History of Railroading in Maine
Office of Freight Transportation
technology was first developed in Great Britain, and included Richard
Trevithick's steam locomotive of 1804 and George Stevenson's locomotive
"Rocket" of 1829. The first railroad companies in Maine were chartered
in 1832 and 1833, and, after some initial difficulties, the first
trackage was completed in 1836 by the Bangor & Piscataquis Canal
& RR from Bangor to Old Town. This became the second railroad
in New England after the Boston & Lowell RR, which began operations
After a century of expansion, little work was done to enlarge
the rail network in Maine. The peak year of railroad mileage in
the country was in 1920, and in Maine in 1924 with approximately
2,380 miles. From the 1920's onward, the abandonment, and in most
cases, the removal of track was the norm in Maine. A line was built
to connect the South Portland Shipyard to rail early in World War
II. Not until the 1970's, 80's, and 90's was any more new significant
work done on Maine's railroads. Interestingly, American railroads
today carry more freight than was moved in the first Golden Age
Aroostook Valley Railroad
The construction of the Aroostook Valley Railroad (AVR) began in 1909 with a line from Washburn to Presque Isle, Maine and was operational in June 1910. In following years, branch lines were constructed in New Sweden, Carson, and Caribou. The financing of the AVR was done through the issuance of stocks and bonds which were paid off in 1952.
In its prime years, the AVR owned 31.99 miles of mainline track. Normal operations
called for a train to make one round trip per day between Presque Isle and
Caribou. It was eventually abandoned and closed up in early 1996.
Bangor and Aroostook
Railroad/Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway
In 1864, a group of businessmen from Bangor obtained a charter from the State of Maine to construct a railroad from Bangor to Moosehead Lake. The first president of the line was Hannibal Hamlin. In 1868, the State of Maine granted 75,000 acres to the company for the construction of the railroad.
In 1891, the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad (BAR) was incorporated as it combined the Bangor and Piscataquis RR and the Bangor and Katahdin Railroad. In 1893, a BAR train operated to Houlton. One year later, the main line reached Caribou and the branch to Fort Fairfield was completed. By 1905, connections were made to Patten, Limestone, Ashland, and Van Buren. Also in that year, the railroad extended to the deep water port of Searsport.
The pulp and paper industry
is the primary source of traffic for the BAR. Other major sources
of traffic are: potatoes, petroleum, mill products, and chemicals.
In 1995, Iron Road Railways bought the Bangor & Aroostook RR.
In 2002, after bankruptcy, the BAR was bought by Rail World, Inc.
The name of the BAR was changed to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic
Belfast and Moosehead
The Belfast and Moosehead Lake (BM&L)Railroad was founded in 1867 and became operational in 1870. Maine Central Railroad operated the line for 54 years until it reverted back to the City of Belfast in 1926. Passenger service was a vital part of the line's operation and continued to be so until insurance rates and the decline of passengers forced its discontinuance in March of 1960.
The Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad operates 33.07 miles of railroad between Belfast and Burnham Junction, Maine. In 1973, some 3,516 railcars were handled on the rail line. A study that same year showed that in 1973 there were 32 firms that used B&ML Railroad.
Since the mid-1980's, excursion trains have been the primary traffic on this
Boston & Maine Railroad
The Boston and Maine's origins go back to the earliest days of railroading in New England. The Boston & Lowell and the Andover & Haverhill Railroads extended rail service to the Maine border in South Berwick by 1843. The Portland, Saco and Portsmouth RR was formed to build a railroad from Portland to South Berwick in 1842. This connected with the Boston and Maine in South Berwick. In 1887, Boston & Maine purchased the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth Railroad. In 1965, the Boston & Maine's extensive passenger service from Boston to Portland was abandoned.
The Boston and Maine RR operated 42.81 road miles in the State of Maine. All of their lines were operated in York and Cumberland Counties. In 1973, there were 6 through trains per day and 309 firms utilizing the Boston & Maine service.
The Maine Central Railroad Company was organized in October, 1862 in Waterville, Maine. The main line from Waterville to Portland via Augusta and Brunswick, known as the Lower Road, was purchased in 1870. In the same year, Maine Central acquired railroad from Augusta to Skowhegan, now known as the Skowhegan branch. In 1871, Maine Central acquired rail line from Brunswick to Lewiston and from Leeds Junction to Farmington. In 1883, it then acquired the rail line from Bucksport to Bangor, which is now known as the Bucksport branch. The line from Bangor to Mattawamkeag was purchased in 1955.
What is now known as the Calais Branch between Bangor and Calais was originally built in 1832 with wooden rails and horse drawn power. This was the first railroad built in the State of Maine. Guilford Trans. Ind. (GTI) acquired Maine Central RR & the Boston and Maine RR in the early 1980's.
Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad/ Canadian National Railroad
In 1843, John A. Poor of Portland advocated building a railway from Montreal to Portland in conjunction with a railroad through Maine east to Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia. This resulted in the formation of the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad in Maine which is today known as the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad. The railroad was opened for traffic on July 18, 1853 and was taken over by the Grand Trunk the same year.
At Portland, the Grand Trunk developed extensive port facilities including two grain elevators, and established a connection with the Boston & Maine railroad which ran from Portland to Boston. The major source of tonnage was the export and import of Canadian traffic at Portland. However, after 1933, tonnage at Portland dropped dramatically as Canada's policy of favoring their own ports became more pronounced.
During the period 1960 through 1974, a number of fires destroyed most of the railroad's waterfront facilities and the last grain elevator was dismantled. A portion of this waterfront property was then sold to the State of Maine and is the current site of Port of Portland. This railroad is currently affiliated with the Canadian National railroad and runs through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec. In October 1994, a rail/truck intermodal facility was opened in Auburn with the help of the Maine Dept. of Transportation. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad is affiliated with the Canadian national Railroad,
and runs from Portland to Montreal, Canada.
Maine Eastern Railroad
MDOT has returned 90 miles of that
trackage to active operation (Brunswick to Rockland and Augusta)
through a lease and operating agreement with Maine Eastern Railroad
(a subsidiary of the Morristown & Erie Railroad) in the fall
of 2003. Maine Coast RR provided freight and excursion service from
1991-2000. Safe Handling Rail provided service from 2001-2003.
Eastern Maine Railway
Eastern Maine Railway,
a subsidiary of the Irving Group, operates on trackage between Brownville
and Vanceboro. Canadian American RR operates trackage from Brownville
to the Quebec border and beyond. The entire line, part of trackage
running from St. John, NB to Montreal, was constructed in the 1880's
by Canadian Pacific, Ltd. CP divested all lines east of Montreal
in the 1990's.
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