ROCKLAND — A refrigerated rail car arrived Thursday, Sept. 22 at the rail yard off Park Street in Rockland, filled with bait for the O’Hara company.

The bait was then unloaded at the O’Hara loading dock located across New County Road next to the rail yard.

The co-founder of the company operating the railroad line from Brunswick to Rockland said this is a sign of the effort being made to revive the line.

George Betke of Damariscotta, co-founder of Midcoast Rail Service Inc., said the company took over the lease of the Rockland line on Aug. 1. The line is owned by the Maine Department of Transportation which has been leasing the 56-mile line to the Canadian-Pacific Railway.

Betke said the condition of the rail line is good by short-line standards.

The amount of freight traffic fell dramatically when Dragon Products stopped using the railroad in January to transport cement powder from its Thomaston plant to the South End of Rockland where the product was piped into a barge and shipped to Boston.

The company has been working with Dragon to see if the company would start using rail again, Betke said.

A strong freight service will benefit local businesses and take large trucks off coastal Route 1, he said.

He said the rail line had become a “wasted asset” but he hopes that it will be used to its fullest capacity.

Betke said the focus is currently on freight but he hopes to follow through on the proposal to offer passenger service to the Amtrak station in Brunswick. He had hoped the service could begin this year but now the goal is for the spring of 2023.

Regular passenger train service to Rockland ended in April 1959. The train station is where the Trackside Station restaurant is located, at the intersection of Union and Pleasant streets. The station was built in 1917-1918. The Maine Department of Transportation owns the station and the rail line.

Seasonal excursion passenger service between Rockland and Brunswick began in July 2004, stopping that first year adjacent to Sandy Beach. In 2005, passengers were dropped off outside the train station on Union Street. In 2006, the station building was renovated and a restaurant was added.

The passenger excursion service ended in 2015 when the state ended its contract with Maine Eastern Railroad and awarded a contract to Central Maine & Quebec Railway.

Amtrak’s Downeaster began service between Portland and Boston in 2001, and, in 2012, extended it to Brunswick.

The rail yard on Park Street and New County Road. Photo by Stephen Betts