Rail service in the works

The passenger rail service may be returning to Waterville once again, thanks to the recent efforts of City Councilor Sydney Mayhew to emphasize the importance of bringing it back to the small Maine city. This past Tuesday, April 14, Mayhew proposed the idea at Waterville’s council meeting, asking fellow councilors for support. The first steps that need to be taken towards reestablishing the rail service must be for the councilors to sign a resolution that displays serious intent to explore the idea. To support this process, Mayhew has received help from the Maine Rail Group Inc., a volunteer organization that aims to raise awareness about the economic benefits that railroads provide.

“I think it would be beneficial for Waterville to show its hand on this issue and participate in an obvious economic development opportunity,” Mayhew told the Portland Press Herald this past week. “We know what passenger rail service can do from studies of when it went from Portland to Brunswick. It has promoted, really, economic vitality in that area. The city of Brunswick is reaping the benefits.”

The previous rail service was officially constructed in 1910 and ran steadily until being ended on the Main Central Railroad in 1960. The Old 470 steam locomotive was the last steam engine used for Maine Central passenger rail service, and saw its final trip in June 1954. Currently, it sits near PanAm station off College Avenue.

Reconstructing the passenger rail service would add economic prosperity and stability to the downtown Waterville area, draw more attendees to art events, as well as boost visits to local colleges and historic sites. But beyond having an increased flow of visitors, the presence of the rail service would also provide more accessibility to various destinations for current residents. “Just imagine what it’d be like for […] residents of Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland to see a Boston Bruins or Celtics game, or for a family to go to visit Boston.” Mayhew said to the Portland Press Herald, “Plus, it would be an attraction to the college sites here in Waterville.”

Although it may take a multiple years for the rail service to be officially established after securing approvals and funding, Mayhew is already well on his way with finding support from councilors. According to the Portland Press Herald, Council Chairman Fred Stubbert. Expressed his agreement in that he believes reconstructing the passenger rail station is a great idea, and he fondly recalls memories of riding the passenger trains on Maine Central Railroad’s when he was a child.

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