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Belfast RR offers weekend train rides

Trains may not be used in Maine as much as they were in the 1800s, but they certainly are not extinct. Thanks to a small army of volunteers from the Brooks Preservation Society, the Belfast Moosehead Lake Railroad (BM&L) is still chugging along in Waldo County. On weekends, the volunteers fire up the engine, taking passengers for a one-hour, 12-mile excursion from Belfast towards Waldo and back.

"The purpose of the train excursions is that people get to ride the train and be on the railroad because it was an important mode of transportation in our history," said Joe Feero, executive director of the Brooks Preservation Society.

According to maine.gov, the BM&L railroad was operated by Maine Central Railroad from 1870-1926. It was mostly used for passenger service from Belfast to Burnham Junction until insurance rates and a decline of passengers forced the railroad to put on the brakes. In 1926, ownership of the train was handed back over to the city of Belfast, which has been offering train excursions since the mid-1980s.

Searsport native Diane Stevens decided to take a ride on the train while her family was in town.

"My grandson just loves trains. He and my son live in Charlotte so this was on our list of things to do when they came up," said Stevens.

Norman Alt, who splits his residency between Brooksville, Maine and New York City, also decided to hop aboard the BM&L Railroad this summer.

"It's a reasonably-priced activity, it's not too long, it's authentic, and there's great scenery too," said Alt. "I just expected there to be a lot more tourists, but there seems to be more Mainers riding today."

Although the coach can hold 60 passengers comfortably and the open train cart can seat another one hundred riders, Feero says the amount of passengers varies from weekend to weekend.

"I've had standing room only during our Common Ground Fair shuttle service, but on average we get 40 to 60 people each weekend day," explained Feero.

Excursions are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, as well as holidays from May to October for a cost of $12 for adults, $11 for senior citizens and $6 for children ages 3-12. All the proceeds are used for the continuous restoration of the railroad.

"There is always track work that needs to be done. We have a coach under rehab and we also have a station in Brooks, and we use the money to keep that maintained," said Feero. "It's all about preservation. Without the opportunity to offer rides, you can't interest the younger people, and if you can't interest the younger ones, this will fade away," he said.

For more on the Belfast Moosehead Lake Railroad and the Brooks Preservation Society, log onto brookspreservation.org.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 December 2011 09:56

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