Gray Embraces “Two-Footers” at Ceremony Today as Economic Boon

Sharon Hickey Receives the Gift of a Donation of Land from Alice  Richards, of CMP Today.

Sharon Hickey Receives the Gift of a Donation of Land from Alice Richards, of CMP’s Real Estate Division Today.

Conceptual Plans for Two-Footer Museum in Gray.

Conceptual Plans for Two-Footer Museum in Gray.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,752)

“It will put us back on the map,” said Florence Fossett, 76, this morning as she arrived for the  ceremony that will help allow the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum to operate a two mile ride out of the Gray Shopping Plaza.  “Gray used to be a destination place because you had to go to Gray to get somewhere else.  That was in the 40’s and 50’s,” the Gray resident said. The parking lot ceremony marked the beginning of a several year train trip northwest to  Gray and the beginning of the end of a twenty-one year tenure on the Portland waterfront at the base of Munjoy Hill.  Donnell Carroll, executive director of the Museum,  expects the move to be completed in 2016, in time to present its annual fundraiser the Polar Express.   Meanwhile, the Museum hopes to maintain a minimal train ride presence at its current 58 Fore Street location until 2023; that is if profits justify the effort.

The occasion marked the culmination of three years of sometimes intense and complicated negotiations with the numerous parties involved in getting to this day.  Almost four years ago, a group representing Gray interests met with representatives of the Museum to discuss the possibility of bringing the Museum to this  bedroom community of Portland and Lewiston said Leo Credit, president, of the Gray New Gloucester Development Corp. today in his remarks.

The highlight of the occasion was the presentation of a facsimile of a deed to the Gray property by Alice Richards, of CMP’s Real Estate Division to Sharon Hickey, president of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.  Richards said that CMP “is delighted to help  re-create what was happening in this very spot nearly 100 years ago – when the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad operated its 90-minute trip with 11 stops for just 75 cents.  It is a rich piece of history that should  not be forgotten.”

Museum officials issued RFPs in 2010 to communities in Maine when it become apparent that Phin Sprague, Jr., owner of the almost ten acres of valuable waterfront property was seriously looking for a purchaser of the historic property.  The sale of the Portland Yacht Services property on which the Museum has been located  to Jim Brady and his investment group last year for $15 million accelerated those plans.

The next phase of the move is expected to be the most challenging of all.  That involves a fundraising campaign to raise $6 million to cover the costs of permitting in Gray, laying the track and most importantly relocating the rolling stock and contents of the Portland Museum to Gray.  That is expected to be completed in 2016.  When most of the former Edaville Railroad, South Carver, MA., was purchased and relocated to Portland Yacht Services on September 19, 1993, the work was done exclusively by volunteers. A convey of forty-three antique trucks driven all by volunteers brought more than fifty pieces of equipment north in a journey that took 9 l/2 hours to complete. The convoy received a police escort and tolls between the two locations were waived. The track was laid by volunteers, many from the Seashore Trolley Museum. The Portland Museum  relied on the Trolley Museum’s expertise, volunteers  and its hydraulic equipment.  However, these options do not exist today.

“We are excited to have the narrow gauge coming here.  It will bring a lot of tourism to Gray,” said Karen Taylor, a volunteer for the Gray Historical Society.