By the mid-1800’s, Canadian and Maine interests viewed Portland as a potential seaport for Montreal. Two railroad companies were chartered to link the cities. The
Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad was organized in September, 1845 to build the section in the US and construction from Portland commenced on July 4, 1846. On
December 4, 1848, the A&SL opened to present-day Danville Jct. where a forerunner of the Maine Central, the Androscoggin & Kennebec Railroad, was under
construction. The St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad was chartered to build eastward from Montreal to the US border. The A&SL opened to the Canadian border in
February, 1853. In July of 1853, the combined A&SL and SL&A opened between Portland and Montreal. A month later, on August 5, 1853, the Grand Trunk Railway, a
new Canadian corporation, leased the A&SL and the SL&A for 999 years.
Once the St. Lawrence River froze up in winter, traffic was diverted at Montreal to rail and heavy wheat and produce tonnage moved over the Grand Trunk to the
wharves and warehouses on the Portland oceanfront. In the spring, when the St. Lawrence was navigable again, the GT lost much of its business and reduced operations
until the next winter rush. The City of Portland became a major port on the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1863, GT leased the first grain elevator erected on the Portland waterfront. In 1875, GT built a larger grain elevator. Within a decade the grain business had
outstripped the elevator’s capacity. In 1897, Portland businessmen built a 1,000,000 bushel grain elevator which was leased to GT. GT’s terminal could now handle
seven steamships, a capacity equal to that of any other Atlantic seaport. On January 1, 1902, GT leased a newly erected 1,500,000 bushel elevator, largest on the east
coast. Grain export traffic peaked at 42,911,940 bushels in 1915 as 244 steam ships were loaded at Portland. The grain elevators dominated the Portland seafront skyline
and freight traffic but there were other significant commodities moving through the port. By 1875, the Brown Company’s mills at Berlin, NH were originating a daily
special train of 22 carloads of timber destined to the company’s Portland wharf. Lumber was still being shipped by the Brown Company to Portland as late as 1925.
GT’s ambitious plans to compete coast-to-coast with the Canadian Pacific Railroad were financially draining and the Canadian Government, as receiver, took over the
GT in 1919/1920. The eastern sections of the GT were absorbed into the new Canadian National Railway System under an agreement of January 30, 1923. Portland now
had to compete with the Canadian ocean ports of Halifax and St. Johns. In the period 1921-1923, GT handled an average of 600,000 tons annually to Portland’s seafront,
98% of the port’s total commercial tonnage. In 1924, GT only delivered 339,431 tons and within a decade GT delivered almost nothing while the port’s total tonnage was
down to a mere 21,120 tons. The two large elevators on the Portland seafront were taken down in 1943 and sometime after 1968, respectively.
For decades, southern Maine was served by the same trio of major railroad systems. The B&M ran northward to Rigby Yard in South Portland to interchange with
MEC. MEC operated two main lines to Waterville and one beyond to Bangor as well as a line westward to St. Johnsbury, VT. The third system was CN’s GT which
entered the United States at Norton, VT and ran eastward through New Hampshire to Portland. The Portland to Island Pond segment was designated the “Berlin Sub-
Division”. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 and offered a year-round route to the Atlantic Ocean. Portland declined as a major seaport but a prospering paper
industry had arisen to become the major traffic generator for all three carriers. NH’s Coos County region of Cascade, Berlin and Groveton was now the tonnage
producing center on CN’s aptly named Berlin Sub-Division.
And then the 1980’s arrived. In June, 1981, MEC was acquired by Mellon’s Guilford Transportation Industries. On June 30, 1983, Mellon bought the B&M. MEC
and the B&M were eventually combined into the non-union Springfield Terminal. In 1989, CN sold GT’s US trackage to a short line operator, Emons Holding which
operated the old Berlin Sub-Division as the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad (SLR) until Genesee & Wyoming acquired the Emons Transportation Group in 2002.
This book covers the last years of CN operation of the old GT between Danville Jct. and Island Pond and the entire lifetime of the Emons St. Lawrence & Atlantic.
Wide cab CN M420’s and GP40-2’s on the daily pair of symbol freights gave way to a rainbow mix of GP9’s from CV, GT, NHN, W&W and SLR followed by GATX
MP15’s (ex-CR, ex-RDG), then GATX GP40’s (ex-B&O) and even ex-CN M420’s. Finally, SLR was moving to an all GP40 variant roster when G&W took over.
The vast majority of the images in this all-color book were taken by the author, Pete Brill, in the late summer and concentrated on CN and SLR main line activity
between Danville Jct. and Island Pond. Guilford trains with MEC, B&M and Guilford/ST power are shown at Danville Jct. There is also some coverage of the Berlin
Mills, New Hampshire & Vermont, North Stratford and New Hampshire Central railroads. There is a detailed SLR history covering 1988-2002 compiled from.Railpace.