• Caribou area - Whats left?

  • Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).
Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).

Moderator: MEC407

  by CPSD40-2
Hi there - My family and I will be visiting northern Maine this summer and I'm wondering what is still operating up there? In particular we'll be in the Caribou / Limestone area. I see tracks on Bing maps and such, but it seems like it might be wishful thinking that anything still operates.

Any help is appreciated - thanks!
  by ShortlinesUSA
I can't speak for areas outside of what I haven't visited up that way, but I can tell you the Maine Northern (former MMA/BAR trackage) operates a cluster of branches out of Squa Pan, which heads east to Presque Isle, from where there are branches to Caribou and Easton. I have not been there since MNR took over, but if I understand correctly, the crew at Squa Pan works M-W-F with an early morning call somewhere between 0500-0700 and heads out onto the branches to serve whatever is needed.

I was last up there during the MMA days when they were trying to work the cluster only 2 days a week. They went out of Squa Pan with work on all 3 branches, and wound up going on the law in Presque Isle on the way back.

I did see them go up the line to Caribou, but I believe the only customer is an agricultural business on the south side of downtown. I don't believe they go any further than this, even though the line shows as continuing on Google maps.

The largest/busiest customers seem to be in Easton (the industries are around Easton Station, actually), or were when I was up there. Vegetable oil for a large McCain french fry plant and a wood products mill.

Hope that helps a bit, and that others can chime in on the status of other lines in the area.
  by fogg1703
I think Dead River Fuels in Caribou remains the only active customer in the yard, if not the area.
  by jjoyce1
fogg1703 wrote:I think Dead River Fuels in Caribou remains the only active customer in the yard, if not the area.
I have traced some SSEX-marked scrap gondolas loading in Caribou on the MMA and now MNR. I believe these generally move loaded to the ST for furtherance to Everett, MA (Schnitzer Steel scrapyard).

  by riffian
I guess this means that the trackage from Caribou to Limestone and from Easton to Ft Fairfield is no longer used. Are the tracks on both branches still in place?
  by baldy
Rails are intact from Caribou to Limestone, however, they haven't seen a train in at least 20 years. Someone seems to think that a business will locate at the former Air Force base. They are still waiting. From Easton to Fort Fairfield the tracks are used but rarely, Fort Fairfield ownes the trackage, MNR operates this trackage. MNRs parent Irving also ownes Cavindish Farms , an agriculture firm, and they are constructing some storage silos to store fertilizer, I believe. They are being constructed at the Route 1A crossing on the town owned tracks, just north of the Easton-Fort Fairfield town line. If you have a De Lorme Maine Atlas & Gazetter you will be able to check where the tracks are and the abandoned ones as well. If you can get access to an ATV you can ride most these former lines as they are recrational trails. No ATV, you can walk them.
  by S1f3432
Cavendish Farms distribution facility at the Route 1A crossing south of Fort Fairfield appears to be
open for business- there were 5 or 6 covered hoppers on their siding this afternoon when I went
by on my way home.
  by riffian
Was in the area last week for a few days and checked out the remaining trackage as best I could from adjacent roads.

Caribou branch has three active shippers.....the propane terminal (one spot, one car being unloaded), the scrap yard at the north end of the yard (three SSEX scrap hoppers spotted for loading) and the MPG grain terminal in Presque Isle (two spot, two 100 ton hoppers being loaded). The track on this side is in incredibly bad shape, with most ties being nothing more than splinters. There were Maine Northern track machines in the Preque Isle yard, and stack of new ties. Other than that the yard was vacant. I saw no evidence of track work, but obviously some is under way, or about to be. A large tree has fallen across the tracks just north of the Caribou yard and obviously nothing has gone up that way in many years. Tracks have been removed in spots in Limestone proper (including the 1A crossing), but are still in place north and south of there, although heavily overgrown and not easily visible.

The Fort Fairfield side is much more active and the track appears to be in much better condition. As earlier stated, there are two good customers, right next to each other, in Easton. Huber makes wooden veneer and flooring and it appears it ships outbound loads in boxcars. A few spotted and some waiting for spot. McCain produces and packages frozen potato products (fries, tater tots, hash browns, etc) and takes tank cars of vegetable oil in their production. The cold storage warehouse, where the finished product is stored prior to shipment has no rail access and hence their entire product appears to go out by truck. (Many Prime trucking refrigerated trailers on site.) The new fertilizer plant seems active, although there were no cars spotted there last week. The trackage beyond into Fort Fairfield appears to be used, but I couldn't find an active shipper. In Fort Fairfield itself there are no shippers and the track is heavily rusted.

There were no cars in the Squa Pan yard (other than mow) and no locomotives, although I was only there one time. Obviously Easton is the source of most of the traffic up here and lacking a new source of traffic the Caribou side is probably not on steady ground.
  by ShortlinesUSA
Nice report, Riffian. Thank you for sharing your detailed sightings with us.
  by S1f3432
There are also at least two customers in the Presque Isle industrial park on the east side of the
airport- this is former Aroostook Valley trackage. Columbia Forest products has multiple spurs and
I've seen loaded log rack cars on one spur and box cars on another. Another plant with no ID on the
building has a spur with covered hoppers on it and another spur has telephone poles piled up on the
ground next to it.
  by S1f3432
I was driving down through Caribou late this afternoon and happened to notice Maine Northern 9801
creeping northward by the dam, so I turned around to see if I could get some shots in the yard. After
pulling two loads from the scrapyard the crew tied up by the station and headed for a company mow
truck parked in the yard. When I asked about operations one of the crew said they try to start out at
Squa Pan first thing in the morning and make a round trip to Easton and Caribou, but track conditions
and hours of service mean it almost never happens. When they run up against their hours of service
they park the train at a prearranged spot and drive the truck back to Squa Pan. Next day they pick up
where they left off. The job that works north from Squa Pan to Madawaska works similarly except it
leaves Squa Pan late in the afternoon. Kind of explains why trains never seem to tie up where you
would expect them to.
  by CPSD40-2
Thanks for the info everyone. I visited the area last week, and while I didn't get any time to go out exploring on my own, we did visit Limestone and the former Loring AFB. IN Limestone, looks like the tracks are intact at least up until Route 1, where they're paved over. That might be the case at other crossings south of town as well. Behind the playground in Limestone, there is about a 100' section of track missing where some drainage was cut into the railroad ROW. If anyone ever decides to locate at Loring and use rail, there's a LOT of work to be done to make that happen.

Speaking of Loring, I drove the family around there a bit and as with any old military installation, there's a maze of tracks there. Interestingly,once I got home I came across this photo on line:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7250/7661 ... 8a1d_z.jpg

Is this a former BAR plow, or something the military kept on hand?
  by AVR Mark
The tracks "up the hill" (former Main line to New Sweden and beyond to the north) have been removed, including the former railroad crossing on Limestone Street. The crossing itself (the rails that is) is still there, but the connecting rails from the crossing to the yard area have been removed. The rails and ties past the crossing have been removed. There are still two customers in Caribou, the scrap yard, which doesn't seem to be very active at the moment (no scrap Gondolas around) and the Dead River LP Gas terminal. Over the summer, Dead River has installed three new LP GAS storage tanks, so I guess that means they intend to stay around for a while. Before this summer they were apparently just using the LP tank cars as their storage method and I had consistently seen two cars there in the summer and four cars there in the winter. The last time I was down there, last month, there were no tank cars there. Daigle Oil Company has a four tank LP Gas storage facility on US Route 1 just south of Caribou, but there is no rail access to that area and the gas arrives by truck. I suspect that the Daigle Oil facility could have been the reason for the upgraded Dead River facility. As far as the former Loring AFB. and the snowplow, that plow has been there as long as I can remember, at least back to the 1970s. The majority of the traffic that I remember going to the base before it shut down was coal. The base had a coal fired central heating plant, which has since been demolished. There is supposedly a plan for a Chinese company to build railroad cars at the former Loring AFB area, but I'll believe it when I see it.

  by gpp111
My understanding the the line to Caribou has been embargoed due to poor track conditions, the propane operation is relocating to Easton and will continue to be served by rail. Others certainly will comment more.
  by Cosakita18
Grew up in Presque Isle during the late BAR / early MMA era and I remember Lane construction operated a good sized quarry on the Reach Rd. between Caribou and Presque Isle that had rail access. Google Earth images from 2013 show hoppers on their siding. Are they still active with rail shipments?