The schedule on the Maine Eastern is limited, and its regular season will run from August 21st until October 12th this year. The train will leave Brunswick at 10:00 in the morning and arrive at Rockland at noon, leaving at 3:00 for Brunswick and returning there at 5:00, in time to catch the 7:00 train for Boston. There were a few extra trips on the same schedule this summer before the regular service begins for the season, and this writer rode the first revenue train of the summer, on June 26th. The early-season trips were scheduled to accommodate large groups of tourists who were taking extended bus tours and using the railroad for one segment of their itineraries. The Maine Eastern promotes this use of their trains, and offers a number of packages that include bus or airline segments.That's not unknown for vacation trips for which one longish train trip is enough, and the return longish train trip is too much.
Even with the new connection between the Maine Eastern and Downeaster trains at Brunswick, it is not easy to visit the towns along the Maine Eastern route without an automobile. The Maine Eastern’s operating season is short, and the railroad does not run a train every day. There are only two intercity buses each day on the highway paralleling the rail line, and buses are scheduled for local residents going to Portland or Boston, not for people coming to visit the region. Although the Maine Eastern trains now use the same station as the Downeaster trains in Brunswick, the schedule only allows a same-day connection from Rockland to Boston, and not the other way. The Maine Eastern train leaves Brunswick before the morning train from Boston arrives there. There is a 6:00 departure from Portland that arrives in Brunswick at 6:45 and allows three hours between trains in Brunswick in the morning. However, that requires an overnight stay in Portland and departure at an inconveniently-early hour. There is no bus from Boston that arrives in Brunswick in time to connect with the Maine Eastern train to Rockland, either.Little by little, the through train from Boston or perhaps Washington, D.C. returns.
In the meantime, the Maine Eastern has extended our rail mobility map, even though it is only to a limited extent. Rockland is an interesting destination, and it appears that the intermediate stops of Bath and Wiscasset are, too. It is difficult to reach any of these places without an automobile, so every increase in nonautomotive transportation to these places helps. The route is scenic, and the train crew was pleasant and enthusiastic. Wayne Davis, Chair of TrainRiders/Northeast, described the Downeaster as “a happy train.” The Maine Eastern exhibited the same atmosphere, with the added attraction of comfortable vintage coaches.Modern sensibilities would probably react badly to advertising for the 1940 East Wind as "a gay train, gay in color, gay in spirit." (If you have the East Wind issue of the B&M Bulletin, or the Keystone issue with the East Wind article -- it did run on Pennsy before the war -- you can look it up.) So do the words evolve, although happy trains in cheerful colors appeal. We're not yet looking at a through car from Washington to Rockland (first season of the East Wind) or a through car from Boston to Rockland (up until when the postwar Flying Yankee became a pair of Budd Highliners), but the folks at Destination: Freedom are hopeful.
Maybe someday, the Maine Eastern’s line will be part of a comprehensive passenger rail system in the Pine Tree State. The citizen-advocates of Train Riders/Northeast and others fought for service from Boston to Portland and then to Brunswick. Regularly scheduled service to Bath, Wiscasset and Rockland would be the next logical step. Rockland historian Larry Goldman told this writer that there is talk of running a ferry between Rockland and Bar Harbor, further Downeast. If that happens, it would constitute an additional link in a public transportation network heading in the Downeasterly direction, which would improve prospects for expanding scheduled service to Rockland. Considering the fact that there were no trains between Boston and Portland for 36 years, and it is now possible to go from Boston to Rockland by rail for the first time in 53 years, there is reason to hope that further improvements will come someday.Here, the plot thickens. Once upon a time, the Portland and Kennebec Railroad ran between Portland and Rockland, in competition with the Maine Central Railroad to Bangor and beyond. The Portland and Kennebec connected with the Eastern Steamship Company at Rockland for an early morning sailing on to Bar Harbor.