• Boston & Maine History

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

Moderator: MEC407

  by bridpath
Concerning 101's schedule.

The only quick difference I can discern is that 101 had a scheduled stop in Lawrence from 03:05-03:15 and in Dover from 04:30-04:41. These specifically-timed stops are not listed for other first class trains (with the exception of 1001 & 1003 which were Sunday Only trains and identified as "Newspaper"). No. 101 was the daily except Sunday train on roughly the same schedule, so I'm guessing the delivery of newspapers to Lawrence and Dover for distribution to outlying areas required longer station stops and a correspondingly slower schedule.

  by gokeefe
Just for reference here's what the travel times are for that previous timetable.

101 3'58''
11 2'5''
15 1'50''
123 2'35''
19 2' 10''
147 2'59''
21 3'15''
23 2'25''

I think it's very interesting to note that right now the Downeaster time table is showing travel times of roughly 2'25'' to 2'35''. Not only is the service more consistent than what was provided in the past but right now I think most people seem to understand the service as being more in the range of 2'45''. It definitely seems that the train is faster right now than what it is marketed as.

I wonder if in some ways you could say that the Downeaster is approaching service that is superior to what the B&M ever provided. They have more service, more often, at times that are faster than many of the trains of the day that were operating during peak periods, and they also have full service on the weekends.

I feel there are some people in the rail communities who may not be aware of the fact that historical comparisons to previous service may actually show that the Downeaster is approaching or exceeding service that was provided by the B&M prior to discountinuation of passenger service.
  by MEC407
The Downeaster doesn't make as many stops as the old B&M trains, though. For instance, just looking at the Maine side of the line, the B&M trains would have stopped in Scarborough, Old Orchard Beach, Biddeford, Kennebunk, Wells, probably at least one of the Berwicks... and then who knows how many towns between the ME/NH line and Boston.

If the Downeaster was making all those stops, the time from Portland to Boston would be a whole lot slower.
  by gokeefe
Dear MEC 407,

Take a look at the following link for station stops.


Although Old Orchard Beach is seasonal the others are not. The stop in Saco is practically on top of Biddeford. Kennebunk doesn't have a station stop right now however if they were interested in this mode of transportation and built a station for it I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see the Downeaster stop there. It's a natural intermediate stop between Wells and Saco. There's probably a reason why the train doesn't stop there right. Maybe one of the neighbors didn't want to deal with the traffic.
  by MEC407
I ride the DE frequently and am familiar with the stops, but thanks for the link. The point I was trying to make is that every time you have to make a stop, you add a significant amount of time to the overall length of the trip. You might only be stopped at the station for 30 seconds but you lose a lot of time while slowing down for the stop, and you lose additional time when leaving the station and trying to get back up to speed. The DE has 10 stops but I would guess that those old B&M trains probably had 15-20 stops between Boston and Portland. Therefore, the DE trip from Portland to Boston would take a whole heck of a lot longer if it had to make the same number of stops as the B&M trains did.

I have a B&M passenger timetable from the 1950s around here somewhere... I'll have to hunt for it and see exactly where the trains stopped. Travel times between Boston and Portland are irrelevant if we don't know how many intermediate stops were made.
  by gokeefe
MEC 407,
Although I agree that in some ways it is difficult to make the comparison in terms of travel time because there are fewer station stops I think that in broader terms the comparison can still be made. When we consider the fact that there are fewer stops made by the Downeaster perhaps we can also keep in mind that the local transportation networks, most importantly the roads, can better manage local travel than in the past. I believe this fact helps eliminate the need for so many stops.

Another consideration for why there aren't as many stops is that the train doesn't carry the mail. I'm no expert on Maine Rail Postal History but I would imagine that at least part of the reason for so many stops in the past had to do with the exchange of mail, although most stops where the train would actually stop and drop mail would probably already be passenger stops anyways, the volume of mail and the time it took to offload it may have added additional time to the trip.

I think the comparison I'm trying to get at is first quality of service, which at least in some respects appears to have already superseded with no difficulty the average to mediocre years leading up to the suspension of passenger service. Second, does the train serve the same population that had passenger service in the past with similar or better efficiency in terms of this station vs. travel time ratio. I believe that although we can all postulate that there is more vehicular traffic on local roads today than in the past I think these local roads have also been improved and to a great extent make it very easy for people to access rail passenger service at central station stops as opposed to the flag stop neighborhood sheds that were used in the past.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, I think we can come to a reasonable conclusion that at a minimum with five roundtrips daily now the Amtrak Downeaster passenger service is better than the passenger service provided by the B&M in an average or mediocre year. We have several factors from which we can make this judgement and they are the following:

1. What is the average Boston to Portland travel time? What is the maximum Boston to Portland travel time? What is the minimum Boston to Portland travel time? What is the train frequency? How convenient is the travel schedule to the public?

2. Is the train reliably on time?

3. How much is the fare?

4. Does the train have amenities? What is the quality of the classes of service? Does the train have food service and if so what level?

5. Does the train provide any value-added services?

6. What is the quality of the facilities at the station stops?

7. Does the train serve many of the same areas?

I think this discussion is important because in my mind the general public does not yet understand that the Downeaster is by historical standards exceptionally good rail passenger service for the parts of Maine that it serves. To a certain extent I believe that some people still see it as a historical novelty that has no practical application in the long-term. In reality I feel that to a certain extent that as the TGV is to France the Downeaster is to Maine. Why? Because by our historical standards the Downeaster is a high-speed, high-frequency, high-quality rail passenger service.

Having ridden the German ICE train more than once I understand very well the extreme differences between a modern high technology HSR corridor and the Class IV Amtrak CTC corridor service that the Downeaster is currently providing but in some respects the competition is similar. The ICE competes, in travel time, with the autobahn and the Downeaster competes with the Maine Turnpike and I-95 in NH/MA.

I'm sure there's an argument to be made that the realization of the historic nature of the Downeaster service is not important to the individual passenger. They will make their modal selection based on the seven factors above regardless of whether or not the service is exceeding something provided decades ago in the long-forgotten past.

I think the historical comparison that I am emphasizing can be used to market the Downeaster for what it really is. It's not just a 'train that serves Maine'. It is a major public transportation asset. I think the NNERPA has done a very good job of selling the quality of the service and the potential for Transit Oriented Development that the Downeaster brings but I believe that if any of us were to tell someone that, "The Downeaster is a transporation asset that is equal in importance to the Maine Turnpike or the Portland International Jetport.", these individuals would be very surprised. I think in some ways the service is still seen as a local circulator rather than an interstate corridor.
  by TomNelligan
As others have suggested, the wide variety in historical running times of B&M trains of the 1940s and 1950s versus today's Downeaster was due to a greater variety of service levels, ranging from prestige trains that made only one or two intermediate stops to locals that made a bunch of stops to the middle-of-the-night mail and express train #101 which ran mainly for the benefit of inanimate business. The Downeasters, by contrast, all make the same eight intermediate stops, but don't carry checked baggage, much less mail or express, making station stops potentially quicker (unless they're loading a giant crowd of UNH students at Durham!). Comparison between eras is difficult.

One thing the Downeaster is, is less expensive. The summer 1956 B&M system timetable lists the one-way coach fare between Boston and Portland as $4.39, which adjusted for inflation per one on-line calculator would now be equal to $33.14, more than today's basic one-way fare of $24.00. Remember, thought, that the B&M was a private business that didn't have the benefit of any public funding for its services at the time and was attempting (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to make a profit.
  by gokeefe
Funny you mention the mail Mr. Nelligan,

I was reflecting after one of the recent responses as to whether or not due to the increase in transportation costs if using the Downeaster to carry mail to-from Boston to points on the line might now be efficient again in some shape or form. I will post this topic in a separate thread either in the Amtrak or New England forum.

On another note does anyone know if there was ever Montreal-Portland service on the Grand Trunk? If so did it have a name? I'm only asking in this thread because I have a feeling several people who have been replying will know right off. Thank You for the indulgence. If no one knows I'll post this as a separate thread in the New England forum.
  by bridpath
"If no one knows I'll post this as a separate thread in the New England forum."

Should probably be a distinct thread in the New England forum by virtue of the topic, no? Nevertheless,
Trains 16 & 17 through 1956.


  by TomNelligan
bridpath wrote:Trains 16 & 17 through 1956.
That was the last regular service, but additionally, Canadian National/Grand Trunk ran a seasonal train for the benefit of Quebecers vacationing at the Maine beaches up until 1967. The once-a-week train made a southbound Montreal-Portland run on Saturday morning and returned that evening, running from the beginning of July through the end of August.
  by MrB
Very new at trying to read timetables, but the copy I have is from 1950 and it lists 15 intermediary stops bewteen Boston and Portland and could take up to 4 hours for the trip.
  by davidp
MrB wrote:Very new at trying to read timetables, but the copy I have is from 1950 and it lists 15 intermediary stops bewteen Boston and Portland and could take up to 4 hours for the trip.
On the other hand, some trips were faster than today. For example, in 1960, train 9's RDCs left Boston at 6:20pm and arrived Portland at 8:40 with a half dozen or so stops.

  by jbvb
B&M passenger train timings varied a lot, even across intervals as short as 1950 - 1956. In 1950, only a few expresses ran faster than today's Downeaster, and they generally made fewer stops. By 1956, timings were both faster and more uniform, in part because of the Maine and New Hampshire Turnpikes. The fastest consistent timings were the early '60s, when everything was RDCs and the B&M had 12 daily trains scheduled for 65 MPH start-to-stop between Haverhill and Exeter (mentioned in Don Steffe's Speed Survey of the era).

Of course, the RDCs were easier on the track than anything before or since; ETT #70 (April 1959) shows #24 leaving North Conway at 0610, arriving North Station at 0935 with 17 regular and flag stops. This is not too much under today's driving time, with half the distance on unsignalled 85 lb. rail.
  by gokeefe
What is the oldest piece of Maine Central motive power still operating today? I know there are some MEC Alcos on the MEC, one of which worked on the Rockland Branch for some time. In some ways it seems to me that MEC's motive power hasn't survived as well as that of other railroads. In some ways the answer is obvious, MEC isn't nor ever was a Class I railroad. Thanks.