Railroad readies for fall foliage

Posted Sept. 19, 2011, at 9:09 p.m.

ROCKLAND — As autumn approaches, the trees along the 57 miles of railroad tracks from Brunswick to Rockland have begun to show hints of color. And as the fall foliage season heats up, so do the phone lines at Maine Eastern Railroad’s reservations call center.

The passenger excursion train service has been offering fall foliage rides every year at this time since 2005. Traversing four counties, the railroad provides leaf-peepers with a behind-the-scenes peek at scenery unreachable by automobile.

For several years the railroad has been coordinating the beginning of their annual fall foliage schedule with the release of Maine’s official fall foliage website: www.mainefoliage.com.

As is typical in mid-September, reports from state forest and park rangers indicate leaf color is still primarily green. With cooler nights in the forecast, it will be a matter of only several days before color change will become measurable.

The state is divided into seven foliage zones. Maine Eastern Railroad operates in Zone 1, referred to as the Mid-coast and south coastal zone. With the heavy rains of late summer, along with shorter days and cooler nighttime temperatures, accelerated color change is expected to provide vivid displays of nature all along the rail line.

The trip aboard Maine Eastern Railroad includes 33 bridges and trestles over wetlands, salt marshes and tidal rivers, along with lengthy stretches of forested areas that appear magical as leaf drop hastens.

Because the rail line covers so many miles through Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox Counties, timing of the color change is a gradual and domino-like event in the coastal towns through which the train travels, giving people a broad choice of dates to ride. Passengers may board the train in Brunswick, Bath, Wiscasset or Rockland, and reservations are encouraged for those unsure of the 5-days-per-week train schedule.

Events in September include a special stop in Newcastle during the one-day Pemaquid Oyster Festival on Sept. 25. During the month of September, active members of Police, Fire and EMS crews ride for half price. September is also Red Hat Society month, when society members receive the senior rate during the month, regardless of age.

In October, the railroad will offer reduced pricing for westbound passengers boarding in Rockland for the Pumpkin Patch Special, when the railroad again makes a special stop in Newcastle, for the annual Great Pumpkin Festival & Regatta on Oct. 8-9.

While Maine Eastern is a full-time, year-round freight rail operation, the railroad is expected to operate its passenger excursion service through the third weekend in October.

For reservations and information, visit www.maineeasternrailroad.com, or call the Maine Eastern reservations line at 596-6725.

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