ROCKLAND — Seasonal passenger train service could return to Rockland.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority announced Monday at its annual meeting that it will “explore implementation of service on the Rockland Branch.”

The Downeaster Coastal Connection pilot program would be an extension of existing schedules, using existing equipment. This seasonal and weekend-only service would provide Downeaster transportation to Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle, and Rockland.

Details, including a schedule of public meetings to gather input from communities along the line, will be announced soon, according to the organization’s website.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is a public transportation authority created in 1995 by the Maine Legislature to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine.

Seasonal passenger excursion trips were offered on the 57-mile rail line from Rockland to Brunswick from 2004 through 2015. That service ended when the state ended its contract with Maine Eastern Railroad and awarded a contract to Central Maine & Quebec Railway.


Freight continues to run on the line, largely for Dragon Products. The cement plant sends rail cars about 5 miles on the line from its Thomaston plant to its dock on Rockland’s South End waterfront, where a barge is then filled and product shipped to the Boston market.

The line has operated with freight traffic since May 1990, five years after Maine Central Railroad abandoned the spur.

The state awarded a contract in November 2000 to Atlas Railroad Construction for $22.6 million to upgrade the tracks to handle passenger trains. That work was completed in 2002, and passenger excursion trains resumed running on the Rockland line in 2004.

Seasonal excursion passenger service between Rockland and Brunswick began in July 2004, stopping that first year next to Sandy Beach. In 2005, passengers were dropped off outside the train station on Union Street. In 2006, the station was renovated and a restaurant was added.

Regular commuter train service ended in Rockland in 1959.

The train station was then used as Rockland City Hall until 1996. The city sold the station to the Maine Department of Transportation.

The Downeaster began service between Portland and Boston in 2001 and extended to Brunswick in 2012.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: