SOUTH PORTLAND — A new monument to the city’s railway history will soon greet walkers, runners and riders along the Greenbelt near Mussey Street.

A culmination of the first Adopt-a-Rail project, the historical marker will be placed alongside a section of railroad that Brown Elementary School students worked to preserve earlier this year. 

The year-long project by approximately 45 fourth-grade students in Robin Reinhold’s and Michael McCann’s classes was a collaborative effort between the School Department and the city, including the South Portland Historical Society, the Parks and Recreation Department and the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce.

Future maintenance of the railroad and marker will serve as a stewardship project for future Brown students, said Jane Eberle, director of business partnerships for the School Department.

Established with proficiency-based education in mind, the project provided a way for students to get out of the classroom for hands-on learning, Eberle said Tuesday. 

“The intention is to have a project to help with the learning (that isn’t) just sitting at the desk,” Eberle, who is also the chamber president, said.

Not only did the year-long project expose students to more active types of learning, but they are “now aware of the historical significance of that site,” she said.

The work coincided with themes of community involvement and leadership that teachers at Brown implemented last year, Brown Principal Margaret Hawkins said Wednesday morning. 

“It really tied in beautifully,” Hawkins said. “… I think the students felt very connected to South Portland, and I think they felt like they were doing a service to the entire community by bringing this project to the forefront. We were very, very happy with the results.” 

The section of railroad track near 71 Mussey St. dates back to the late 1950s, according to Pan Am Railways, which partnered with the school on the project. The bumping post at the end of the rail was determined to have been installed around 1920. 

The entire collaborative effort was completed with donated time and supplies, Eberle said. The only cost will be completing the panel portion of the marker – between $300 and $400 – and will be provided by the chamber.

Eberle said she hopes to facilitate similar restoration and stewardship projects with the city’s other four elementary schools in the coming years.

She has tentatively identified four other spots along the Greenbelt Walkway, including a granite mile-marker near the intersection of Broadway and Evans Street that lists the mileage to Portland on one side and Boston on the other.

“I think stewardship is symbolic. It’s as much symbolic as it is fiscal,” Eberle said. “It’s just a valuable lesson in community activism.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Sidebar Elements

A historical marker about South Portland’s railroad industry at the turn of the century will be installed on the portion of the Greenbelt Walkway near Mussey Street later this summer.

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