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.
GP7 #577 is still wearing its maroon and gold B&M livery from the days when the railroad was controlled by its next door neighbor as it moves a cut of boxcars into the yard at Brunswick, Maine during early August of 1976.
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
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.
MEC U18B #406, the Colonel John Allan (the railroad was known to name some of its locomotives), exits the yard at Brunsiwck with two Geeps and a freight in tow on May 20, 1981.
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).
MEC GP7 #562 rolls through Stanwood Street in the Brunswick yard during June of 1981.
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.