Friday, July 21, 2006 - Bangor Daily
News << Back
By Thomas J. Testa
Many thanks to Wayne E. Reilly for his column titled, "Rail, boat
outings amused Mainers" (BDN, July 17). He did a wonderful job
bringing back to life summer travel in Maine's Golden Age.
One popular trip he highlighted was the Maine Shore Line,
which linked Bangor, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor via the Mount Desert
Ferry in Hancock. Completed in 1884, the Maine Shore Line later
became part of the Calais Branch line, which spans 126 miles of
terrain between Brewer and Calais.
The Maine Shore-Calais
Branch Line brought not only summer visitors from New York,
Philadelphia and Boston, but also moved goods in and out of the
area, creating new markets and bringing the world to Downeast Maine.
Sardines packed in Eastport were eaten in Chicago, granite and
lumber from Washington and Hancock counties were used to help build
a fledgling nation, while fabrics, steel, sportsmen and visitors
were delivered to Downeast depots.
Many years have passed
since its heyday as the premier passenger line to Downeast and Mount
Desert Island. Nevertheless, interest in historic rail lines has
never been greater. While the Calais Branch is currently being
segmented for various uses, the original portion - the Maine
Shoreline Railroad - is being given a new life. This beautiful and
unique rail corridor is being thoughtfully rehabilitated in an
effort to preserve a piece of our past, for the enjoyment of
generations in the future.
The first project of the Downeast
Rail Heritage Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated
to preserving and celebrating the railroad history of Downeast
Maine, is to rehabilitate this segment of the line as a
self-sustaining excursion railroad - to be called the Downeast
Scenic Railroad - and create an Ellsworth-based historic
Although more than 25 scenic railroad
operations have been established in New England since 1987, there is
no operating preserved railroad in Eastern Maine - a region whose
development has been shaped by the railroads' ability to rapidly
link the coast with inland towns and distant cities.
Downeast Scenic Railroad project follows the model of other
successful rail preservation efforts around the country such as the
Adirondack Scenic Railroad in New York, the Conway Scenic Railroad
in New Hampshire, the Valley Railroad in Connecticut and the Black
Hills Central in South Dakota.
Each of these has become a
major magnet for tourism in its region. All were started by groups
of individuals who not only saw the historic importance of these
lines, but also acknowledged the nation's interest in their
preservation and operation as a salute to those who so long ago had
the vision to tie our country together by rail.
builders envisioned, the railroad was the connection that made an
entire region's economy and way of life flourish. The restoration of
such a historic treasure pays homage to those who created this
backbone of the local economy, which first introduced the
"rusticator" to Maine, gave its citizens the opportunity to travel
the world, and hosted several U.S. presidents during its 100 years
This wonderful historic asset sits right in our
back yard. As we have preserved lighthouses, windjammer schooners,
churches and schoolhouses, conserving this piece of Maine's history
is a celebration of where we have come from and how our world has
been shaped by these marvels of 19th and 20th century technology and
Scheduled to begin in 2008, The Downeast Scenic
Railroad, with its planned 11-mile excursion, will give riders who
remember a chance to reminisce, and those who have never experienced
the rails a chance to learn how this region of Maine has prospered
because of a rail line.
We hope you will take an interest in
this important restoration project for the Downeast-Acadia region.
Join us, and participate in the preservation of this historic
Come take a ride with us!
Testa is the president of the Downeast Rail Heritage Preservation
Trust. A Bar Harbor resident, his family has owned and operated
restaurants in Bar Harbor and Palm Beach, Fla., for more than 80