Beebe River Railroad

Beebe River Railroad country - Reflection of autumn foliage in Kiah Pond in Sandwich, New Hampshire on a cloudy autumn day.
Kiah Pond – Beebe River Railroad Country

Beebe River Railroad, New Hampshire – In January 1917, the Publishers Paper Company sold the Beebe River land tract (around 22,000 acres) to the Parker-Young Company. And in March 1917, the New Hampshire legislature approved the incorporation of the Beebe River Railroad. Also in the same year, the Woodstock Lumber Company, an affiliate of Parker-Young, built the Beebe River sawmill and mill village in Campton.

From 1917-1924, the Woodstock Lumber Company and Parker-Young operated the mill and railroad. Including sidings and spur lines, the railroad was roughly 25-miles long. It began off the Boston & Maine Railroad in Campton, followed the Beebe River drainage up into Sandwich, and ended near logging Camp 12 at the base of Mount Whiteface in Waterville. Some of the spruce harvested by this railroad was used in the manufacturing of airplanes during World War 1.

Artifact (cooking pan) at Camp 11 of the Beebe River Railroad (1917 -1942) in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. The removal of historical artifacts from federal lands without a permit is a violation of federal law.
Logging Camp 11 – Beebe River Railroad, New Hampshire

Like other logging railroads in the White Mountains, there were a number of rail-side logging camps along the Beebe River Railroad. For the most part, the locations of the twelve rail-side camps are easily identifiable, but the mountain camps (camps located off the mainline) are hidden on the mountainsides. To date, I know of fifteen logging camps associated with this railroad. And I am sure there are more to be found.

Wetlands area along Flat Mountain Pond Trail in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This trail follows the old Beebe River Railroad (1917-1942), and this area was referred to as the "Horseshoe", which was a very sharp turn along the railroad near logging Camp 9.
Horseshoe Curve – Beebe River Railroad, New Hampshire

The Beebe River Railroad was known for its many trestles, and a hairpin corner, near logging Camp 9, called the ‘Horseshoe”. The above wetlands area along the Flat Mountain Pond Trail, which utilizes the old railroad, is the general area of where the hairpin corner was. The log trains pretty much had to come to a crawl when going around this hairpin corner.

Flat Mountain Pond in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the autumn months. The Beebe River Logging Railroad (1917-1942) traveled through this section (on the left). And this is also the area of where logging Camp 10 is thought to have been located.
Flat Mountain Pond – Sandwich Range Wilderness, New Hampshire

During the railroad logging era, forest fires were a major concern, and the Beebe River Railroad dealt with a few. The logging slash left behind from poor logging practices fueled many fires. And during a stretch of dry weather in July 1923, an estimated 3,500 acres burned along the Beebe River Railroad: the Flat Mountain fire. The fire destroyed both logging Camps 11 and 12, which were located at the base of the mountain range above. Railroad operations likely caused the fire, and blame was placed on the Woodstock Lumber Company.

A piece of abandoned railroad track (artifact) along Flat Mountain Pond Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This railroad track is from the Beebe River Railroad, a logging railroad that worked the area from 1917-1942.
Abandoned Railroad Track – Flat Mountain Pond Trail

In 1924, the Draper Corporation purchased the Beebe River land tract, the Beebe mill and company buildings, and the railroad. Under the agreement, the Woodstock Lumber Company would harvest the remaining spruce and operate the mill until May 1925.

Once the property was transferred over to Draper Corporation, they converted the Beebe River mill over to a bobbin mill. However, they did not use the railroad for logging purposes until 1934. In 1934 a section of the railroad was repaired so hardwood logs could be hauled to the bobbin mill. But the railroad operated only for a few years, and the last timber hauled on the Beebe River Railroad was in 1935. By 1942 the railroad track was removed and donated to the war effort (World War 2). A few pieces of the railroad track was left behind though.

Plymouth Diesel locomotive in Lincoln, New Hampshire. This locomotive was used at the Beebe River Railroad's Draper Mill Plant.
Plymouth Diesel Locomotive – Beebe River Mill

Shay locomotives were mainly used on the Beebe River Railroad during the Woodstock Lumber Company years, but in the early 1920s a Climax locomotive, now housed at Clark’s Trading Post, was added to the fleet. The Draper Corporation used smaller Plymouth locomotives on the railroad and in the yard. The Plymouth Diesel locomotive above, on display in Lincoln, was used at Draper's Beebe River mill.

Railroad tie along the Beebe River Road, near logging Camp 2, in Campton, New Hampshire USA. This area was part of the Beebe River logging Railroad (1917-1942).
Old Railroad Tie – Beebe River Road, Campton

During the 1940s and 1950s, truck logging was being used to haul timber out of the Beebe River drainage, and the old railroad bed of the Beebe River line was converted into a truck road. And even though the railroad was no more, the Beebe River Railroad continued to exist on paper until 1952 when it was dissolved.

Remnants of Carter's Mill site on the Beebe River in Sandwich, New Hampshire. The old Beebe River logging Railroad (1917-1942) crossed the Beebe River in this general area.
Carter's Mill – Beebe River, Sandwich Notch

An interesting feature along the Beebe River Railroad predates the railroad: Carter's Mill. The site of the mill was near where Sandwich Notch Road crosses the Beebe River. The railroad also crossed the Notch Road in this location. Possibly built by Joseph Flanders in 1823, this sawmill changed hands a number of times before burning down in 1891. It is named for Sylvester Carter who owned the sawmill in the 1870s and early 1880s.

Campton Falls on the Beebe River in Campton, New Hampshire USA during the summer months.
Campton Falls – Beebe River, Campton Hollow

If you enjoy river history, the Beebe River may be a good research project. It begins at Black Mountain Pond in Sandwich, travels through Sandwich Notch, passes the old Beebe River mill in Campton, and then drains into the Pemigewasset River. Its name origin is unclear, but there are a few intriguing tidbits of information.

In the 1970s, there was a name discrepancy with this river. The lower section of it, below Guinea Pond, was labeled on a few maps as Beebe River, while the top section, between Black Mountain Pond and Guinea Pond, was labeled with the variant Beebe Brook. And in 1975, paperwork was filed with the Board on Geographic Names to change the variant (Beebe Brook) to Beebe River. The name change was approved in May 1976.

Sandwich Range Wilderness - Guinea Pond during the autumn months in Sandwich, New Hampshire USA. This pond is located along the old Beebe River Railroad which was a logging railroad in operation from 1917-1942.
Guinea Pond – Sandwich, New Hampshire

Today, the Beebe River Road follows parts of the lower portion of the railroad. The Guinea Pond Trail and Flat Mountain Pond Trail utilize the abandoned railroad bed. And a good amount of the land that was logged is now part of the 35,800-acre Sandwich Range Wilderness. Designated a wilderness under the 1984 New Hampshire Wilderness Act and 2006 New England Wilderness Act, this wilderness is managed the same as the Pemigewasset Wilderness; under the Wilderness Act.

An abandoned harp switch stand along the old Beebe River Railroad (1917-1942) in the Sandwich Range Wilderness of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This harp switch is a protected artifact of the logging era, and the removal of historical artifacts from federal lands without a permit is a violation of federal law.
Harp Switch Stand – Beebe River Railroad, New Hampshire

Much like the Pemigewasset Wilderness, home to the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad, the historical value of the Sandwich Range Wilderness goes far beyond hiking trails, mountains, and peak-bagging. Its wilderness designation not only protects the Sandwich Range Wilderness from development it preserves its history. And this wilderness is a living book that tells the incredible story of the Beebe River Railroad.

To license any of the above photos of the Beebe River Railroad for publications, click on the photo. And you can view the railroad in its current state here.

Happy image making..


Don’t Remove Artifacts | Historic Information Disclaimer | White Mountains History

2 Responses to “Beebe River Railroad”

  1. Kevin Grant

    Great article was fun to read. That is my favorite area I will be packing in there soon. Fantastic photos as always!


    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Thank you, Kevin! The Sandwich Range Wilderness is great. I find the area to be very peaceful and love Flat Mountain Pond. It is almost as peaceful as the Pemigewasset Wilderness. 🙂

      Hope you and your family are doing well.


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