AmeriStarRail’s proposed Midcoast excursion service it hopes to launch later this year. Courtesy photo

Another company has proposed an excursion train from Brunswick to Rockland that would include a fine-dining car, marking the latest attempt to revive passenger service on the 57-mile Rockland Branch.

Delaware-based AmeriStarRail wants to launch its service, MidCoast Maine Central, in May. It would include six daily, roundtrip train runs with stops in Bath, Wiscasset and Newcastle. A locomotive would carry several cars consisting of coach, first-class and fine-dining sections, with a capacity of 200–300 passengers.

“Our vision is to make all the remarkable destinations for tourists in the Midcoast more accessible with this excursion network,” said Scott Spencer, AmeriStarRail’s chief operating officer. “It’s the best alternative and best solution for the traffic congestion on Route 1.”

The company would need to reach a deal with Midcoast Railservice, which is leasing the Rockland Branch from the Maine Department of Transportation through 2025. Midcoast Railservice has been running commercial freight on the line and tested a 76-passenger excursion train during the summer tourist season last year ahead of a planned weekend rollout, but the announced closure of the Dragon Products cement plant in Rockland last year and equipment issues with its passenger car have thrown a wrench in its plans. Dragon Products represents 90% of the company’s freight traffic.

“We’re willing to talk,” said George Betke, Midcoast Railservice’s co-founder and vice president. “We want to see trains running.”

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many branch lines across the country be abandoned after the closure of a major shipper,” Spencer said. “It’s important to help Midcoast Railservice generate as much cash flow as possible.”


The Rockland Branch was built in the 1870s and several passenger lines ran on it until 2015. Amtrak is currently exploring extending its Downeaster line to the Rockland Branch.

AmeriStarRail wants to run its excursion line from May 1 to Oct. 27. It also plans to operate a bus line that would make stops along the Rockland Branch and make trips from Logan Airport and South Station in Boston to Brunswick, Rockland, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

“The goal of the MidCoast Maine Central Excursion Network is to enhance tourism experiences, economic revenues and provide a traffic-free alternative for the 2 million+ tourists who depend on the two-lane U.S. Route 1 to visit most tourist attractions along Maine’s MidCoast,” the company wrote in a letter to MaineDOT, which would have to approve any deal the company makes with Midcoast Railservice.

Spencer said the company would consider operating the line seasonally or year-round depending on demand.

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