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Photographs by David H. Larrabee
All railroads have had accidents,
and the Belfast and Moosehead Lake is no exception. One of the best
remembered of those on the B&ML is known locally as the "Corn
Festival" which occurred on a cold and rainy Thursday morning in April,
1977. The last five cars of a freight train headed West
out of Belfast derailed at MP 1.3 on a curve which closely follows the
South bank of the Passagassawaukeag River just beyond a much
photographed scenic portion of the grade known locally as “The
Beavertail” for a spit of land shaped like a beaver's tail which
sticks out in river there.
While two of the derailed cars were empties, the other three were PRR "Type H46" covered hopper cars loaded with about 300 tons of feed corn. All three of these overturned and tumbled down the river bank where, to the great delight of the local bird and animal populations, they spilled much of their loads along the bank and into the river. The Belfast area had been hit with severe predawn thunderstorms and heavy rains before the accident which occurred about 10 a.m. during a heavy downpour. The cause of the accident, however, appeared to be a broken pin that helped attach the lead truck to first of the filled PRR hoppers to derail.
At the time of the derailment there were four crewmen in the forward section of the train which remained on the track and eventually continued on to Burnham Junction. The conductor was on the rear of the train but jumped off and was not injured. As the wreck blocked the road's only track, the B&ML quickly hired Hulcher Emergency Railroad Services whose crew arrived in just a few hours and had the cars removed, the tracks repaired, and the line open by the next day.
Ironically the three full hopper cars that dumped their loads had originally been delivered to Belfast by mistake because of an error in their waybills. The corn was actually supposed to have been dropped off at the new Penobscot Feeds plant located at the west end of the yard at Thorndike (MP 21.4) after being picked up at Burnham Junction the day before. It was being returned to Thorndike when the derailment occurred.
The following gallery of eighteen photographs of the clearing of the derailment were taken by then Belfast resident David Larrabee who notes: " I found about the derailment at my local chain saw repair shop which was on Rt. 3 just west of town. I stopped by to pick a saw that had been in for service and the owner told me about seeing all the trucks drive by on their way to 'The Wreck.' I had not heard about it, so I hot doged over there with my trusty Pentax and a roll of Tri-X. I recall walking down the grade to the tracks (my black Chevy K5 Blazer in the background in one of the pictures) and watched from the road bed. No one minded at all, and half dozen other interested locals stood and watched too."
(Click on each image to see at full size.}
|Overview of derailment about 1.3 miles from Belfast, looking East||Damaged sleepers caused by derailment, looking East||Overturned hopper car on the river bank below the grade|
|Car trucks and spilled corn on the river bank||Preparing to recover PRR#260628 hopper car||Recovered wheel sets on the grade|
|Hulcher Emergency Service Inc. bulldozer mounted crane||Derailed PRR#260628 hopper car recovered from the river bank||Derailed PRR#260628 hopper car recovered from the river bank with another car to go|
|Recovered truck about to be set back on rerailed wheel sets||Setting a recovered truck on rerailed wheel sets||Hulcher Emergency Railroad Service comes to the rescue!|
|Overview of derailment about 1.3 miles from Belfast, looking East||Closeup overview of derailment about 1.3 miles from Belfast, looking East||PRR#260628 Hopper car being recovered|
|PRR#260628 Hopper car being recovered||PRR#260628 Hopper car being recovered||PRR#260628 Hopper car being recovered|
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