A History of Railroads in Maine


Aroostook Valley
Bangor and Aroostook
Belgrade and Moosehead Lake
Boston and Maine
Maine Central
St. Lawrence and Atlantic
Maine Coast
Eastern Maine
Grand Trunk
Guilford Rail Systems
Canadian Pacific
Canadian National
Acadian Railway


The first railroads in Maine were chartered in 1832-1833, and the first tracks were completed in 1836 by the Bangor and Piscataquis Canal and Railroad, and ran from Bangor to Old Town. This was the second railroad in New England.

For the next centuray, little was done to expand the railroad network in Maine, and by 1924 there were just over 2,000 miles of track within the state.  In the 1920s, abandonment and even removal of track was the norm.  It was not until the 1970s and following that, while the era of the railroad was decreasing within the nation at large, its usage was increasing within the State of Maine. Today, the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad carries more freight than ever before.

Aroostook Valley Railroad

Construction of the Aroostook Valley Railroad began in 1909, with tracks running from Washburn to Presque Isle.  Branch lines were later added, serving the localities of New Sweden, Carson, and Caribou. At its peak, the AVR owned fewer than 32 miles of mainline track, making one round trip between Presque Isle and Caribou.  The AVR was eventually abandoned and closed in 1996.

Bangor and Aroostook Railroadbarsignblue

In 1864, a charter was obtained from the State of Maine to construct a railroad from Bangor to Moosehead Lake.  In 1868, the state granted the company more than 70 thousand acres for the purpose of constructing a railroad. The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad was incorporated in 1891, combining the Bangor and Piscataquis Railroad and the Bangor and Katahdin Railroad.  In 1893, the railroad was extended to Houlton, and a year later it reached Caribou and Fort Fairfield. By the early 1900s, the BAR served the localities of Patten, Limestone, Ashland, Van Buren, and Searsport.  The primary source of traffic for the BAR is, of course, the pulp and paper industry.  Iron Road Railways purchased the BAR in 1995.  The BAR has currently filed for bankruptcy protection, and is expected to be sold to Rail World, Inc., a Chicago company.

Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad

Founded in 1867, the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad became operational in 1870. Operated by Maine Central Railroad for 54 years, it has been run by the City of Belfast since 1926.  Until 1960, it operated primarily as a passenger line.  Since 1980, it depends mostly on excursion traffic. The Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad operates just over 33 miles of track.

Boston and Maine Railroad

The Boston and Maine Railroad has its origins in the earliest of New England railroads.  The Boston and Lowell, as well as the Andover and Haverhill Railroads extended service to the border of Maine in 1843. The Portland, Saco, and Portsmouth Railroad originated as a means of extending the railroad from Portland to South Berwick in 1842, connecting with the Boston and Maine Railroad in South Berwick. In 1887, the Boston and Maine Railroad purchased the Portland, Saco, and Portsmouth Railroad, providing passenger service from Boston to Portland until 1965.  The Boston and Maine Railroad operated just over 42 miles of track within the State of Maine, all in York and Cumberland counties. It is now owned by the Guilford Rail System.

Maine Central Railroad

The Maine Central Railroad was the first railroad built in the State of Maine, with track from Bangor to Calais, constructed with wooden rails and horsedrawn power.  Organized in 1862, the Maine Central Railroad, providing rail service between Waterville and Portland via Augusta and Brunswick. In 1870, the Maine Central Railroad purchased track between Augusta and Skowhegan. The following year, it extended its track from Brunswick to Lewiston, and from Leeds Juntion to Farmington. In 1883, it acquired the track from Bucksport to Bangor. No further extensions of its track took place until 1955, when it extended its track from Bangor to Mattawamkeag.  The Maine Central Railroad was purchased by Guilford Rail System in the early 1980s.

St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad

Organized as the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad in 1853, it was taken over by Grand Trunk Railroad the same year.  The Grand Trunk constructed port facilities in Portland, and established a connection with the Boston and Maine Railroad. Its chief source of traffic was the import and export of goods at Portland. In 1933, as Canada established a policy of favoring its own ports, business for the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad dropped dramatically.  Between 1960 and 1974, a number of fires destroyed most of its port facilities, resulting in the sale to the State of Maine of what is now the Port of Portland. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad is now affiliated with the Canadian National Railroad, and operates between Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec.

Maine Coast Railroad

Operated by the State of Maine for ten years, carrying some freight traffic, but primarily providing train tours along the coast of the state, the Maine Coast Railroad ceased its operations in December of 2000.

Eastern Maine Railway

A subsidiary of the Irving Group, the Eastern Maine Railway operates track between Vanceboro and Brownville, where it connects with the Canadian American Railroad from Brownville to the Quebec border and beyond.  The entire line was constructed in the 1880s by Canadian Pacific Ltd.  Canadian Pacific divested its interest in the line in the 1990s as it concentrated its rail business on the western Canadian routes.

Acadian Railway

Acadian Railway represents the tour industry’s newest network of international rail tours in the northeastern United states and eastern Canada. Tours start from New York, Boston, Portland, Halifax, and Montreal. Each tour during the summer or fall season features one or more Acadian Railway trains as its centerpiece.

Photographs of railroads and rail stations in the State of Maine are very much appreciated, and may be sent to Ken Anderson.  You will be credited for the photograph, including a link to your site, if requested.

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