• The Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division

  • Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by bostontrainguy
Whatever traffic Delli Priscoli would have developed I guess. You could have said the same about what traffic could the G&U possibly generate. We would have all laughed at the dream of a thriving resurrected G&U connected to the Franklin Line years ago.
  by NHV 669
You're merely hypothesizing, though, without any idea of the scene up here. I don't know squat about the G&U, and what local business exists down there, but I actually live here on the west end of the Mountain Division. There is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING to ship by rail here, at least between Conway and St. J. The few customers that kept the Twin State operation minimally afloat, are decades in the rearview mirror, long out of business. When NHDOT figures it out, 3-6 more miles of the Berlin Branch towards Whitefield will be pulled up in the near term future. Sure, anyone can scrape together a transload; but if it existed and was profitable, NHCR would have long since jumped on it. As far as I'm aware, they didn't even make a single move to the lone, one-car-a-month at best customer south of Groveton this year; that gives you an idea of online rail potential in the area. The G&U is also not 131 mostly rural miles across three states through mountainous and heavily wooded terrain that presents a daily challenge during winter. Why would you even begin to compare the two lines?
  by bostontrainguy
NHV 669 wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 7:34 pm . . . I don't know squat about the G&U, and what local business exists down there, but I actually live here on the west end of the Mountain Division. There is NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING to ship by rail here . . . Why would you even begin to compare the two lines?
Well, simply because there was nothing down here either until they brought in different commodities.





These are two new yards they built along the line. There are plans for developing more on additional available land and they are trying to buy more land for more yards. They are actively bringing in their own businesses not relying on whatever business there might be.
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  by Cosmo
The secret to the G&U's success is their proximity to Boston and Worcester and the fact that CSX is PULLING OUT of Boston as much as they can, so area businesses are willing to relocate a few miles or transload from G&U territory as CSX abandons them.
Priscoli saw the changes coming and invested wisely.
  by MaineCentral252
The only part of that line that you could possibly compare to the G&U situation is the far eastern portion between Westbrook and North Conway. Like the G&U, you have close proximity to a populated area with some industrial activity (Portland/Westbrook) along with a connecting railroad that couldn't care less about small customers. However, things thin out fast once you get past Gorham/Windham with the only remaining possible industry being gravel, and even that would need a distant destination of some sort. As far as new business goes, how many plans were there for online customers on that stretch that didn't pan out? I've lost count...
  by NHV 669

As Cosmo said, the G&U formula works down there, because of the proximity to several major cities, close proximity to interchange with an active class I, and the ability to relocate business to help with rising costs of doing business on land in the Boston area. As you pointed out, the G&U has brought in multiple online shippers, and can now take on a few more with the lease of the former CSX line down there. The MD was always more of a bridge route, and never had much for online traffic in its heyday. There are three towns along the entire MD with a population above 10,000 (two being Gorham/Westbrook mentioned above, served by a less than daily local), and if CSRX/NHCR can't be persuaded to handle freight on the active western side (or find it profitable), it would be hard if not unfeasible to simply "bring business in." If it worked, it would already be here. There is simply nothing worth carload potential, or of high enough volume to make it go.

Again, you're ignoring the landscape up here. The proposed pellet mills, or any potential business tabbed for trackside former mill properties, have had the best chance of being potential shippers up here. In the last instance, the pellet operation to be located in the former Simpson Paper Mill in Gilman couldn't even make it to startup due to a lack of subsidized capital to even get the lights on in the place. The idea that someone with deep pockets can simply come in to the North Country and "make businesses appear" is extremely naive. Anything making money up here, is generally going short haul by truck, and not far out of the area.
  by gokeefe
It's well worth noting that the Mountain Division local traffic was all in forest products. That's the only move there is to make in that part of New England. Right now those industries continue to weaken for a variety of different reasons. One thing not talked about in this thread is the continued encroachment of development related to the leisure and tourist industries. Forest products simply cannot compete with higher value industries associated with tourism. This is classic capital displacement.

The money is in tourism and the Mountain Division has a problem that is common with old railroads of not serving the correct end points for new local industries. It's dead for the right reasons (economically unfeasible) and the sections that are relevant (Crawford's Notch) have now seen several decades of good use.

I think the real question we should be asking is whether or not there's business to be had for Conway Scenic is they setup an operation on other segments of the Mountain Division. I can tell you right now that if they could run Portland to Sebago Lake during the summer that they would have a winner. Obviously this creates FRA issues so perhaps that would have to be Amtrak. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Maine is not going to pay for a train that diverts shoppers from to North Conway who would otherwise go to Freeport.

The other serious proposition would be North Conway to Fryeburg during the Fryeburg State Fair. Also perhaps Amtrak to Fryeburg during the Fryeburg State Fair. That could be interesting if it ran through from Boston or maybe just run it as a shuttle to and from Portland.

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  by gokeefe
With regards to Vermont I don't know how much tourism there is in the upper end of the Connecticut River Valley. It's quite scenic up there so there must be some. St. Johnsbury also has the advantage of being at the junction of I-93, I-91, US-5 and US-2. There is also some lodging from national chains. That's a pretty good profile for a terminal point of a scenic operation. If you wanted to provide a "day trip" option running from VT to North Conway and return that could be interesting. There of course would be FRA issues here as well (compromises the "insular" designation by going through Whitefield). This is a long haul option which might not be worth it as a consequence.

What would the travel time be at Class 2 speeds?

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  by MEC407
gokeefe wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:26 pm I can tell you right now that if they could run Portland to Sebago Lake during the summer that they would have a winner.
Would they, though?

I've often thought this could be a big draw, but the more I think about it the less sure I am. Here's why: very few people get on the train in Portland to go to Old Orchard Beach. In the planning phase of the Downeaster and during the first few years, it was thought that this would be a hugely popular city-pair during beach season. But it didn't turn out that way. The idea looks great on paper: get on the train in Portland, scoot down to the beach, step off the train and onto the sand without dealing with the hassles of OOB parking and traffic! It should have been big, but it hasn't been, all these years later.

And that's with a train ticket that only costs $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids. Practically giving it away. (You pay more for a 1.5 mile trip on MNGRR or Seashore Trolley Museum.) How much would CSRX have to charge to break even for a Portland-Sebago trip?
  by bostontrainguy
gokeefe wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:26 pm The money is in tourism . . . I can tell you right now that if they could run Portland to Sebago Lake during the summer that they would have a winner.
After the summer seasonal train to Sebago Lake ends you just segue into the autumn cruise ship season. The lucrative affluent cruise ship market loves these sail/rail packages. Cruise to Alaska and take a train across to Fairbanks via Denali. Take the White Pass & Yukon for a day out of Skagway. I have done both of these and they were great

Initially I am thinking day trips from Portland through the Notch for day trips which could be at the start, end or middle of a cruise itinerary. Add a longer itinerary with a stay at the Mount Washington and a trip up the cog terminating back in Portland the next day.

But ultimately I would love to see a longer Grand Circle Tour of New England with the ship sailing one way between Portland and Montreal combined with a scenic leaf-peeper rail journey in the other direction. You can pretty much guarantee fall foliage somewhere along that route in the fall.

I really think there is a market for such a package. The cruise ships already come up here for these popular fall cruises and adding a rail portion should be a winner.

We can dream I guess.
  by gokeefe

MEC407 wrote:Would they, though?
If you look at the numbers for Old Orchard Beach they are indeed quite strong for a destination with only seasonal service. The numbers were better than Freeport. Admittedly that's on a higher frequency schedule but it was nonetheless true. Having observed summer traffic patterns in and out of ORB at various times of day and on weekdays and weekends I can say comfortably that Portland - Old Orchard Beach did in fact have good ridership. What it didn't have was crush crowds which I certainly imagined would eventually occur and I'm guessing you did too. I certainly thought Freeport would develop this way and it didn't.

When I say "good ridership" I mean 20-25+ riders getting on headed back to Portland after a day a the beach. While I would have preferred to see 100+ the other figure was very consistent throughout the summer. I can also say that there is a lot of ride sharing traffic between Old Orchard and Portland. It's price competitive with the rail fare and more time convenient. It also allows a downtown to downtown transit.

The same might be true of Sebago Lake as well. There is of course a risk that it would flop. If the FRA issues were dealt with CSRX is potentially a much better and more flexible option for a seasonal scenic operation than Amtrak. Unfortunately that type of arrangement is not something the host railroad will accept. If there's common carrier mileage involved it's pretty much "Amtrak or not at all".

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  by Rockingham Racer
After arriving at Sebago, how does one get around? I suppose rental car? bike? I don't think there's good "last mile" transport there, and that would have to improve, I would think.
  by Cowford
It's well worth noting that the Mountain Division local traffic was all in forest products.
Actually, that's not true. While you had Gilman Paper and SD Warren more or less bracketing the two ends of the line, the last remaining customers in ME and NH (if memory serves) were propane companies in Windham and N Conway, and a feed company in Steep Falls. I can't think of any others... maybe others here can.
  by S1f3432
Online customers in the early 1980's would have been the Blue Seal feed store in South Windham receiving
40' boxcars of bagged feed from Richford, VT., Cars of LPG for Dixon Brothers at Newhall, covered hoppers
of bulk feed for the feed mill at Steep Falls, occasional cars of fertilizer or seed potatoes in the spring at
Fryeburg, cars of LPG for White Mountain Fuel and millwork for Conway Supply at North Conway, occasional
cars of coal for Conway Scenic at Intervale and the Cog Railway at Fabyans, B&M interchange at Whitefield
and the paper mill at Gilman, VT. Into the late 60's or early 70's 10-15 cars of bunker c fuel oil from the tank
farms in South Portland was interchanged daily to the B&M at Whitefield for the Brown Co. in Berlin but this
contract was lost to the CN. After the termination of YR-1/RY-2 in 1983 a local was called out of Rigby to move
traffic east of North Conway; at some point after the 86 strike this service was cut back to Steep Falls before
ending ( as near as I've been able to determine ) in 1987. Traffic to the feed mill in Steep Falls may have
exceeded Gilman at times, routinely 3-4 cars a day.
  by gokeefe
They are still running traffic like that right now to Augusta and at lower volumes. Is the feed mill still there?

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