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Rail authority hears proposal for Brunswick-to-Rockland passenger line

A passenger boards the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Freeport, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A passenger boards the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Freeport, Maine.

A new plan has surfaced for Brunswick-to-Rockland passenger rail service. Maine's passenger rail authority was briefed on Monday on a proposal by a subsidiary of Finger Lakes Railway, which is based in upstate New York.

The subsidiary, Midcoast Rail Service, is proposing to use a self-propelled rail car to carry passengers between Rockland and Brunswick. The trips would be timed to connect with Downeaster trains in Brunswick.

A co-founder of Finger Lakes Railway, George Betke, said it could have multiple benefits.

"It would provide better intra-state connectivity between Rockland and certainly Portland, as well as other potential destinations in southern Maine," he said. "It would also be a pioneering experiment from Amtrak's standpoint."

Midcoast Rail would also carry freight on the line. But a major source of freight revenue, Dragon Cement in Thomaston, has said it is no longer shipping product from its plant to Rockland by rail.

Still, Betke said his new company would like to begin operating by this summer and has already acquired a rail car it could use on the runs.

"This type of equipment has been used with great success between Dallas and Fort Worth in recent years. Successful enough so that the patronage warranted going to conventional-length trains to replace the single cars, I think, speaks for itself," he said.

Betke said the trains would make two round trips a day on summer weekends, and one round trip per day at all other times.