• 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 trainsinmaine
The Canadian Forum of this site reports that VIA Rail is currently discussing the possibility of restoring service between Montreal and Sherbrooke, and that a report is scheduled to be released this month. The proposal makes sense, given the number of university students and others in the Sherbooke area who have ties to Montreal. But I think it also begs the question of whether restoring The Atlantic Limited is an idea that might be more than a mere pipe dream. I've said before that there are many of us in Maine who miss the train, not just out of nostalgia or because we're train lovers. It truly was a convenient link to Montreal, Halifax and the rest of Canada. And what was more, it represented the shortest distance between two points, which is certainly more than can be said for The Ocean. (That having been said, I'm not in any way suggesting the discontinuance of the latter.)

Yes, I know that since 9/11 there would be major customs considerations. But I don't see them as insurmountable, nor potentially more inconvenient than having one's bags and person checked at an airport. Fredericton, as we have often been reminded, is the only capital city in Canada that has no nearby passenger train service --- and Saint John, depending on what day it is, is the second- or third-largest city in the Maritimes. Both cried a very loud and well-deserved "Fowl!" when the Atlantic was discontinued.

Am I talking into my hat, or is there hope here?

  by cpf354
Not much, I believe. One obstacle now is the condition of the MM&A and NBSR track, I think. I seem to remember some talk about how MM&A, or even Iron Road, removed some super elevation from some curves on the Moosehead Sub. The other is that VIA probably is in no condition budget wise to add another route between the Mari times and the rest of Canada. The Sherbrooke service is supposed to be high speed commuter rail funded with provincial dollars. Restoring the Atlantic is another ball of wax entirely.
Of course I'm probably talking into my hat here about some of this, so somebody who knows, please chime in! :-)

  by jwhite07
My only question would be how the FRA would react to VIA's Rennaisance equipment operating in the United States... poorly would be my guess.
The Atlantic was a favourite and as much as I would like to see a return I can’t see it happening especially now with the all the hassles at the border, post 9/11.

Much better chance for a fast Moncton-Montreal day train on the NTR via Edmundston. Fredericton could have a bus connection to McGivney: 48 Km vs: 40 Km to the Atlantic at Fredericton Jct.
trainsinmaine wrote:
.....Fredericton, as we have often been reminded, is the only capital city in Canada that has no nearby passenger train service .....
Closest point now is Moncton (Ocean) 170 Km. And there are others: Charlottetown - Moncton (Ocean) 150 Km. St.John's - Halifax (Ocean) 1500 Km., Regina - Saskatoon (Canadian) 260 Km. and Victoria - Vancouver (Canadian) 100 Km.

  by trainiac
Much trackwork has been done on the MMA, at least in the Sherbrooke area, which had a notable effect on the running of the local Orford Express (previously delayed due to poor track conditions). The Orford Express was initially going to be restricted to 10 mph a couple of years ago (half the speed of freight trains) and did not enter service until track conditions improved and speed could be raised.

There is also currently a 5-year plan that's just been laid out for railways in Quebec, in which the federal and provincial governments (as well as the rail lines themselves) will provide funding for track improvements. In the case of lines such as the SLR and MMA, this means bringing track up to Class 1 standards to handle 286,000 lb cars.

I don't know how much of this has passenger service in mind, but my understanding is that the Montreal-Sherbrooke passenger service ended not because it was unpopular among passengers, but because it was unpopular politically--so the potential riders are likely there.

I know that the local lines have been modified in recent years with flatter curves and shorter signal intervals for the railway crossings, in response to slower train speeds, and these changes would likely have to be reversed for passenger service.
  by viafan
fredericton is, unfortunately not the only capital city in this country without near-by passenger rail service: add to that St. John's, Newfoundland, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Regina, Saskatchewan

Halifax, Nova Scotia has but one trai 6 days per week (to Montreal) and Victoria, British Columbia has the daily Malahat RDC service but once daily to other points on Vancouver Island. Edmonton, Alberta has sevice east and west only 3 days per week.
  by gokeefe
Given the support in Maine right now for the Downeaster service, the overall climate seems to strongly support rail passenger service in Maine. One of the problems with the Downeaster is that it only physically serves the southern end of the state. Although the train's market might actually draw from central and western maine, many legislators are unhappy about the fact that northern maine has been left out of the equation.

If advocates for the Atlantic were to suggest to the Maine State legislature that the train would make stops in Maine and that service would be returned if some state capital assistance could be provided for startup I think there would be a positive response, especially from legislators in the northern delegation who currently have a hard time justifying support of passenger rail service. This is especially true if there were an understanding that the operating subsidy would be nonexistent or very small, as it was in the past.

Furthermore, passenger rail service across the northern half of Maine would have the added benefit of shoring up support for connecting north-south service between Brunswick/Portland and Bangor.
  by gokeefe
Is MMA infrastructure currently in a sufficient state of good repair to allow a return of the "Atlantic Limited"?
  by murray83
I remember when Iron road was the owner they had a few ex VIA coaches and such even a steam generator what ever became of this set up?

The NBSR has a similar set up mostly for buiness and charity train rides would like to see both railways team up and maybe offer a Saint John to Montreal service or if lucky a tie in to Amtrak's Downeaster service to points south with gas prices and the push to go green this idea could be a good possibility.
  by gokeefe

It seems to me that coordinated efforts between the MMA and the NBSR would pale in comparison to what VIA could do in cooperation with the State of Maine to restart passenger service in this part of the state. I know for a fact that there are many Franco-Americans in this part of the state who have family in Quebec and New Brunswick, it seems very likely to me considering how difficult it is to travel East-West by road in this part of the state that travel by rail would be very popular especially considering the cost of road travel now.
  by gokeefe
Have the chances of passenger service coming back to Northern Maine improved now that MMAs funding crisis has been resolved with the sale of the the Madawaska-Millinocket line to the State of Maine?

Has this been discussed publicly anywhere in northern Maine recently?

I know many northern legislators feel strongly that their constituents have yet to see tangible benefits to their local economies from the Amtrak passenger service that has been in southern Maine for some time now.

I would also like to know if EMR/NBSR operating the Madawaska-Millinocket line has any implications for potential passenger service.
  by Noel Weaver
The return of the Atlantic Limited is probably as far fetched as I have heard in some time. Just the problems crossing the border twice would be enough to kill this. Most likely the running time would not only exceed the direct route through Edmunston but probably the present route through Campbellton as well. Much of the route would likely be 30-40 MPH through Maine with not much intermediate traffic.
Why should Canada support and pay for a train through the United States?
Noel Weaver
  by gokeefe

I thought about starting a different thread as my intention was to ask more about passenger service in this area (along the former Atlantic Limited's route especially) as opposed to a specific VIA sponsored train. However, this thread seemed to contain more of the interest and discussion regarding passenger service along MMA and soon-to-be State of Maine lines than any other.

Hence the questions as posted previously. If necessary I'll just start another thread that is more general in nature. I am specifically interested in passenger service along former route of the Atlantic Limited if not the former train itself.
  by trainsinmaine
I'm not aware that passenger service north of Bangor has been discussed on a formal basis, but I think it's something worth considering. A daily, or even perhaps biweekly, round trip train from/to Madawaska might actually draw a decent number of patrons. It's a long, long haul from the St. John Valley to Bangor by car, and if one plans to do it forth and back in a day, he or she can plan on total exhaustion before arriving home. It's too bad, in hindsight, that the BAR ripped up its main line north of Houlton --- the potential for on-line business would be greater --- but service on the present central-county line might work nonetheless.

As for the return of the late, lamented Atlantic Limited, I have to agree with Noel that it's a long stretch, but not impossible, if VIA could drum up passengers within Maine. Yes, there is the BIG issue of border checks, but there are other lines in which this is already being handled every day, such as with the Amtrak run from Albany to Montreal.
  by gokeefe
One thing about the entire situation with MMA struck me in particular. Rail line rehabilitation tends to have positive effects on potential/future consideration of passenger service. The Rockland Branch rehabilitation is a case in point. Once the state had enough work done on the line they eventually looked at passenger service potential. I have to wonder if they will do the same thing in the North especially now that the federal grant has materialized.