Farmington Train Station – 1900, Colorized. Courtesy of Farmington Historical Society

There are many events in the month of April that bring joy to many Farmingtonians. For some, Easter is an important time for families to get together and celebrate the festivities of the season. Some environmentally minded folks go out and clean up their neighborhood for Earth Day or plant a tree on Arbor Day. But, for some of our more rascally members of the community, April 1st is their day to have a little mischievous fun. April Fools’ Day has been around for centuries and was popular even in the ever-so austere 1910s. Today’s stories involve pranks and shenanigans having to do with the railroad. For the information of my readers who may be new to town or younger, Farmington used to have two rail lines: the Maine Central Railroad, Farmington Branch and the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad. The former was standard gauge and the latter was two-foot narrow gauge. Let’s leave Farmington station and travel back once again to 1915.
The day is Thursday, April 1, 1915. Byron M. Small, Clerk of Courts, is notified via telephone that something quite dire is occurring in West Farmington along the Maine Central Railroad line. In the vicinity of Bubier Woods, a woman has been spotted along the rail line. According to the caller, who has relayed that he is speaking on behalf of MECRR Conductor F.E. Pinkham, the woman is scantily dressed and has been camping out along the rail line overnight. To further add evidence to his story, the caller states that Freight Conductor Walker has also seen the woman. In conclusion, the man on the telephone wishes to relay the message to Franklin County Sheriff Small at the jailhouse, so that an investigation can begin. When Byron Small alerts Sheriff Small about the situation, the sheriff is initially interested in pursuing the matter. But, as he glances over to the calendar on the wall, he takes a moment to think things over. Sheriff Small gets into contact with Conductor Pinkham, who tells him that the story is a fabrication and that he has no idea who that caller was. The story is conveyed in the newspaper the following day, with the Franklin Journal calling the assailant a “would-be joker with a distorted sense of fun.”
In another tale of railroad hijinks, taking place around a year later in April of 1916, two young men have traveled to Boston from Farmington looking for work. These boys, Ernest W. Wyman and Ellery Luce, have been rather unsuccessful in their plight for employment. The boys have decided to take the train back home to Farmington. They approach the ticket window at North Station and purchase two tickets, putting them into a pocketbook along with a $2 bill ($2 was worth around $50 today). Between the acquisition of the tickets and their boarding of the train, the boys somehow manage to lose the pocketbook! After boarding the train and leaving the station, the young men are asked to present their tickets. They are unable to furnish them and are promptly taken to the judge upon arrival in Portland. Upon hearing their story, Judge Bates believes them, and the boys’ relatives are able to get the youths safely back to Farmington.
The railroad was once a very important piece of infrastructure to the town of Farmington. For almost a century, passenger service to town provided an efficient means of travel and later provided transportation for people without the luxury of an automobile. The last passenger train left Farmington in 1957. The old train station is still in existence, having been moved back from the road. It now houses Farmington Family Planning and is the building to the left of Depot Laundry. Also, if you’re ever at the Narrow Gauge Movie Theatre, be sure to look over the map on the wall. (Stories sourced from the Franklin Journal)
Layne Nason is a Farmington historian, specializing in the history of the Abbott School for Boys and Farmington during the era of the Great War.

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