Eagle Lake, ME
Portions of this write up taken from ‘Allagash Tramway Restoration Gaining Steam’
By Matt LaRoche, Superintendent of Allagash Wilderness Waterway
Nestled deep in the Maine woods near the northwest end of Chamberlain Lake sit the rusting hulks of two large boilers; the remnants of a steam-powered, mechanical, log-moving apparatus that operated more than a century ago. This engineering marvel was developed to move the vast quantity of pine and spruce logs from the shores of Eagle and Churchill Lakes to Chamberlain Lake where they could be driven down through Telos, Webster Stream and the East Branch of the Penobscot River, and eventually to the lucrative Bangor lumber market. The tramway was essentially a miniature railroad pulled by a 6,000 foot long cable loop. The steel “trucks” attached to the cable carried logs across the 3,000 foot isthmus separating Eagle and Chamberlain lakes. As the logs dropped off at the Chamberlain end, the empty trucks looped underneath to a lower track and returned to Eagle Lake for another load.
The remnants of the Allagash Tramway, which operated from 1903-1907, include the large sprocket wheel, boilers, and scattered pieces of trucks, clamps, and track. During the summer and fall of 2012, restoration of a twenty five foot section of the tramway is set to take place. To see more of the tramway, visit the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum. There you will find two of the Allagash Tramway's “trucks” and clamps mounted on a wooden structure, as they would have been in operation.
Eagle Lake is one of the few places in the world where you can be hiking through a remote wilderness and suddenly be looking down the nose of two steam locomotives. These locomotives are what remain of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad, which replaced the Tramway in 1927. The railroad cars were loaded with 4 foot pulpwood at Eagle Lake and travelled to Umbazooksus where they were unloaded. From Umbazooksus, the logs travelled down the Penobscot River to the Millinocket and East Millinocket paper mills. In an average week, more than 6,500 cords of wood moved via the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad. The railroad remained in operation until 1933. When the railroad stopped operating, both locomotives were relatively obsolete and not worth the cost of transporting out of the Allagash area. Instead, they were stored inside a shed at the Eagle Lake facility where they remain today.
There are no roads or maintained hiking trails leading to the tramway. To reach this historic site, you can put-in a canoe at Indian Stream and paddle five miles to the Tramway & Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad. For more information about this site, visithttp://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/history/allagash/tram.htm orhttp://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/history/allagash/rr.htm. To assist in restoration efforts, please contact Matt LaRoche, at 695-3721 ext. 4.