• Calais Branch

  • 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 riffian
Looking for information on the Maine Central Calais branch in the 40's and 50's til the end of operations. Online customers, frequency and description of service, and equipment used would all be much appreciated, if known. In the Maine Central regular freight listing for 1958, there is no train listed for any part of the Calais branch. I take this to mean that operations may have been irregular with crews called off the Bangor extra board when necessary, although that is pure conjecture on my part.

Thanks for any information.
  by S1f3432
From Maine Central R.R. Employee Timetable No.7 of April 28, 1935- a little earlier time frame than you were
looking for, but a start. Click on link for larger view.
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  by TomNelligan
In the late 1960s/early 1970s time frame the Maine Central scheduled a daily freight between Bangor and Calais, trains BC-1 eastbound and CB-2 westbound. A daytime local out of Calais handled local switching, and the Eastport branch as required. I'm sure that a similar Bangor-Calais job ran in 1958, but I don't know why it wouldn't have been listed in your freight schedule.
  by S1f3432
During the late 60’s and through the 70’s the Calais branch freight trains usually made three round
trips per week. I have a copy of MEC notice #27 dated January 9, 1979 showing BC-3 called at Bangor at 10:00 PM Sun-Tues-Thurs for Calais and CB-4 called at Calais at 2:00 PM Mon-Wed-Fri
for Bangor. A road switcher was called daily at 6:00 AM in Calais for Woodland and return, making
a second trip as directed. Before the Eastport branch was abandoned in Nov 1988 a train was
called at Calais at 11:45 AM for Eastport and return with a side trip to Woodland on the return leg.
By 1968 service to Eastport was as required, sometimes only 2 trips per week. On days the trip
to Eastport was not run the crew would be set back to 3:45 PM and make a round trip to Woodland.
During the 40’s and 50’s there was a local freight run from Bangor to Machias where it would lay
over for the night and return the next day.
Passenger service on the branch in the early 50’s was two trains in each direction each day.
Eastbound train 129 was due out of Bangor at 4:20 PM for Calais and westbound train 122 was
due out of Calais at 8:15 AM for Bangor. These two trains were abolished in 1953. Westbound train
116 due out of Calais at 4:25 PM and an eastbound counterpart out of Bangor handled a sleeper
three days a week until service ended on November 23, 1957. The Bar Harbor ran to Ellsworth
three times a week in season until 1955.
The Eastern Subdivision, including the Calais Branch, the Bucksport Branch and the Bangor to Vanceboro mainline was the first part of the Maine Central to be completely dieselized in 1949 with RS-2’s 551-555, S-2’s 301-303, two GE 44 ton locos for the Eastport Branch and Vanceboro yard and as needed assistance from the E-7 and F-3 locomotives.
The largest customer on the Calais Branch was St. Croix Paper Co. at Woodland, producing
475 tons of newsprint per day as well as lumber at an associated sawmill. The Eastport branch was
all about fish canneries with the peak around 1950 when Lubec had seven canning plants and
more traffic coming into Eastport by lighter. Outbound cars of canned fish and fish meal and
inbound cars of vegetable oil, vinegar, salt and other canning supplies often required the train to
make two round trips a day. There was a steep decline in this traffic in the 1960’s. There were other
canning plants along the line including Jasper Wyman at Milbridge, known for canned blueberries.
Pulpwood was loaded at multiple locations and the larger towns had the usual team tracks, freight
houses, fuel, lumber and farm supply dealers.
The County was never a speedy operation with the maximum speed limit being 35 mph. With the
passenger traffic between Bangor and Ellsworth ( and Mt. Desert Ferry in an earlier time ) the
railroad did install automatic block signals between Bangor and Washington Jct.- this system was
removed in 1958. As elsewhere the 60’s and 70’s saw much traffic shift to the highways and track
conditions degraded as time went by. By the early 80’s and the Guilford era the BC/CB freights
were operated as extras as need and one crew could not get from one end to the other in 12 hours.
The Woodland traffic was rerouted to Vanceboro via the CP and the rest of the line closed.
Much of this information was found in the “Maine Central In Color Vols 1-3” books by Melvin and
Plant which the last I knew were still available. I’ve been collecting Northern New England oriented
railroad books and periodicals for going on 50 years and it is surprising how little has been written
about this line.
  by riffian
Thanks much for your detailed history and description of operations. You are right about the paucity of photos taken on this branch - so few that I've never seen one. Photos of trains on the Rockland branch are common and even the Farmington branch with it's milk car equipped passenger trains are not that rare. I guess tourism as far north as Calais and Machias did not exist then. Couldn't have been much freight traffic generated in later days, beyond the timber for the mills - today the populations of the two biggest towns, Calais and Machias are 3,000 and 2,000 respectively and still dropping.
  by S1f3432
I never spent much time in that part of the state but have a few photos taken as a teenager as my family passed
through on vacation trips to the Maritimes in 1972 and 1973.
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  by S1f3432
Here are a couple more...
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  by riffian
Fantastic photos! In the yard overview I take it that the large brick building next to the tracks if the Calais station. Do you know if it still stands?
  by S1f3432
I haven't been there since 90's when I made a trip to McAdam and St. John, returning through
Calais after dark and I don't remember we even stopped to look around. In Google Earth the station
and the buildings across the street all appear to be gone with some new construction on or near the
station site and the track east of Milltown Jct. removed. The old round house at Salmon Falls is
still standing.
  by Cowford
Not sure what the roundhouse is being used for today, but in the 1980s, it was serving as a sardine cannery. By the way, Trains Magazine had (in April 1977) a good news item about the frustration MEC faced in trying to abandon the Eastport branch. I believe it took over a decade. I don't think any in the industry miss the ICC!
  by b&m 1566
What was the story behind that anyways? It's not the first time I heard about the ICC, dragging their feet on the Eastport Branch abandonment. A similar situation happened with the B&M and the Conway Branch, where abandonment took 2 to 3 years but a large part of that was because the state filed law suits, to try and prevent the abandonment and later to prevent the tracks from being pulled up.
  by ericofmaine
riffian wrote: Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:21 pm Fantastic photos! In the yard overview I take it that the large brick building next to the tracks if the Calais station. Do you know if it still stands?
Based on the picture and comparing to Google Earth, I'm going to say that yes it does but has been added on to as well.

  by RGlueck
Personal anecdote: I stood on the Chamberlain Bridge in Bangor during the July Fourth parade. The Governor Baldacci was marching and I called to him. He came over and I said,
"Please don't make the mistake of tearing up the Calais Branch. It has real possibilities as a privately managed gravel hauler, with a single rail Diesel car making shopping trips for Downeast residents to shop in Bangor, and make a bus connection to the mall." Baldacci told me, "Make your case to Cathy _______ (name lost) in Augusta, otherwise we're going ahead with it." He walked away, and that was that.
The Sunrise Rail Trail is heavily used at the present, and maybe that's a good thing, but I don't like rail-trails all that much, and I think tearing this one up was a mistake.
Just speaking for myself.
  by b&m 1566
They want to tear up more of the Calais branch? I thought the long range plan, was to rehab the tracks all the way to Brewer?