February 21, 2019
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Railway opens southern leg of Brownville track wiped out by storm

BROWNVILLE, Maine — It was almost a photo finish, but Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways Ltd. finished reopening the southern rail line out of town early Friday just in time to accomodate one of its customers.

Robert Grindrod, president and CEO of the freight rail service, said the railway can now accommodate its customers from Brownville to Searsport but that the northern rail line remains damaged by last weekend’s floods.

“It was a major effort by our own people and a number of contractors who are to be congratulated for repairing the damage in pretty short order,” Grindrod said Friday.

One train of particular importance to the rail service, a 64-car train chartered by the owners of a $70 million, 19-turbine industrial wind farm, made it to the Bull Hill construction site in Hancock County on time, Grindrod said.

“The windmill train, as it has come to be called, has not been delayed,” Grindrod said.

Grindrod was confident that repairs on washouts affecting traffic from Brownville north into Penobscot and Aroostook counties would be repaired in time.

“Assuming there aren’t any further adverse weather effects, I am 90 percent sure it will be done by Monday,” Grindrod said. “That will allow us to serve all of our customers again and make connections with Maine Northern Railway” and into Canada.

Called one of Maine’s most unusual weather events, the storm that stalled over Brownville overnight Saturday dumped at least 6 inches of rain on an area about 3 1/2 miles in diameter within three or four hours. The storm overwhelmed the town’s flood defenses, washing out roads and the rail line in Brownville.

The flooding contributed to the death of a 29-year-old Milo man early Sunday and total damage and economic recovery estimates have been placed in excess of $4 million, though they are incomplete and not all of the damage will qualify for federal aid. The washed-out track effectively isolated northern Maine from southern Maine via railroad.

Brownville leaders announced Thursday that all roads damaged by the flooding would be repaired and open by late Friday afternoon, though repaving would take about 650 tons of asphalt and finish by Aug. 1.

State officials continue to compile damage estimates. They have 30 days from the end of the disaster, which hasn’t yet been defined, to show that the state took about $1.8 million in damage from the storm in order to be able to apply for federal aid, a state official said Friday.

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