The 12'x44' 2 rail O scale proto-freelanced Amoskeag Northern, set in September 1996, focuses on the 27 mile long Simonds Branch which runs from Wells River, VT to Franconia, NH over former B&M trackage in Northern New Hampshire. The modeled portion of the layout covers the east end of the branch from Easton, NH to Franconia, NH where the AN serves White Mountain Paper's Franconia Mill.  At this point the railroad is experiencing steadily increasing traffic and interchanges with the New Hampshire & Vermont and Vermont Railways are very busy. A single staging yard provides staging for eastbound and westbound trains while also allowing continuous running in the event of a show or open house. Control for the layout is via Digitrax DCC integrated with JMRI allowing the layout to be locally controlled for a few operators or via a centralized dispatch center.  Layout operations during a session are conducted in an prototypical manner and follow NORAC rules and regulations.

 

History:  1980's | 1990's |


1980's

In the early 1980's a group of investors in Manchester, NH formed the Amoskeag Northern Railroad Company with the goal of purchasing and operating branch line trackage in Northern New Hampshire to serve the forest industry after several of Pinsly's New Hampshire and Vermont operations were slated for sale. In 1982 the newly formed company purchased Pinsly's Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad which consisted of 26 miles of trackage from Woodsville, NH at the junction with New Hampshire & Vermont's Berlin Line, east to Franconia where the railroad served White Mountain Paper's pulp and finishing mill. Trackage rights over 1 mile of track from Woodsville, NH to Wells River, VT were granted for interchange with Vermont Railways. Paying homage to the railroads past, the Amoskeag Northern adopted the orange and cream scheme of the Salzberg Company which had owned the railroad prior to being absorbed into the Pinsly family.

 

10 former Maine Central GP38's and 2 former CN GP40-2L's  were purchased as the main road power, with mill switching duties being assigned several of the S1 and SW1 switchers that were acquired during the purchase of the mill railroads. 

Cushman was designated as the base of operations for the railroad and also serves as the busiest interchange of traffic for the railroad. Canadian National trains 390/391 provide daily interchange of plastics, cement, feed, and forest products to Western markets. Cushman is also a station stop for Amtrak's Ammonoosuc, which runs from Boston, MA  via the B&M Conn River and Freight Main lines, to Montreal, PQ via CN's White Mountain Division.

1990's

The mid 1990's saw significant traffic increases as the regions paper mills carloads grew. Traffic from mills in neighboring Maine also provided an influx of traffic via the Allagash Railway, now Guilford Rail Systems, connection at Bethel, ME. In 1994 the Amoskeag Northern took over plant switching operations of the Berlin Mills Railway at International Paper's mills in Berlin, Gorham, and Simonds, NH which allowed the AN to direct outbound interchange via their Cushman, NH CN interchange instead of via the SLR at Berlin. In an effort to ease mainline operations, the Amoskeag Northern began testing of  two Conrail C40-8Ws over 12 months begining in early 1995. Due to the curvature and light rail on the branch lines the C40-8Ws were restricted to the Berlin Mainline, operating the heavy through trains originating on the CN and AGR. The units proved to be very successful in service on the high priority "Paperboy" newsprint trains, which would routinely reach over 100 cars. The C40-8W's testing proved worth wild, but purchase of the units would not occur until the spring of 2002 when 4 ex-Conrail units arrived at the Cushman shops.

Ski Train service to Loon Mountain on the Lincoln Mainline began with the 1993 ski season and continued until April 19, initially utilizing two former Boston & Maine RDC-1's purchased from MBTA. The Ski Train would depart St. Whitefield after Amtrak's northbound 10am departure and would meet the southbound departure at 7pm. After initial success to Loon Mountain, Ski Train service was expanded to Sunday River located just outside of Bethel, ME, and to Bretton Woods in Carroll, NH at the start of the 1995 ski season. The RDC consist, not being able meet demand was expanded to a traditional 8 car locomotive hauled consist that would originate at Cushman, and upon arrival at Zealand Jct. would be split into a train to Sunday River and one to Loon Mountain. Both Ski Trains would be suspended at the end of the 2003 ski season due to increasing operating costs and low snow fall in the last years. In April 1999 the Amoskeag Northern assumed all operations of the New Hampshire & Vermont Railroad over their former Maine Central's Mountain Division trackage and a section of B&M's Berlin Branch after CFS Acquisitions, which owned NHV,  did not renew their contract for the State of NH owned trackage. The remainder of  NHV's former Boston & Maine trackage was later leased to the New Hampshire Central Railroad by the State of New Hampshire. NHV's sister Lamoille Valley Railroad operations were not included due to severe wash outs and the State of Vermont began turning the former LVR St. Johnsbury, VT-Swanton, VT mainline into a railtrail in 2002.

2000's

The Amoskeag Northern saw steady increase in forest product carloads during the remainder of the 1990's and in to the early 2000's. In March of 2002 the Amoskeag Northern took over operations of White Mountain Paper's Profile & Franconia Notch Railroad which ran from Zealand Jct. to White Mountain Paper's Profile mill in Franconia, NH. 2 MP15DC's were obtained in the transaction, and would remain in their silver and red P&FN paint scheme well into service on the AN as the branch and operations were integrated into the rest of the system. Car loads to and from New Hampshire's paper mills went from approximately 200,000 tons at the end of the 1999 to well over 450,500 tons in 2003.  But as the railroad continued into the 2000's the paper industry in New Hampshire saw a drastic change as the result of the collapse of the paper mills in the area after the 2003 peak production. In 2001 American Tissue, which had purchased International Paper's Berlin Operations, filed for bankruptcy, leading also to the sale of their Gilman Paper facility in Gilman, VT on AN's Mountain Division. The Berlin facilities were purchased in early 2002 by Fraser Paper and the Gilman facility in 2004 by Dirigo Paper, but the Berlin operations soon closed in March of 2006 with the Berlin Pulp mill being torn down in October of that year. The Gilman Paper mill would shutter its doors forever in July, 2007 citing the rising cost of pulp; laying off 115 workers. Amoskeag Northern continued to serve Fraser's mills in Cascade and Simonds but by 2007 the majority of Amoskeag Northern's operations on the Cascade Branch had been reduced to as needed compared to the twice daily service in the 1990's and early 2000's.  Draper Corp, who had purchased the Lincoln operations from Marcal Manufacturing in 1989, announced their withdrawal from New England, shutting down their operations in Campton and Lincoln in May, 2007. No buyer for the Draper Corp operations materialized and the Amoskeag Northern saw to explore new revenue options and re-introduced Ski Train service to Loon Mountain(also ran during the 1994-2003 ski seasons) utilizing a 4 car train on the Lincoln Mainline. Service was short lived;  With no large customers on the Lincoln Mainline to support the infrastructure, the cost to maintain the line was deemed too high and Ski Train service ended in April 2008. Amtrak's Boston-Montreal Ammonoosuc service would end shortly after, with an extended Washington, DC - Montreal Vermonter replacing the train. In July  Amoskeag Northern filed to abandon the 26 mile Lincoln Mainline, suspending operations on the branch later that month. Sale of the Lincoln Mainline to the US Forest Service (State of NH waived Right of First Refusal) was completed in February 2009, with rail removal beginning that spring. The former Lincoln Mainline is now known as the Lincoln Woods Trail. As rail removal on the Lincoln Mainline progressed, Canadian National ended their New England operations in May, closing their interchange with the AN at St. Whitefield. The Canadian National would later remove their Cushman, NH - Sainte-Rosalie, PQ White Mountain Division. 2010 saw significant changes to the paper industry again as Fraser announced the indefinite shut down of their New Hampshire operations in October. Ethan Allen, which produced sizable shipments of furniture and raw goods via it's Beecher Falls plant (brought in via the NH Central at Whitefield, NH), also announced that it would be closing their facility that year. The Amoskeag Northern suspended operations on the Cascade Branch indefinitely.  In 2011 Gorham Paper & Tissue, an investment company, announced their purchase of the Cascade and Simonds Mills from Fraser; Limited service was restored by the Amoskeag Northern to the Cascade Branch as the mills began their restarts. 

In an attempt to capture business from increasing truck traffic now preferred at the mills, Amoskeag Northern opened a transload facility at the former Berlin Mill site at the end of the Cascade Branch providing transload services for lumber, logs, plastic pellets and paper rolls.  However the economy, and an increasingly digital world continued to prove difficult for the forest industry and in March 2013 Gorham Paper & Tissue announced periodic shut downs for the remainder of the year at their Cascade mill. Simonds Mill, which had been sold to Verso in 2012 announced the shut down of 2 of 3 machines, laying off 200 employees. Gorham Paper & Tissue would later in the year end rail shipments to the Cascade mill.  In November 2013 the Amoskeag Northern filed for abandonment of the Cascade Branch with removal of the rails beginning in spring 2014. In August, MacMillan Paper announced the purchase of the Simonds mill from Verso and reactivated machines 2 and 3. While service to MacMillan's Simonds mill increased and provided much needed business to the AN, the paper industry in northern New England had declined significantly. Amoskeag Northern's eastern interchange with Allagash Railway had dropped 66% from its peak in 2004 as Maine's paper mills suffered the same fate as those in New Hampshire. The Allagash Railway ended their interchange with Amoskeag Northern at Bethel, ME in the fall of 2014, instead choosing a SLR routing, which resulted in the Amoskeag Northern filing for abandonment of the Berlin Mainline from Simonds to Bethel in November.

Today

2016-2018 saw additional hardship on the paper industry in New Hampshire, closing the MacMillan Paper mill at Simonds, and the White Mountain Paper mill in Profile, resulting in the abandonment of the Profile Branch. In November 2012 Kingdom Pellets, a wood pellet manufacturer, announced plans to build a new $5 million facility at the former Gilman Paper site. The facility, which estimates to produce 30,000 tons of pellets a year, is expected to begin construction in 2017 and utilize rail service upon completion for shipping and deliveries of finished pellets and raw material. In July 2016 PSNH, under pressure from outside interest groups and a significant cost associated with updating smokestack scrubbers, announced that it would be closing/selling all coal powered generating stations in New Hampshire within two years. Jefferson Power plant, which the AN served, was closed in April 2018. In May 2018 the Amoskeag Northern Railroad Company was sold to Pinsly Railroad Company, which continued to operate the railroad under the Amoskeag Northern name. Today the Amoskeag Northern provides daily service to several feed and plastics companies in the Cushman, NH area as well as service on the Mountain Division from St. Johnsbury, VT. Transload operations that were located on the Cascade Branch were re-located to a new facility in Moore, NH


Time Line

1982 July Amoskeag Northern Railroad Company Formed.
  August Switching/Mainline operations purchased from Marcal Manufacturing Company and Pinsly/Salzberg.
  September Segments of B&M's Mount Washington and Berlin Branches purchased from Guilford Rail Systems.
    10 GP38s purchased from Maine Central. 2 GP40-2L's purchased from Canadian National.
    Railroad Operations based in Cushman, NH
1989 April Draper Corp purchases Lincoln paper operations from Marcal Manufacturing
1993 November Ski Train serice to Loon Mountain begins.
1994 January Amoskeag Northern takes over operations of Berlin Mills Railway
1995 April Testing of 2 Conrail C40-8W's begins
  November Extended Ski Train with new service to Sunday River and Brenton Woods begins
1999 April Amoskeag Northern assumes operation of sections of former New Hampshire & Vermont trackage.
2001 July American Tissue files for bankruptcy
2002 March Fraser Paper purchases American Tissue's New Hampshire operations.
  April 4 ex-Conrail C40-8W's enter normal road service.
2003 December New Hampshire papermills reach peak production of over 450,000 tons by rail.
  April Ski Train service to Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods and Sunday River ends
2004 January Dirigo Paper purchases American Tissue's Gilman Paper Mill.
2006 March Fraser Paper closes Berlin Pulp Mill
  October Fraser Paper Berlin Pulp Mill torn down
2007 May Draper Corp closes New Hampshire operations
  July Dirigo Paper closes Gilman Paper Mill
  November Ski Train service returns to Loon Mountain
2008 April Ski Train service to Loon Mountain ends
  July Amoskeag Northern files for abandonment of Lincoln Mainline.
  August Amtrak endes Ammonoosuc serivice in favor of extended Vermonter.
2009 February Lincoln Mainline sold to USFS, becomes Lincoln Woods Trail.
  May Canadian National ends service to Cushman. AN main western interchange moved to Barnet, VT
2010 October Fraser Paper announces closing of all New Hampshire operations
  December Ethan Allen closes Beecher Falls plant
    Amoskeag Northern suspends service on the Cascade Branch
2011 January Gorham Paper & Tissue purchases Fraser Paper Simonds and Cascade operations.
    Amoskeag Northern resumes service on the Cascade Branch
  June Amoskeag Northern opens transload in Berlin, NH
2012 April Verso Paper purchases Simonds Mill from Gorham Paper & Tissue
  November Kingdom Pellets announces plan to build $5 million wood pellet manufacturing facility at former Gilman Paper site
2013 March Gorham Paper & Tissue and Verso Paper announce shutdowns.
  July Gorham Paper & Tissue ends rail shipments
  November Amoskeag Northern files for abandonment of the Cascade Branch
2014 May Cascade Branch removed
    Berlin Transload relocated to Moore, NH
  August MacMillan Paper purchases Simonds Mill from Verso Paper
  September MacMillan Paper reactivates machine 2 and 3
  October Allagash Railway files for abandonment of White Mountain Branch. Shelburne interchange closed
  November Amoskeag Northern files for abandonment of the Berlin Branch from Simonds to Shelburne, NH
2015 May MacMillan Paper announces expansion of specialty paper machine at Simonds Mill
2016 July PSNH Announces closure of all coal fueled power plants in New Hampshire by end of 2018.
  October Kingdom Pellets announces award of $3 million to begin construction of wood pellet manufacturing faculty
  December White Mountain Paper in Franconia announces closure. Profile Branch Abandoned
2017 April MacMillan Paper announces permanent closure of Simonds Mill.
  October Berlin Mainline Abandoned/Removed From Simonds, NH to Cherry Pond Jct., NH
2018 January Twin Mountain Paper announces shutdown and files for bankruptcy.
  April PSNH closes Jefferson Generating Station.
  May Amoskeag Northern Railroad Company sold to Pinsly Railroad Company.
  August Berlin Mainline Abandoned/Removed from Zealand Jct., NH to Cushman, NH

 

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