• Downeast Scenic Railroad (DSRX) Discussion

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

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  by douellet
 
As Leverett has already reported the wye is in service. It is a really nice addition to the train ride. No more having to make two runaround movements! The ride covers a longer distance but takes about the same amount of time. I know lots of photos have been taken by DSRX volunteers, but I don't know if any have been posted on line.
  by jwhite07
 
Enjoyed another ride on the Downeast Scenic today to follow up on my ride in 2010. Great progress has been made! The McNiel Point looks fantastic inside and out, the wye is a great addition to the ride, and the staff are as pleasant and friendly as always. Leverett Fernald, it was truly a pleasure to meet and speak with you, and as always I wish you and all of the DSRX team great success!
  by douellet
 
Thank you for the kind words jwhite07. We had a real nice group of riders of all ages on the train today! Speaking for the train crew, we had a great time meeting and talking with everyone on board. Thanks again for riding on the Downeast Scenic.
  by MEC407
 
From the Bangor Daily News:
Bangor Daily News wrote:Lots of smiles, photos and thank yous marked a run of the Downeast Scenic Railroad on Saturday, a fine summer day in a long string of them that has helped the nonprofit excursion line continue to roll through its third season.

But the relaxed atmosphere created by the gentle rocking of the two coaches and an open-air car, passing busy High Street and then through a softwood forest and marsh area, belies the hard work that has kept the line up and running, said Tom Testa, the all-volunteer organization’s president.

“People don’t realize how much work this is,” he said, before quickly adding, “It’s a labor of love.” Testa and others launched the nonprofit in 2005, and the excursion trains began operating in July 2010.
Read more at: http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/26/n ... olunteers/
  by gokeefe
 
This past weekend I had the extraordinary pleasure of take a trip on the Downeast Scenic Railroad in Ellsworth. I can say without a doubt, the drive was worth it.

In attempting to write this trip report, I continue to be overwhelmed by the layer upon layer of history that I saw and experienced in Ellsworth. It is almost impossible to describe how many different aspects of history and even legend the DSRX captures in its experience. For most visitors these layers are invisible or only apparent after some additional reading or education. Few of those who experience this ride realize or understand the cultural significance of the experience they are having. That is not to say there is anything at all wrong with that and perhaps that is the easiest and simplest place to begin.

The DSRX operates out of Washington Junction yard with a boarding platform behind Cadillac Mountain Sports in Ellsworth, Maine on weekend in the summer. They typically have two daily departures from Ellsworth which proceed down currently in service track to a passing siding, return back through Ellsworth past the station, through Washington Junction yard and, new this year, to a wye track where the train is turned and then returned to the station. The staff of volunteers is very friendly and inviting, the prices very reasonable ($15/adult), and the rolling stock clean and comfortable with a range of seating options to include a remarkably sturdy looking open car.

And that, is probably the only part of this experience that is simple.

Over the years I had come through and been around the tracks in Ellsworth many many times on my way to and from Mt. Desert Island for both work and pleasure. I had always wondered about the Calais Branch and as the years went on I learned a lot more about these tracks through reading and through discussion here on railroad.net. In the summer of 2007 I happenned to be on my way through Ellsworth from MDI (yet again) and noticed a brochure talking about a "new" organization that was getting started called the "Downeast Scenic Railroad". As memory serves we had stopped at a large gas station in Orland to fill up on our way back to Winthrop. Although at the time I was somewhat interested I really didn't honestly think that this group stood much of a chance of success. The task at hand seemed so large and the resources so few. After all, nobody really thinks of a railroad as something that people get together to build and run. Perhaps a museum, perhaps a static display, but not a real live operating railroad.

The tracks in Ellsworth, like many places that went through Guilford's branch line abandonments of the 1980s had an almost tragic quality about them. Clearly, at one time, trains had run through here. Clearly, at one time, there had been enough industry to demand the construction of the railroad. It's dormant state was like Poe's raven, "Never more!". Never more would trains roll, never more would freight move, never more would industry thrive and every single time you would ride by these tracks that was the story that they told, over and over and over again. Obviously, industry, and Ellsworth, have in fact since then thrived, grown, improved and generally speaking moved on from the losses of the late 20th century. But the tracks remained, silent and dead, a monument to an idealized era of expansion, prosperity and possibility.

So it was something of a shock that morning when I pulled up into the parking lot next to Cadillac Mountain Sports and quite suddenly looked up and saw the train with its old fashioned clerestory roofed cars on either end sitting in place waiting for passengers and looking as if it had never left.

Frankly, it was as if I had seen a ghost.

The train was waiting in place, in what I learned has been the historic location of the Ellsworth passenger depot since the railroads went through the area. The DSRX platform is the third railroad passenger station ever located in that spot and sits right next to the second depot (now housing the offices of the Maine Community Foundation). The platform actually sits on top of the footprint of the old platform and is directly adjacent to foundation piers of the old canopy.

The DSRX has restored MEC Coach #155 to operation and named it McNeil Point (the former place of the ferry terminal for the Bar Harbor Express). I chose to sit in Coach #155 in an attempt to get a sense of what it must have been like to ride on the MEC at one time. The coach is wood with some steel underneath and it made predictable creaking and flexing noises as the train moved along. The wye track was acutally a very interesting experience in this car as you could tell the curve was causing the car body to be strung taught. The interior has been restored using replacement coach seats, which were very nicely reupholstered and some simple, new windows and hardware are in place and look great along with new trim and paint. Although the interior trim isn't necessarily "historic" the effect nonetheless was in my mind essentially complete. The doors at either end of the car appeared original (or at least quite old), and the vestibules had been repaired and cleaned but they too were essentially intact. The overall experience is almost certainly the closest one can get today to "the old Maine Central" as many would have known it so many years ago.

Such was our schedule that I didn't even take the time to visit DSRX's other restored coach car #123 Union River, a restored Reading EMU heavyweight coach. I got just a few glimpses of the interior of that car and from what I could see it looked even nicer than McNeil Point. One other surprising aspect of the ride on the DSRX was the scenery along the way. I really didn't know what to expect at all but I think on some level I was just expecting to see the back ends of a bunch of strip malls on US Route 1A. Thankfully I was definitely wrong there. Even the truncated route currently used by the DSRX already travels through some scenic areas including a very substantial wetland, and some very nice spruce and fir forest. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Acadia for a little while this is definitely a great way to do it.

After having a great lunch with some new friends and some further gawking at the Engine and trainset I made my way home along US Route 1A. As it so happens the railroad parallels 1A for a quite some time and in many areas I could see where DSRX already had cleared a great deal of brush and were making obvious preparations to get to Green Lake, perhaps within only a few years (if not sooner). The ride will be even more interesting and fun and will include several "high visibility" crossings of Route 1A that should be great for marketing. Also of note, the train was very well patronized the day I rode and although they weren't 100% sold out it was getting there. Total ridership was well in excess of 100 people and this seemed to be the norm for them.

I will be looking forward to watching DSRX's progress over the next few years and wish them well.
  by MEC407
 
Fantastic report! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it. I can't wait to get up there and see DSRX for myself.
  by gokeefe
 
MEC407 wrote:Fantastic report! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it. I can't wait to get up there and see DSRX for myself.
Thanks! I can't thank those who hosted us enough. It was wonderful to be so welcomed.

Another tidbit:

When I first started reading about the Maine Central one of the first pages I ever came across was Jonathan White's, A History of the Maine Central Railroad on his "Maine Central Railroad Page". The very first photo he has features McNeil Point where the Mt. Desert ferry used to pickup passengers, mail and freight from the Maine Central for movement to Bar Harbor. The photo is from the pre-WWII era (and possibly pre WWI) and has what is almost certainly a clerestory roofed heavyweight or wood sided baggage car prominent in the center. It is a quintessential picture of the Maine Central at the height of their passenger operations. At that time the railroad was operating the Sam-O-set, Mount Kineo House and of course the Queen of the Maine Central, the Bar Harbor Express which took passengers all the way to Mount Desert Island by train and ferry.

Given that most of us are used to thinking of these things, especially from the pre-WWII era only in our imagination it had quite the effect to see those green cars rolling over the rails once again. At best I have seen some very sparse photos in color from very late in the MECs passenger era. To see train cars that served at the absolute peak of the MEC's passenger operations and along its most prestigious route was quite the trip.
  by Cosmo
 
Great write-up, Mr O'keefe!
I too remember those tracks and the desolate sense of their disparaging state when I lived and worked in and around Ellsworth back in the early 1990's.
I believe within the 5 yrs or so that I lived up there I must have walked every foot from Washington Jct to Ellsworth Falls and then some.

I have a question, or a request rather, for the DSRX guys:
What is the status of the bridge at the Falls and what are the plans for getting across it?
  by gokeefe
 
Cosmo wrote:Great write-up, Mr O'keefe!
I too remember those tracks and the desolate sense of their disparaging state when I lived and worked in and around Ellsworth back in the early 1990's.
I believe within the 5 yrs or so that I lived up there I must have walked every foot from Washington Jct to Ellsworth Falls and then some.
Thanks Cosmo!

I would imagine that after all of DSRX's work those tracks look a good bit better today than they did back then. Ironic given that the Calais Branch was likely seen as, "The Lost Cause" out of all of the MEC's former branches that still had tracks.
  by bml1149
 
Good evening,
On behalf of all the volunteers of the Downeast Scenic Railroad, I would like to thank Mr. O'Keefe for his kind words for us. You should be a writer, as this is as fine an article as I've ever seen written about us. It was indeed a pleasure to host you and your son and hope you can join us again soon.
Cosmo, regarding your question about the Union River bridge. At this time we are waiting on MDOT to rebuild the existing intersection of 179/180. This must be done before we think about moving west over the Union River. My guess is 2 years.
Leverett Fernald
  by Cosmo
 
bml1149 wrote:Good evening,
On behalf of all the volunteers of the Downeast Scenic Railroad, I would like to thank Mr. O'Keefe for his kind words for us. You should be a writer, as this is as fine an article as I've ever seen written about us. It was indeed a pleasure to host you and your son and hope you can join us again soon.
Cosmo, regarding your question about the Union River bridge. At this time we are waiting on MDOT to rebuild the existing intersection of 179/180. This must be done before we think about moving west over the Union River. My guess is 2 years.
Leverett Fernald
Ok, thanks. :smile:
  by gokeefe
 
bml1149 wrote:Good evening,
On behalf of all the volunteers of the Downeast Scenic Railroad, I would like to thank Mr. O'Keefe for his kind words for us. You should be a writer, as this is as fine an article as I've ever seen written about us. It was indeed a pleasure to host you and your son and hope you can join us again soon.
Leverett,

Thank you so very much! I am very much looking forward to my next visit.
  by bml1149
 
Good evening,
As of October 14th, we have hauled our last passenger train of the 2012 season. We at Downeast Scenic would like to thank everyone for their support this season and will be looking forward to serving you again next year.
Our accomplishments this year include:
Rebuilding the wye at Washington Junction
Installation of an additional 750 ties between the Falls and Washington Junction
Replacing no. 3 traction motor on 1055
Reactivating signals at Wyman Road crossing
For the next 6 weekends we hope to do some shoulder ballasting and some more surfacing. By the end of this weekend, Vittum Road crossing should be rebuilt.
Again, thank you for your support,
Leverett Fernald
  by gokeefe
 
Leverett,

Congratulations on a very successful season! Can you share with us some kind of an idea of how many passengers DSRX carried this year, if not numbers then perhaps as a % of previous years ridership?
  by CVRA7
 
Congrats to you and the rest of the Downeast Scenic crew, Leverett for a good year. Glad we made the time to stop by and ride this year. Enjoyed the new trip around the wye.
Bill and Sue
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