EB&L Railroad, Narrow Gauge Line

This map shows the general layout of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s “Narrow Gauge”. The EB&L Railroad was a standard gauge railroad, but in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge line at Camp 8 to harvest timber from the slopes of Whaleback Mountain. This roughly 1.25 mile +/- long line,  consisting of a series of switchbacks, traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. It lasted only for a few years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track.
1900s EB&L Narrow Gauge Railroad – Courtesy of the Upper Pemigewasset Historical Society
 

EB&L Railroad, Narrow Gauge Line – In operation from 1893-1948, the East Branch & Lincoln (EB&L) was a standard gauge railroad. But in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge railroad to harvest timber from the Whaleback Mountain (Mt Osseo) area. With the exception of a May 1902 article by Albert W. Cooper and T.S. Woolsey, Jr. in Forestry & Irrigation little is known about this short-lived railroad. There are only a few photos (above) of the railroad, and over the years the actual location has been in question.

The difference between standard gauge and narrow gauge railroads is the spacing between the rails. The spacing on standard gauge railroads is 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches, while the spacing on narrow gauge railroads is 3 feet 6 inches (this can range some). Narrow gauge railroads usually cost less to build and operate, but the major drawback is they can't handle heavy loads. The logging railroads in the White Mountains preferred the heavy standard gauge lines for hauling timber.

Osseo Brook in Lincoln, New Hampshire during the spring months. In 1901, during the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad era, J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow-gauge line at logging Camp 8 to harvest timber from the slopes of Whaleback Mountain. This roughly 1.25 mile +/- long line, consisting of a series of switchbacks, traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. It lasted only for a few years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track. With the exception of this line, the EB&L Railroad was a standard gauge railroad.
Osseo Brook – Lincoln, New Hampshire
 

This roughly 1.25 mile-long railroad began at Camp 8. It traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage, and its only purpose was to harvest timber from the mountain slopes surrounding Whaleback Mountain. Horses would pull the empty log cars up the narrow gauge railroad to the landing, which was at the end of the line.

This map shows the general layout of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s “Narrow Gauge”. The EB&L Railroad was a standard gauge railroad, but in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge line at Camp 8 to harvest timber from the slopes of Whaleback Mountain. This roughly 1.25 mile +/- long line, consisting of a series of switchbacks, traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. It lasted only for a few years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track.
Narrow Gauge Railroad Camp 8 Landing – Courtesy of the Upper Pemigewasset Historical Society
 

Once loaded with logs the brakemen would release the brakes on the log cars and gravity would bring the loaded log cars down the railroad in pairs to the landing (above) at Camp 8. Three brakemen rode the logs cars and operated the hand brakes while coming down the line. At the landing, the logs would be transferred to awaiting log cars on the standard gauge railroad, and then hauled to the mill in Lincoln village.

The Osseo Trail, seen here, in Lincoln, New Hampshire utilizes a section of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s “Narrow Gauge” line. The EB&L Railroad was a standard gauge railroad, but in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge line at Camp 8 to harvest timber from the slopes of Whaleback Mountain. This short line, consisting of a series of switchbacks, traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. It lasted only for a few years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track.
Narrow Gauge Railroad – Osseo Trail, New Hampshire
 

The narrow gauge railroad operated only for a couple of years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track. According to the 1902 article by Albert W. Cooper and T.S. Woolsey, Jr J.E. Henry & Sons planned on trying a Baldwin logging engine, instead of horses, to pull the empty log cars up the narrow gauge railroad. It is unknown if this was ever attempted.

Surprisingly most of the railroad bed can still be identified. Only a short section southwest of the first crossing of Osseo Brook is unverifiable. The Osseo Trail (above) follows a portion of the last leg of the railroad. And the outline of railroad ties can still be seen along some sections of the railroad.

Osseo Brook in Lincoln, New Hampshire during the spring months.
Osseo Brook Drainage – Lincoln, New Hampshire
 

A few bridges were needed along the railroad to cross Osseo Brook. And a dry trestle may have been built to cross a gully along the last leg of the railroad. However, it is possible the gully washed away over the last 100 years, and no trestle was needed when the railroad was in operation. Today there are no obvious remnants of the bridges, but the above log may have been cut with an axe. And if it was, it could be from one of the bridges.

Remnants of a siding, near Birch Island Brook, along the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad (1893 -1948) in Lincoln, New Hampshire.
Railroad Siding – Birch Island Brook, Lincoln
 

There is no doubt the narrow gauge railroad traveled in a northwesterly direction from Camp 8 into the Osseo Brook drainage. But one map places the railroad north of Camp 8 on a flat evaluated area along today’s Lincoln Woods Trail. Another map has it traveling up Birch Island Brook and ending in the same flat evaluated area. Neither map shows the railroad traveling into the Osseo Brook drainage. And it is worth mentioning that one of these maps may be from the 1940s (still verifying this) when the railroad was still in operation.

Whats interesting is these maps aren’t entirely wrong. At one time there was a siding (above) along the EB&L Railroad at the Birch Island Brook crossing. And there are remnants of a bridge in Birch Island Brook that line up with the elevated area. However, most of this siding is unverifiable today. And the bridge could have been part of an old road that traveled behind Camp 7 and Ice Pond.

This map shows the general layout of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad’s “Narrow Gauge”. The EB&L Railroad was a standard gauge railroad, but in 1901 J.E. Henry and Sons attempted to use a narrow gauge line at Camp 8 to harvest timber from the slopes of Whaleback Mountain. This roughly 1.25 mile +/- long line,  consisting of a series of switchbacks, traveled into the Osseo Brook drainage. It lasted only for a few years and was discontinued after a brakeman was killed when a loaded log car ran out control down the track.
EB&L Railroad – 2018 Narrow Gauge Railroad Map
 

There is a nagging question with the narrow gauge railroad. Why do some maps show the flat elevated area along Lincoln Woods Trail as being the location of the railroad when its known the railroad went into the Osseo Brook drainage? Is this a mistake or is there a connection between these two locations? Unfortunately, since the narrow gauge railroad days (1901-1902/1903), the woodsmen have worked the Camp 8 area. And unless new information is discovered, this unique piece of railroad history will always be somewhat of a mystery.

For a larger preview of the map, click on it. If you enjoy the history of the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad see our new book 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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2 Responses to “EB&L Railroad, Narrow Gauge Line”

  1. Mike Saltmarsh

    Outstanding post, Erin, chock full of great information. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Mike!

      I am glad you enjoyed it. The Narrow Gauge line is a very interesting piece of EB&L Railroad history. Pretty amazing (or crazy) that the brakemen rode the loaded log cars down the line.

      Reply

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