BEYOND ACADIA: EXPLORING THE BOLD COAST OF DOWN EAST MAINE, by Rich Bard; Down East Books, 2019; 307 pages, $19.95

For all the talk about Down East Maine, it is surprising to note that few Mainers and fewer tourists actually go there. Travel writer Rich Bard hopes to change that.

Most folks on coastal road trips go only as far as Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, but there is a whole world of scenic and natural beauty farther east along U.S. Route 1 from Gouldsboro to Eastport, an area affectionately known by locals as the Bold Coast. And Bard’s travel guide, “Beyond Acadia,” introduces us to this fabulous region.

Rich Bard is a wildlife biologist and director of the Scarborough Land Trust. This is his first book, an entertaining and informative travel guide, an enticement to lure people to an almost forgotten part of coastal Maine.

Bard admits there’s not much out there to attract casual visitors — no chain hotels or restaurants, no shopping malls and no amusement parks. He does, however, stress that there is unparalleled coastal beauty with scenic drives, hiking trails, picturesque small villages and towns, local festivals and activities all year round.

He highlights eight villages from Steuben to Eastport, several so small there are no businesses, just the homes of fishermen and artists. He describes how to get there and what you’ll find, along with interesting anecdotes and local history. Other chapters tell of the area’s geography, wildlife, climate and activities like hiking, bicycling, hunting, fishing, swimming, kayaking and boat tours. Lodging and dining options are sparse, but Bard also provides information on camping and restaurants, as well as provisioning at local markets and general stores. Learn which village is “the most diverse village in the region,” which is home to a top-secret naval communications station, about the Black Fly Ball, the Machias Ukulele Club and the steampunk brass marching band.



HIGH GREEN: A STORY OF AN IRISH-AMERICAN RAILROADER by Herbert Cleaves; North Country Press, 2019; 350 pages, $19.95

There was a time in America when railroads were the mass transportation of the first half of the 20th century, connecting villages, towns and cities across the country.

Whiting, Maine author Herbert Cleaves’ ambitious first novel, “High Green,” recaptures the history and nostalgia of short line railroads in New England in the early 1950s. Cleaves knows railroads, having been a trackman and station operator. He also wrote about the history of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad in 1986.

This is the story of the Summit, Bolton and Quarry Railroad in New England in 1951 and 1952, and of the young Korean War veteran locomotive engineer who saves the railroad and himself. John Shanahan has returned from Korea, wounded and adrift, unsure of his future. His father, a wealthy railroad tycoon in Chicago, sends John to New England to close down the S,B & Q line. The line is a victim of other complex financial failures, but John hopes the railroad can be saved.

John’s efforts (and his father’s successful purchase of a rival line) allow the S,B & Q to prosper in competition with trucks. John and the railroad’s loyal employees must contend with union rules, federal laws, train wrecks, blizzards, faulty equipment and an impending state police investigation of a near-collision, while maintaining a tight schedule providing reliable freight and passenger service.

The story contains some romance and drama, but it reads less like a novel and more like a hefty history of railroad lore, loaded with jargon, and is too long by a hundred pages. Still, railroad fans will love the detailed, colorful portrayals of railroad operations, steam and diesel-electric locomotives, and the careful choreography of freight and passenger train schedules down to the minute.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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