The train will not be crowded, but the folks who disembark from the Amtrak Downeaster's Moonlight Madness at 11 Thursday night very likely will be ready to shop.
The train will leave Boston at 8 p.m. and make all of the Downeaster's regular stops on the route to Freeport. The late-night run is part of the town's Moonlight Madness holiday promotion, which will include a small road race and the midnight opening of most stores in Freeport Village and Freeport Village Station.
Advance bookings suggest the train won't be overcrowded. About 40 tickets had been sold by Wednesday, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.
Quinn said, "We just wanted to throw (the Thanksgiving night run) out there.
"We will evaluate based on our experience this year, and we certainly expect that next year will be better than this year. We consider things like this to be a building block for the future."
This is the first holiday season that Amtrak has served Freeport. Amtrak extended its Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick on Nov. 1.
Quinn said early ridership trends are promising, especially on weekends.
Moonlight Madness is a promotion of the Freeport Merchants Association, meant to draw people who might otherwise go to the malls or big-box stores for Black Friday shopping.
The celebration will include a Fun Run at midnight and a festival atmosphere. The train will add to the excitement, said Kelly Edwards, events coordinator for the merchants association.
Santa will be on the train, she said, and a welcoming committee will hand out coffee and cupcakes to passengers when they arrive in town.
"The train arrives at 11, and that's when a lot of the activities will begin," Edwards said.
The road race, a short run through the downtown core, will begin at midnight. About 300 runners are expected to participate, Edwards said.
"It's going to be very busy" during Moonlight Madness, she said. "It's almost like (Black) Friday during the day. We have a ton of people, and the stores are packed."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: