A digital rendering shows the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co.’s proposed facility in Gray. File photo

GRAY — Town Manager Deb Cabana said the town is surprised it was not notified — and has still not been officially notified — of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad’s decision to stay in Portland rather than build a new museum and rail line in Gray.

“We’re disappointed that we weren’t informed of (the decision) before it made the papers,” she said.  

The Portland Press Herald reported last week the nonprofit railroad company received zoning approvals to build a new storage facility at the eastern terminus of the 2-foot-wide railway in Portland, near the East End Treatment Plant.

It is seeking approval to build a new ticketing booth and passenger center near Ocean Gateway. The nonprofit plans to pay for the $2 million project with a capital campaign.

The railroad needs to move out of 58 Fore St. by Sept. 2. The site is being redeveloped into a new mixed-use neighborhood called Portland Foreside. Narrow Gauge had originally planned to move the museum to Gray, but those plans have been abandoned.

We had representatives from the railroad visit with us a few months ago, and at that time they led us to believe that there was no definitive decision that had been made,” Cabana said Monday. Even now, “we have not heard from them.” 

Executive Director Wesley Heinz told the Press Herald last week that while a lack of funding was part of the nonprofit’s decision to remain in Portland, the “showstopper” was the inability to develop the property located next to the Gray Plaza shopping center on Route 100 because it was a wetland.

“The business model really supported us staying (in Portland),” Heinz said.

“We’re disappointed that the railroad’s not coming here,” Cabana said. “We worked. We spent a lot of staff time trying to assist Narrow Gauge. We thought we were partnering with them.”

She is unsure about the future of the land that Narrow Gauge purchased for the museum.

In addition, she said the nonprofit “had started fundraising for the railroad museum to be here. I know there are residents in the town of Gray that had contributed to those (fundraisers).”

“My (Town) Council would love to have representatives from the railroad at least come to a council meeting and share with us how the decision was made and if they have any future plans for the land that they purchased here,” Cabana said. We lost “a lot of staff time and interest and support.” 

Narrow Gauge did not reply to requests for comment.

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