What if no Guilford?

Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

Posts: 549
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2004 8:23 pm

What if no Guilford?

Post by trainsinmaine » Thu May 02, 2019 10:48 am

A question I have been pondering this morning: What would have been the likely scenario for the Boston and Maine and Maine Central if Guilford hadn't purchased and (more or less) combined them? Could they, would they, have survived very long as separate entities, or was an eventual merger inevitable? And how would the Bangor and Aroostook have fit into the picture?

b&m 1566
Posts: 3295
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:09 am
Location: Hudson, NH

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by b&m 1566 » Fri May 03, 2019 9:03 am

I think the MEC would have survived as a glorified short line railroad, with a trimming of rail lines that we see today or similar to it. Guilford/Pan Am’s lack of customer service (or lack of something), I'm sure has played into some downsizing but ultimately the pendulum swung the other way when manufacturing moved out of region or closed. The B&M, I don't think would have survived, there's not a lot of traffic originating or terminating anywhere on the B&M system and what there is, is all small customers, which I can't see as being that profitable, Pan Am is probably "getting by" with what they have on the B&M system. What the B&M is good for is a bridge route, but I can't tell you if the MEC would have had the money to purchase the B&M for that purpose. I imagine had Guilford not come into the picture the B&M would have been gobbled up by a bigger railroad, because I think the value as a bridge route for Maine traffic is there. I don’t think regulators would have allowed Conrail to take over, that would have resulted in a monopoly, so its possible NS would be the other railroad with interchanging taking place in Rigby yard.

Posts: 240
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 6:59 pm

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by S1f3432 » Fri May 03, 2019 5:11 pm

When Conrail was being proposed there was the assumption among some that the B&M would be included and
Maine Central offered to buy Portland to Worcester to preserve it's primary westward connection. As it turned
out Allen Dustin was successful with his reorganization efforts, but the big unknown is B&M's ability to survive
on overhead traffic from other roads given the route/rate competition in place at the time. MEC wasn't nearly
as antagonistic towards small customers or marginal traffic as Guilford was, so that traffic wouldn't have eroded
as much or as quickly but there was not much it could do about paper industry decline. Guilford brought route
rationalization to New England that probably would have happened to some extent anyway eventually, as it was
already happening across the country.

b&m 1566
Posts: 3295
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:09 am
Location: Hudson, NH

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by b&m 1566 » Fri May 03, 2019 11:44 pm

Had the Maine Central purchased Portland to Worcester, was that going to include everything north and west of Nashua? What a out Portsmouth, NH? It makes me wonder had the Conrail merger played out, what would the Fitchburg line be today? I certainly don't think Conrail would've wanted two lines serving MA and northern New England.

Posts: 1336
Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:50 pm
Location: Rockingham Co., NH

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by jbvb » Sat May 04, 2019 8:49 am

In the 1980s, GTI threw away almost all the service-dependent traffic in their territory. There was serious interest in buying lines they wanted to abandon for short-line operation, but GTI was fundamentally a real-estate venture at the time and had no interest in retaining the traffic. So I believe the B&M and MEC would have a different, more favorable traffic base and revenue picture today had they not been merged.

Posts: 240
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 6:59 pm

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by S1f3432 » Sat May 04, 2019 7:19 pm

There is no way of knowing what direction a possible acquisition by Maine Central may have taken at this late date-
MEC was just demonstrating the will to work with the B&M trustees and Conrail to preserve a westward connection
for Maine traffic and it never progressed beyond that point because the B&M was never at the point of liquidation
or merger into Conrail.

QB 52.32
Posts: 738
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 8:05 am

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by QB 52.32 » Sun May 12, 2019 7:59 am

It's hard to imagine the B&M alone would have been able to remain intact and independent moving through the 1980's given the tremendous difficult changes that took place. Deregulation removed artificial supports the B&M received such as the $150 per car fee received for any regulated shipment moving to any point east of Fitchburg while also substantially increasing trucking and rail competition, all the while during an economic downturn and resulting New England industrial shakeout. From there one might imagine any number of scenarios of merger or dismemberment involving the D&H, MEC, Conrail and/or the P&W, quite likely with Federal or Commonwealth of MA intervention.

User avatar
NHV 669
Posts: 786
Joined: Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:07 pm
Location: In the VT woods, between the Mt. Division and WACR

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by NHV 669 » Sun May 12, 2019 2:19 pm

Beyond losing the Mt. Division as a bridge route with diminishing traffic that would be unsustainable today as a mainline, the imminent loss of the paper mills in Northern NH was going to sink the connected branches anyhow, without Clyde Forbes finishing the job.

NHVT 669 sits at the south end of the "Pompy" line in White River Jct., VT on 4/29/1993. Photo by Richard Roberg.

Dick H
Posts: 3490
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2005 8:55 pm
Location: Dover, NH

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by Dick H » Sun May 12, 2019 4:22 pm

I do not have the dates for when the Boston and Albany line was single tracked
in Western MA, between Framingham and Selkirk NY. However, if the B&M had
shut down it's west end, I doubt that the single tracking of the B&A would have'
happened, especially after the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned in 1974. That would
have left the B&A line as the only major east-west line in and out of New England,
not counting the MEC Mountain Division.

The Central Vermont and the Grand Trunk would have probably gobbled up the
'Conn River line and the Berlin NH area lines. A scaled down B&M might have been
still operating between Portland and Ayer, in and around Boston and the NH Route
up to Concord.

It must be noted that Guilford was at least equally interested in B&M property, as
it was in the railroad and reportedly recouped it's entire payment for the B&M over
the years from property sales.

Engineer Spike
Posts: 1895
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:24 pm

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by Engineer Spike » Wed May 22, 2019 10:11 pm

I think that the point about Guilford doing away with time sensitive traffic, and all traffic that could be trucked is valid. Even so, the deindustrialization went full force in the late 1980s, 90s, and beyond. I think that there would have been another merger of MEC, B&M, and also the possibility of BAR, and also D&H.

Posts: 4260
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 12:32 pm
Location: NH

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by newpylong » Wed May 29, 2019 9:55 am

In a world where Conrail get's the B&M, I can't see how from Mechanicville to Fitchburg survives. Next to no online traffic, redundant route to Maine, etc.

Removing GTI from the equation would have had far more reaching effects than just the B&M and MEC. Without them buying the D&H in 84 and moving it into bankruptcy 4 years later, would CP ever be on the scene in New York, what about NS?

I still see the B&M (at least the western half) as a natural extension of a modern NS system on an East Coast with two Class Is. Whether it would have occurred without GTI, or whether it still will occur without them, who knows.

Posts: 2305
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2004 5:50 pm

Re: What if no Guilford?

Post by CN9634 » Mon Aug 12, 2019 8:15 pm

Possible that MEC would have picked up from Mattawamkeag and east to Saint John on the CP, then the CP could abandon what was left in Maine and let MEC handle traffic from SJ to SJ (if you can think of what those points would be). Although, I think there was some chatter at one point about CP wanting to buy MEC right before Guilford came into the picture, so maybe they would have been gobbled up anyways. Back in the 80s, any kind of profitable piece of railroad like the MEC was surely a target for the larger fish.

Return to “Boston & Maine/Maine Central”