CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Maine Trip - MNGRM (part 3)

Sunday (day #2) of our trip looked to be sunny and warm, but not too hot. It also happened to be my birthday. We decided to go to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and walk around for a bit. Apparently, it was "Maine weekend" and anyone who lived in Maine got in for free. As a result, it was busy. And, they were under construction so the whole road and parking situation was torn up. That being said, we managed just fine. We took the "tram" around the park to get an idea of what was there, which turned out to be quite a lot. Sadly, the tram came in the form of a golf cart... no train.

The gardens were lovely, and they had a Children's Garden area that was especially enjoyable. They also had lots of hiking trails, a rose garden area, and several quiet areas where it was possible to get lost among the plants. I believe my wife really enjoyed it too, and it was more for her than for me. After an hour, a plant is a plant. But, they also had a kettle corn vendor on hand originally from Utica and we had fun talking to them about that.

Then, in the afternoon we went exploring for a lighthouse. Specifically, we went to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park. I mean, why not. It is Maine, after all! We arrived in the mid-afternoon and walked through the fisherman's museum at the base of the lighthouse, then walked along the rocks. It was startlingly beautiful, and my first real impression of "the ocean." I have been to Boston a lot and seen the water, but this was different. The rocks on the shore were really cool looking, and we searched for some small shells to bring back. Along the way we slipped and got our shoes wet, but I suppose that is how it goes. It was pretty neat to see the dozens of buoys marking lobster traps below the water. Then, after a dinner of leftover pizza (from my birthday lunch) the sun set over the inn and I passed out exhausted from all of the walking we did.

Monday, Memorial Day, was entirely different. It was rainy, gray, and cold. I believe it was in the fifties, and we did not pack winter jackets though we saw some people in them. However, it was the last day of our trip and we planned to explore Portland and walk around the shops. The first stop was the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. Located along the coast, the museum ran along tracks that originally were standard gauge belonging to the Grand Trunk Railway. When Edaville closed in 1992, the MNGRM stepped up and purchased a lot of the trains and shipped them up. They have quite a collection, housed indoors in a formal museum, as well as at least 8 coaches outside which they use for excursion trains. The ride isn't all that long, along the coast and back, and today proved to be especially difficult for them.

We arrived around 10AM expecting to miss the train scheduled to depart that hour, but were told that their regular engine wasn't working, their operable steam locomotive had been loaned out for the summer, and their back up engine wasn't starting up. So, there was no 10AM train but they hoped to get things working by 11AM. Despite having much to photograph outside, I only took a couple quick shots and headed indoors to the heat. Their collection consists of several coaches (including the only Parlor car in existence in the USA, the "Rangeley"), some freight cars and cabooses, and a steam engine.

Actually, they have two steam engines that originally ran on the Monson Railroad. A special note about them was that after the Monson closed the engines were sold to a scrap dealer in Rochester, NY, where they remained until found and sold to the Edaville Railroad. One engine as I said was on loan, and the other was on static display. They were located in Rochester in a junkyard at the corner of Lyell Avenue and Mt. Read Boulevard, only a few miles from where I lived as a kid. Pretty neat, if you ask me. Two-footers in Rochester yet! 

My wife and I love riding the open-air cars, but today it was just too cold to do so. Despite that, we enjoyed our little trip out. We rode out close to an old swing bridge that was taken out of service in 1984. Then, we were allowed to disembark and walk around. Kids could sit in the engine (I think only kids could fit in it) and ring the bell... a nice touch. Then, after everyone had boarded again the train made its way back to the station. All told, the trip was about 45 minutes though it felt like a lot longer. On a nice day, I bet it would have been enjoyable and perhaps refreshing to ride along the coast and feel the spray from the water. Instead, we were subjected to cold water and our views were of a few boats and a lighthouse in the distance.

The staff were extremely pleasant considering the unfortunate situation they were placed in with the engine not working. There is a movement afoot to relocate the museum to a place that is better suited for it, and I do hope that they succeed. Everything we saw was in good shape and it really is a shame that they are located in what amounts to a run down warehouse in seemingly the middle of nowhere.

We took a bus tour around Portland and the driver/narrator told us all about the city. It was a bittersweet trip, as we wanted to enjoy it but it was so cold and miserable out. Plus, it was our last afternoon in Maine before a 6 hour drive home that evening. We went to another lighthouse, which was much nicer than the first even though we didn't walk around much outside. Then we checked out lots of little shops including a candy store, a popcorn store, a toy store, a potato donut shop (yum), a cooking supply store, and a general tourist trap.

I had a wonderful trip for my birthday and saw a lot of trains. It is a shame that there are four or five places scattered around Maine with two-foot trains and it just isn't possible to see them all in one weekend unless you really rush. We skipped the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad entirely but that too is a railroad being rebuilt on its own old roadbed. Frankly, it would be nice if everything combined into one place but that just isn't realistic. The WW&F, Boothbay Railway Museum, and SR&RL have history where they are and aren't going to move. The MNGRM should somehow become centered among the three, which might be the best of all worlds. I hope to make it back up to tour them again someday.

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