A southbound Downeaster train arrived in Boston just after 11:30 p.m. Thursday after being stranded in a remote area of North Berwick because of an engine problem.

Officials who manage the Amtrak service blamed the disruption on severe winter weather and the lack of an indoor maintenance garage on the line, which operates trains between Brunswick and Boston. Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said Thursday that she wasn’t sure what the problem was with the engine.

The train, scheduled to arrive in Boston at 5:05 p.m., came to a stop in North Berwick around 3:30 p.m. Its late night arrival in Boston made it more than 6 hours late.

There is no road access to the area so buses could not be used to transport passengers. Instead, a Downeaster train that left Brunswick at 5:55 p.m. met up with the disabled train in North Berwick and pushed it to Boston.

The disabled train arrived in Boston just after 11 p.m., according to Amtrak’s website.

At the time it broke down, 25 passengers were aboard the train. All were headed to one of the line’s three Massachusetts stops, in Boston, Haverhill or Woburn.


Although the disabled train could not move, the engine could still idle, so the heating system still worked, Quinn said.

She said this winter’s severe weather has caused Downeaster locomotives and cars to become covered with ice and snow. Because the line lacks a covered layover facility, maintenance crews have struggled to remove ice from the train so they can do maintenance, she said. She said that happens to some extent every year, but the Downeaster is enduring its harshest winter since service began in 2001.

A layover garage, such as the type the authority has proposed building in Brunswick, would make it much easier for crews to remove ice from the trains and maintain them, Quinn said. Many residents who live near the proposed site oppose the plan because of concerns about noise and fumes so close to their homes.

“These situations happen all the time,” Quinn said. “The need for such a facility is very real and obvious.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection plans to hold a public hearing March 25 on the authority’s application for a storm water permit, the only remaining approval it needs before beginning construction on the layover facility.

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