Maine museum set to begin steam-filled season of operation

RELATED TOPICS: STEAM/PRESERVATION
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Bridgton & Saco River Railroad No. 7 will be under steam for the Maine Narrow Gauge Co. & Museum's first major event of the 2019 season.
Maine Narow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum

PORTLAND, Maine — A fire was being lit inside Bridgton & Saco River 2-4-4T No. 7 today in preparation for what is expected to be a steam-filled season at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, Maine.

This weekend and next, the museum is hosting its first major event of the year called “Spring Aboard.” The family-friendly event lets visitors “shake off the winter blues” and features crafts for kids and, of course, rides behind No. 7, the largest operating steam locomotive in Maine. Wesley Heinz, executive director of the Maine Narrow Gauge, says the event is the first of many they will be hosting on the Portland waterfront this year.

Last year, the 2-foot gauge railroad hauled 60,000 people along the Portland waterfront — a 37% increase over the previous year — and Heinz says he is confident the railroad can top that number this year. Ridership has increased dramatically since 2013, when the railroad hauled about 24,000 passengers.

In an effort to continue increasing its ridership, Maine Narrow Gauge has expanded its operating season. The railroad has been running trains every weekend since February and starting tomorrow (April 13) it will be operating daily until October. Diesels will power trains during the week and No. 7 will be running on the weekends.

Other events this year include ice cream trains and neighborhood appreciation days on select Fridays. On July 4, the railroad will run its Independence Limited, bringing more than 1,000 passengers from downtown Portland to the Eastern Promenade for the city’s annual fireworks show. Later in the year, the railroad will host its biggest event of the year: Polar Express. Last year, more than 15,000 people took the train to the “North Pole.” For a full listing of events, visit the Maine Narrow Gauge website.

Earlier this year, Maine Narrow Gauge announced it was teaming up with another Maine 2-foot gauge museum, the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum, for what has been dubbed an “unprecedented collaboration.” Because of new commercial development on the Portland waterfront, Maine Narrow Gauge is moving the equipment in its museum space north to the WW&F’s facility in Alna. Among the equipment being relocated to Alna for display is the country’s only 2-foot gauge parlor car and Bridgton & Saco River 2-4-4T No. 8. Heinz says the museum equipment will begin moving to Alna next month.

Some of Maine Narrow Gauge’s equipment, most notably Monson Railroad No. 3, is already in Alna and will be under steam for a number of events this spring, Heinz says.

Back in Portland, Maine Narrow Gauge is working closely with the Maine Department of Transportation, which owns the right-of-way the railroad uses, and waterfront developers to ensure the railroad will continue to operate in Portland for years to come.

“We’re here to stay,” Heinz says.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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