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2018 Downeaster train connection to Rockland

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It think this is great. Up until last year, we would take the Eastern Rail to Rockland for a very scenic ride.

The state owns the right of way, and when the contract went up for bid, the winner did not want to offer passenger service, only freight.

 

It was rather annoying since Amtrak only recently started going up to Brunswick a few years ago, making the connection possible.

Fortunately, we already have stations, and the rails are all setup for passenger use. In fact, I can see all those proposed stops are already listed on the Amtrak's listing of stations.

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Interesting. This would be unique in the Amtrak system, IINM. Amtrak serves some *stations* seasonally but those are stations along routes where the train passes through year-round. This would be the only case where Amtrak runs trains along a certain route for only part of the year, if I'm understanding the service model correctly.

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Interesting. This would be unique in the Amtrak system, IINM. Amtrak serves some *stations* seasonally but those are stations along routes where the train passes through year-round. This would be the only case where Amtrak runs trains along a certain route for only part of the year, if I'm understanding the service model correctly.

Amtrak used to do this with its seasonal service to Cape Cod, and it's currently being done with the Winter Park Express (though that's admittedly part of the CZ route). I hope the freight operator doesn't try to throw a wrench into the works!

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I didnt see where it says the connection will be a train. Could this be just through ticketing to a connecting bus?

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No, this is a train.

NNEPRA announced the Downeaster Coastal Connection with proposed seasonal service to Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle/Damariscotta and Rockland! As early as next summer, a rider can get on the Downeaster in Boston, or any station in between, and travel all the way to Rockland on the weekend. This came as a pleasant surprise to those attending the rail authority's Annual Meeting. We talked with NNEPRA Board Chairman John Melrose and TrainRiders/NE Chairman Wayne Davis about the announcement. Check out the video:

 

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Technically, this is not an Amtrak train. It's sponsored by NNEPRA and contracts with Amtrak for the use of its equipment and crews.

I could be wrong but I think the Winter Park Express is in the same vein.

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Technically, this is not an Amtrak train. It's sponsored by NNEPRA and contracts with Amtrak for the use of its equipment and crews.

I could be wrong but I think the Winter Park Express is in the same vein.

 

The Downeaster is probably the same as many of the small state-funded routes.

But since you can book it on amtrak.com, with guaranteed connections, does it matter?

 

That said, the Downeaster was supposed to start using the Kennebunk's 150 year old station back in 2014. But it keeps getting delayed, over and over. For the typical reasons- politics and money. I hope this new Rockland extension doesnt end up the same way.

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https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/maine/articles/2017-12-03/pilot-program-will-take-downeaster-to-rockland

 

 

 

The operator of Amtrak's Downeaster is planning a pilot run from Brusnwick to Rockland as soon as this month to test the viability of the program.

 

The good news continues! If DSS&A is correct that they will use existing equipment, I imagine this will start like service to Brunswick did, maybe a morning round trip and an afternoon/evening round trip, then if it proves very successful, expand it to more trips.

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Yes thats what I meant - two round trips on Saturday, two on Sunday in the summer, then expand either days or number of trips if it works to do so.

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It looks like they have some ideas for stops. Test trains will start soon.

 

https://bangordailynews.com/2018/01/25/business/rail-extension-aims-to-deliver-boston-tourists-to-midcoast-maine/

 

 

 

The pilot program, the Downeaster Coastal Connection, would establish stops in Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland. The extension would utilize existing rail infrastructure up the coast that used to host passenger rail service, though now primarily caters to freight trains.

 

 

The tentative schedule begins on Fridays, with a train departing Boston at 5 p.m., arriving in Rockland at 10:10 p.m., before departing Rockland at 10:20 p.m., and arriving back in Boston at 12:15 a.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, two trains would make the trip to Rockland, with the first leaving Brunswick at 7:50 a.m. arriving in Rockland at 9:45 a.m., before departing for Boston with a 3:30 p.m. arrival time. The second train would leave Boston at 9:45 a.m., arriving in Rockland at 3:10 p.m., then departing for Boston with a 9:30 p.m. arrival time.

While generally supportive of the pilot project, some residents pointed out that the schedule lacks flexibility for midcoast residents looking to go south.

“I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s a great opportunity for Rockland,” Doug Curtis, said. “But I don’t think the schedule, from our side going to Boston, is as friendly as it is for people coming from Boston.”

Residents floated the idea of a Thursday train. Quinn did not reject that possibility, but said the tentative schedule is simply “testing the waters” to see if there’s enough interest. While the goal would be to have the program run from May until September, if the project is approved, it likely wouldn’t begin until July.

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Quite an interesting extension. Eastern Rail still required a connection (and thus could go haywire if your inbound train was delayed), but this doesn't, so this looks like a stronger proposal. It's interesting to see a few seasonal variations in service creeping into the schedules (beyond, for example, moving the station at West Glacier/Browning).

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The planned intermediate stops are Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle. There have already been meetings with town officials and NNEPRA about the upcoming service. Boothbay Harbor is a trendy coastal resort, but not directly on the railroad. A shuttle would have to run between there and Wiscasset. In former days, the Boston and Maine Railroad ran sleeping cars to Rockland.

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The planned intermediate stops are Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle. There have already been meetings with town officials and NNEPRA about the upcoming service. Boothbay Harbor is a trendy coastal resort, but not directly on the railroad. A shuttle would have to run between there and Wiscasset. In former days, the Boston and Maine Railroad ran sleeping cars to Rockland.

The sleepers came up from Washington, through New York Penn, to Ayer (I think), where the train was split. Half the sleepers went on to Rockland. While the other half went to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, Laconia, Meredith, Plymouth, etc. I rode the latter a few times as a youth in the 1940's. It was fun boarding in NY around 9, sleeping in an upper berth, and arriving Meredith 7 or 8 the next morning. Don't remember if a diner was in the consist.

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What could make the Wiscasset stop (and possibly this entire extension to Rockland) rather interesting is that there are proposals to do a major construction project in downtown Wiscasset. There is currently a lot of legal wrangling to prevent it from happening, the town of Wiscasset itself doesn't want it to happen, while everyone else on the planet does because it is a traffic nightmare with almost no way around it (unless you go VERY far out of your way). Wiscasset businesses are especially vocal about not wanting the project to happen.

 

If the construction project does go through, it's possible there could be almost nothing worth stopping in Wiscasset for (though I'll leave it up for debate as to whether there is currently anything worth stopping in Wiscasset for).

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Wiscasset is a nice, little town with a main street--US 1--and shops to visit--but on the way to somewhere else! Been through it many times on my way to/from Camden and points east.

Edited by Palmetto

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When I was young, we used to have school field trips to the Wiscasset nuclear plant every other year. I guess that sounds odd now, but when I was young, it was considered a highlight of the year. They used to give out fake spent nuclear pellets as souvenirs.

 

But its been closed for 20 years or so. Also closed was the great music museum (?). That was also a fantastic spot to visit. At least it was in the 80s. Over the years, things seemed to be disappearing from the museum, until it closed a few years ago with a bit of a scandal.

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I saw in those meeting notes that they're shooting for a 2-hour one-way trip from Brunswick to Rockland, which is pretty close to how long it would take to drive Route 1 at certain times in the summer due to traffic in Wiscasset and Thomaston. Interesting to find out what the top speed on the Rockland branch will be, since there aren't a lot of real straight stretches of track.

 

I also saw this:

 

 

Ms. Quinn informed the board that the Lewiston-Auburn passenger rail feasibility study is underway.

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They have been talking about a train up to "The Dirty Loo" for 5 years. It does make sense, in that the Downeaster has 3 trainsets, which they alternate going to Brunswick, or sitting idle in Portland. Those idle trains could be making extra revenue by using existing PanAm lines up to Lewiston.

 

My understanding from a couple years ago, is that before that happens, they want money to add a seperate Lewiston platform in portland. And they want to redesign the awkward "Y" that the train has to back into when heading to brunswick. This was the result of knocking down the beautiful original station 50 years ago, and building the newer station further away at an inconvenient location.

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I saw in those meeting notes that they're shooting for a 2-hour one-way trip from Brunswick to Rockland, which is pretty close to how long it would take to drive Route 1 at certain times in the summer due to traffic in Wiscasset and Thomaston. Interesting to find out what the top speed on the Rockland branch will be, since there aren't a lot of real straight stretches of track.

 

 

I believe I read the route is Class III track on another site. That would make it 60mph for passenger even though the reported curvy profile would make it extremely unlikely it would stay at that speed for long.

 

 

They have been talking about a train up to "The Dirty Loo" for 5 years. It does make sense, in that the Downeaster has 3 trainsets, which they alternate going to Brunswick, or sitting idle in Portland. Those idle trains could be making extra revenue by using existing PanAm lines up to Lewiston.

 

 

It could also rack up a lot more expenses in addition to wear and tear. The question is: will it be worth it? That's a subjective question but I hope the answer is yes across the board.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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