• Amtrak Downeaster Discussion Thread

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by jonnhrr
Service to Bangor via Augusta would use the former MEC Lower Road which is currently broken through Augusta and has not seen through trains in some time so it would be a major rebuild. Another drawback is that it misses Lewiston/Auburn the second largest urban area in the state. The alternative of going via the "Back Road" through Lewiston has its own drawbacks though - besides missing the state capital, it also requires branching off at Royal Jct. thereby not serving Freeport and Brunswick. Also you have interference with Pam Am freights, not that there are that many North of Portland, generally 2 a day in each direction I believe. But I'm sure Pan Am would extract its pound of flesh and demand passing sidings etc.

  by markhb
The Lower Road is not broken that I'm aware of; it has a temporary dirt covering to allow it to be used for parking off Water Street in downtown Augusta, but that contract has a short warning period in it for the city (or whoever contracted with MaineDOT) to clear it off for rail revival. It's way back in this thread, but it's something like 45 or 60 days notice. Of course, it's likely that repairs are needed, but it's not actually severed. Maine Eastern actually looked at running a commuter line Brunswick - Augusta (Capitol Park) when they had the rights to the Lower Road and Rockland Branch but never pulled the trigger on it.

The Back Road serves L-A with the ability to extend to Norway-So. Paris, Bethel and beyond to Montreal, but that expansion depends on the depot being at the airport and staying on the SLC rather than going into the Auburn and Lewiston downtowns, and as you said, it misses Augusta if it were to continue north. L-A may be a larger population center, but I think the prospect of rail from Portland to the state capital and vice-versa might be a larger traffic driver.

Someone mentioned reviving the Lewiston Branch from Brunswick? That's pretty much overgrown with woods beyond wherever the end-of-track marker is today, plus it dead-ends in downtown Lewiston, plus Lewiston-Brunswick to get to Portland isn't going to entice anyone IMHO.
  by jcpatten
The Back Road is currently cut in Richmond, a bridge over a highway was removed. I think it was too low, and the span is pretty narrow. I can think of another bridge in Topsham with a similar problem (too narrow crossing the road). Replacing these spans with modern highway width bridges should be top of the list if the road gets refurbished.
  by jonnhrr
Markhb is right about the Lewiston Branch from Brunswick, the track exists as far as Lisbon Falls (it was actually refurbished with state money a few years ago for a freight customer that never materialized) and the right of way exists into Lewiston but downtown it has been taken over by a street, one that I use on occasion to access a couple of popular restaurants when I am in Lewiston. Even if the ROW had not been taken over, it would be difficult to say the least to tie it into the former MEC Back Road to continue on to Bangor.

The former Grand Trunk route might be viable to serve L/A (albeit at a station removed from the city centers) and continue to Montreal, but again would not help with extending to Bangor.
  by Ridgefielder
Choo Choo Coleman wrote: Tue Feb 09, 2021 7:16 pm
MEC407 wrote: Sat Feb 06, 2021 7:27 am From Mainebiz:
Mainebiz wrote:A bill introduced in the state Senate last week would provide $300,000 for a feasibility study and the development of a plan to extend passenger rail service to Bangor along existing railroad corridors. The extension would begin in Brunswick, where the Amtrak Downeaster service to Boston currently dead-ends, and run through Augusta and Waterville.

The bill, sponsored by freshman Sen. Joseph Baldacci, D-District 9, and seven co-sponsors, has gone to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation. On Monday, the Bangor City Council is scheduled to take up a resolution supporting the proposal.
Read the full article at: https://www.mainebiz.biz/article/legisl ... -to-bangor
Service to Bangor would be a great thing for that part of Maine.
Has there been any discussion to try for some federal dollars if they extended service to Bangor and then to the Downeast Scenic Railroad tracks and on past Washington Junction to connect with the extensive shuttle bus system that links to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor?
According to the National Park Service, Acadia was the second most visited national park (3.4 m) in the eastern United States in 2019 behind only Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
With Acadia having such a great shuttle system a connection to rail service could prove very popular with tourists and help unclog the roads. Local residents get the benefit of a safe, reliable transportation connection. The tourists get easy access to a great national park and help the train's bottomline for a relatively modest extension past Bangor.
With the current administration in office, now might be the time to go for it.
Majority of Acadia visitors are probably coming from somewhere south and west of Boston. That's the reason that, back in the day, the Bar Harbor Express was a joint PRR/NH/BM/MEC service that skipped The Hub. I think Ellsworth might be a bridge too far, at least initially.
  by markhb
bostontrainguy wrote: Wed Feb 24, 2021 10:24 am Maybe someone finally understands the urgency of this matter and makes the best final decision:
https://www.mainepublic.org/post/maine- ... rip-boston

I really regret that I forgot about listening to that meeting Monday. The PDF of the MaineDOT study is here, their project homepage is here and the Press Herald story is here. The recommendation from the study was to do something around Union Station, assuming agreements could be reached with the owners. I think it's interesting that none of the Thompson's Point alternatives that were looked at in either phase made mention of the parking garage that TP had intended to build on the former Suburban Propane property.

Patricia Quinn from the PPH story:
“There is no solid plan yet about what to do with the report,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the rail authority. “They have made their assessments, and we are going to take it to the next level and see what the alternatives are to move.”
  by jwhite07
I would not characterize the Island Explorer an "extensive shuttle bus system". It's better than nothing - I remember when there was nothing! - it's used moderately well on the island, but its primary drawbacks are lack of frequency and lack of off-island reach. If you are going to Acadia and expecting to not use a car, you are still driving to Acadia, and staying on the island, probably in or very near Bar Harbor. If you're staying in Ellsworth, which is 20 miles from Bar Harbor never mind the rest of Acadia National Park, or anywhere else in the area off island, or even if you are staying on the "quiet side" of the island west of Somes Sound, you are driving, period. The closest that the Island Explorer gets to Ellsworth at present is the Trenton Airport. Yes, there is also Downeast Transportation bus service that connects Bar Harbor to Ellsworth and even Bangor, but it is very infrequent as well.

Access to Acadia National Park, by any land or air-based means, is not by "roads", it is by *a* road. One single road, Route 3, which is known as High Street where it runs right smack dab through the middle of the central business district in Ellsworth, and which also carries Route 1 through town. Congestion already is vastly disproportionate to the size of the town, since it's the only way to "get theyah from heah" by road. The historical location of the railroad station in Ellsworth is also along High Street, and no matter where you might site a future railroad station, to get to Bar Harbor you have to get onto High Street. There is literally no other route. You can only avoid passing through Ellsworth by flying into Trenton Airport, but since that is also along Route 3, you're just dropped into the mess of traffic further along. It is a matter of georgraphy as much as it is infrastructure.

Fact of the matter is, you could put everybody coming from anywhere via any conveyance you choose, trains, planes, or automobiles, and if you pack every one of them onto buses to go to Bar Harbor and Acadia (where would that enormous Park and Ride be?), Route 3 will STILL be a parking lot during the summer.

A rail option would be great, but it would be seasonal at best (I'm the only Flatlander I know who actually wants to go to Ellsworth in wintertime) and it would cost billions of dollars to not only bring the in-use portion of railroad to Bangor up to passenger standards, but worse, despite Downeast Scenic's care and effort, the nearly 40 years dead portion of the Calais Branch needs massive investment too (and like Portland, don't forget the Calais Branch is accessible from the Freight Main only by a reverse move at Brewer Junction).

I grew up in the Ellsworth area and still have family there. Of course I'd love to take a train there. But not at that cost. I'm not convinced Bangor is worth it either, but rail to Ellsworth to get to Acadia? NOPE.
  by Arborwayfan
Rail, or partly rail, service to Acadia? Get a summer rail connection going again from Brunswick to Rockland (Downeaster or private connection). Get a high-speed passenger ferry with 50 or 100 or so pax capacity going from Rockland to Bass Harbor, where there's already a substantial ferry terminal for the Swans Island car ferry, and maybe onward to Bar Harbor; it looks like about 50 water miles from Rockland to Bass Harbor, so it could be done in two hours or less, a little less than the driving time Google predicts for this afternoon (no traffic :-D ). I'm not sure it makes sense, but it would probably be faster to set up and also faster to ride than a rail + bus route via Bangor. It would use a rail line that had scenic passenger trains on it until 2105 and which serves a stretch of coast that is a destination in its own right and has a movement to get a train back. And the boat trip would be an attraction, whereas taking a bus through the Ellsworth mall-land would not be. There would also be the possibility of arranging for stops or connections at/to some of the outlying islands.
  by markhb
"Back in the day" rail travel via Pullman (or, for the sorts of people who owned "cottages" on Mount Desert Island, private car) was far superior to travel by horse-drawn coach. That's not really the case any longer given that the horse and buggy have given way to a family SUV with a DVD player in back to keep the kids occupied, so it strikes me that if one really wanted to avoid the bottleneck of the Route 3 bridge at Trenton, the only true way to do so would be by marine highway. The Cat's not going to Canada any time soon; anyone up for leasing it to run between Portland and Bar Harbor?
  by Ridgefielder
markhb wrote: Wed Feb 24, 2021 2:27 pm "Back in the day" rail travel via Pullman (or, for the sorts of people who owned "cottages" on Mount Desert Island, private car) was far superior to travel by horse-drawn coach. That's not really the case any longer given that the horse and buggy have given way to a family SUV with a DVD player in back to keep the kids occupied, so it strikes me that if one really wanted to avoid the bottleneck of the Route 3 bridge at Trenton, the only true way to do so would be by marine highway. The Cat's not going to Canada any time soon; anyone up for leasing it to run between Portland and Bar Harbor?
"Back in the day" the Bar Harbor Express also operated through Ellsworth and Washington Jct. to a cross-dock transfer to the island steamers at Mt. Desert Ferry in Hancock. The boats then called at Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor. That trackage is long gone, as is the ferry terminal, and it isn't coming back.

I agree, and have argued at length in other threads, that the best way to get rail service to Mt. Desert is via Rockland and a high-speed ferry that goes through either the Fox Island Thorofare or the the Eggemoggin Reach (former route could call at Brooklin and Swans Island on the way; latter could call at Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut.)

While not as famous as the Bar Harbor the Rockland route also sustained a train-steamer service to Mt. Desert in the old days.
  by nomis
A quick tidbit from the STB Filing, PDF page 192
CSXT plans to install Positive Train Control (“PTC”) (I-ETMS) on the PAR System line segment north of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire State line to Brunswick, ME, which hosts the Amtrak Downeaster service described above. The PTC installation and funding responsibility will be coordinated with Amtrak. MBTA has installed PTC (ATC-ACSES), which is in service between Boston, MA and the Massachusetts/New Hampshire State line.
  by Rockingham Racer
Big plus, which will allow more trips in the future.
  by stevefol
Weekend service has returned to the Wildcat/NH main line. 690 just passed West Medford. Don’t know if this means Anderson is a stop again.
  by njtmnrrbuff
That's great that the Downeasters are running by way of the Widcat. I would love to see more Amtrak Downeaster trains running. I hope that CSX doesn't delay Amtrak's Downeaster too much as the freight carrier has given Amtrak plenty of issues on their busiest lines elsewhere.
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