Down East 2013 ©
Photograph courtesy of Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine
Mainers know that the simplest solutions are usually the best ones. In 1898, when Garret Schenck began constructing his Great Northern Paper Company mill in Millinocket, he situated the mill near the confluence of Millinocket Stream and the West Branch of the Penobscot River, as the waterways provided both a ready and renewable source of power and an avenue for moving the logs that the mill turned into newspaper. On the day it opened in 1900 Great Northern’s mill was the largest paper mill in the world, every day churning out 240 tons of newsprint, 120 tons of sulfite pulp, and 240 tons of ground wood pulp. To feed the mill over the next nearly half-century, logs were simply hauled onto frozen rivers during the wintertime and left there until spring, when Mother Nature delivered them downstream (with a little coaxing from peavey-wielding log drivers, of course).
By the 1940s, however, railroads were an increasingly more efficient means of hauling pulpwood from Maine’s North Woods to mills like the one in Millinocket. To get the logs the last few miles from the Bangor & Aroostook’s (B&A) tracks at the outlet of North Twin Lake, Great Northern officials constructed the unique catapult shown here. Specially designed freight cars were anchored to twin lifts located directly below the car’s axles, then disengaged from their fellow cars and simply jacked up to a thirty-three-