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North Stratford Railroad Co.

On my layout I added a space to feature an interchange with the North Stratford Railroad. This neat shortline operated former MEC trackage at the top of New Hampshire and into Vermont at the Canadian border. The NSRC interchanged with the Grand Trunk (later St. Lawrence & Atlantic) in North Stratford, and operated to the end of the former MEC line to Beecher Falls, VT. I operate MEC locals YT-1 and TY-2 between North Stratford and St. Johnsbury, and the NSRC will interchange cars and service the Ethan Allen plant in Beecher Falls.

History of the North Stratford Railroad Company

In 1977, the Maine Central ceased operations of its Beecher Falls branch, from North Stratford, NH to the end of the line in Beecher Falls, VT. The State of New Hampshire purchased the rail line for $310,000 and the North Stratford Railroad Company was created by a former owner of the White Mountain Central tourist RR to operate the line.

The Maine Central’s Beecher Fall’s branch was an extension off of the Mountain Division. The branch diverted north at Quebec Junction and went north in NH and Vermont to get to North Stratford. From there, Maine Central trackage crossed the Grand Trunk and continued north to Beecher Falls. At one time the line extended as far as Lime Ridge, Quebec, but this was taken out of service in 1925. In 1949, the parallel line between North Stratford and Lancaster was abandoned in favor of trackage rights over the GT and B&M. Throughout the 1970s, the MEC wanted to divest itself of this unprofitable rail line. A washout in 1973 didn’t help matters, and the line did shut down for 17 months. The ICC finally let the MEC cease operations in 1977, when the state of NH and the NSRC took over.

The North Stratford Railroad's main customer was the Ethan Allen Furniture factory in Beecher Falls. Boxcars of furniture were brought down the line and interchanged with the Grand Trunk. Occasionally, boxcars of furniture sub-assemblies also traveled back to the Beecher Falls plant. An on-line Agway store also received feed in bulk and bagged. Unfortunately, this traffic was diverted to trucks in 1984.
Stacks Image 1762
The NSRC, shown in Green on the map here, starts in North Stratford and heads northeast, paralleling the Connecticut River, crossing into Vermont, to Beecher Falls..
(Click on map for larger image)
Stacks Image 1769
Stacks Image 1955
Two locomotives served the railroad, an ex-US Army GE 44 tonner, #76, and an ex-MEC Alco S1, #959. Both were painted in a green scheme with a light green stripe and the NSRC logo. #959 was named George Van Dyke for the lumber baron who created the rail line from North Stratford to Beecher Falls in the 1880’s.

LEFT: S1 number 959, former Portland Terminal (MEC). Photo by Matt Hogan from
Highball Graphics web site

NSRC operations in 1980

Operations usually occurred 2 days a week. On Wednesday, all of the loaded boxcars were pulled out of the plant and empties were spotted in the enclosed loading track. The boxcars were then taken to the small yard in Beecher Falls. On Thursday, the train departed Beecher Falls for North Stratford and the interchange with the GT. Loaded cars were spotted and the empties were pulled onto the train. After lunch, the train returned to Beecher Falls.

Usually the 44 tonner was used because of its greater fuel economy. The Alco was used whenever heavier tonnage dictated.

It is interesting to note that the State of New Hampshire owned the rail line and helped subsidize the railroad, but the main customer and the engine facilities were both located in neighboring Vermont.
Stacks Image 1889
The ex-US Army GE 44 tonner, #76, was named Arch McDonnell for a famous railroad artist from New Hampshire.
The ex-MEC facilities in Beecher Falls included a single stall roundhouse (reduced from 3) and a turntable. These were used by the railroad to store and service the locomotives. In my photo at the top of the page, the 44 tonner is inside the roundhouse if you look closely.

RIGHT: GE 44 tonner number 76 sits unused in August 1992. Photo by Doug Jacques from
NERAIL Archive

NSRC rail line today

The NSRC operated the 25 mile rail line from 1977 until 1989 when the Ethan Allen plant shut down. Since 1993, the New Hampshire Central has leased a portion of the line from North Stratford to Columbia. A new sand and gravel operation, a new fuel facility and a new NHC-operated railcar repair facility generate most of the traffic now.

The New Hampshire Central started operations using the same NSRC GE 44 tonner, repainting it into a yellow and black scheme and renumbering it 360. Later, a chop nose GP16 (ex-SAL GP9) was added to the roster and painted red with a white stripe, numbered 1732. Interchange still occurs in North Stratford, now with the GT’s successor, the St. Lawrence & Atlantic. The S1 959 is still in service, now on the
Hobo Railroad.
Stacks Image 1925
For more about the New Hampshire Central, check out my article about the NHC Car Repair Facility that I wrote for the April 2002 issue of the NER Coupler.

The North Startford on my layout

Making full use of my modeler's license (that is why you renew it each year!), I am including an interchange between either the MEC and the NSRC at North Stratford. In addition to the furniture traffic, I like the idea of modeling a freight car repair facility. This opens up all kinds of freight car traffic.

Years ago, my friend and I built two 4 foot HO modules depicting North Stratford. I plan to follow the same basic idea for the interchange area in North Stratford. The NSRC main will then be a short run to the freight car repair facility and perhaps a fuel or feed facility, then go to the Ethan Allen plant in Beecher Falls. Right now, the benchwork exists, but I have not laid track yet for this area.

HO locomotive models of a 44 tonner and an S1 are available of course, but will need custom painting. The green paint is a match to a Ford metallic green that is available in spray cans, and a friend has built a model of S1 969 using this paint and custom decals. Highball Graphics offers a set
GDH-1. I received a set and it appears fairly accurate, but is missing a few elements. The new custom set L-291 is a better solution.

The many 40' rebuilt boxcars can be modeled with custom painting and also a commercial model. These cars came in all varieties, some with roofwalks, some with shortened ladders, some with different door styles. These were painted dark green (not the same as the locomotives). Decals were available from Herald King years ago, set B-1610. I have a few sets. Highball Graphics also has a set now,
F-116. These are also available in O and G scale.

Trackage on this line would reflect a shortline railroad. Code 70 and code 55 rail, more weeds and less ballast would help convey a smaller railroad.

For operations, a crew could be called to bring the train from Beecher Falls to the interchange in North Stratford. Loads and empties for Beecher Falls can be swapped and the train could return. If I model the repair facility, cars to and from there would also be a part of the trains duties. And, if space permits the train can switch the fuel dealer and/or the Agway center. Should there not be enough operators, the NSRC job could be postponed until the next session with interchange traffic filling the tracks at North Stratford. This will be a neat little feature to include on the layout!
Stacks Image 1918
Did you ever have one of those projects that you start and then, for whatever reason, just never seem to get around to finishing? Sometimes there are valid reasons and then sometimes...Well, this North Stratford boxcar was painted Floquil Dark Green and lettered using Herald King decals...back in 1986. Yikes! It was put in a box and then never completed for some reason. Well I finally got around to finishing it. The original doors were lost, so I found some replacements in the scrap box and painted them Polly Scale Dark Green, which matched pretty well. I dug up some trucks and dropped in P2K wheelsets to complete the assembly of the car. I used Bragdon chalk weathering to add some rust, dust and grime. It still lacks stirrups, but I need to pick up some more A-line stirrups, so, technically this car is still not totally done! But it can at least run on the railroad now. Since then, I have completed a few more green NSRC boxcars...without the multi-decade wait to finsih them!
Stacks Image 1974
The NSRC S1 969 as done by my friend Kevin at Hopedale Shops. he does great custom work - check out his Facebook page for more great New England models.

Additional Information and Research:

•North Stratford RR, June/July 1985 Prototype Modeler, p. 21-27
•North Stratford Hobo Excursion & Farewell, December 1986 Railpace, p. 32-33
•Book: New England Shortlines 1970-1980, Tom Nelligan (available from
•Book: Maine Central Mountain Division, Ron Johnson, 1986
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