Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

By Slow Train 202 miles in just over 6 hours – from Rockland, Maine to Boston: the Maine Eastern Railroad to the Downeaster

This post is part 1 of 2 of 433 Miles on 3 Coastal Trains Home From Rockland, Maine

We leave our house at about 10:10, so I can drive the first 48 miles down Route 1 to Searsport to start my long coastal journey. As we near Searsport we we pass a railroad track and what looks like a small railroad museum.

We get to Searsport at about 11:15 and I nearly drive past the gas station on the edge of town were the bus stops. What was a Mobile Station last year (and is still listed on the Concord Coach Lines and Amtrak’s website, Amtrak Station Code SRT – the bus I’m catching is also a throughway bus connecting to the Downeaster in Portland) – has switched to a Sunoco Station. I stopped here last year when I took the Coastal Bus from Banger to Brunswick (my grandmother was also doing a Bangor pick-up). There is luckily a small sign for Concord Coach Lines under the window of the gas station, blocked by the gas pumps.

I head inside and am happy I’m early as it takes the agent a few tries to issue me my $13 ticket in the most unusual of ways. It’s via a knuckle jammer making 3 carbon copies, with little cards to imprint for all the Coastal Destinations. I actually had to call to get the fare quote. I couldn’t find a fare table for intermediate stops along the Maine Coastal Bus on-line.
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After a quick Donut at Duckin Donuts (attached to the Seamboat Convenience Store) I say goodbye to my grandmother. The bus comes in at 11:41, about 4 minutes early. I hand over my ticket and am the only one boarding with two others already aboard. We leave on time at 11:45. The bus unfortunately doesn’t have any water or pretzels in the front seats like last year. I guess there only in the Portland and Bangor stations now.

It’s a quick trip down to Belfast where we stop at 11:56 for 2 at the Circle K, leaving at 11:59. It’s really nice not driving. I’ve done far too much driving over the past week.

The next stop is Lincolnville where a couple with Mom, the one dropping the them off waves furiously and flags down the bus in front of the post office at 12:16. This is required because Lincolnville is a flag stop and the timetable says you must physically wave for the bus to stops. They definitely do! I hear IDs being given for ticketing in Portland I assume (the post office isn’t a ticket agent).

We enter Camden, reaching our first traffic jam of the day. It’s through downtown (no stop) before we stop outside another gas station on the opposite side of town at 12:33. It’s not even in walking distance of downtown. It has a tiny sign. We pick up one passenger and leave at 12:36. Finding a gap in traffic to leave the parking lot takes a while.

The next thing I know I see the Brunswick golf course and signs for the ferry as the first part of my journey down the coast by road comes to an end.

There is a crowd waiting at the ferry terminal of a dozen people, a real intermodal stop. I arrive at 12:50. I notice a sign in the window that interline tickets with Greyhound are no longer being sold to New York because of Greyhound’s new reservation-based ticketing system.
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I walk into town; the ferry dock is just on the edge of the main strip. I see my bus passing at 1:05. I walk the five blocks to the train station, the door to the ticket office is locked with no posted hours. I only have my ticket (that says print me all over it) on my iPhone and need to try and get it reprinted. I assume it will open before the train departs. I’m also hoping to leave my backpack there but that’s clearly going to be a no go.
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I head back into town with my backpack and go for a walk. There is the annual lobster festival going on that’s free today but I decide not to go in with my backpack. I instead just grab a soup and sandwich lunch.

I head back to the station at about 2:30 to have enough time to photograph my train arriving at 2:50. I stop in the ticket office and ask if my iPhone ticket is enough and get it reprinted, the friendly ticket agent who called me on Monday when the buggy Maine Eastern Website didn’t bill me just prints a ticket out on her color printer. She tells me to feel free to wait in the bar and restaurant also in the station, it’s part of the restaurants agreement (lease I presume).
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I head outside and photograph this unique mini-high platform who’s base is a flatbed trailer chassis and is complete with a license plate.
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I go and photograph the Lobster City Express, a special train of two cars operating this weekend only that is laying over on the siding at the station. I run into a man who’s looking for the Amtrak Exhibit train that at one time was scheduled to come up to Rockland for the Lobster Festival but was removed from the website and didn’t come at some point.
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I then head inside to the restaurant and bar that definitely resembles a railroad station.
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I get the inbound Mid-Coast Limited coming in at 3:00 (10 minutes late) and they come up and open one door at the trailer (complete with a license plate) on wheels mini-high platform that’s attached to a ramp.
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The consist is three stainless steel Budd Cars with FL-9s on each end so no wyeing required during the quick Rockland layover:

  • FL-9 #489 (originally delivered in 1957 to the New Haven R.R, later Amtrak’s used for dual-mode purposes into Grand Central)
  • ME #1002 “Magnolia” Coach (built in 1946 originally for the Florida East Coast Railroad), has old fasioned cloth seats with footrests but no traytables. Windows have both blinds and curtains.
  • “Penobscot Bay” Buffet-Lounge (lacks real doors), this lounge car has a mix of booth seats and some swivel seats with a cafe counter selling drinks and simple refresments at one end of the car
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  • ME #1001 “Pine” Coach (built in 1953 for the Santa Fe, purchased from Amtrak). It has Amtrak-style seats with tray tables and tons of legroom, I think this is because it was one of the special Adirondack Heritage cars in the later years.
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  • FL-9 #488 (originally delivered in 1957 to the New Haven R.R. Amtrak’s used last on trains along the Hudson)

I hear all aboard at 3:19 and we leave at 3:20, on time.
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3:22 – Broad Street, first grade-crossing of the trip.
At Broadway Street the spur to the concrete plant joins us. We then pass a small train yard with some chemical cars and ex-NJT Comet I with just low-level cars. The Maine Eastern isn’t an open Dutch-door railroad so I’m stuck in a passenger car, no fresh air or out the window photos.
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  • 3:25 – Pass City Hall and Route 1.
  • 3:27 – A chemical plant and a recycling plant.
  • 3:29 – Another spur joins us as we run past fields.
  • 3:31 – First bridge of the trip over Mill Creek Trestle. We then pass Thomaston Station and go through dense trees and through a rock cut.
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  • 3:38 – The George’s River Bridge along route 1. Then were in the woods. I keep track of locations with a well-designed route guide. We get tickets please from the conductor who makes an X with a sharpie on my print out. Other passengers have more traditional tickets.
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  • 3:43 – Pass fields and then enter trees.
  • 3:44 – See water through the trees briefly, we see water again and pass the Warren Station in disrepair
  • 3:47 – Over a stream with a trickle of water, South Pond.
  • 3:52 – See Sidensparker Pond and were in trees.
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  • 3:56 – Waldoboro over a grade crossing and back to trees. We go under route 1 and it’s back go trees with some houses.ku
  • 3:59 – Pass the MOW area for the Maine Eastern in Waldoboro
  • 4:01 – A burned out house and a short trestle.
  • 4:06 – Were told 20 minutes to Newcastle and see the Muscongus Bay
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  • 4:08 – East Neck Road
  • 4:12 – See the Salt Bay as we get the second call for Newcastle
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  • 4:15 – See the start of the Newcastle siding and slow down. Their some overgrown tracks.

We stop at 4:17 in Newcastle (Damariscotta) 3 minutes early. The door only at the very front of the train is opened. I don’t try and run off. We leave on time at 4:20, passing another platform trailer with a tactile warning strip identical to the one in Rockland. I think we stopped at the trailer (or used the trap for a low-level platform stop). Soon we’re back in trees.
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  • 4:26 – Over some more water.
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  • 4:27 – Another short bridge. 5 minutes from the Wiscasset Station, the car empties out as everyone heads to the front coach where the door will open. We go through a rock cut.
  • 4:30 – More water and then we cross the Sheepscot River Bridge followed by the Long Bridge (with Route 1 visible) and curve into Wiscasset.
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We arrive at the boxcar station in Wiscasset at 4:34, on time, across from the famous lobster roll joint.
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We leave extremely slowly, crossing Route 1 at a grade, causing even more of a massive traffic jam than is already found in Wiscasset on summer weekends because of yield to pedestrian crossing since Route 1 passes between the famous lobster joint and the parking lot.
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  • 4:40 – Leaving town is scenic, as we follow water
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  • 4:52 – Another River and I hear the Conductor radioing to stop at the low-level platform in Bath
  • 4:53 – Another meadow.
  • 4:45 – Chewonki on a sign. The conductor announces Bath and marks the one Wiscasset ticket who asks about the Boston connection. The answer is “As of now yes, I’ll have a better idea as we get closer.” I see a 44 sign.
  • 4:48 – Pass a meadow.
  • 4:55 – Under Route 1 and a siding, along more water.
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We rise up onto a tresstle, passing some train yards as we go beside the Route 1 bridge across the Kennebec River Bridge into Bath.
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We stop in Bath at 5:00, discharging two passengers who step off not on the trailer mini-high platform.
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The conductor finishes the station work warns us that since were 5 minutes late we might miss the connection, this doesn’t make sense since we have half-an-hour. At least one other person is doing the same thing, connecting to the Downeaster. I grab my luggage and the conductor says Pan Am is getting called by the Maine Eastern’s dispatcher to try and hold Amtrak for us, what an adventure. It seems a little silly drastic measures need to be taken when this train is only 5 minutes late and its a 35 minute connection between the trains

  • 5:15 – “I hear roger good to go” over the conductors walkie-talkie, we’re going to make it!
  • 5:20 – Come to a stop, just outside the Brunswick Station as we switch from the Maine Eastern’s Native Railroad.

I head to the back and we slowly enter the high-level platform at the Brunswick Station(28 Photos added) arriving at 5:25, 5 minutes late.

 

I get off the train and head towards the front of the platform (towards Boston) where my Downester trainset is idling. The Mid-Coast Limited has other ideas to leave the platform and heads in the other direction (towards Rockland) to a section of single track before switching and reentering the station parallel to platform on the siding track.
 

This provides some decent photo opportunities as my Downeaster trainset with 3 Amfleet-I Coaches and a Cafe/Club Car with a P42 on the rear and a Cabbage on the front pulls into the station, we will be in push mode for the trip down to Boston.

The Downeaster leaves on time at 5:55 for what will be my forth trip to Freeport (after last years rides on the short-lived weekends Brunswick to Freeport Shuttle). We slowly leave, passing an old van with the markings for the Maine Eastern Railroad, I think it’s the van to pick up the crew. We pass some spur tracks with some freight cars as we leave. I can finally relax my connection made supposedly by a hair (even with 25 minutes in Brunswick, I guess Amtrak has the upmost of priority to leave on time). Had I missed the connection it would have probably been finding a motel in Burnswick and taking the morning train down tomorrow to Boston.

The track definitely feels smoother. We slow down and come into Freeport at 6:08 for its long bridge plate and a crowd of a good 30 people. If this train should ever be crowded, it should be a Sunday evening in Summer, a family gets on with tons of shopping bags. We leave at 6:10, on time. I see the same two railfans I saw in Brunswick photographing the train as we leave.

  • 6:18 – Cross another railroad.
  • 6:22 – Make good speedpast houses and in trees.
  • 6:25 – Another small river
  • 6:26 – Pass tractors and a few buildings through
  • 6:28 – Reach the exurbs of Portland as we slowly go around it.
  • 6:31 – Go through a real Portland neighborhood as we approach the Concord Trailways Station unfortunately on the edge of town.
  • 6:32 ­– The Portland Water district in the evening light
  • 6:34 – ­See downtown Portland and pass the County Jail
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  • 6:35 – I see the track join us that requires us to back into the Portland Station.

We come to a stop at 6:36 and slowly back up almost immediately, passing the wide estuary that downtown Portland is located on a peninsula along. It starts to rain; at least it stayed dry until now. I see the three sidings for laying over trains and the Portland Platform(10 Photos) where we arrive at 6:40.

I step-out for a few photos, every one boards our four car train through two doors with bridge plates between the front and middle coaches with one more open at the cafe for business class at the front. Unlike last year there clearly isn’t a crew change and the cafe car isn’t restocked. I notice a trainset is sitting up the tracks a bit beyond us, the three sidings along the station platform are empty.
 

We leave on time at 6:50. Passing the inlet along the station. We curve out.

  • 6:54 – Cross the bridge over the estuary
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  • 6:56 – The Pan Am freight yard on the edge of Portland, we pick up speed.

I go up to the café car to buy some dinner. They have clam chowder, which I purchase and Point of Sale touchscreens. Point of Sale is something Amtrak’s been trying for years on other routes (its also in California and on Amtrak Cascades). We arrive in Old Orchard Beach on time at 7:05 for a good dozen people and leave about a minute late at 7:06. We pass houses leaving town.
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  • 7:11 – A mobile home park, I wait for our meet with #695.
  • 7:17 – We come to the end of the siding waiting for our meet with Train #695, running about ten minutes late.
  • 7:20 ­– It passes us and we slowly move.

We arrive in Saco at 7:24, 12 minutes late to a nice large station with like 12 passengers getting on. I realize I need to de-spread. It’s quick we leave almost immediately, gathering speed.

  • 7:28 – A siding track joins us.
  • 7:34 – The former Kennebunk Station
  • 7:40 – The announcement for Wells.

We stop in Wells at 7:41 for another decent crowd boarding. They spot the train for the rear two cars at the mini-high platform. We leave at 7:42, 13 minutes late. I decide its time for desert and go back to the cafe car. I buy the ultimate Downeaster product, a Gingerbread whoopee pie that is disgustingly delicious.

7:54 – Cross the Piscataqua River into New Hampshire, finally one of four intermediate states on my journey back to New York.

We get the announcement for Dover with a good have dozen passengers getting off and a similar number getting on. The party of 3 split up around me go up to a four seater. We leave at 8:00, 13 minutes late.

It’s a quick ride to Durham-UNH where we stop at 8:07, letting one passenger off and a few more on, with its underpass mini-high platform, and ads opposite it. I get a seat mate

We stop in Exeter at 8:21, 12 minutes late, it’s totally dark. We drop-off a few, pick up 6. I hear the crashing bridge plate.

8:35 – See the lights of Train #697. I see the crescent moon.

We arrive in Haverhill, stopping at the mini-high at 8:42, 13 minutes late on the left hand track, the right track has a barricade at the end of the platform and another one at the other end of the platform. That track is clearly closed. I notice pink siren type lights going off. We cross the river out of Haverhill.

  • 8:44 – Pass the Haverhill Depot Laundrymat in the former depot
  • 8:45 – First bypassed station of the trip! It’s through the Bradford Station that is along the MBTA Commuter Rail storage yard (and is walking distance from Haverhill). Since it’s a Sunday night the yard is crowded with at least five train sets idling in the station.
  • 8:53 – The modern parking garage and high-level platform of the modern Lawrence Station (all at the same level). I try and spot the original Lawrence Station that still has a few signs.
  • 8:58 – Another MBTA Station, Andover
  • 9:03 – We switch onto the Wildcat Branch (I only know because I’m using my iPhone’s GPS)
  • 9:08 – Along one of the platforms for the Wilmington Station (where I see people waiting at the mini-high) we curve onto the Lowell Line off the Wildcat Branch.

We get the announcement for Woburn where we a large crowd is waiting to get off, we stop at 9:12, 14 minutes late. There is a slight delay as people make their ways to the one set of open doors. I don’t understand why they don’t just MU the doors, these are Amfleet Is. We get jostled on what I think is jointed rail as we head towards Boston.

The train slowly enters North Station as I see the MBTA storage yard and we eventually cross the bridge into Boston-North Station(3 Photos). We arrive at 9:32, 12 minutes late. We’re on track 9 on the far island platform (shared with track 10). My previous Downeaster Trips were on track 8
 

I follow the crowd of people getting off the Downeaster, walking the length of the cramped concourse of North Station under the Boston Garden, towards the MBTA Subway Station. I’ve remembered my CharlieCard and try it at a turnstile. It doesn’t work. I stop at the vending machine and realize its empty. I tap at it, get options to add $5 or $10 and realize I don’t actually know how much a ride costs. It turns out it’s $2.10 on a Carlie Card (a sign informs riders to buy $2.65 Charlie Tickets for one ride). I hit the other amounts and add $4.20 to get two rides (don’t think I’m going to use the other one on this trip but I’ll be back in Boston in a week and might as well have a ride on my CharlieCard)

I think I’ve just missed my D Riverside train that is starting at North Station(2 Photos) because Government Center is closed for a long term reconstruction. The signs though tell me to change at Park Street (clearly covering up what used to be for Government Center), the D extension is off-peak only.

I follow the signs that say to change at Park Street for B and D branches. I take a C and decide to change at Kenmore–(2 Photos). I’m near Fenway Park where the Red Sox are playing the Yankees during an ESPN Game. Signs now say the destinations of the next green line trains to stop but no countdown clocks like the three regular subway lines now have.

This is a mistake, not waiting or switching at Park Street as instructed by the signs because after an 8 minute wait the next D, a single LRV is packed. It waits 2 minutes from 10:00pm to 10:02pm before we leave.

At Fenway even more board. A bunch I think fare evade, boarding through the low-level middle doors, not at the driver position. Does this station now have pre-boarding fare collection?

The train empties out little by little as I call my ride to Needham at Resivor as instructed and my cousin has just arrived at Eliot for a quick 10 minute drive down to Needham where I’m spending the night (and not attempting to take the Night Owl for a 2:00am New York arrival which isn’t even possible from the evening Downeaster since it leaves Boston-South Station at an early hour of 9:30pm).