ELLSWORTH, Maine — Train service will return along the tracks of the old Maine Central Railroad line this summer.
On Saturday, Downeast Scenic Railroad will take donors, volunteers and media on an inaugural ride on the nine-mile, round-trip excursion from Ellsworth to Ellsworth Falls. Regularly scheduled service will begin on July 31, returning regular train service along the line for the first time since 1985.
The start of the scenic rail service comes after four years of planning, fundraising and hard work by the group of about 75 volunteers. In those four years, volunteers have logged more than 37,000 hours on the rail line and on the vintage engine and cars.
“We have been very fortunate to have a group of absolutely exceptional and dedicated volunteers working on this project who have contributed their labor, skill expertise and talent,” said Tom Testa, president of the Downeast Rail Heritage Preservation Trust, which operates the scenic railroad.
Volunteers have cleared and repaired six miles of track, replaced 2,500 railroad ties, installed new timbers for rails and fixed crossing signals, according to Testa. They also have renovated two engines, passenger cars and a red caboose.
“Everything we have is vintage,” Testa said in a prepared release. “The caboose dates from 1926, the open flatcar from 1960 and one of the coaches is from 1915. We have an ALCO S-4 locomotive with a 1,000 horsepower engine and a second GE-70-ton locomotive as a backup.”
The Downeast Rail Heritage Preservation Trust hopes to run regular scenic rides throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall providing a boost to the summer economy of the area. An independent assessment conducted by the trust projected that in five years, a ridership composed of tourists and local residents could pro-duce as much as $1 million annually in direct and indirect revenue for Ellsworth the Down East region.
“We believe that Downeast Scenic Railroad will enhance the economic base of this region by attracting riders from Maine and across the country,” Testa said.
Regular excursion trips will be offered Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. beginning on July 31 and running until the end of October. The passenger-boarding platform is at the rear of the Cadillac Mountain Sports store on High Street in Ellsworth.
Ticket reservations and information are available by calling 667-7819.