ROCKLAND — A New York company has proposed offering daily passenger rail service from Rockland to the Amtrak station in Brunswick, where it would connect with Downeaster trains.

Finger Lakes Railway in Geneva, New York, proposed the plan to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority at its monthly meeting Monday.

George Betke of Damariscotta, a founder and director of Finger Lakes Railway, said the company wants to offer round trips each day from Rockland to Brunswick.

The company’s plan calls for two daily roundtrips on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May through October. The train would make stops in Newcastle, Damariscotta, Wiscasset and Bath, Betke said. A stop in Waldoboro is also being considered, he said.

The proposal calls for a two-year test of the proposed schedule. The rail company will be working with Amtrak, and Betke said he hopes to begin service this summer. The trains would embark from the existing station in Rockland.

“There’s been a lot of talk and no action,” Betke said about restarting rail service.


The new plan calls for using self-propelled rail cars, with the number of cars dependent on the number of passengers. Each car can carry 80 people.

Betke said the company gave a conceptual presentation Monday night, and there are still details to work out with the Maine Department of Transportation.

He said the self-propelled rail cars would be more environmentally friendly than regular trains, with engines that are more like heavy duty truck engines than those that haul rail cars. The cars are diesel powered, but won’t have to be left idling continuously, he said.

Tom Peaco, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has long supported the return of passenger rail service to Rockland and has worked closely with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority toward that goal.

“We are pleased to hear about this new proposal and are eager to learn more,” Peaco said.

Nathan Moulton of the Maine Department of Transportation said that Canadian Pacific, which has a lease for the 56-mile Rockland-to-Brunswick line, is working with Finger Lakes to reassign the lease to the New York company. Canadian Pacific purchased Central Maine and Quebec Railway about a year ago.

Regular passenger service to Rockland ended in April 1959. The train station was built in 1917-1918 at the intersection of Union and Pleasant streets. The Maine Department of Transportation owns the station and the rail line.

Seasonal excursion passenger service between Rockland and Brunswick was offered from 2004 to 2015, when the state ended its contract with Maine Eastern Railroad and awarded the current contract to Central Maine & Quebec Railway.

Amtrak’s Downeaster began service between Portland and Boston in 2001, and extended it to Brunswick in 2012.

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