Rockland forum set on planned return of passenger trains

By Stephen Betts | Jan 04, 2018
Source: File

Rockland — The first public forum on the possible return of limited passenger train service to Rockland has been set.

The executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is scheduled to make a presentation to the community Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 5:30 p.m. at Rockland City Hall.

City Manager Tom Luttrell announced the forum during the City Council's Jan. 3 meeting.

The passenger rail authority announced in November that it was developing plans for a pilot project for Amtrak Service to be extended from Brunswick to Rockland. Other stops are planned for Bath, Newcastle and Wiscasset.

Possible schedules are still being developed, but the initial proposal was for the service to run from May through October on weekends. The tentative schedule called for a train to leave Boston at 5 p.m. Friday and reach Rockland at 10:30 p.m. The train would then return to Brunswick, where it would stay overnight.

The Rail Authority would like to see added lighting where passengers would get off the train. The railroad station in Rockland is owned by the Maine Department of Transportation.

On Saturdays and Sundays, a train would leave Boston at 9:45 a.m. and arrive in Rockland at 3:20 p.m., Quinn said. The train would then leave Rockland at 3:55 p.m. and arrive back in Boston at 9:25 p.m.

This schedule attempts to attract Boston-area residents who want to avoid the heavy car traffic on summer weekends.

Seasonal excursion passenger service between Rockland and Brunswick ran for 12 years under the operation by Maine Eastern Railroad. That service ended when the state ended its contract with Maine Eastern and awarded a contract to Central Maine & Quebec Railway.

The train station, bought by the Maine Department of Transportation from the city in 1996, was renovated and a restaurant added in 2006.  DOT also owns the 57-mile branch from Brunswick to Rockland.

Regular commuter train service ended in Rockland in 1959. The train station was then used for decades as Rockland City Hall until the city moved to its current municipal building on Pleasant Street in 1996.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is a public transportation authority created in 1995 by the Maine Legislature to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine.

Freight continues to run on the line, largely for Dragon Products. The cement plant sends rail cars about five miles on the line from its Thomaston plant to its dock on Rockland’s South End waterfront, where a barge is then filled and product shipped to the Boston market.

The line has operated with freight traffic since May 1990, five years after Maine Central Railroad abandoned the spur.

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