The Maine Central Railroad was a carrier similar in nature to the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR) in that it served the State of Maine
and shipped timber and agricultural products. At its height the
railroad never reached 1,000 miles in length but it did serve the
important coastal industries of southern Maine as well as central New Hampshire, and eastern Vermont.
Given its extreme Northeastern location and regional nature the MEC had only a few true rivals including the Boston & Maine and BAR. Until its 1980 buyout by Guilford (which also went on to acquire the B&M) the MEC continued to be a reliable
and efficient transportation artery for the region it served. Today, Guilford operates under the Pan Am Railways banner but its major subsidiaries still remain as operating entities on paper.
The Maine Central Railroad came about in 1862 (a relative late comer to
the scene) when the Kennebec & Portland and Androscoggin &
Kennebec Railroads merged. Both railroads served the southwestern
portions of Maine with the K&P linking Augusta, Waterville, and
Yarmouth while the A&K connected Bangor and Portland via Lewiston
(they essentially connected the two same end points but using different
lines with the K&P’s line known as the Lower Road and the A&K’s the Back Road). Over time and through the latter 19th and early 20th centuries the MEC continued to expand and reached eastern Vermont (through New Hampshire) by 1909 by acquiring the former Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad (to become known as the
Portland Mountain Subdivision) while its eastern extensions reached the
western tips of New Brunswick and the towns of Calais to the south and
Vanceboro to the north.
Expansion continued and branch lines reached to places such as Rockland, Farmington, Bucksport, Harmony, and Dover-Foxcroft. As was the case for northern New England railroading, MEC’s primary traffic base was held in agriculture (of which, potatoes were shipped via the BAR), timber, and paper. For much of its life the MEC worked with or was under the influence of its southwestern connection, the Boston & Maine Railroad (also its link to the outside railroad grid). Cooperation between the two began as early as 1911 and renewed in the 1930s when the depression was hitting everyone hard. In an effort to help cut costs the two railroads worked together and did what they could to help each other. They also partnered in introducing joint bus and airline service along with their passenger trains although the government forced them to divest the airline (called Boston-Maine Airways) in 1940.
The two companies worked together until roughly 1955 when their Cooperative Agreement ended and they began to go their separate ways (although, ironically, they would be back together again when Guilford purchased a controlling interest in both in the 1980s). From this point forward the MEC became a very efficient and well-managed railroad under the guidance of E. Spencer Miller who completely dieselized the locomotive fleet, kept the railroad property well maintained, and introduced Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) across the railroad. A similar situation came about on the nearby B&M during the 1970s when new management greatly improved that company's financial situation, rolling stock, and future outlook.
The Maine Central continued to do well through the 1970s. In 1980 it was acquired by U.S. Filter Corporation, later purchased by Ashland Oil who had no interest in operating a railroad. This company soon sold the MEC to Timothy Mellon, founder of Guilford Transportation Industries. Mellon’s new system included a black livery with a bright orange trim and white lettering and sub-lettered his equipment to the owning railroad (such as the MEC, Boston & Maine, etc.). During Guilford’s ownership large sections of the railroad were abandoned or sold off as unprofitable and as the years progressed much of the two former allies’ rails, the MEC and B&M, were merged together (originally this also included the Delaware & Hudson Railway, which was let go in 1987 following bankruptcy).
Bar Harbor Express: (Washington - Ellsworth, Maine)
East Wind: (Washington - Bangor, Maine)
Down Easter: (New York - Waterville/Rockland, Maine)
Flying Yankee: (Boston - Bangor)
The Gull: (Boston - Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Katahdin: (Boston - Bangor)
Kennebec: (Boston - Bangor)
Mountianeer: (Boston - Littleton, New Hampshire)
Penobscot: (Boston - Bangor)
Pine Tree: (Boston - Bangor)
Skipper: (Boston - Bangor)
Unfortunately, Mellon had little understanding of railroad operations and was only looking to improve his profit potential however possible, even at the expensive of alienating and angering his workforce. Guilford would later change its name to Guilford Rail System and today even it no longer exists, dissolved in 2006 in favor of parent Pan Am Systems’ Pan Am Railways. Today the MEC is still officially on the books although it survives now mostly in name only and The Pine Tree Route is all but a memory. However, the railroad continues to live on serving its successor quite well, and other upstarts have taken over former portions of the railroad such as the Conway Scenic Railroad and Twin State Railroad, which operate sections of the old Mountain Sub.