 1925 visit, he relocates the trackside telephone pole and ledge overhang he carved his name into when doing guard duty.

Crawford Notch State Park -The Maine Central Railroad in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. Chartered in 1867 as the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad then leased to the Maine Central Railroad in 1888 and later abandoned in 1983. Since 1995 the Conway Scenic Railroad, which provides passenger excursion trains has been using the track.
Barely Visible – L.D. Leavitt Carved In Ledge, Maine Central Railroad
 

Today, the telephone pole is gone (looks to have been cut down), but carved in the ledge near the Willey Brook Trestle is "L.D. Leavitt". You can barely make out his name in the upper left corner of the above photo. Could this possibly be the original carving he did in 1917 or has someone innocently etched his name into the ledge to pay tribute? Either way, cool piece of history!

I have viewed many of the 19th & 20th century names that are carved into the ledges along the Maine Central Railroad, but this is a surprising one. And I am skeptical if it is the original carving, but anything is possible. View more scenes of the Willey Brook Trestle here.

Happy image making..


 

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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4 Responses to “Willey Brook Trestle, World War 1 Guard Duty”

  1. Mark Stoffan

    Hello again. I first saw Leavitt’s name there in 1983, right after the book came out. I believe Ray Evans told me it was original, but I can’t recall that with certainty. 

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Mark,

      Leavitt’s story is a great and interesting piece of White Mountains history. His name is getting hard to see in the rock these days.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  2. Jill C

    I just happened upon you pictures and commentary about Pvt. Leavitt.  I'm following links and finding more of your work.  Thank you so much.

    Reply

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