Thursday, February 2, 2012

Maine - 1978

It was late Spring 1978.  Late May to be exact.  Classes were over. The snow had melted.  The sun was peaking out from behind the gray blanket of clouds that were so typical for Troy, NY.   The grass was green.  It was time to go somewhere and do something!

There were three of us who lived in our suite in Church II in the Quad dorms at RPI.  Kevin and I were Seniors and had our real-world jobs lined up for June.  Scott was a Junior who had no where particular to go, so we planned a trip.

The Gulf?  Florida?  Don't be silly.  We were all members of the school's model railroad club and spent much of our spare time working on it or going out to watch real trains.  We picked Maine.

Maine was chosen for a variety of reasons.  They had two small regional railroad operating there:  The Maine Central and The Bangor and Aroostook.  Both were hanging on by connecting Maine's forest products and industry to the rest of the US rail network.  The Bangor and Aroostook also still moved some of the potatoes to market during the fall harvest.  The Maine Central still operated a daily train up the steep grade through Crawford Notch, NH. Each also had some unique locomotives that were worth taking a look at.

So we piled into Kevin's 1974 Javelin - he had the nicest car among us - and off we went.  Scott and I traded off sitting in the back.  The Javelin was fine car, but it the back seat was more decoration than a good place to sit.

It looked a lot like this car...

First stop on the trip was Boston - to check out the evening rush hour out of South Station.  At the time the MBTA owed the commuter equipment with Conrail being the operator.  There was a real hodgepodge of equipment.  Ex-New Haven coaches, old PRR P70 coaches and the rusty remnants of the New York Central's Great Steel Fleet. There were even some Budd RDCs.  The locomotives included some leased (?) B&M Geeps and the last hurrah of the D&H PA - on loan from New York.  It was interesting to watch, but not likely much fun for the commuters.  The equipment was old and ratty.  The weather wasn't much better.

After Boston, we headed up to Maine and stopped by the Maine Central's headquarters the morning of the next day.  The headquarters building was right adjacent to Portland Terminal's Rigby Yard in Portland, a location shared by the Boston and Maine Railroad and the MEC. We signed a release so we could take pictures around the yard and enginehouse.  The staff at the headquarters also loaded us up with and armful of MEC propaganda - maps, annual reports, flyers, brochures, etc.  They told us we could go anywhere we wanted, just don't get in the way of anything. They couldn't have been any more accommodating!

We headed to the yard and did, indeed, go everywhere.
Alco switchers in the enginehouse

The last MEC Geep in the old paint scheme - at the time

New B&M GP40-2 takes a ride on the turntable


Alco switcher working the yard
After we had tramped all over the place, we for Bangor, following the MEC mainline along the way.

Spring run-off in Lewiston, ME

We stopped by the Waterville shops and got the same excellent treatment.  They even has some freshly overhauled equipment on display.

At Bangor, we stayed at a hotel near the MEC enginehouse and stopped by for a visit after dark.  

The next morning, we visited the Bangor and Aroostook yard in Bangor (pictures to come later!) and then headed back to Portland to try to find the daily train head for their Mountain Division through Crawford Notch, NH.  We caught the southbound just arriving the Portland area.

And, then found the northbound just past Conway, NH.  We followed him all the way up the grade until the sun set just past the notch.

Into the meat of the grade.

Kevin and Scott catch the train at Wiley House Station

Grinding up the steepest part of the grade.

At the Notch station.  The track to the north is controlled by a register book.  The train stops and the crew signs in.

In the fading light, a pan shot.  Blurry Kevin in the foreground.
From there it was back to the car and across Vermont to New York.  

Much of the paper business in Maine has faded away, so these rail lines are struggling to find useful work. The Bangor and Aroostook is just about completely gone, these days.  The remnant is now called the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic RR.  The Maine Central is now part of Pan Am Railroad which is primarily the old Boston and Maine plus the MEC.   The part of the MEC's old Mountain Division from Conway to Crawford Notch is now run as a tourist operation - the Conway Scenic RR.  The passenger service between Boston and Portland, which was restored in the mid-90s is now being extended to Rockland, ME.

So, it wasn't drunken fun at the beach.  I was never much for drunken fun, anyway. We didn't even stop for a lobster.  I didn't know I liked them back then!  But, it was a fun trip to a great part of the country with good friends at a turning point in life....and I have the pictures to prove it!

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