FALMOUTH — A 2,000-foot-long train carrying rails to extend Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland to Brunswick never made it to Portland on Wednesday, so drivers were spared the long traffic delays that city officials had told them to expect.

But today, drivers will want to avoid railroad crossings in the city.

The train, which spent most of Wednesday in Falmouth, is expected to cross Riverside Street, near outer Washington Avenue, early today before approaching Morrill’s Corner about 9 a.m.

Morrill’s Corner, where Allen, Forest and Stevens avenues meet, is one of Portland’s busiest intersections.

The train will then proceed slowly through the city, crossing more than a dozen streets, including Forest Avenue at Woodfords Corner, and Congress Street near St. John Street, before ending its journey near the Fore River Parkway.

“Some intersections will be worse than others,” said Jim Russell, project manager for the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

City officials warned motorists in advance about travel delays on Wednesday — the city even used electronic message signs — because of the train’s passage through the city.

But as the day wore on, it became evident that the train would not make it to Portland as it approached from the north.

“It’s quite an undertaking to see,” said Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman. “But we are all kind of at their mercy.”

Russell said the train’s threader car, which unloads steel rails from the rail cars, had a mechanical malfunction Wednesday morning. The train started laying rail down near Field Road in Falmouth around 12:30 p.m., before it started chugging south toward Portland.

The train made it to a railroad crossing on Blackstrap Road in Falmouth — near Lambert Street in Portland — around 6:20 p.m.

By then, it was dark and raining hard. Russell said the decision was made to quit for the day. The train spent the night on tracks off Riverside Street in Portland.

Russell said the train, owned by PanAm Railways, left Indiana last week. It arrived slightly ahead of schedule, on Tuesday, at the Rigby Yard in South Portland.

The train, which is about a third of a mile long, consists of 27 cars that hold 50 strings — each string is 1,600 feet long — of welded rail line. Each string weighs about 67,000 pounds.

The strings of rail are deposited beside the existing tracks by the threading car. They will be installed later.

Russell said that, since August, crews have installed more than 15 miles of new rail line between Brunswick and Cumberland.

Crews will return next year to replace some of the wooden ties in the rail bed, and to rebuild 36 road crossings.

Amtrak service between Portland and Brunswick is expected to begin by the fall of 2012.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Rail Authority, said trains will be able to reach speeds of 70 mph. The project is expected to cost $35 million, funded primarily with federal economic stimulus money.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]