Trains have played a major role in the history of the White Mountains for well over a century. Here at Loon, that history is on full display.
J.E. Henry Railroad
Hop aboard the J.E. Henry Railroad, Loon’s historic steam train. This wood-fired locomotive railroad transports guests approximately 900 feet between the Octagon and Governor Adams Lodges.
Summer: Enjoy train rides every Friday, through August 30, with Full Steam Fridays! Learn More »
Winter: The train operates daily from mid-December through March.
The J.E. Henry Railroad is a narrow-gauge railway, which means its wheelbase is narrower than that of larger passenger or freight trains. Cheap to build and well-suited to mountainous terrain, narrow gauge railways were used to haul timber out of the White Mountains during the early 20th century.
The J.E. Henry Railroad may harken back to the area's logging past, but the train has its own, unique history. The engine, a German-made Ornstein & Koppel, spent its early years in service at a concrete plant in Münster, Germany prior to World War II. Following the war, the locomotive was acquired by Steam Village, a short-lived tourist attraction in Gilford, New Hampshire. When Steam Village went out of business in the early 1970s, Loon purchased the engine and built the J.E. Henry Railroad. The original engine and cars, which were built at Loon, operate to this day.
J.E. Who? | The History
The J.E. Henry Railroad is named after timber baron James E. Henry, who owned a vast logging empire and built logging railways that stretched from the town of Lincoln deep into the White Mountains. This logging empire - centered around a saw mill, pulp mill, and paper mill in the nearby village of Lincoln - transformed the sleepy wilderness hamlet into a booming company town with worker housing, hotel, stores, and an opera house.
East Branch & Lincoln Railroad
At Loon’s main entrance sits an imposing train hitched to a logging car filled with felled timber. The locomotive, a Porter No. 3 50-ton saddle tank engine, was used on the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad during the area’s logging heyday. Built in 1917, the locomotive was purchased from the U.S. Army in 1945 and was used mostly by the Parker-Young Company at its Lincoln railroad yard. Stop by to see the train and read interpretive signs about the area’s logging past.
White Mountains Logging History
Logging Railroads in the White Mountains
From 1880 to 1950, the area surrounding Loon Mountain was heavily logged. You'd hardly know it now, but the Pemigewasset Wilderness – a 45,000-acre tract of federally-protected forest, streams and mountains running between Franconia Notch and Zealand Notch – was crisscrossed by clear cuts, logging camps, and railroads.
Most of that logging infrastructure was first created in 1894, when timber baron J.E. Henry built more than 72 miles of train lines to transport virgin timber from White Mountains to a mill in downtown Lincoln. Over the next 54 years, the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad hauled more than one billion board feet of timber to the mill, passing the future site of Loon Mountain along the way.
A Walk Through History
By 1947, logging trucks had replaced the East Branch & Lincoln Railroad, and large-scale logging in the White Mountains declined soon thereafter. While the forest quickly reclaimed the land, signs of the area’s logging past remain to this day. Two miles east of Loon, hikers on the Lincoln Woods Trail can follow the bed of the old East Branch & Lincoln Railroad. Hikers on this wide, flat path are rewarded with excellent views of the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River - and glimpses of weathered railroad ties from the original railway.