FairPoint bucket truck driver rams Ellsworth rail trestle, moves tracks

Posted Nov. 30, 2009, at 10:15 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — In anticipation of offering seasonal excursion rail service, work crews were busy this summer rehabilitating a section of rail lines that runs through downtown Ellsworth toward Green Lake.

But suddenly shifting a section of the rails two feet to the east was not part of the plan. That’s what happened Monday morning when a FairPoint truck struck a railroad trestle on Church Street, according to local police.

A bucket truck owned by the communications company was headed east on Church Street shortly after 11 a.m. Monday when the bucket rammed into the underside of the trestle, Ellsworth police Officer Dotty Small said. The impact damaged the bucket and moved the tracks where they cross the trestle by a couple of feet, Small said. The impact also dislodged several feet of track and railroad ties on either side of the trestle.

“We have one every couple of months,” Small said about tall vehicles ramming the trestle, which is about nine feet above the road. “They just finished repairing it from the last time [it was hit].”

Because the road goes uphill under the trestle, the western side of the track is higher off the ground than the eastern side.

The driver was not injured in the accident, according to Small. She said the truck had $4,000 in estimated damage.

The track is owned by Maine Department of Transportation, which had an official at the scene Monday afternoon to examine the damage. The damaged section of track and the road underneath have been closed until the trestle can be fixed by the DOT, officials said.

This summer, officials with Downeast Scenic Railroad worked to rehabilitate the rail line between Ellsworth and Washington Junction in the town of Hancock. The group took a diesel locomotive out for several test runs to downtown Ellsworth in August and September.

Eventually, Downeast Scenic Railroad hopes to provide excursion rail service all the way from Washington Junction to Green Lake to Dedham. Before this summer, the last time a train ran along the 126 miles of track between Calais and Brewer was in 1985.