Amtrak's Downeaster service now extends to Brunswick, Maine. It's possible to make a trip from Boston there and return on the same day. Once upon a time, the morning through train from Boston into Northern Maine used the tracks of the Eastern Railroad as far as North Berwick, sometimes remaining on those rails to avoid the coastal resort towns served by stopping trains. The current train, running on a composite of the Businessman and Kennebec Limited schedules of the early 1950s, runs by way of Wilmington and the coastal resorts. There's an intriguing echo of those schedules in that the Sunday and holiday schedule is different from the week-day service.
Getting from Worcester to North Station is in some ways simpler than getting from DeKalb to Chicago's Union Station. For the latter journey, one must first get to the commuter trains at Elburn, it's then a relatively easy walk from North Western Station to the north entrance of Union Station. The convention hotel is a manageable walk from the Worcester station, then it's off the commuter train at Back Bay Station, onto the Orange Line, and on to North Station.
Amtrak 681 Downeaster, Boston North Station to Brunswick, Maine, 25 June 2013: Genesis diesel 130, Northeast Regional Amcoaches 82711 - 82993 - 82601, Amcafe 48163, cabbage car 90214. I'm in business class, which is comfortably full, do not explore the coaches ahead for passenger loadings. Leave 9:05:38, Anderson Transportation Center (Woburn) 9:23:45 - 9:26:35, held at Wilmington Junction for inward commuter train by at 9:49, go 9:50:12. There's bridge reconstruction work in progress on the Western Route, and the resulting single-track operation is affecting schedules. A passenger remarks to the cafe car attendant that her train to Boston a few days ago operated via Reading, the traditional course for Portland Division expresses until Patrick McGinniss started his work. The cafe has most of the traditional pastries and sandwiches, also a few regional specialties, but they're out of Gummi Lobsters. We're running late but not losing much time: Haverhill 10:17:00 - 10:17:35, Exeter 10:37:16 - 10:38:35, Durham 10:51:05 - 10:51:40, Dover 10:58:24 - 11:00:01, Wells 11:19:18 - 11:19:55, make excellent start, then stop, go again 11:25:50, running slowly, stop again and go 11:33:30, stop again and go 11:39:30. Due in Portland at 11:30. Conductor announces power problems with the signals, these are evidently Stop and Proceed aspects. Pass Kennebunk 11:43, stop and proceed 11:46:34, stop and proceed 11:52:45, stop and proceed 12:03:06; resume track speed near Alfred Road, a former interlocking allowing trains to change from Eastern to Western Route or the other way, there's a short section of Eastern Route track remaining for some industries in Biddeford. Pass Alfred Road 12:11, Saco 12:13:42 - 12:16:15, Old Orchard Beach 12:23 - 12:24, pass Rigby Yard 12:33, arrive Portland 12:42:27. Boston train 684 due out 12:45, not visible from where I'm sitting. This mystery will be clarified on my return.
Cafe car attendant has been negotiating by cell phone with a caterer. Train resupplied at Portland. Still no Gummi Lobsters, alas.
Provisions aboard, passengers aboard, train departs 12:50:48. The Portland station, such as it is, is on a stub of the Mountain Division, conveniently out of Guilford's way as long as the service is between Portland and Boston, but requiring a reverse move to attain the Bangor to Boston main line. Reverse 12:54, moving past site of Portland Union Station 12:56, eavesdrop on conversation between passengers who value the train for making medical appointments in Boston. Royal Junction 1:16, cross Grand Trunk 1:19, Freeport 1:31:25 - 1:32:50, station conveniently adjacent to a large outlet mall complex including L. L. Bean. There's a Charley on the MTA situation developing as a passenger has missed the cue to detrain at Portland, but this story will have a happier ending. Arrive Brunswick 1:52:40 against a scheduled arrival of 12:30. An 82 minute hole in a 138 mile trip is not the way to impress the casual rider, Amtrak. There's still plenty of time to explore Brunswick before the Boston train leaves.
The station has a floor-height platform long enough for a proper Kennebec Limited.
A full passing track is available for freight trains, or for parking additional passenger consists. The citizens of Brunswick are not keen on having a diesel layover facility in town. Thus their Amtrak service relies on consists shuttling in or out of Portland. At weekends, the midday arrival does a turn to Freeport and return, allowing train riders to visit both tourist destinations on the same day.
The Maine Eastern excursion trains, which (in part because of the lack of a terminal in Brunswick) don't connect to Amtrak, also leave from here. Service hadn't commenced yet, evidently the summer high season in Maine still comes late into June. In the model railroad world, the State of Maine Northern offers through service from Boston to Rockland and Bangor and through coaches, parlor cars, and Pullmans, some originating as far south as Washington, D.C. to Ellsworth, Van Buren, Saint John, and Halifax.
This eatery in the station complex is pleased to have train service. Can't comment on the burger. It's New England, time to go on the town in quest of some local food. Brunswick has a lot to offer. Tune in later for that part of the trip.