Frankenstein Trestle was completed in June of 1875, and the first excursion train crossed it on June 29th. A week later, construction crews who had been working from the end of the Boston, Concord and Montreal line at Fabyan’s reached the summit of the Notch from the West, and August 7th was a day of celebration, as a special train from Portland brought officials and the press to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. This time, the train ran all the way through the Notch, and, just after noon, the ceremonial last spike was driven by blows from a hammer wielded by Samuel Anderson.
Regular service, two daily passenger trains and one freight train each way, between Portland and Fabyan’s began on August 9. Crawford Notch had been conquered, and fulfillment of the P&O Railroad dream was within sight However, following a series of financial setbacks due to construction costs, the P&O Railroad went bankrupt in 1888. The line, now under the name of Mountain Division, was leased by the Maine Central Railroad which eventually bought it in 1943.
Returning to the 1800s, a new wrought iron Frankenstein Trestle with concrete abutments was constructed in 1892 by the Union Bridge Company of Athens, PA, so that the trestle could accommodate heavier locomotives and trains. As railroads began carrying larger rail cars, the Trestle needed to be strengthened again to carry the heavier loads.
In 1930, additional steel girders, pier bents, and two granite block and concrete piers were added to the existing structure. Additional modifications were made in 1950 to support even heavier railroad cars. Trains remained a popular mode of transportation into the 1940s. However, with Americans’ growing use of automobiles, patronage of the nation’s rail lines started to decline, and such was the case with the passenger trains in New Hampshire. Railroads no longer found their operations profitable, and, though Maine Central Railroad continued to provide passenger service into the 1970s, the last passenger trains through Crawford Notch ran in 1958.
Since September of 1995, the Conway Scenic Railroad has offered seasonal, passenger excursion trains on a five-hour round trip through the Notch. Starting at its 1874 Victorian station in North Conway Village, the “Notch Train” proceeds through Crawford Notch State Park and the White Mountain National Forest to Crawford Depot, and includes traveling over the Frankenstein Trestle.
Crawford Notch is part of the White Mountain Trail, designated a National Scenic Byway in 1998, and visitors can also drive through this landscape, which still is largely unspoiled by development. Today, the historic and magnificent Frankenstein Trestle still makes observers gasp with wonder.
Frankenstein Trestle then….
From Hart’s Location in Crawford Notch, by Marion Varney