Abandoned Railroad Beds, White Mountains

Remnants of the old Swift River Railroad bed in Albany, New Hampshire.
Swift River Railroad (1906-1916) – Albany, New Hampshire
 

Abandoned Railroad Beds, White Mountains – It is hard to imagine that from the late 1800s to the early 1900s railroading was a way of life in the New Hampshire White Mountains, and timber barons dominated. You would think that after all these years no evidence of this era would exist, but it does. If you are a conservation or environmental photographer, some part of the White Mountains railroading era will interest you.

The historic railroads in the White Mountains are a common topic among hikers and history buffs. And as an environmental photographer I have been able to find interesting subject matter along all the railroads I have explored. One area of the railroads I have focused on is the actual railroad beds.

Remnants of the abandoned East Branch & Lincoln Railroad bed in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. This was a logging railroad which operated from 1893-1948. This branch of the railroad began near Camp 10, crossed Franconia Brook, and then traveled around the southern end of Owls Head Mountain to Camps 11 and 12 in the Lincoln Brook Valley.
East Branch & Lincoln (1893-1948) – Lincoln Brook Branch
 

The best preserved abandoned railroad beds I have seen in the New Hampshire White Mountains are deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness in East Branch & Lincoln (1893-1948) territory. The Lincoln Brook Branch of the EB&L that travels around the southern end of Owls Head Mountain (above) is unbelievable! As you look at the above image keep in mind this in not a trail, nor is it maintained.

This branch of the railroad began near Camp 10, along the Franconia Brook Branch, crossed Franconia Brook, and then traveled around the southern end of Owls Head Mountain passing Camp 11 and ending at Camp 12 in the Lincoln Brook Valley. It is my understanding this area was last logged in the early 1900s.

Remnants of a spur line along the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad in the Thoreau Falls Valley of Lincoln, New Hampshire. This was a logging railroad, which operated from 1893-1948.
East Branch & Lincoln (1893-1948) – Thoreau Falls Valley Spur Line
 

Many of the spur lines that ran for only short distances off the main railroad grade, like the above one in the Thoreau Falls Valley of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, are still visible today. We can still easily identify the railroad grade, but nature is slowly reclaiming what belongs to her. And at some point in time the above image could be the only proof this spur line ever existed.

Remnants of the old Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad in Franconia, New Hampshire USA. This railroad was in operation from 1879 - 1921 (+/-) and only serviced the Profile House in Franconia Notch.
Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad (1879-1921) – Franconia, New Hampshire
 

You do not have to go far off the beaten path to find abandoned railroad beds. Remnants of the old Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad (1879-1921) can still be seen along Route 3 in Franconia. This railroad only serviced the Profile House in Franconia Notch. The railroad bed (above) is well defined during the winter months.

Zealand Notch  - Scenic views along the Appalachian Trail ( -Ethan Pond Trail -  ) during the summer months in the White Mountains, New Hampshire USA. This trail follows the old Zealand Valley Railroad bed, which was a logging railroad in operation from 1884-1897(+/-).
Zealand Valley Railroad (1884-1897) – Appalachian Trail
 

I also will point out that many of the abandoned railroad beds are now part of the White Mountains trail system. A great example is the Appalachian Trail in Zealand Notch (above), which utilizes the railroad bed of the long forgotten Zealand Valley Railroad. Another example is the Pemigewasset Wilderness trail system. Without the East Branch & Lincoln, I think there wouldn’t be many trails in the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

If you are a photographer, who is trying to profit from photography, I hope the included images help you realize that building a solid image archive of a particular region involves photographing new locations, not shooting the same locations over and over. And don’t be afraid to venture away from the everyday subject matter.

All of the above images can be licensed for publications by clicking on the image you are interested in. And you can view more images of the historic railroads 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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