Hattie Evans moved to the Mt. Willard Section House in Crawford Notch in 1903 with her husband, Loring, who was the Maine Central Railroad’s Foreman of Section 139, which was a short section but one of the steepest on the line. After he was killed in a railroad accident in 1913, Hattie was left with four small children to raise on her own. The family remained in the Section House, where Hattie continued to house and feed the section men who maintained that part of the steep mountain grade.
Though Hattie died in 1954, she lives on through the memories of her grandchildren, now in their 60s and 70s. They grew up on stories of how she put their parents on passing trains which slowed, but did not stop, in order to take them into Bartlett for school. They heard of how, despite endless chores and unexpected problems, Hattie always helped with homework and found time to spend with her children, creating strong family bonds and teaching old-fashioned values.
Her grandchildren recall her as being humble and unassuming, but she was known as “indomitable” in her day, and surely she must have been a very strong woman indeed to persevere on her own in a remote, inhospitable environment with such a young family. Conway Scenic Railroad is proud to honor the memory of this unforgettable woman – and the history that took place in Crawford Notch.
Hattie Evans’ remarkable story is told in the book, Life by the Tracks, by Virginia Downs, first published in 1984. Based on extensive research, interviews with railroad historians, local “old-timers,” and the four Evans’ children, this is an unforgettable chronicle of an exceptional family that once lived by the steepest railroad tracks in the Eastern United States. The book is available in the Dorthea Mae’s Snack Bar on the Notch Train and through our gift shop in the Station. Thanks to the Evans’ family for the photos that appear here!