A little background and history is in order first. The two foot gauge railroads covered several sections of the State of Maine starting in the late 1800's. These shortline railroads fell prey to the Depression and competition from trucks, with the last roads shutting down around the time of WWII. In 1946 and 1947, Ellis D. Atwood purchased most of the remaining equipment and had it trucked to his cranberry bogs in South Carver, Mass.
In South Carver, Atwood set up a 5 1/2 mile loop trough his bogs and used the trains both to service the bogs and to haul paying passengers. The operation was named Edaville Railroad, a name formed from Atwood's initials (E.D.A.). Over the years the railroad evolved into a "Family Fun Park"; with an emphasis on carnival type rides, bright lights and extravagant Christmas displays. Many non-operational display locomotives and cars of various gauges were also added. Edaville Railroad became a local institution, and drew visitors from far and wide.
B&M 2-6-0 Mogul #1455 on display at Edaville.
This venerable standard gauge locomotive has since moved to Hyannis,
MA, where is is on display. The smoke at right is from two 2-foot gauge
Edaville #7 and #8 get a heavy passenger train rolling during Railfan
The smoke and steam is not all for show; these locomotives are really working
to accelerate a long train out of the station.
On the 18th of September, 1993, I arranged to stop at Edaville one last time, since I was passing nearby on other business. It was the day before the "Big Move" north, and we expected that preparations would be nearing completion. When we arrived at Edaville that day we found that we could walk, or even drive, right in. The days of nine dollar admission and little tickets to prove you had paid were long gone, and security was nil. Many of the freight and passenger cars and some of the locomotives had already been loaded on trailers and hitched behind the trucks. The old trucks, some with direct chain drive, were almost as interesting as the cars and locomotives. Almost every patch of ground was covered with trucks and trailers, and some of the streets were packed full of trucks parked nose to tail. The lawn where the Railfan Weekend fleamarkets had been held had become a vast muddy parking lot.
As we walked around, the volunteers were working rapidly (maybe even franticly) to get the rest of the equipment loaded for the next day's move. Passenger and freight cars were loaded on trailers with a forklift by simply lifting the cars off their trucks and setting them onto trailers. Many cars were in such bad shape that they sagged several inches at either end as they were lifted. Although not the ideal way to load cars, it was effective and fast. Locomotives and other heavy pieces of equipment were pushed and pulled up a ramp onto the trucks. We watched Number 8 as it was pushed up a ramp onto a heavy-duty trailer donated by Hallamore, a major heavy hauling company.
The mood was dismal. Dozens of people stood around in the rain talking about the first time they had seen the two footers running; the first time they had ridden behind the little steamers; and other reminisces about the now closed operation. The atmosphere was somewhat like a funeral, for we all knew that the trains probably would never be back.
Talking to the volunteer workers we determined that the equipment would leave in convoy at about 7:00 AM the next day, to be out of the state by 10:00 AM, which was when the over the road special movement permit expired. As we drove away, we were all thinking "It would be nice to see the convoy leave tomorrow," but no one wanted to be the one to propose the idea of getting up at 5:00 AM to be on the side of the highway at 7:00 AM. When someone finally mentioned the idea, we all agreed at once. That evening we called around to find a camcorder to borrow, got the other equipment out and planned the best spots to wait for the convoy.
Edaville cars on trailers awaiting the Big Move, 18 September 1993.
About half the people in the rest area were there to see the railroad equipment and the other half were there to see the antique trucks. Surprisingly, we seemed to be the only ones in the rest area with a CB radio. Talking to other folks up and down the road, we established a series of checkpoints to alert everyone when the convoy approached. We also got countless questions from passing trucks and cars, wondering about the vast number of people standing by the side of the road and on the overpasses. As people from all over eastern Massachusetts turned out to say goodbye to Edaville, it began to look a bit like a Presidential funeral, with hundreds of people lining the roads and overpasses.
A bit before 10 AM, a trucker said over the radio "You'll never believe what I just saw coming onto the highway". Within seconds everyone in the rest area and on the side of the road knew: the convoy was finally coming (so much for being out of state by 10 AM!). Just then two police cars pulled into the rest area, one blocking the entrance and the other rolling along ordering us out!!! It turns out that the rest area was a planned inspection stop for the convoy. But the police had waited until the trucks were less than 10 minutes away before they cleared us out!
There was no time to find another good location, and waiting for the convoy to leave the inspection stop wasn't an option, due to time constraints. We tossed the gear in the back of the truck and roared out of the rest area while getting off a CB warning about the stop to the rest of the crowd waiting roadside. Several cars and trucks drove across the median and parked in the rest area on the other side of the highway, but we figured that trying to cross two lanes of speeding traffic and then run back across on foot wasn't the safest idea in the world.
We dashed north to the next exit, turned around, and raced south towards the oncoming convoy. CB reports indicated that we were closing with the convoy at a combined speed of over 100 mph, and that they were barely a couple miles south of us. We got off at the next exit, parked the truck in the first available place and ran out onto the overpass, arriving just as the lead police cars in the convoy passed under. Soon the convoy itself was passing under, with locomotive bells ringing and flags flying on the trucks. Trying to shoot videotape through chain link fence while attaching the camera to a tripod is a bit difficult, but I managed to do it (barely). Arghhhhhh...the perfect photo spot spoiled by the State Police....shooting through chain link is no substitute for wide open shots.
We filmed and photographed the convoy through the chain link "suicide fence" and then jumped back in our truck to follow the trucks up to the rest area. Because the Police had closed the highway entrance ramps to allow the convoy to pass, there was a long line of cars waiting to get on the highway. After we got past some of the traffic we were able to drive right beside the convoy while I videotaped from the passenger side window. Traffic on the highway was reduced to 30 mph or less as the convoy slowed to a stop in the right lane prior to pulling into the rest area. There were three groups of people on the road that day, the rail and/or truck fans, who were trying to photograph, film and follow the convoy, and the poor unsuspecting folks who suddenly happened upon a line of 40 antique trucks carrying antique trains down a 70 mile per hour highway at 30 mph. The third group was of course the convoy, with its State Police and Blue Knights motorcycle escort. The Police motorcycles put on quite a show as they raced along at 60+ between the lanes of nearly stopped traffic trying to catch up to the front of the convoy after blocking onramp traffic.
Edaville cars rolling upgrade along Route 495, 19 September 1993.
Edaville #8 during the first inspection stop.
Equipment moved before September 19, 1993 included:
One piece of equipment which has not vanished is Edaville's largest display item, the B&M/MEC Flying Yankee/Cheshire articulated streamliner. It was removed from the Edaville grounds a month after the "Big Move", and now rests beside NH Route 302 in Glen, NH. It is now owned by the State of New Hampshire, and is to be restored for operation on the "Mountain Route" through Crawford Notch, when funds allow.
The Flying Yankee as it sat beside Route 302 in Glen, NH, from 1993 to
1997. In Decmeber 1997 it was moved to the Claremont & Concord's shops
However, the reprive for Edaville was short-lived. By November of 1996 the new operators had fallen behind in rent and utility payments. The power was shut off just before Thanksgiving, and the operation was forced to close. Deprived of revenues from the usually busy holiday season, the company seemed to stand little chance of paying off the bills and resuming operations.
In 1997 yet another operator arranged for use of the Edaville grounds. This group, South Carver Rail, operated trains a few times in 1997, but their effort made no further progress.
In 1999, however, things began to improve. A new operator arranged use of the site, demolished old buildings and built new ones, and re-opened Edaville in September.