Maine Eastern Railroad delays tourism season, cuts daily trips by half

Posted April 29, 2013, at 2 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Maine Eastern Railroad will forego the traditional Memorial Day opening of the tourist excursions between Brunswick and Rockland and will reduce the number of daily trips this summer from two to one.

Gordon Page, Maine Eastern Railroad’s vice president and director of passenger service, said Monday that excursion trains will begin running on June 26 this year, eliminating the month of May, when the railroad traditionally offered trains one day a week.

On June 26, excursion trains will begin running four days a week, through Oct. 19, Page said.

But this year, only one train a day will make the journey from Brunswick to Bath, Wiscasset and Rockland, instead of the two that have run in previous years. And that train will only allow riders three hours in Rockland instead of more than four.

“With the arrival of the Downeaster, we’ve had to make some adjustments,” Page said, although he was quick to add that the Amtrak Downeaster train, which runs from Brunswick to Boston, must also work around the chaotic schedule at Boston’s North Station.

Still, Page said the change in the Maine Eastern Railroad excursion train schedule is because its trains must “be able to move logistically in and out of the station before they arrive.”

The change will eliminate the possibility for someone to board in Rockland in the morning, spend the day in Brunswick, and return that night, he said.

It also means that someone traveling from Rockland to Brunswick and connecting to Amtrak for the ride to Boston and then returning must spend one night in Boston and one night in Brunswick to make the connections.

“It’s not a convenient connection,” Page said.

Overall, he said, the savings generated by the elimination of the second train outweighs the loss of revenue, and added that freight rail operation on the line is Maine Eastern Railroad’s primary business.

Ridership on the excursion train flattened out during 2010 and 2011, Page said, and has increased, but hasn’t gone back up dramatically.

Page said he’s not concerned with the viability of the excursion train.

“Overall, we expect the numbers will be there to continue the operation,” he said.

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