Maine Eastern Railroad limits Rockland service
The Maine Eastern Railroad, while focusing on its Amtrak Downeaster passenger connections between Boston and Brunswick, has limited its Rockland to Brunswick connection.
The Mid-Coast Limited's passenger season begins July 4 and continues on weekends through Oct. 13, according to The Maine Eastern Magazine. There will be one round trip on weekend days from Brunswick to Rockland.
The train will depart Brunswick at 12:50 p.m., make a few stops before arriving in Rockland at 2:50 p.m., and then leaves Rockland at 3:20 p.m. to arrive back in Brunswick at 5:20 p.m. Stops include Bath, Wiscasset, and Newcastle-Damariscotta.
As recently as two summers ago, The Mid-Coast Limited offered two round-trip fares from Rockland to Brunswick and back to Rockland, said Rudy Garbely, a marketing associate with the Morristown & Erie Railway, which owns the Maine Eastern Railroad. One train departed Rockland in the early morning and arrived back around noon, while another left Rockland at 4 p.m. and returned at 9 p.m.
Garbely, who did not provide ridership figures upon request, said there were not enough passengers to support round-trip service from Rockland.
“It didn't make any sense to continue like that,” he said June 23, while offering that most passengers were older customers who had time for two-hour rides between Rockland and Brunswick. “We were not canceling things, we were just deciding to go in a new direction.”
Garbely said one of the new features this summer is The Wiscasset Flyer, which departs Wiscasset with two round trips on weekend days. First is a noon trip to Newcastle-Damariscotta with arrival back in Wiscasset at 12:45 p.m., and then a 2:30 p.m. departure to Bath that returns to Wiscasset at 3:30 p.m.
The other new feature is better coordination with the Amtrak Downeaster service between Boston and Brunswick, Garbely said. Just one of those options is to take the 7:05 a.m. Downeaster from Boston, arrive in Brunswick at 12:25 p.m., and then take the 12:50 p.m. Mid-Coast Limited from Brunswick to Rockland.
But Gordon Page Sr., executive director of Rockland Main Street Inc., and formerly a vice president of the Eastern Maine Railroad, said the reason for the change is because the company is aligning services with Amtrak — its not about Mid-Coast Limited's ridership. The company has experienced recent difficulties when the Amtrak Downeaster sometimes arrives late to Brunswick, requiring the Mid-Coast Limited to delay its outbound connections, Page said.
Just a few years ago, two round trips to Brunswick from Rockland was a welcome sight, Page said. One summer it brought 18,000 passengers through Rockland on The Mid-Coast Limited, and there were arrangements to assist passengers who wished to stay overnight in Rockland.
“Rockland Main Street, Inc., is disappointed to lose all of those train passengers that the downtown had become accustomed to welcoming each day for lunch and shopping, sometimes 200 or more passengers on one train,” Page said.
At one time, The Mid-Coast Limited made two round trips from Rockland to Brunswick — not just on weekends, but Wednesdays through Saturdays with another round trip on Sundays, Page said. And the summer passenger season would start around Memorial Day, not July 4.
“There's really no opportunity for day trippers like there used to be,” Page said, while adding that his vice president's job with the railroad was eliminated in spring 2013.
Garbely said the Maine Eastern Railroad continues to have a thriving freight train service that includes customers in Knox County such as Dragon Cement.
During the North Atlantic Blues Festival and Maine Lobster Festival, The Mid-Coast Limited will depart Brunswick at 9 a.m., arriving in Rockland at 11 a.m., and then departing for Brunswick at 8 p.m.
Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 117, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.