• Return of The Atlantic Limited: An Unrealistic Dream?

  • 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 Cowford
I can't imagine $10 million would go much further than eliminating slow orders and addressing some deferred maintenance. That said, I'd answer the question of returning service to the County with a question: Why? The whole of Aroostook County contains ~70,000 people (and shrinking). Even if every County citizen went to Bangor twice per year and rail got a 10% market share, it adds up to less than a busload a day.

The new railroad has a very uncertain future. It should be singularly focused on stabilizing and growing what little freight potential is left.
  by gokeefe

I agree Presque Isle - Houlton - Bangor is pretty far out of the question. I still wonder however if Montreal - Jackman - Greenville - Bangor is still a possibility. I know this segment is receiving funds from the State.

It seems that the time is approaching when we will start hearing from the State about initiatives for passenger service in Northern Maine.
  by ShortlinesUSA
I have yet to see anyone discuss the elephant in the room on this issue-- Positive Train Control, which becomes a requirement in 2015. Forget just track upgrades as being the necessary work, but add in PTC equipment for both the trains and the lines. This will likely have this done somewhere in the first few pencil scribbles of a cost benefit analysis...
  by gokeefe
Cowford wrote:Where do you see any possible demand?

About two years ago now I was staying in Jackman and drove over to Greenville to go skiing at Big Moose Mountain. I had been out there before but never to ski. The mountain is absolutely fantastic skiing terrain. I have often read on this thread and elsewhere about all of the Canadians who used to come to Greenville to ski at this resort. I understand this certainly doesn't mean there will be thousands of passengers per month going to Greenville but apparently there has, in the recent past, been passenger demand to travel to Greenville.

Keep in mind Greenville is about as close to a four season vacation destination in Maine as it gets. They have a very healthy tourism industry there that seems to do well regardless of the season. If anything with the ski resort not being fully operational they do far less business in the winter than they used to. I really see passenger rail service to this area as enabling the tourist economy here. In particular for travel to and from Canada the railroad is a far better mode than ME-27 through Jackman and ME-15 through Rockwood.

That's the line that I'm thinking along. I also believe strongly that the presence or lack thereof of passenger service to/from Greenville and Canada is a big part of the reason why the ski resort isn't doing as well as it could. There are numerous other potential reasons as well but I really think the loss of the Atlantic Limited affected Big Moose disproportionately.

Maybe NNEPRA & MDOT could come up with a 'deal' for PQ and VIA. They run a train to Montreal from Portland and VIA agrees to resume Atlantic Limited service. In turn Maine funds track improvements as needed along the route of the Atlantic Limited and PQ/VIA arranges for funding for improvements along the PQ SLR to Montreal as needed.

Alternately NNEPRA could simply start negotiations with VIA for an interline agreement and then make some kind of power pool arrangements. Or they could agree that VIA provides equipment for the northern line and NNEPRA/Amtrak provides equipment for the southern line.

As far as PTC goes I understand that it's required on lines carrying HAZMAT or passengers. If this is the case then MMA may be required to install it anyways.
  by Noel Weaver
The proposals and ideas on here would not produce enough passenger patronage to support a bus on a public highway with just a bus driver much less a passenger train or trains on railroad tracks that would need millions of dollars of work just to be able to run them plus all the expenses that go with running passenger trains.
I have said it many times on here and elsewhere, skiiers want to use their own cars and not trains, they want to be able to go and return on their terms to their home towns and not to just Boston or Portland or wherever.
You people whom are pushing for this, I ask how many times a year would you ride such trains? As has been pointed out the population in this area and indeed most of Maine is not sufficient to support something like this. This area is a classic example of a case where bus service would better serve the people than passenger rail service would.
You had just better hope that the upcoming service to Brunswick works out, it might but it might not too.
Noel Weaver
  by Cowford
Agreed, Noel.

GO'K, how do you come to the following conclusion:I really think the loss of the Atlantic Limited affected Big Moose disproportionately

I'd be interested to see Greenville Jct passenger stats. I'd be surprised if more than 1,000 skiers a season took the train. You're right in that Big Squaw (having skied there a lot in the past, I can't get myself to call it Big Moose - it's just too dumb a PC name) is disadvantaged... but it's geographical, not transportation options-oriented. Sugarloaf is doing OK without the SR&RL narrow gauge connection. And Sunday River's train fizzled quickly, but does fine regardless. Big Squaw is just too far away. Period. Montrealers have more local options in the Laurentians and Vermont for skiing holidays... why would they take a train 7-8 hrs?
  by gokeefe

The decline of the resort, which is about 25-30% operable right now, seemed to start around the same time that service to/from Greenville ended. The anecdotal evidence, although not necessarily linking service cancellation to a decline, did seem to indicate that Canadian patronage, a) used the train and b) was important to the resort (regardless of transportation mode).

I don't necessarily think Montreal was the base market for the resort. Sherbrooke however may have been, especially for those looking for cheaper, more family orientied alternatives to Sugarloaf and Sunday River.
  by Cowford
That's got to be nothing more than coincidence. The arrival and departure times at Greenville Jct were anything but family-friendly. Given the trade-off between driving two hrs to Stow/three hrs Killington or driving to the train, unloading, waiting and then taking a ~four-hr train trip that arrived in the middle of the night, most folks- especially families- would opt for VT.

Though I disagree with your theory, I gotta admit, it WOULD be interesting to see station patronage numbers for Greenville Jct. I've witnessed the Atl ltd go through Greenville in winter with zero skiers. Think of it, even if the train consistently delivered 10-20 skiers/evening (which it didn't), it wouldn't have made any significant difference in Big Squaw's viability.
  by gokeefe

Although I am loathe to write off the apparently parallel timing of the resort's decline with the end of service by the Atlantic Limited I think there are several other points that need to be acknowledged. First the decline of industry in Dexter, Millinocket and areas surrounding very likely had a significant impact on the resort. Second, I think the Greenville area has been in a 'transition' of sorts for some time now. While I do not 'buy' into the ideas of a wholesale conversion to a 'service-based' economy I do think the old model for the areas economy has essentially died without being replaced by a new one. Hence, in essence 'no economy' and the blight, job-loss, and extreme poverty that has taken over in certain parts of Piscataquis County.

There may also be generational, demographic, and social shifts underway that have undercut the middle class vacationers that used to go to that part of Maine in droves. Some of them were locals, perhaps working at the mills, and others were out-of-staters whose families had been coming to the area for generations. For some of these families it just isn't as affordable as it used to be to own a second home and vacation in Maine several times a year. Many of them in 'today's workforce' probably can't find the time to even take extended vacations the way their parents did. Either way I think there simply aren't as many as there used to be and it's a serious problem.

Having never seen any passenger train roll through Greenville I'm at a loss to truly understand their importance to the area without access to the statistics. If anyone can come up with the ridership stats for the Atlantic Limited I think we all agree this would help greatly.
We did Ski trips from Halifax to Greenville on the Atlantic twice in the ‘80s. There were four of us and if I remember correctly, we were the only ones the shuttle van from the resort picked-up and dropped off in Greenville in the wee hours of the morning each trip.

I remember talking to people in the lift-lines and they were amazed we could take a train here and why would we come all the way “down” from Canada to ski (actually it’s “up” from Halifax)

I rode the Atlantic often and as much as I would like to see it return.....I don’t believe it will ever happen. Look at the hassles on the Adirondack with just one border crossing.....the Atlantic would have two each way and there would be no way to pre-clear as being proposed as the savior of Adirondack. And I can’t see “sealing” the train being allowed in these post 9-11 times.

VIA doesn’t have the money or resources to restore Montreal <> Sherbrooke or Saint John <> Moncton along the route of the Atlantic.....which make more sense than a train across Maine.

In the final years of the Atlantic, the trip times between Halifax and Montreal were just about the same via either the Atlantic or the much longer route on the Ocean through Campbellton. Today the Atlantic route would take a lot longer.

If VIA was ever to inaugurate an additional train from the Maritimes to Montreal.....perhaps it could be a day train between Moncton and Montreal running on the National Transcontinental Railway via Edmundston.....Fast and CTC all the way. And it could even serve “The County”.....Van Buren to St. Leonard is just one mile. Edmundston to Madawaska is also one mile and to Fort Kent: 20 miles. Presque Isle to Grand Falls 35 miles.
  by Cowford
GO'K, according to the book, Canadian Pacific to the East, The ATL LTD carried an average of ~20,000 passengers per year to/from/through Maine in the 10 years prior to VIA's takeover... I seem to recall VIA's stats were a little better, but still paltry stuff.
  by gokeefe

Wow, 20,000/year. Never even gave it a thought that it might be so low. Wouldn't even think the railroads would bother to run the train for that level of patronage. Given that 20,000/year produces an average daily ridership of 54 people (across the entire route) sounds to me as if mid-week the train was running largely empty.

I guess passenger service in this part of the world is not going to make it's way up the priority list anytime soon. Fair enough.
  by Hamhock
Yeah, that's pretty low. If there was a way to concentrate the sparse daily ridership into a 1x weekly, it would still be barely worth it.