Yesterday, I posted here about how Impulcity.com ranked Kennebunkport as one of its top 17 most amazing Christmas towns in America.
If you’re a listicle fan, Impulcity’s a hard website to leave. While I was over there, I came across another one worth scrolling through — “The 50 Strangest Abandoned Places by State.”
There’s something haunting and mystifying about abandoned towns and buildings that makes them fascinating to people, and glimpses into these left-behind structures are often among the most-shared items on social media.
A surprisingly many states — like Kansas and Louisiana, among others — have creepy abandoned amusement parks. Others — like Alaska, Kentucky and Michigan — are shown with huge, partially submerged ghost ships. A couple, such as Tennessee and Minnesota, have vacant breweries, and more than a couple have old hospitals or asylums left to rot. And still several others have whole abandoned towns, where it seems all the residents just left one day, like in Skedee, Oklahoma, where even peoples’ clothes and cars remain.
But while many themes emerge across the states, Maine’s “strangest abandoned place” (at least as defined by Impulcity) is not like that of any other state.
Maine is the only state on the list where the strangest abandoned place is the secluded site of left-behind two locomotives. And as it turns out, Impulcity apparently discovered these hidden gems through none other than the Bangor Daily News, which carried a photograph and column about them about 10 months ago.
Here is an excerpt from that piece, which was written by Matthew LaRoche, superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway:
“Nestled deep in the Maine Woods near the northwest end of Chamberlain Lake sit the rusting hulks of two large steam powered locomotives. The trains are remnants of the industrial revolution in an area so remote that it was more practical to park the engines when operations ended than it was to bring them out of the woods.”
LaRoche goes on to write about the great lengths Maine lumber baron Edouard “King” Lacroix went through to construct a railroad through the tough wilderness terrain, and how at one point decades ago, the line was a busy connection between the state’s loggers and their markets. But it didn’t last. Here’s another excerpt for LaRoche’s piece:
“Demand for paper declined during the Great Depression, essentially shutting down the railroad after it had carried nearly one million cords of pulpwood. The locomotives were parked in the shed at the tramway, never to be moved again. …
The trains are [now] most easily reached during the winter, by snowmobile from Chamberlain Bridge. However, many snowmobilers make an all-day expedition to the trains from the Greenville, Millinocket, and Patten areas.”
To the degree that the Impulcity listicle represents a ranking, Maine’s strange abandoned place comes in at No. 19, just behind the empty Six Flags New Orleans at No. 18 and ahead of the remnants of Maryland’s Enchanted Forest kids’ park at No. 20.
(Note: Because I’m a knucklehead, I jumped around the list while writing and didn’t make the connection that it’s actually in alphabetical order — a fact that was correctly pointed out by readers after I posted. At least somebody’s paying attention. So yes, as long as that’s the criteria, Maine will always rank 19th.)
The top spot on the list goes to the mysterious made-up town of Spectre, built from scratch in Alabama as a set for the 2003 cult favorite movie “Big Fish” and then left behind when the filming ended. Other interesting entries include an airplane graveyard in Arizona at No. 3, a 65-acre park full of abandoned dinosaur statues in Arkansas at No. 4 and at No. 9, series of dome-shaped houses once built in Florida as a vacation home by an oil tycoon, but now starting to fall victim to a rising sea level.
While those locomotives sitting deep in the Maine woods are indeed fascinating, they’re not the only abandoned places worth discovering in the state. Below are some of my personal photos from one of my favorites, old Fort Baldwin, deep in the woods on Sabino Hill in Phippsburg.
Construction started on Fort Baldwin in 1905, and consisted of three batteries located to fire over the mouth of the Kennebec River. The fort was manned by artillery units in World War I and World War II, but was left behind soon thereafter. Now, it’s a publicly accessible park that most people don’t realize is just a few minutes away from the more heavily visited Fort Popham and Popham Beach State Park, and is just an uphill walk from the site of the 1607 Popham Colony — Maine’s shorter-lived answer to Jamestown.
Another abandoned Maine site more people are probably familiar with is the Goddard Mansion at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Check out the video at the top of this post for a quick glimpse at that, but that was once a truly majestic home built in the mid-1800s for John Goddard, another lumber baron from Bangor who would serve as a U.S. Army officer in the Civil War. Now it’s an empty shell of a house, with no roof or floors.
For more about abandoned places in Maine, check out author David Fiske’s “Abandoned Maine” Facebook page, which has photos and links to a number of other interesting ruins around the state, including this post on Maine Encyclopedia.