Wednesday, September 14, 2011

YAY History: The Downeaster

©2011 Boston to a T
Well its taken me a little while but I finally have a new history segment! This month I'm going to be sharing with you the history of my favorite train, Amtrak's Downeaster. I'm hoping a lot of you have heard of this service but if you haven't I hope you go and check it out after reading this post!

The Downeaster is owned by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and is operated by Amtrak. It was put into revenue service on December, 15 2001 and currently runs five round-trip trains daily from Boston's North Station to Portland, Maine. Over its almost 10 years in service the Downeaster has become Amtrak's fastest growing service moving over 500,000 passengers during fiscal year 2011.

The Downeaster follows a very historic route, on 116 miles of trackage, through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. The route was once used by a joint passenger service between the Maine Central Railroad and the Boston and Maine Railroad that was dubbed the Pine Tree. The only difference is that the Pine Tree terminated in Bangor. At the present time the Downeaster uses a bus to shuttle passengers from the Portland Transportation Center to Bangor.

A Boston bound Downeaster at Anderson/Woburn station
Since the train is operated by Amtrak the ride, which takes only about two and a half hours, has a lot of great amenities. There is a full service food car, business class seating (which is actually nicer than the business class on Northeast Regional trains), and it is the only train, other than Acela, to offer free WI-FI internet! The Downeaster also has a "Train Host" program where volunteers help passengers onboard with finding and signing up for attractions near the Downeaster's stops.

Since the beginning of 2010 the Downeaster has been going through its first major expansion since the route was re-opened in 2001. The $38 Million project, which is set to be finished by the fall of 2012, will expand the Downeasters route northward to Brunswick. The Downeaster Expansion Construction Project includes the rehabilitation of approximately 27 miles of track between Portland and Brunswick owned by Pan Am Railways, and approximately 1.2 miles of track in Brunswick owned by the MaineDOT. The current jointed rail will be replaced with continuously welded rail (more on this from Tyler at IridetheT)  36 grade crossings will be fully rebuilt and signaling systems will be reconfigured and upgraded along the whole route. The majority of the work will be completed by Pan Am Railways’ labor forces and equipment, with certain elements to be constructed by MaineDOT. Upon completion of construction, Amtrak will extend two of the Downeaster’s daily round trips to Brunswick and it will create two brand new stations in Freeport and Brunswick. 
This is two Downeaster train sets coupled
together! You can see that it extends way past
the end of the platform!

Overall, the Downeaster is just plain awesome! I take it during the winter to go skiing but its also wonderful during the summer! I really hope you go out and take the train to maine and see what its like! If you want more information on the Downeaster or if you want to book a trip you can visit Well thats this months history lesson! If you have any suggestions for me please leave a comment!


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