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Trip used to inspect Rockland branch tracks

Train backers ride rails to Rockland

By Stephen Betts | Aug 15, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts An Amtrak passenger train made a test run Wednesday, Aug. 14, to the railroad roundhouse off Park Street in Rockland.

Rockland — An Amtrak train traveled the Brunswick to Rockland line Wednesday, Aug. 14, to inspect the tracks.

The inspection was done to help determine whether there will be a pilot seasonal weekend passenger service to Rockland next summer.

Amtrak, in partnership with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Maine Department of Transportation and the Central Maine & Quebec Railroad, conducted an inspection trip of the Rockland branch Aug. 14, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

The 56-mile Rockland branch is owned by DOT and currently supports freight service provided by Central Maine and Quebec.

The rail authority has proposed a pilot program to offer seasonal weekend passenger service on the Rockland branch by expanding the operation of the Amtrak Downeaster to connect the communities of Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland with the 12 communities currently served between Brunswick and Boston.

"The trip was conducted to evaluate the condition of track and to help determine scheduled travel times, as well as any improvements which may be needed to support the operation of passenger trains," Quinn said. "In addition to visual inspections, a specially equipped Geometry Car operated over the line to collect detailed data about track conditions."

Next steps include an analysis of the data and further safety assessments by Amtrak to help determine whether passenger service can begin in the spring of 2020.

The pilot program has been considered for the past two years, but the rail inspection had not been done.

The train station in Rockland is owned by DOT, but Rockland would be responsible for installing lighting outside the station, as well as maintaining the platform for passengers to get on and off the trains.

One of the passengers on the Aug. 14 ride was Rockland Community Development Director Julie Hashem. Chamber officials were also invited.

Hashem said she was enthusiastic about the ride, pointing out the scenery and how riders will end up at a great destination in Rockland.

Downeaster coming through Thomaston
(Video by: The Fire/Rescue Show)
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Comments (4)
Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Aug 15, 2019 17:29

I see no reason why Rockland can't assess a passenger arrival fee to help defray the maintenance costs. The easiest way to determine what would be break even is to divide the costs by the anticipated number of riders. From there the Council could set a fee that is palatable. A tax surcharge of 25 cents or a dollar will probably not dissuade most passengers. Not much different than what is currently charged to cruise ship passengers.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 15, 2019 16:31

Does this mean that the homeowners in Rockland will again supplement the tourist trade? Why doesn't the ticket fee cover costs. Everybody wants something for nothing and Rockland seems to be a good place to get it.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 15, 2019 15:51

I hope this works as it really is a great ride and shopping before or after the ride boosts the economy of towns participating.

This is not new to the town of Rockland but any new try to boost the economy is worth trying over again. Years havep assed since I took the ride from Rockland and really enjoyed it with my "gal" club friends. Good luck once again!

Posted by: Debra Damon | Aug 15, 2019 14:06

This will be a great addition to Rockland and area people who don't have transportation, that can use the train for transportation.


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