OAKLAND — Until recently, the train tracks running through the woods were never more than a minor nuisance for the Easton family.
Janet and Thomas Easton bought the 80 acres on Fairfield Street, which is Route 23, in the 1940s and the family has been co-existing peacefully with the railroad company ever since.
But in mid-December, granddaughter Miriam Easton, 28, was snowshoeing with her dog along the woodland trail that her family has maintained for generations when she came across a long train of railroad cars on the tracks. The train cars were blocking the trail, extending as far as the eye could see in either direction.
When the dog, a Shiba Inu named Penny, ran underneath the silent cars, Easton feared the train might suddenly lurch forward, crushing her pet to death.
But the train cars didn’t move. Not all that day, or the day after that, or any day since.
Instead, the empty rail cars, most of them with open doors and covered in a combination of rust and graffiti, have remained on the discontinued rail line of Pan Am Railways for the last five months.
Family members said they made repeated attempts to contact Pan Am to ask that the train cars be moved, but to no avail.
Cynthia Scarano, Pan Am’s executive vice president of communications, said she hadn’t heard of the Easton’s case. She said such situations can often be resolved by uncoupling a car at the crossing and pulling some of the cars forward to create a navigable space.
Scarano said that she will look into the case and see why that hasn’t been done here.
Miriam Easton, lives on the property with her grandmother, now 93. Her grandfather, a former Colby College professor, is deceased.
Her father, Jame Easton, has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to contact the company by phone. About three weeks ago, he went in person to a local office of the railroad and talked to workers there, but they have not followed up with him, she said.
She said that the railroad has always recognized the intersection of the tracks and the trail as a crossing, but that it seems the company may be pulling back from that agreement.
Until the issue is resolved, she said, the only way to use the trail on their property is to climb over the hitching mechanism between the two cars. The family also can’t get a small tractor past the train to haul brush and otherwise maintain the far side of the property.
Easton doesn’t know how many cars or how long the train is. On one side, it extends all the way to Pleasant Street, three-quarters of a mile away, where it can be seen by passing traffic.
Easton, whose property abuts Messalonskee High School, said the family is also worried that the train will become a hangout for teens.
“All it takes is for one high school student to find it and then automatically it’s going to turn into their secret party spot,” she said. “It’s up in the woods so people can’t hear them or see them. I’m worried they’re going to be drinking and smoking pot. Then if someone gets hurt, there’s a question about who is liable.”
Easton said that while she prefers the train cars be removed from the area altogether, she would also be satisfied with a gap being made that would allow her to access the rest of her land, which she used to walk daily with Penny.
Scarano did not respond to requests for comment Thursday and Friday on the status of the train cars.