PORTLAND – The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, which has operated on Portland’s waterfront since the mid-1990s, is looking for a new home.

Four communities, including Portland, have indicated interest in helping the nonprofit organization find enough land to accommodate a new museum and rail yard.

It appears unlikely that the Narrow Gauge will remain at its current location, on waterfront land and in buildings off Fore Street owned by The Portland Co.

The museum’s landlord, Phineas Sprague, said his property is for sale. And Narrow Gauge officials say the site is too small to meet their maintenance and storage needs.

“Portland is a two-edged sword. It brings us proximity (to city attractions), but it brings us very close to a lot of development,” said Hans Brandes, the group’s treasurer and a member of the relocation committee. “We’d be interested in staying if there were land available. We wish they had something more tangible to offer us.”

The relocation committee sent out requests for proposals to communities across Maine about a year ago. Only four — Bridgton, Gray, Monson and Portland — expressed interest in hosting the railroad and museum.

“All of the towns have historical rail connections,” Brandes said.

Maine Narrow Gauge collects, preserves and displays railroad equipment from Maine’s 2-foot-gauge railroads, which operated from the 1870s through the 1940s.

In addition to the museum, it offers rides in an authentic 2-foot-gauge train, which follows 1.5 miles of track along the shore of Portland’s East End.

Brandes said the committee and Bridgton officials recently held a public forum in Bridgton to discuss the Narrow Gauge’s space needs.

Bridgton is offering land behind a former elementary school off Depot Street, Brandes said.

He said museum officials have also begun discussions with officials in Gray and Monson, in Piscataquis County.

Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones said the city is interested in keeping the Narrow Gauge. Brandes said it brings about 25,000 visitors a year to the city’s waterfront.

Mavodones said he and City Manager Mark Rees plan to meet with Narrow Gauge officials as soon as possible to discuss potential development options.

“We would hate to see them leave Portland. They are an attraction,” Mavodones said.

Sprague said he charges the museum more than $5,000 a month for rent, and that money could be more wisely invested in a building of its own.

“It breaks my heart that they may have to leave,” said Sprague.

The museum does not have a lease and is considered a tenant at will at The Portland Co.

Sprague said people have forgotten that the museum and its historic locomotives and cars were a gift to the city from its founders. The equipment was brought to Maine in 1993 from the Edaville Railroad in Massachusetts.

Brandes, the museum’s treasurer, said supporters don’t have to worry yet. It could take three to five years to relocate the Narrow Gauge.

“We can look at all the sites we want to, but we will need to have property agreements in place and we’ll need to raise money before anything can happen,” he said.

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

[email protected]


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