PORTLAND – Volunteers are what keep the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum running, so when one of their restoration volunteers turned 90, they took a break to honor Stanley Fletcher.

As faithful as a train schedule, Fletcher has been reporting for duty at 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays to help restore old train cars in the museum’s collection. He’s been volunteering his time, about six hours a day, for nearly eight years.

“I knew they needed help and I wanted to keep busy,” Fletcher said of when he decided to volunteer. “I was handy and I knew I could help them. I’ve been here ever since.”

Recently, Fletcher and other restoration volunteers finished up work on an open car, No. 102. Most of the cars he has worked on needed a new roof, refinishing and other tweaks to bring it back to life.

“They’re all in sad shape and need restoration,” he said.

Christina Aliquo, who coordinates the volunteers, said with original cars dating back to the late 1800s, they all need restoration work and regular maintenance.

“It’s all hands on work,” she said.

For Fletcher, it is work that he is used to after a long career of civil engineering. During his career, he traveled wherever the projects took him, whether that was constructing the “Jersey Pike” or working on a lock on the Ohio River. The restoration work on trains keeps his skills in use and gives him something to do.

As the rail system became obsolete during the early 20th century, the train cars that were spared from scrap went to a museum in Massachusetts. When that museum went bankrupt, a group of Maine people gathered together to buy the collection, starting the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum in 1993, Executive Director Susan Davis said.

Since then, volunteers have built up the rail system, restored cars and established a museum for visitors.

Davis said about 25 percent of volunteer hours are dedicated to restoration. She said they tirelessly work in bringing the trains back to life and keeping them well maintained.

“The waterfront location is hard on our equipment,” Davis said. “They do the best they can to keep us up and running.”

Even if it is an unexpected fix, such as a broken window or door on a train car, she said the volunteers typically have it fixed within 24 hours.

“I think this has added 10 to 15 years on volunteers lives because it gives them a purpose and they see the results of their work,” Davis said.

With the railroad and museum relying on these dedicated volunteers, she said the organization makes its best effort in showing their appreciation. When Fletcher was presented with a “nice big cake” and a 90th birthday celebration, he realized the importance of his work.

“I’m glad they’ve appreciated my help,” he said. “And it was very good cake.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]

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