WATERVILLE — City Councilor Sydney Mayhew says he will do everything in his power to see that passenger rail service returns to Waterville.

It may take several years for a study to be done, approvals granted, funding secured and rail service established, but Mayhew, who represents Ward 4 wants to start the ball rolling now.

He drafted a resolution declaring the city’s intent to explore the benefits of passenger rail service and will seek the endorsement of fellow councilors at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Augusta councilors approved a similar resolution in December.

Passenger rail service ended on the Maine Central Railroad in 1960, according to the Maine Central website.

Amtrak’s Downeaster operates passenger rail service from Brunswick to Portland and Boston. Mayhew says signing a resolution showing serious intent to explore passenger rail service to Waterville is an important first step in the process.

“I think it would be beneficial for Waterville to show its hand on this issue and participate in an obvious economic development opportunity,” he said. “We know what passenger rail service can do from studies of when it went from Portland to Brunswick. It has promoted, really, economic vitality in that area. The city of Brunswick is reaping the benefits. Just imagine what it’d be like for Waterville residents or residents of Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland to see a Boston Bruins or Celtics game, or for a family to go to visit Boston. Plus, it would be an attraction to the college sites here in Waterville.”

The city would have to explore where to put a train station. The possibilities include Head of Falls off Front Street or near the PanAm Railways station off College Avenue, he said.

The presence of passenger rail service would help strengthen downtown and no doubt bring more people to the city to attend Waterville Opera House events and the Maine International Film Festival, as well as visit the colleges and other sites including the historic Two Cent Bridge, according to Mayhew.

Mayhew, a general manager for McDonald’s restaurants, works in Augusta and said he keeps up on activities in that city, including the passenger rail proposal.

“When I saw the city of Augusta moving forward, I said the city of Waterville has to be a beacon light for economic development, not a night light,” he said. “We don’t want to stand in the shadow of any other community. We want to share in the limelight of that.”

He said he discussed his resolution with the other six Waterville councilors, seeking their support, and he thinks he has it.

Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said bringing passenger rail back to Waterville is a great idea.

Stubbert, 77, remembers riding Maine Central Railroad’s passenger trains when he was younger and his father worked on the Maine Central.

Stubbert rode the Old 470 steam locomotive on its last trip in June 1954. Given to the city by the railroad in 1962, it was the last steam engine used for passenger rail service on Maine Central. The steam engine is off College Avenue, near PanAm.

“That particular trip started in Bangor and ended in Portland and obviously stopped in Waterville,” Stubbert said. “You could go anywhere in the country from Waterville. Because Dad worked for the railroad, we would get passes. Mom had friends in Massachusetts and Portland and we used to go visit all these friends. Waterville had a great station. Portland and Bangor had great stations.”

Passenger service continued in Waterville after 470’s last run but ended four years later. Bill Alexander, treasurer of the non-profit New England Steam Corp., which is raising money to buy Old 470 to restore it, recalled traveling by rail to attend Colby College in the late 1950s.

“I’m a great advocate of passenger rail,” Alexander said Friday. “I ride Downeaster and Amtrak all over the country.”

Alexander, a retired Lawrence High School chemistry and physics teacher, is a firemen and steam locomotive engineer who has worked on railroads many years. He says a railroad station would have to be in an area that provides access to buses and other vehicles.

He noted that acquiring passenger rail would require a lot of effort, as well as approval from PanAm, which owns the Waterville tracks.

Meanwhile, Mayhew said Maine Rail Group Inc., a volunteer organization that seeks to promote awareness of the contribution railroads make to the state’s economy, will make a presentation Tuesday. He also invited Sustain Mid Maine and an official from the city of Augusta to Tuesday’s meeting. A state DOT official and representative of Northern New England Passenger Rail are scheduled to speak to the council April 21, he added.

The council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at The Center downtown and will be preceded by a public hearing at 6:45 p.m. to discuss a Bragdon Farms Community Development Block Grant, as well as Waterville Community Land Trust CDBG application.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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