• What if no Guilford?

  • 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 trainsinmaine
A question I have been pondering this morning: What would have been the likely scenario for the Boston and Maine and Maine Central if Guilford hadn't purchased and (more or less) combined them? Could they, would they, have survived very long as separate entities, or was an eventual merger inevitable? And how would the Bangor and Aroostook have fit into the picture?
  by b&m 1566
I think the MEC would have survived as a glorified short line railroad, with a trimming of rail lines that we see today or similar to it. Guilford/Pan Am’s lack of customer service (or lack of something), I'm sure has played into some downsizing but ultimately the pendulum swung the other way when manufacturing moved out of region or closed. The B&M, I don't think would have survived, there's not a lot of traffic originating or terminating anywhere on the B&M system and what there is, is all small customers, which I can't see as being that profitable, Pan Am is probably "getting by" with what they have on the B&M system. What the B&M is good for is a bridge route, but I can't tell you if the MEC would have had the money to purchase the B&M for that purpose. I imagine had Guilford not come into the picture the B&M would have been gobbled up by a bigger railroad, because I think the value as a bridge route for Maine traffic is there. I don’t think regulators would have allowed Conrail to take over, that would have resulted in a monopoly, so its possible NS would be the other railroad with interchanging taking place in Rigby yard.
  by S1f3432
When Conrail was being proposed there was the assumption among some that the B&M would be included and
Maine Central offered to buy Portland to Worcester to preserve it's primary westward connection. As it turned
out Allen Dustin was successful with his reorganization efforts, but the big unknown is B&M's ability to survive
on overhead traffic from other roads given the route/rate competition in place at the time. MEC wasn't nearly
as antagonistic towards small customers or marginal traffic as Guilford was, so that traffic wouldn't have eroded
as much or as quickly but there was not much it could do about paper industry decline. Guilford brought route
rationalization to New England that probably would have happened to some extent anyway eventually, as it was
already happening across the country.
  by b&m 1566
Had the Maine Central purchased Portland to Worcester, was that going to include everything north and west of Nashua? What a out Portsmouth, NH? It makes me wonder had the Conrail merger played out, what would the Fitchburg line be today? I certainly don't think Conrail would've wanted two lines serving MA and northern New England.
  by jbvb
In the 1980s, GTI threw away almost all the service-dependent traffic in their territory. There was serious interest in buying lines they wanted to abandon for short-line operation, but GTI was fundamentally a real-estate venture at the time and had no interest in retaining the traffic. So I believe the B&M and MEC would have a different, more favorable traffic base and revenue picture today had they not been merged.
  by S1f3432
There is no way of knowing what direction a possible acquisition by Maine Central may have taken at this late date-
MEC was just demonstrating the will to work with the B&M trustees and Conrail to preserve a westward connection
for Maine traffic and it never progressed beyond that point because the B&M was never at the point of liquidation
or merger into Conrail.
  by QB 52.32
It's hard to imagine the B&M alone would have been able to remain intact and independent moving through the 1980's given the tremendous difficult changes that took place. Deregulation removed artificial supports the B&M received such as the $150 per car fee received for any regulated shipment moving to any point east of Fitchburg while also substantially increasing trucking and rail competition, all the while during an economic downturn and resulting New England industrial shakeout. From there one might imagine any number of scenarios of merger or dismemberment involving the D&H, MEC, Conrail and/or the P&W, quite likely with Federal or Commonwealth of MA intervention.
  by NHV 669
Beyond losing the Mt. Division as a bridge route with diminishing traffic that would be unsustainable today as a mainline, the imminent loss of the paper mills in Northern NH was going to sink the connected branches anyhow, without Clyde Forbes finishing the job.
  by Dick H
I do not have the dates for when the Boston and Albany line was single tracked
in Western MA, between Framingham and Selkirk NY. However, if the B&M had
shut down it's west end, I doubt that the single tracking of the B&A would have'
happened, especially after the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned in 1974. That would
have left the B&A line as the only major east-west line in and out of New England,
not counting the MEC Mountain Division.

The Central Vermont and the Grand Trunk would have probably gobbled up the
'Conn River line and the Berlin NH area lines. A scaled down B&M might have been
still operating between Portland and Ayer, in and around Boston and the NH Route
up to Concord.

It must be noted that Guilford was at least equally interested in B&M property, as
it was in the railroad and reportedly recouped it's entire payment for the B&M over
the years from property sales.
  by Engineer Spike
I think that the point about Guilford doing away with time sensitive traffic, and all traffic that could be trucked is valid. Even so, the deindustrialization went full force in the late 1980s, 90s, and beyond. I think that there would have been another merger of MEC, B&M, and also the possibility of BAR, and also D&H.
  by newpylong
In a world where Conrail get's the B&M, I can't see how from Mechanicville to Fitchburg survives. Next to no online traffic, redundant route to Maine, etc.

Removing GTI from the equation would have had far more reaching effects than just the B&M and MEC. Without them buying the D&H in 84 and moving it into bankruptcy 4 years later, would CP ever be on the scene in New York, what about NS?

I still see the B&M (at least the western half) as a natural extension of a modern NS system on an East Coast with two Class Is. Whether it would have occurred without GTI, or whether it still will occur without them, who knows.
  by CN9634
Possible that MEC would have picked up from Mattawamkeag and east to Saint John on the CP, then the CP could abandon what was left in Maine and let MEC handle traffic from SJ to SJ (if you can think of what those points would be). Although, I think there was some chatter at one point about CP wanting to buy MEC right before Guilford came into the picture, so maybe they would have been gobbled up anyways. Back in the 80s, any kind of profitable piece of railroad like the MEC was surely a target for the larger fish.
  by conductorchris
So if not Guilford, who would have been interested in the B&M?
Some possibilities:
- Providence & Worcester
- Employee ownership
- Bangor & Aarostock (with MEC)
- A stock offering and independent operation (probably until taken over by another company)

Was there any serious discussions with other entities?
  by QB 52.32
Realistically, no one had the means and motive to buy the independent early-1980's B&M with the intent to keep it intact besides Mellon and Fink.
  by Engineer Spike
Maybe as regional carriers, more care would have been taken in customer service. Maybe eventually a big carrier might have bought B&M, MEC, BAR, and D&H. It’s hard to say.

NS owned D&H, and was supposed to buy B&M along with D&H and EL. NS sold out D&H to Guilford, only to buy back half the D&H, plus an interest in B&M. Now CP has essentially bought the BAR. D&H has been horse traded between class one companies for the last 50 years.

CV went nowhere. It basically fed Canadian traffic to New Haven and B&M for its whole life. If B&M went away, might CN have seen the opportunity for more market penetration on the CV, and maybe GT? If Guilford hadn’t dried up the Conn River, then CN might not have seen CV as a looser, making the point for its sale.

Another unknown is what would have happened if the Conrail sale of the 1980s had happened. By that time deregulation had happened. Maybe another class one might have wanted to compete with NS for New England traffic. As it is, just look at the boost to B&M because of the Conrail split.