Last train to Portland

By Terry Economy | Sep 19, 2013
Source: File photo This postcard shows Maine Central Railroad in Rockland in 1909.

On April 4,1959 the last passenger train left the Maine Central Railroad Station in Rockland to Portland at 8 a.m.

The Maine Central Railroad had decided to end passenger service because of a decline of passengers during the recent years, which began in 1901.

The end of a era had came with sadness with many Knox County citizens. I had walked up Main Street from my employer's location, radio station WRKD to the railroad station to watch which I thought was a sad occasion.

I was surprised by the size of the crowd and saw many people and friends standing around the station waiting for the train to depart, which consisted of a diesel engine, a freight car.a postal American Express car where my old friend Merv Harriman waved and threw me a kiss "goodbye."

Maine Central had added a third passenger car to the train with the anticapation of many people taking the last ride, however with all three passenger cars filled, most were to get off in Thomaston, just to say they were part of the last ride.

I had mixed emotions watching this event. After all it was an important part of my youth years as I lived not too far from the station. A lot of kids who made the "station" a daily part of a visiting routine to watch the incoming and outgoing passengers, to waving to the regular employees of Maine Central. The station had a popular gum ball machine, where for a a nickel you would get four gum balls.

There were times when some of us kids were called on to help during the summer to help the porters of the New York to Rockland pullman train with their luggage, where we got tip money, 10 cents to a quarter, for helping. Around the Fourth of July, two box cars filled with watermelons would arrive at the freight terminal where us kids would get 10 cents per melon to help unload the box cars. Memories of being called "railkids."

Then as I stood there at Maine Central observing the crowd, I started to reminisce about my youth years at Ecnomy's Fruit, my family store on Park Street, which also played an importment part of my youth years of Rockland. It's where I got to know many of the railroad personnel who were regular customers. From locomotive engineer Jeff Nealy to conductor Fred True who got his daily newspaper, both called me "kid."

And the times us "kids" played baseballl at the Pleasant Street homemade baseball field next to the railroad tracks, where we watched and waved to incoming and outgoing passenger and freight cars.

Then all of a sudden at 8 a.m., the train whistle blew two blasts and conductor Oscar Johnson called "all aboard" and the Maine Central Train started to leave the station.

Then one of my boyhood friends Ted Hanley came up to me and said "it is sad to see the last passenger train to leave the station" and put his arm around my shoulder and said, "we will never be railkids again."

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