Historic Photograph:

I love history, more so if it involves historic photographs. I recently acquired a “Red Border” Kodachrome slide for my collection taken between 1950 and 1955 of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods, NH. I did a little research and discovered something I had never known. This particular locomotive was involved in a fatal accident in September 1967 in which 8 people were killed and 74 injured. I’ve taken this trip several times in my 44 years on this earth and each trip was amazing. However I’d be lying if I told you the thought of something going wrong never crossed my mind.

In this winter scene Cog Railway #3 "Agiocochook"  which was built in 1883 by the Manchester Locomotive Works is getting ready for a trip up the 6,289′ Mt. Washington.
In this winter scene Cog Railway #3 “Agiocochook” which was built in 1883 by the Manchester Locomotive Works is getting ready for its trip to the summit of the 6,289′ Mt. Washington.

Here is an account of what happened that fateful September day in 1967.

Mt. Washington, N.H. (AP) — A mountain-climbing
rail excursion car jammed with Sunday sightseers
lost its engine while backing down the historic cog track on 6,288-foot Mt. Washington and leaped into a gorge, killing eight persons and injuring at least 74.
Gov. John W. King, who rushed to the scene, ordered an immediate investigation by state Public Utilities Commission officials. The 98-year-old railroad, a popular tourist attraction on this scenic centerpiece in the White Mountain Presidential range, spans 3 1/2 miles – 3 miles on trestle.

Victims Listed.
State Police identified the victims as:
BEVERLY RICHMOND, 15, Putnam, Conn.
ERIC DAVIES, 7, Hampton, N.H.
MARY FRANK, 38, Warren, Mich.
KENT WOODWORTH, 9, New London, N.H.
SHIRLEY ZORZY, 22, Lynn, Mass.
CHARLES USHER, 55, Dover, N.H.
A 2-year-old child identified only as the “GROSS child of Brookline, Mass.”
An unidentified female was the eighth victim.
At Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, CHARLES GROSS, 31; his wife GABY, 34, and their 3-year-old daughter MELANIE, of Brookline, Mass., were undergoing treatment today. Their relationship to the dead GROSS child was not determined immediately.
Three passengers on the ill-fated car were in critical condition at the Hanover hospital. They were RICHARD LESLIE, 49, of Madison, Ohio, a skull fracture and other injuries; NORRIS BLACKBURN, 68, of Memphis, Tenn., spine and other injuries, and MRS. MARIE BUXTON, 49, of Clifton, N.J., back injury.
Most of the injured were taken first to the Littleton Hospital, where doctors put a disaster plan into operation and called all available help. Some 25 doctors and about 40 nurses worked through the night.
The injured were rushed over twisting back mountain roads to the hospitals in northern New Hampshire and Vermont.
Teams of rescue workers needed some four hours to bring the injured and the dead to a base station.
It was not immediately determined how many were in the excursion car when it broke free and rolled down 500 feet before soaring from the cog track and crashing.
The accident happened about one-third of the way down the 3 1/2 miles of track along the west side of the 6,288-foot mountain in the center of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains.
The descent is usually made at four miles an hour with the locomotive in front of the one passenger car backing down.

A passenger, Bertrand Croteau, 32, of Thornton said that when the train reached the first switch Sunday “the locomotive began to shake and just fell off the road.”
He said the passenger car began rolling free “and the brakeman tried to put on the brakes. We went about 500 feet and then we went off the tracks.”
He said he was thrown through a window and
“buried under a pile of bodies.”
Ralph Este, a technician at the transmitter on top of the mountain for WMTM-TV of Poland Springs, Maine, said the engine jumped the track at a point where there is a spur track.
He said the passenger car derailed at a shallow curve just before the track plunges down the steepest incline of the railway, a section called Jacob’s Ladder that has a grade angle of 37.41 per cent.
The passenger car was made of aluminum and reportedly was one of the railway’s newer ones.

Mt. Washington, N.H. (AP) — Here is a partial list of persons injured when an excursion train fell off the Cog Railway and into a gorge on Mt. Washington Sunday:
RUSTY AERTSEN, 19, of Bucks County, Pa.
FLOYD BAILEY, 40, his wife LOUISE, 41, and son KENNETH, 12, of New London, N.H.
MR. and MRS. ANTHONY BERTELLI of Haddam, Conn.
ROGER CARDIN, 47; his wife RITA, 42, and son ROGER, JR., 21, of Newmarket, N.H.
NATHANIEL CARTER, 23, of South Woodstock, N.H.
RICHARD CASPINIUS, 63, and JENNIE CASPINIUS, 60, of Falmouth, Maine.
GORDON CHASE of Lincoln, N.H.
BERTRAND CROTEAU, 32; his wife, EDMAE, 30; daughter DEBRA, 11; and son BERTRAND, JR., 6, of Thornton, N.H.
CAROL DAVIES, 9, and LORETTA DAVIES, 5, of Hampton, N.H.
EVERETT DEMERITT, 30, of Wolcott, Vt.
CAROL DORSAY, 26, of Woodstock, Vt.
JEFFREY GAINES, 2, of Rockport, Maine.
CHARLES GROSS, GABY GROSS, 34; and MELANIE GROSS, 4, of Brookline, Mass.
GEORGE KALOCERIS, 28, of Lynn, Mass.
CHARLES KENNISON, 18, of Jefferson, N.H.
ROBERT PROVENCHAL, 31; and daughters, LINDA and SUSAN, of Biddeford, Maine.
JOHN RICHMAN, 12, of Putnam, Conn.
HAROLD ROGERS, 44; his wife FRANCIS, 34; and son DEAN, of Campton, N.H.
GRETA SCHOPE, 33, of Bridgeport, Conn.
JOSEPH VALLIERE, 59, of Methuen, Mass.
BERYL WARREN, 27, and his son PATRICK, 1, of Craftsbury, Vt.
MR. and MRS. JOSEPH LAURENDEAU and daughter LINDA, 3, of South Barre, Vt.
MR. and MRS. JAY WITMER of Roxbury, Mass.
MR. and MRS. MORRIS BLACKBURN of Memphis, Tenn.
A. RICHARD LESLIE of Madison, Ohio.
MR. and MRS. GEORGE BUXTON of Clifton, N.H.

Nashua Telegram New Hamsphire 1967-09-18


#tbt: Off Track

It was the summer of 2009 and we were vacationing in western Maine at the Sunday River ski area of Newry. On the morning of August 17th I had ventured out in the early hours with my camera with the rare hope I might see a moose or just something of interest. I got on Route 2 in Bethel and drove west towards the New Hampshire border. As I approached Gilead, Maine the traffic was backed up and moving slowly which I thought was because of road construction. However as I slowly advanced I discovered that late Saturday afternoon on August 16th a westbound St. Lawrence & Atlantic freight train traveling from Auburn, ME to Quebec, Canada had derailed 20 cars along Route 2. Of the 20 derailed cars, 11 contained ethanol but were empty and the other nine carried paper.

I pulled over just up the road and walked back to the derailment sight. Introducing  myself to the Fire Chief, we chatted a bit and I went about my business taking several images.

St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.
St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.
St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.
St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.
St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.
St. Lawrence & Atlantic derailment in Gilhead, ME on August 17th 2009. Canon EOS 3, Kodachrome 64.


“Snow trains” to the slopes may be making a comeback



It’s taken more than half a century, but the notion of traveling to ski country by train is starting to shift from archaic to retro chic.

“Snow trains” were once the backbone of New England skiing, when rail service from metropolitan areas was responsible for the sport’s initial popularity. Then a decades-long shift to vehicle dependence triggered a widespread phaseout.

But now, in isolated pockets of the Northeast, riding the rails is reemerging as a desirable, even practical, option for hitting the slopes. With a twinge of nostalgia and renewed focus on energy-efficient commuting, could limited train service to ski resorts come back into vogue?

“I think people are trying to do the right thing with travel in terms of being more green,” said Bonnie MacPherson, director of public relations at Okemo Mountain Resort. “In fact, part of our master plan includes the potential for a railroad station here.”

It’s difficult not to have trains on the brain at Okemo, where one ski run includes a bridge that spans active Green Mountain Railroad tracks. “We’re unique in that you can actually ski over a moving train here,” MacPherson said. “It bisects the property two times a day.”

At present, those tracks are strictly for freight cars. But Okemo has benefited from a shuttle bus that started operating this winter to meet the Ethan Allen Express from New York when it makes its Vermont stop 25 miles away in Rutland. MacPherson said the free shuttle is subsidized by local businesses, and makes a loop that includes lodging, restaurant, and bar stops.

“That was sort of the missing link for us,” MacPherson said. “Rutland is kind of halfway between us and Killington, and I know Killington has always done really well [by courting rail passengers from New York]. Before the shuttle, our customers were kind of on their own with transportation out and back. The ridership is definitely increasing.”

America’s first dedicated snow train debuted on Jan. 11, 1931, when the Boston & Maine Railroad’s “Sunday Winter Snow Sports Train” took 197 passengers from North Station to Warner, N.H. By the end of the season, the railroad had ferried 8,000 day-trippers into the hills.

A branch to Conway, N.H., was added in 1932, and lines from New York, New Haven, and Hartford implemented service to other northern outposts. In 1935, the first run from New York to the Berkshires carried 500 skiers and twice as many onlookers; the snow trains were so popular that non-skiing passengers clambered aboard just for the novelty of it.

A front-page Globe headline on Feb. 22, 1936, boomed “250,000 Going Into The Hills” and warned that “there was such a crush between 4 and 4:30 p.m. at North Station yesterday that commuters had hard work getting to their trains.” The platform was an impenetrable mass of skis and poles, as “thousands of sports fans jammed two 12-car snow trains until all standing room was gone.”

Each week a network of northerners telegraphed snow reports so railroad officials could customize snow train schedules that ran in all the Boston papers on Thursdays. Trains started rolling north on Friday nights ($4.35 round trip), and B&M even hired onboard instructors to give tips to newcomers. If you didn’t own boots or skis you could rent them for a buck per pair in a converted baggage car ($1.25 if you splurged on metal instead of leather bindings).

World War II drained enthusiasm from ski train excursions, and poor snow years in 1948 and ’49 led to prolonged decline. B&M ended snow train service on the Conway branch in 1950, and as the interstate system expanded, New England’s new wave of ski resorts opened closer to major highways.

The fuel crisis of 1973 sparked a mini-revival of snow trains out of New York (including one called the Schaefer Beer Wagon, designed like a rustic barn and advertised as a “nonstop party to Vermont”). But the rail beds had so badly deteriorated that the trip took an hour longer than it did in the 1940s, and ridership plummeted.

In 1993, Sunday River purchased a private train and ran it between Portland and Bethel, Maine, banking on a future link from Boston to Portland. Sunday River operated the service for four years and lost a reported $750,000 while waiting for the connection; it would have needed to hang on for another four years to see the Downeaster Line finally become a reality in 2001.

Currently, railroads to the west and north of New England are reporting strong ridership with snow train experiments. In upstate New York this winter, Saratoga & North Creek Railway expanded to twice-daily weekend snow train service, offering onboard ski and snowboard handling, plus packages that include a lift ticket to Gore Mountain. In Quebec, a weekend ski train makes stops at a number of resorts in the Charlevoix region of the province.

Boston skiers can take the commuter rail from North Station to Fitchburg on Saturdays and Sundays, where Wachusett meets them with a free shuttle to the mountain, approximately 20 minutes away.

“The ski train was something that we had for years, but only in the past five years has it become popular,” said David Crowley, general manager at Wachusett. “Just this past weekend, we had 40 people ride the train.”

Crowley said the intriguing thing is that out of those 40 customers, a dozen decided to book lodging at Wachusett Village Inn for an extra day of skiing before taking the Sunday train out. “It was kind of spontaneous,” he said. “They weren’t people who had booked beforehand. I think we’re probably going to put together some sort of package.”

In the Granite State, a nonprofit organization called the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association has floated an initiative to bring back “passenger opportunities along Route 16 in the Conway area.”

In Vermont, MacPherson said Okemo’s master plan that includes a slopeside train station “is not something that we would be able to spearhead alone” without public or private assistance.

“It would be fun to bring back the old ski trains,” MacPherson said. “Now with gas prices what they are, [train service] would have to be comparable in terms of cost and convenience, and would have to work to people’s schedules.”