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.