Maine Two-Foot Railroads – Small Trains in a Big State

Starting in the latter part of the 19th century, Maine had a unique system of railroads that ran on rail only two feet apart. Eventually there were five of these railroads serving rural areas in central Maine.

[singlepic id=57 w=640 h=480 float=right]The Maine Two-Footers were the economic engine of Maine at the turn of the 20th Century. The perfect size for a big country with a small population, these five railroads hauled product—and a few people—from a huge interior rich in timber and other resources. Today, they are an economic engine of a different sort, attracting tourists not only where they operate, but to their remnants across Maine.

The idea of a two foot railroad came about after a Massachusetts man named George Mansfield visited Wales in the 1870s and saw the Festiniog Railroad ( which was actually only 23.5 inches wide). In 1875 he established the Billerica & Bedford Railroad, the first commercial two-footer in America. When the people of Franklin County, Maine, wanted a railroad, George Mansfield’s two-footer seemed ideal. The narrow gauge and smaller trains were less expensive to construct and easier to run through rough terrain.

Continue on the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes or one of the other Maine Two-Footers: Bridgton & Saco River (later the Bridgton & Harrison); Monson; Kennebec Central; Wiscasset and Quebec (later the Wiscasset, Waterville, & Farmington).