B&SR Railroad Car Shop

The Bridgton & Saco River Railroad car shop in Bridgton, Maine, is certainly the most interesting building of this two-foot gauge railroad. It was originally built when the railroad was new in 1882 as a storage shed for passenger cars. That structure was 145 feet long, with a clear inside width of twenty feet, covering two tracks. Construction was timber frame with nine sixteen-foot long bays.

As you can see from this old post card, there was a square cupola in the middle of the roof and three windows on the side. The north end was enclosed, with no windows, and the south end had two doors that were soon removed, leaving a clear opening. It had timber buttresses on the east side only to keep it from leaning.

After the railroad was extended to Harrison in 1898, most trains originated at that terminus, so another car shed was built there. At about that time the rear three bays of the Bridgton shed were converted to a paint and carpentry shop for maintaining the railroad’s rolling stock. A stove and chimney were installed, as well as windows and skylights. This section of the building was also sheathed with clapboards at that time, but the rest of the building, including the north end wall, remained board and battens.  This clip from a rare 1909 colorized postcard shows this configuration.

In 1913, after the Maine Central bought the Bridgton Railroad, the southernmost five bays were removed and the remaining bay added to the paint and car shop. Windows were added to the rear and all of the building was sheathed with clapboards. A sliding barn door was added at the entrance.

When this structure was converted to a paint and car shop, one of the tracks was removed.  The interior was sheathed in pine boards and a wooden floor installed. At some point a ten-foot square barn door was installed on the west side in the northernmost bay, but it was later removed. A long workbench was installed along the west wall.

The original structure probably rested directly on the ground with no foundation, as that was common for such buildings at that time. At some point, however, possibly when it was first built or maybe when it was converted to a shop, a foundation was installed under the western and northern walls. Ground level at the northwest corner was a couple of feet lower than track level.

Modifications over the years included bringing in electric lights, adding a tall and narrow (27-inch wide) door on the east side, and replacing some of the clapboard siding. The original clapboards were set four inches to weather. Most of the clapboards on the east side were replaced at 4-1/2” to weather, although some were set at 4-1/4” and others remained at four inches. The clapboards on the south end were replaced once and set 4-1/4″ to weather. You can see the barn doors in this interior view that Fred Sharpe gave me many years ago.

The car shop, which was more commonly known as the paint shop, continued in full use until the railroad was scrapped in 1941. By 1930 the south end of this building had leant about four inches out of plumb. This whole structure had sagged considerably over the years, especially the east wall, which apparently had no foundation. The peak of the roof at the south end was about six inches lower than the peak at the north end, resulting in a slightly lower roof pitch. Note that the roof pitch at the south end is different on each side because the base of the east side had splayed out.

Here is a photo that shows several important details: all of the clapboards have the same exposure, except for the bottom two; roof fascia is different from the north end; and the corner of the door has been cut away to allow it to slide under the eave when open.

The drawings shown here were scaled from photographs and other information using a wide variety of techniques and show the building as it was during the 1930s. This building has been especially challenging to draw. I have made four attempts at it over the past 20 years. The Sanborn map shows it as 25 feet by 75 feet, a fact that has lead to some erroneous drawings, including my earliest try. Sanborn maps are only diagrammatic, however, and their dimensions range from accurate to ridiculous depending on the field inspectors. Some inspectors actually measured the buildings; some paced them off; and others simply eyeballed them.

My friend Peter Barney tells me that the 1916 ICC report lists this building as 20 feet x 65 feet and notes that ICC sometimes recorded the inside measurements, not the exterior. The dimensions I show here are confirmed on an official survey of the site, by field notes found on the back of an old photograph, and by standard practices such as window size, clapboard exposure and track gauge. The whole building was also noticably swaybacked, which I show on the roof but did not even try to fully capture in my drawings.

March 12, 2011 – New Information!

Here is a shot that I cropped from a photo that Peter Barney sent me today which enabled making my drawing of the west elevation and the chimney more accurate. It confirms the location of the windows and that the west side was sheathed with clapboards at 4″ to weather. The clapboards on the southernmost bay, however, were separated from the rest of the side by a 3″ wide vertical board. Their spacing was adjusted to fit the windows, which were set an inch lower than the others. The eave on this side was nearly straight and did not dip as I had drawn it.

The railroad apparently stored the two passenger cars that Ellis Atwood bought in the car shop for the duration of the war. This photo was taken about 1945 or 1946 as Coach 17 was being loaded onto a flatbed truck for the trip to Edaville. Note that the skylights had been removed and the two southernmost bays of the west side propped up by poles angled under the eaves. I have revised the drawings accordingly. I also revised the spacing of the skylights, which were not evenly spaced.

Text and drawings on this page Copyright 2010 and 2011 by Wesley Ewell and may not be used in any form without permission. An exception is granted for modelbuilders who may copy the drawings for personal use, but may not sell, distribute or publish them in any way. Left click on the drawings and photos to enlarge them.  All photos posted here are from the author’s collection and were sourced from Ed Bond or Fred Sharpe, except for the one noted from Peter Barney’s collection.

June 14, 2011 – I recently completed an enhanced set of these drawings for a book that Peter Barney is helping Bill Shelley publish.

December 16, 2011

Terry Smith alerted me to new information on  this building and sent me a photo that clearly shows the skylights had four panes, not the eight that I show in my drawings.

7 Responses to “B&SR Railroad Car Shop”

  1. Ed Weldon Says:

    Wes — By your research and drawings as well as the inclusion of photos from Ed Bond and Fred Sharp you have done a great service to Maine 2 foot enthusiasts. I for one, am very thankful to you guys.
    Your work has gone a long way toward the development of a kit for modeling the structure. There is plenty of info there for development of a laser cutting program. There appears to remain the sourcing of the right siding material since individual clapboard on frame construction especially in HO scale would be extremely laborious. Also there is the need to develop the windows and skylights as well as the correct roofing.
    For my purposes I would love to see an HO scale kit and if some compromises were made to accommodate available commercial molded plastic windows and clapboard siding profiles that would be fine with me as potential kit customer. But note others may be more exacting in their requirements than I am.
    With respect to the building interior it appears that some simple resin castings and laser cut workbenches might be all that is needed to give a framework for super detailing to the model builder’s taste.
    Ed WEldon

  2. Glenn Christensen Says:

    Hi Wes,

    FYI – Gary Kohler has a photo showing the west side of the Bridgton car shop.

    You may have seen it already, but on the off-chance you haven’t, I thought you’d be interested.

    Thank you for your hard work! Hopefully, you’ve been in touch with “Bridgton” Bill Shelley. As things progress for “return of the Rails” perhaps you might be able to convince him to build a 12″ to the foot version of the car shop in the former Bridgton yard.

    Best Regards,
    Glenn

  3. James Sullivan Says:

    Wes,

    Really nice job on documenting the car shop. I probably have seen, but did not notice that Esso gas pump at the corner of the building before. Nice touch for modeling purposes.

    I had definitely not seen the interior shot before and I have a (albeit small) boat load of Bridgton photos.

    As to building a replica car shop I don’t think the kids would want one in their school yard. If my thinking is correct it would cover the edge of the grassy area out front, but good idea nonetheless.

    All my best,

    James

  4. Glenn Christensen Says:

    Hi James,

    The school’s closed and there’s plenty of room to build around the skateboard park.

    The town is already planning a Depot Square redevelopment on the site. A recent alternatives planning session (a community Charette) identified several desired elements for the project. A B&SR museum was an integral element of every option.

    To support the effort, look at the “Return of the Rails” website. There have also been several stories about this in the press. Many of these can be found by a quick GOOGLE search.

    I’d be happy to help if you have any further questions.

    Best Regards,
    Glenn

    • James Sullivan Says:

      Glenn,

      Sorry, I didn’t know the school was closed. Texas is a long way from Maine and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to get back to Bridgton.

      I also appreciate the info for the web site. I’ll certainly check it out to stay updated to the progress. I wish them good fortune getting these plans under way. In the past Bill Shelley had told me the residents were not too keen on the narrow guage. Evidently thay really has changed.

      My Best,

      James

  5. Rick Uskert Says:

    Wes,

    I plan on building a copy of the building for a 1905-1910 setting. Did your research happen to indicate when the cupola was removed?

    Thanks,

    Rick Uskert

  6. Ed Weldon Says:

    Wes – Thanks for sending me this reminder of your website. Full of interesting stuff. The deeper I get into the Wiscasset North Yard project the more I see of the Maine 2 foot culture.
    Ed Weldon

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