Hodgkin will sign new book on railroad history

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AUBURN — Local author Douglas I. Hodgkin will sign copies of his new book, “The Lewiston and Auburn Railroad 1872–2009,” on Saturday, April 17, at Percy’s Burrow in the Auburn Mall.

The book signing will be from noon to 3 p.m.

“The Lewiston and Auburn Railroad 1872–2009” is the story of a branch line of 5.4 miles of track leased to the Grand Trunk Railway and then to the Canadian National Railway.

It probably is best known as the railroad used by ancestors of Twin Cities residents who immigrated from Quebec to work in the mills. Their destination, the depot on Lincoln Street in Lewiston, still stands.

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A chapter is devoted to how the railroad was a vehicle to transmit and maintain French-Canadian culture, with some attention to the International Snowshoe Congresses.

The book recounts the story of the founding and construction of the railroad, despite the fierce opposition of the Maine Central Railroad and the textile manufacturing corporations. Particularly controversial was the purchase of all the shares in the railroad by the cities of Lewiston and Auburn.

After about a century of service, this railroad and railroads across the country were in decline. Railroad yards were abandoned. Eventually, the trestle bridge across the Androscoggin River was converted to a pedestrian walkway, and Bonney Park and Railroad Park, now Simard-Payne Memorial Park, were constructed.

However, intermodal transportation technology has revived railroads as freight carriers. The result has been a boom in development along the track from Washington Street out to Lewiston Junction by the airport, as well as on the line of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad.

“This was the most eye-opening aspect of my research,” Hodgkin said. “If one doesn’t have occasion to go to that part of Auburn, one may not realize what has happened there. No wonder Mayor Gleason calls Auburn ‘The Hub of Maine.’”

Hodgkin is the author of several books on Lewiston history, including “Lewiston Memories,” “The Grange at Crowley’s Junction” and “Frontier to Industrial City: Lewiston Town Politics, 1768–1863.” He recently also published “The Baptists of Court Street, Auburn, Maine.”

“Hodgkin’s study honors the history and impact of the entire Lewiston and Auburn Railroad enterprise,” wrote Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., Maine state historian, in the book foreword. “The junction of railroad history and cultural history … will more than fulfill the expectations of any serious railroad historian as well as those interested in both local history and the Franco-American experience.”

The 136-page paperback book includes 65 illustrations, about half of them in color. It is available at Mr. Paperback and Victor News in Lewiston, Percy’s Burrow in Auburn, the Bates College store, Museum L-A and Androscoggin Historical Society.

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