We appreciate your interest in the contribution of railroads to American history, whether social, political, or economic, as represented by this restored building. We are confident that you will be surprised when reminded of the speed of social change that, most likely, you don’t spend much time thinking about, because you have to do your job, take care of your family, and contribute to your community, and that takes some concentration of effort. We hope you will find your time spent here to be worthwhile.
How long did it take you to arrive here? From most places in New England, it would be a maximum of about three hours by car on multi-lane highways; it’s too short to fly, and train service has mostly disappeared. It’s probably hard for us to comprehend the shock to society of reducing the travel time from Boston to Bethlehem from eight days by stagecoach and lake steamer to ten hours by train in the early 1900s. If you’re visiting by internet, it’s a few seconds. The train had as much influence on commerce and society from the mid-19th century as computers and the internet had from the mid-20th century to today.
Why did people come here?
In the summer months of the years following the Civil War, when the nation’s economy was changing from agricultural to industrial, life in the city was not pleasant. Dirt, noise, and disease were facts of life. The upper-upper class decided to take action by moving to some place nearby where the air was certifiably cleaner according to the U.S. Hay Fever Association, and the hotels could accommodate Master, Madame, and mistress, butlers, valets, ladies-in-waiting, drivers, and the kids. They came around late May and left before Labor Day for the most part. The same pattern was seen in the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Poconos, and southern Maine. The railroads were quite happy to accommodate this trade, taking advantage of the fact that national highways did not yet exist, and air travel was just a curiosity. Stations like this one featured separate waiting rooms and lavatories for men and women/children.
Why Did People Stop Coming Here?
Air conditioning, reliable automobiles, suburbs, and the rise of the middle class, particularly after the Depression and World War Two, who could now afford the first two items mentioned by moving to the third. The hotels adapted to accommodate mom, dad, and a couple of kids, and parking space for the family station wagon. The railroads, at least the passenger service, decided to not adapt – and, unless their presence could be justified by freight traffic, they packed up and left, taking their tracks with them.
What happened to the Grand Hotels and all the Railroad Stations?
Many of the larger hotels burned down or were taken down, because the super-affluent that patronized them moved on to the next trendy spot, facilitated by trendy air transportation. A good case could be made that the destruction of the Profile House by fire in 1921 marked the historical end of the upper-class summer migration to the White Mountains, which fell to the benefit of the middle class. The function performed by railroad passenger trains was taken over automobiles; merchandise freight began to travel on federal and state supported public highways. Volume freight in New England reduced to lumber and construction aggregate outbound, and everything else inbound.
1835 B&MRR chartered in NH
1853 White Mountains RR reaches Littleton Aug 1st
1861-1865 Civil War
1867 Portland & Ogdensburg reaches Fabyan’s from the east
1869 Boston, Concord & Montreal opens branch to Fabyan’s from the west
1874 BC&M opens Mt Wash branch Wing Road – Fabyan’s July 4
1874 P&O reaches Fabyan’s from Portland Aug 4
1874 Gale River Lumber Company builds std gage from Pierce Bridge 3 mi into woods
1876 Mt Wash Cog Railway completed
1878 Gale River logging operations end
1878 Profile & Franconia Notch incorporated July 11 to run Pierce Bridge to Profile House, extending GRLC road by 6 miles.
1879 P&FN begins operations Pierce Bridge – Profile House June 25
1880 This station opens, July 4
1881 Maplewood Resort opened May 1
1881 PF&N opens Bethlehem branch, July 4
1884 BC&M leased by Boston & Lowell, declared invalid by NH Supreme Court
1888 P&O leased by Maine Central
1889 Bethlehem Branch ran 7 round trips/day
1890 BC&M merge with Concord to form Concord & Montreal RR, Jan 1
1893 C&M purchases P&FN. Zealand Transfer built and opens.
1893 Financial Panic of 1893
1897 P&FN opens, standard gauged
1898 Spanish – American War
1906 New Profile House hotel built
1914 –1918 World War One
1920 Service to Profile House ends
1920 Prohibition begins
1921 Profile House burns, tracks to Profile House removed
1924 Bethlehem service ends, this station closed at end of tourist season
1925 Bethlehem Branch right of way legally abandoned
1926 Bethlehem Branch tracks removed
1932 Wing Road – Fabyan service ends, Littleton station renamed Littleton – Bethlehem
1933 Prohibition ends
1938 Wing Road – Fabyan legally abandoned, tracks removed
1938 World War Two starts in Europe
1948 Fabyan House burns
1945 World War Two ends
1948 Bretton Woods Conference
1956 Last passenger train to Littleton – Bethlehem
1963 Maplewood Hotel burns Jan 14