Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad

Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad in the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad – White Mountains, New Hampshire
 

Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad – Incorporated in March 1909, this short-lived logging railroad was operated by the Woodstock Lumber Company, a subsidy of the Parker-Young Company. It began at the Woodstock Lumber Company’s sawmill (built by the Publishers Paper Company) on the western bank of the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock, New Hampshire. From the mill, it traveled roughly 7 miles into the Eastman Brook drainage, traveling through the northern portion of Thornton*, known as the “Gore”, ending in Livermore.

For a couple of years before the railroad was built, horse teams were used to drag logs out of the forest to the Woodstock sawmill. But once the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad was established, the Iron Horse took over the duties. Some of Tripoli Road and Little East Pond Trail utilize the old railroad bed. Three Shay geared locomotives, all 50-tonners, were used on the railroad, and the track equipment was leased from the Boston & Maine Railroad.

Old mill along Talford Brook at Thornton Gore in Thornton, New Hampshire
Talford Brook Mill Site – Thornton Gore, New Hampshire
 

There was once a thriving farm settlement in the Eastman Brook drainage. At its peak in the mid-1800s, the Thornton Gore settlement had a church, a number of farms, a school, mills, and cemeteries. The 1860 map of Thornton by H.F. Walling shows at least twenty-two dwellings in this area. But by 1900, most of the settlement was abandoned, and George James’ New Hampshire Land Company had bought up the land. The abandoned farms were left to rot, and James would go on to sell the land to the Publishers Paper Company around 1905. In 1906, Publishers built the large Woodstock sawmill. The Woodstock Lumber Company, incorporated 1907, would then purchase the standing timber on Publishers' land and lease the Woodstock sawmill.

The Clear Brook crossing along Little East Pond Trail in Livermore, New Hampshire.
Clear Brook Trestle Site – Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad
 

Like other logging railroads, there were derailments. In 1911, while trying to climb a grade along the mainline, the Shay No. 2 loss traction and ended up in Eastman Brook. It sustained significant damage. While the railroad did have a grade to it, it was a straight forward line with only a few spur lines. One spur line traveled into the Talford Brook drainage, and the other traveled pass Tripoli Mill, ending beyond Clear Brook.

Remnants (stove pieces) of the abandoned Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad in Livermore, New Hampshire.
Logging Camp – Livermore, New Hampshire
 

For such a short-lived logging railroad, the number of logging camps associated with this railroad is impressive. Including both rail-side and mountain camps, there were at least a dozen camps. Usually, the locations of the mountain camps are the unknown, but in the case of this railroad, some of the locations of the rail-side camps are in question.

Abandoned Tripoli Mill in Livermore, New Hampshire during the autumn months.
Tripoli Mill – Livermore, New Hampshire
 

Incorporated in August 1911, the Livermore Tripoli Company** mined diatomaceous earth (also known as Tripoli) from East Pond in Livermore. This business adventure may have been a failure, and the Livermore Tripoli Company was officially dissolved in October 1919. Like the farms, Tripoli Mill would be left to rot away in the forest. And this 11-acre tract of land, more or less, would remain privately owned until the 1990s when the Government purchased it for inclusion into the White Mountain National Forest. Even though the railroad went right through this mill complex, little is known about the mill and mining operation.

Abandoned railroad track along the Little East Pond Trail in Livermore, New Hampshire.
Railroad Track – Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad
 

In August 1913, a devastating fire would destroy the Woodstock sawmill. At the time, it was one of the largest sawmills in New England. It wasn’t rebuilt, but a portable sawmill was set up after the fire to process the remaining logs. However, the burning of the mill marked the end of the railroad. The Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad stopped operating in 1914, and the charter was repealed on March 2, 1915.

Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad in the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Tripoli Road – Woodstock, New Hampshire
 

Named for Tripoli Mill and completed in 1934, Tripoli Road was built by the USFS (with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps). For most of its length, this seasonal road is an unpaved road that connects Woodstock and Waterville Valley. Roadside camping is allowed at designated sites along Tripoli Road.

As one travels Tripoli Road today, there is little indication that a 1900s railroad was in the area. Between the building of the road and nature reclaiming the land, little remains of the railroad. But there are still enough artifacts scattered along the railroad right-of-way to remind us that railroad logging was once a way of life in the White Mountains. This lonely dirt road is the centerpiece of some incredible White Mountains history.

To license any of the photos in this blog article for publications, click on the photo. View more scenes of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad here.

Happy image making..


 

*Incorporated in 1781, the town of Thornton is named for Matthew Thornton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The first settlers of Thornton Gore arrived in the early 1800s. The "Gore” is in the northern section of Thornton in the general area of the confluence of Talford Brook and Eastman Brook.

**Incorporators of Livermore Tripoli Company were Charles B. Henry (son of the legendary timber baron James E. Henry), Katherine S. Henry, Thomas B. Moore, William F Butler, Jr., and Hattie A Butler.

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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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