• Maine Central Final Passenger Discontinuance

  • 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 gokeefe
 
For some time now I have been developing a theory that goes as follows:

Based in part on some extensive research I have reason to wonder or believe that the full system discontinuance as requested by Maine Central in 1959 and finally granted in 1960 may have been done out of a concern that one of the main line operations was not losing nearly as much money as the rest of the system.

In essence the theory is that Maine Central may have had concerns that continued piece meal abandonments of passenger operations (which had been the rule) would leave them in a position where they would not be allowed to abandon the healthier service between Portland, Brunswick, Augusta, Waterville and Bangor.

At the time of the filing in 1959 Maine Central was still operating through to St. John via Vanceboro daily, and had numerous daily trains between Portland and Bangor via Lewiston or Augusta. To the best of my knowledge all branch line passenger service had been discontinued by that time.

The Back Road and north of Bangor service was very weak. On the other hand the Lower Road was stable and in some cases growing (in 1958 no less).

Although the big wound clearly came from the B&M's discontinuance of through service (due to the RDC conversion) I found it notable nonetheless that Maine Central seemed to have steadied what they had left and seemed to be holding on to the Portland-Bangor market.
  by Mikejf
 
Interesting findings. I believe that management saw the writing on the wall. The interstate system was starting to be developed, starting by 1941 with the Maine Turnpike. This undoubtedly had an effect on passengers, because you could now drive from Augusta to Portland faster than by train. It was only a matter of time before they would have lost profit on the remaining lines.
  by gokeefe
 
Mikejf wrote:It was only a matter of time before they would have lost profit on the remaining lines.
A couple of notes and then I will address the above.

1. The Maine Turnpike opened to Augusta on December 13, 1955. A full two years prior to the ridership samples from 1958.

2. Because I-295 had not yet been built the travel time from City centers (Portland-Augusta) may have remained somewhat more competitive.

3. I agree wholeheartedly that they were going to lose money and even likely were losing *some* money on the Lower Road trains in 1958. The question was/is, "How much?".

I'm positing that the losses in the Lower Road trains at that time may not have been sufficient, if considered separately from other lines, to warrant discontinuance. Hence the railroad's decision to seek a systemwide order. The legal structure at the time didn't require an operating profit. I believe that the losses (assuming there were some) were so small on the Lower Road that Maine Central would have been ordered to keep running those trains.

Worth noting that in 1959 at the time the request was filed that Maine Central was still carrying the mail on most trains.

The question for me then becomes, ,"Would service have survived until Amtrak in 1971?" I think the answer is, "It would have been very close. The only other obvious point of departure would have been the termination of the mail contracts in 1968. Given the extended period of time spent in litigation I think RPSA '70 would have become law prior to Maine Central being able to fully discontinue service.

In response to the service termination in 1960 legislation was introduced in 1962 in support of state sponsored service in Maine. It didn't go anywhere but I find it notable that at such an early juncture that consideration of state sponsored passenger rail service had already been brought forward.
  by Cowford
 
GO'K, do you have ridership stats for those years, broken down by train/station?
  by gokeefe
 
Here is the traffic density report. It illustrates in pretty dramatic fashion the difference in patronage on the Lower Road vs. the Back Road.
  by gokeefe
 
Finally here is a statistical analysis of the passenger traffic counts as given by a member of the public.
  by Mikejf
 
In a year, they lost about 350 passengers boarding per train in Portland for the month of February.

I wonder now what ridership was in 1955.
  by Mikejf
 
Intersting. The month of June was the only month that ended higher than the previous year. Everything else was loosing.
  by NHV 669
 
End of school years? Just a guess...
  by Cowford
 
Amazing that the ME Turnpike went from 3.8 million vehicles in 1956 to 86 (!) million in 2017.
  by gokeefe
 
NHV 669 wrote:End of school years? Just a guess...
Could be. Summer camp trains seem likely as well.
  by gokeefe
 
Cowford wrote:Amazing that the ME Turnpike went from 3.8 million vehicles in 1956 to 86 (!) million in 2017.
Agreed. And significant to the current success of the Downeaster in my opinion.

I continue to find the results for the Lower Road at the end to be quite striking.
  by gokeefe
 
Mikejf wrote:Intersting. The month of June was the only month that ended higher than the previous year. Everything else was loosing.
Also worth noting with regard to previous years' results that Maine Central was offloading branch lines until 1958. This would have had the effect of artificially increasing ridership losses, especially with the Rockland Branch which was still producing approx. 30,000 rides per year at the very end (remember this is after the through service connections via Boston have already been broken).