PHILLIPS — Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad received a boost Nov. 7, 2020, when a huge contingent of Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway volunteers came to town to help lay track to the new car barn.

Longtime WWF volunteer Fred Morse made a couple of visits to the SRRL Railroad to check progress on the car barn, and suggested that their group that works a day annually at the Albion depot might be willing to help instead. A good-sized group of SRRL Railroad folks also pitched in during the track work day.

The group was large enough that it split into three work parties; one group cutting down and moving ties to the track extension, a second group laying down ties, rails, and spiking to gauge, and a third group gauging and spiking rails that were already laid out inside the car barn. With all the willing hands available approximately 200 feet of rail was put in place, connecting from where SRRL volunteers had stopped, all the way into one stall of the car barn. Only one or two volunteers worked on track at a time, and progress was hastened or slowed by the availability of heavy machinery. The pace through the summer was about 30 feet or so per week or 10 days.

First cars in the car barn on Nov. 17, 2020, in Phillips. Contributed photo

Over the following two weeks, Sharon Barber and Rick Barr spread a layer of ballast to level the new track, then a second layer of ballast to complete the spur. Eric Fuller, John Stinchfield and Melvyn Webber in turn brought loads of ballast to spread. On Nov. 16, all the north end throat of the yard was tested with No. 4, and on Nov. 17a string of cars and #4 were placed in the car barn on the one completed siding.

Those who pitched in Nov. 7 included Webber, Mike Fox, James Patten, Linda Zoller, Fred Morse, Dave Buczkowski, JB Smith, Zach Wylie, Steve Lennox, Carlos Steinkie, Jerry Steinkie, Jay Barta, Brian Whitey, Mark Cheetham, Ken Berlo, Steve Earle, Fuller, Barr, Lew Bowlby, Jim Nichols, Barbara Nichols, Leza Gough, and Barber.

In 2021, SRRL Railroad volunteers will try to connect in the other two stalls, with hopes they have plenty of hands to do it.

In addition to the track day project, Webber and Stinchfield kept busy on one of the biggest and busiest projects. Stinchfield had set up a portable sawmill on site. He spent a lot of time last summer there, cutting ties for the car barn interior tracks, and long beams for car restoration and repair.

A different repair item that needed immediate action was in the track tool shed, located close to the turntable switch, where the rear sill had failed. Since the building is built over the slope of the track embankment, and the tools stored are heavy, the entire shed could collapse. Stinchfield cut several long beams for this project, too. The track embankment on the trackside was dug out, concrete pads were installed underneath. Cribbing was placed underneath the side opposite the track, and beams were put in beneath the shed using Webber’s excavator and the railroad’s tractor. Bub Tripp and Dave Eaton also worked on this Dec. 3 project.

Next season, the track tools will be likely moved to another location, since vehicles don’t have easy access. The handcar and velocipede will be likely stored in this shed in the off season.

The Board of Directors voted to scrap the car body of the former Maine Central standard gauge car located alongside Bridge Street, because the car had deteriorated beyond the point of restoration. The car body was scrapped Jan. 28.

Some components and woodwork from the car prior to scrapping were salvageable. The fishbelly underframe, the trucks, couplers, and metal stairways are still on site, with hopes to sell or trade these items to another Railroad Preservation group. When those components have left the site, there will be an increase in parking for days with special events.

The yellow standard gauge coach at Bridge Street in Phillips. Contributed photo

Steps also are being taken to preserve the yellow standard gauge coach at Bridge Street. This car is of the era of the construction of the Franklin County narrow gauges, even though it doesn’t have a direct connection. Fully restored, it would have some utility at the Sanders Station end. The car was covered with tarps for the off season, and Maine Locomotive Works of Alna inspected the car for repair estimates. They have experience in Clerestory roof repair. Several pledges for the car repair have been received, and more pledges and donations would be appreciated.

For more information and to make a donation, email [email protected] or call 207-639-2228.

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