The latest attempt at a Midcoast passenger train line is steaming ahead.

The Coastliner, which will launch a weekend excursion service connecting Brunswick and Rockland later this summer. Courtesy of Midcoast Railservice

The Coastliner is billed as an excursion experience, connecting a 57-mile stretch from Brunswick to Rockland known as the Rockland Branch in about two hours. Stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle are planned.

Midcoast Railservice’s 76-seat train car was tested during the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, drawing 628 riders. Tickets cost $20 for an adult and $10 for a child under 13. The train made a dozen round trips to South Pond in Warren, about 12 miles away.

The turnout pleased George Betke, Midcoast Railservice’s co-founder and vice president.

“There were a lot of families on board, couples with young children,” said Betke, who has run railways in New York and Oklahoma.

He said the Brunswick-Rockland service will launch in about a month and run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The train car, powered by a diesel engine, has restrooms, air conditioning and “bigger windows than Amtrak,” Betke said. A second 76-seat train car is expected soon after the service launches. Ticket prices are still being determined.


Midcoast Railservice, Amtrak and the Maine Department of Transportation have discussed using the Coastliner to extend Amtrak service from the Brunswick Visitor’s Center to Rockland, possibly next year.

“The proposed service would help to provide ridership demand and data along with insight into viability of rail passenger service in the Midcoast,” the department said in a statement. “The scheduled passenger service … is planned to make up to three roundtrips between Rockland and Brunswick each day to provide a safe, reliable, public transportation option for residents and visitors along the Route 1 corridor.”

The Coastliner’s Bath stop would be downtown, while the Wiscasset and Newcastle stops are still being reviewed, Betke said.

Midcoast Railservice leased the tracks, which were built in the 1870s and rebuilt in 2004, from MaineDOT last year through 2025. It started running freight cars before its planned passenger line. Betke said the tracks are in good condition.

Betke has promoted the Coastliner through press releases and by displaying its train at Bath Heritage Days, which he said helped spread the word. He said the train would be ideal for events this fall like the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta. People can charter the train, he said.

Maine Central Railroad operated a passenger line on the Rockland Branch in the early 1900s, and there have been several succeeding passenger lines. The last was Maine Eastern Railroad, which ran a passenger line that was shut down in 2015.

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