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Portland to Montreal Passenger Rail Update

With passenger rail lines on the verge of extinction with the Ontario Northland Service from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst Ontario and VIA Rail service in the Maritimes, it may seem awkward to be writing about the big dream of restoring passenger rail service from Portland to Montreal. I do feel that updates are worthwhile.

A February 26th article from the Portland Express Herald has stated that, The federal Surface Transportation Board on Tuesday granted permission to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad to discontinue freight service on 24 miles of track between the Auburn city line and Portland. The decision – to be effective on March 27 – means B&M, the railroad’s only customer on the line, will lose the train service unless the bean plant is willing to subsidize it. Read the rest of the article HERE.

B&M, which has been making baked beans in its five-story brick factory on the waterfront since 1913, currently gets nearly all of its small pea beans delivered by rail from the Midwest and Manitoba, Canada. The bean shipments amount to several million pounds per year, or about 30 rail carloads per year.

While this is tragic news for the future of the plant, does it have an affect on dreams of restoring passenger rail service? Since the state owns the rail line between Portland and Auburn, the tracks will not be tore up therefore the short term future of the line is secure.

In 2011 the State of Maine released a study, now added to our All Canadian Studies and Map Page on this site, about the feasibility of restoring passenger rail service between Montreal to Portland. Essential reading to understand the truly daunting task ahead.

On a positive note in April 2013 the State of Maine passed Bill LD-999 that directs Maine's Department of Transportation to take a look at developing a new rail corridor between Portland and Auburn along the existing St. Lawrence & Atlantic rail lines.

So for now it is status quo in the quest for Portland to Montreal passenger rail dreams.