ELLSWORTH — It’s been a busy summer of working on the
railroad for supporters of the Downeast Scenic Railroad
project, which last week took delivery of a wooden
boxcar built in 1918.
“It was built for the Maine Central Railroad,” said
Tom Testa of Bar Harbor, president of the Downeast Rail
Heritage Preservation Trust. “We’ll use it for storage
of tools and equipment as we continue working on the
In January, the Bar Harbor-based nonprofit acquired a
15-year lease on 29 miles of state-owned railbed between
Brewer and Washington Junction. The Trust is now raising
money to upgrade that segment of the 127-mile Calais
Branch railroad corridor that links Brewer and Calais to
accommodate an excursion train for tourists that would
run between Ellsworth and Dedham.
The Trust’s lease with the Maine Department of
Transportation (MDOT) requires that excursions begin no
later than 2009 and operate at least 60 days a year.
Testa said he expects the trips would begin in 2008.
The 24-mile, round-trip excursions to Green Lake
would originate in Ellsworth at a 12,000-square-foot, $1
million depot and railroad museum that the Trust plans
to build at a trackside location that has yet to be
The Trust expects to spend as much as $2.5 million as
it rehabilitates railbed abandoned by the Guilford
Transportation Co. in 1987. Fund raising for the project
is ongoing. Overall, the Trust hopes to raise $6 million
though donations and grants.
“We’ve raised $250,000 in the past two years,
including $100,000 over the last year,” Testa said.
“We’re working now on establishing a new campaign for
The Trust has attracted about 200 members, Testa
said. A basic membership costs $40. Memberships and
donations are tax-deductible.
Members and other volunteers have been clearing brush
along the rail line during weekend workdays since
“We needed to get everything exposed, because you
can’t fix it if you can’t see it,” Testa said. “We now
have all the ties uncovered and all the culverts open,
with water flowing through them. There are some culverts
that will need to be replaced, and we will need to do
some crossing work. There are paved-over crossings where
we will need to get the asphalt off the rails.”
Volunteer work crews also focused on switches along
“We now have all the switches working,” Testa said.
“We had to find the ones that didn’t work. Almost all of
them did; they just needed a little love and help.”
The Trust spent about $50,000 on track repairs this
year. Testa said costs would be “significantly higher”
next year as the process of replacing rotted or damaged
railroad ties begins.
“We’re working with MDOT now in laying out a game
plan for how best to do it,” he said. “We want to start
in Washington Junction and work west.”
In addition to a depot in Ellsworth, the Trust plans
to build a maintenance and storage facility in
Washington Junction for the rolling stock it will
The old boxcar that was delivered by truck last week
to a Washington Junction siding is the second
acquisition for the project’s livery. A 45-ton GE
locomotive has also been donated to the project. It’s
now in Alabama.
“Getting it up here is next on our list,” Testa
Mack Page, who runs the City Point Central Railroad
Museum near Belfast, donated the 40-foot boxcar to the
project. He acquired it from the city of Belfast, where
it had been used by the now-defunct Belfast &
Moosehead Lake Railroad.
“It was built by the Keith Car Co. in 1918 for Maine
Central and was in service until the 1960s, when they
began using it for maintenance,” Testa said. “It was
part of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake station in
Belfast until 1999, when it was abandoned.
“There are very few of these vintage, pre-1930s cars
around. So many have been destroyed. I really feel like
we are saving something with a little history to
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