Modes of travel, By Dan Albert
When one travels along the Kennebec River Rail trail, they will walk along a set of railroad tracks. These tracks are only a remnant of the years long past and of the different modes developed to move people and goods through the area. I will briefly cover this topic.
Maine Central Railroad
The train tracks that are there today are from the Maine Central railroad. I received its charter in 1856. With the acquisition of various other railroads, it became the largest operating train system with over 524 miles of track which connected New England and thus the rest of the country to Canada. At its height of operations around the was times if 1917, they maintained over 1300 miles of track. The transition from steam to diesel engines began in the 1950’s.
In researching this topic I read how Germany did not approve of how the American owned trains were being used to transport Canadian troops through Maine. A german lieutenant was sent to blow up a Maine Central bridge which crossed the US-Canada border in the town of Vanceboro. The lieutenant was dressed in full uniform so as to not be considered a spy and face quick execution. The soldier’s mission was almost completed, having wired the bridge with explosives, but he was discovered and arrested by a local sheriff.
The increased use and efficiency of airplane and automobile trvel were contributing factors to the decline of rails systems in the area. A s profits were not met, many holdings if the train company were abandoned or sold off. In many old pictures, two sets of tracks may be seen, which would allow for both North and South bound trains to pass. This is where the Rail Trail mostly follows The train opeations all but ceased in the mid 1980’s. There wer a few attempts at operating tourist excurcions on short trains for several years. I had the pleasure of riding from Hallowell to Richmond Maine by train, then after, boarding a tour boat, cruised to Boothbay where we then boarded a bus for transport back to Hallowell.
In Gardiner, Maine in its grandeur, stands one of the last Maine Central stations. Built in 1911, the station was used for its purpose until the 1950’s. Since then,m the building has changed hands and uses many times, but its solid construction f granite blocks has withstood the buffeting of time.
Along with train travel, there was an electric trolley line which serviced the area. In our next newsletter, I will cover this operation. Thanks for reading and enjoy the trail.