Central Maine & Quebec Railway on Wednesday won the right to lease the state-owned rail line between Brunswick and Rockland and operate freight service on it.

The decision by the Maine Department of Transportation could mean the end for a summer tourist train, which for 12 years has been operated by the Maine Eastern Railroad. Maine Eastern, which previously held the lease and operated freight trains on the line, was the only other bidder.

Central Maine & Quebec will take over the rail line Jan. 1. The company has no plans to offer passenger service, said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the transportation department.

Maine Eastern’s summer excursion trains were subsidized by its more lucrative freight businesses.

The company, which is owned by Morristown & Erie Railway Inc. in Morristown, New Jersey, offered two proposals for year-round passenger service on the line as part of its bid, Talbot said. However, both proposals would have required a subsidy and the state is not interested in subsidizing a new passenger rail service anywhere in Maine, he said.

Chalmers “Chop” Hardenburg, publisher of the trade magazine Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, said it’s unlikely the summer excursion train will continue because John Giles, who runs the Central Maine & Quebec Railway, is an experienced and savvy freight rail operator who won’t run a passenger service that loses money.


The biggest freight customer on the 57-mile line is New England’s sole cement manufacturer, Dragon Cement in Thomaston. The Maine Eastern Railroad transports cement to Rockland, where it is placed on barges bound for Boston and New York.

The railroad also hauls plate steel to Bath Iron Works, and perlite, a volcanic glass, to the Dicalite plant in Thomaston.

In Brunswick, the line connects with Pan Am Railways, which has links with the national freight rail system in New York state.

Central Maine & Quebec Railway and the state will now negotiate the financial terms of the lease agreement, Talbot said.

Hardenburg said Giles has developed a good working relationship with Pan Am Railways and may be able to build on that partnership to deliver cement from Dragon to customers in southern New England and Quebec.

Central Maine & Quebec is owned by Fortress Investment Group, a global investment-management company with $72 billion in assets as of June 30.

Hardenburg said he never heard of any complaints about Maine Eastern and that it served its freight customers well.

Officials with both railroads could not be reached for comment.


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