Franklin Countys First News

WIld West coming to Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad

The Old Wild West Back East will bring the Wild West to Phillips on July 15-16.

PHILLIPS - The Wild West, guns a-blazing, is coming to the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad for the July 15-16 weekend.

On that Saturday and Sunday, train passengers on the narrow gauge will experience the thrill of the West as a gang of desperados attempt to rob the train, an event promising to be a redux of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, only without the dynamite.

Some of the gang creating the gun smoke are part of 'Old Wild West Back East' - a group of reenactors who come together occasionally to recreate history. And not just Western history; some of those who dress in the garb of the Wild West do other reenactments as well. Norm Harbinson, for instance, one of the organizers of the SR&RLRR event in July, reenacts several time periods and personas: he puts together World War II events highlighting his 502 Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne, group; sometimes organizes impressions of German WWII units or Civil War soldiers; and has even gone further back in history to perform in both Victorian and Renaissance scenarios.

So what should train riders in Phillips expect on the SR&RLRR Western weekend? An attempt to rob the train, certainly, though whether the U.S. Marshal and his posse will arrive in time to thwart the attempt is less certain. And will it happen at Sanders Station on Bridge Street? Maybe too many witnesses. At the railyard? Not likely because of too many rail workers. Possibly somewhere in the woods in between? Who knows for sure?

And why the Wild West in Phillips, Maine?

“We don't believe that, just because you live in the eastern United States, you can't recreate the life of the pre-1900 American West," the reenactors said in a release. "Through reenacting and living history, we experience some of the lifestyles of the men and women who became immortalized in fact, fiction and lore.”

The value of reenacting they see as an opportunity of transforming the representation of history into a combination of interpretation and role playing. And despite the portrayal of the Old West by TV and movies as fantasy and myth, they add, “reenactors have the opportunity to breath life into the truth of the people and the era itself, and the Old West can (and some say should) be presented in an accurate and interesting manner.” As for the SR&RLRR and Phillips, well, that’s where history also resides.

So if you’re looking for some excitement and a taste of another region’s narrow gauge history, come to the SR&RLRR in Phillips on Saturday and Sunday, July 15-16. Trains run on the hour on Saturday from 11 to 4 and on Sunday from 11 to 3. Fares are $6 for age 13 and up, $1 for under 13, and children 5 or younger ride for free. And if you care to, feel free to wear your Stetson and spurs.

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3 Responses »

  1. Does the closure of Bridge Street in Phillips (see Bulldog article) affect access to this event? Is there a detour or what?

  2. There is good access from rt 142 end of bridge street

  3. In preparation for the scheduled event this weekend, the Bridge Street culvert was cleared on Thursday the 13th and the street reopened.

    We are all looking forward to work beginning and the total replacement of this undersized and outdated culvert. The bid opening is scheduled for July 20 and we hope work will begin shortly after.