By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,237)
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad continues to make tracks toward its destination in Gray – with a scheduled arrival in May of 2017. But until that destination is reached, it has three important stops to make here in Portland – those are at the upcoming Polar Express – its annual fundraiser that starts the day following Thanksgiving Day.
Last week the board of the mini-railroad selected a local architect, Paul Stevens, of SMRT, to prepare a mock-up of what the new railroad station in Gray could look like. That mock-up is based on criteria presented to Stevens including plans for five or six buildings. That poster will be on display at Ocean Gateway Visitors’ Center starting in mid-December. Along with that, Stevens will provide an estimate of the cost to build the facility in Gray – located behind the shopping center, according to Donnie Carroll, the affable executive director for the two-foot railroad. Speaking of the Gray shopping center, pre-site work is underway there. That work is being paid for by the Gray-New Gloucester Development Corp. In order to apply for federal grants, the railroad had to provide very specific details – hence the poster underway by Stevens.
The second phase of the chug to Gray is getting funds to make it happen. Carroll, a former Maine state legislator, will be relying on federal grants, private donations and whatever other revenue can be located. Stevens is expected to assist in that effort. Carroll estimates it will cost $100,000 to move all the equipment to Gray.
Meanwhile, volunteers are busy preparing for the 7th annual Polar Express that starts on Friday, November 28th. The income from that holiday event represents 50% of the two-footers operating budget. As of late last week, presales data from PortTix indicated that 2/3 of the tickets have been sold already. “I attribute that high figure to the great job the volunteers have done in the past. It’s now beginning to pay dividends in presale figures,” said Carroll.
Despite the positive news, Carroll is less certain as to how many more years the two-footers will have a presence at 58 Fore Street. Although it has a lease with the MaineDOT to use the tracks until 2023 in exchange for maintaining them, Carroll is not sure there will be enough equipment and volunteers in Portland to continue running the trains – starting in 2017 and beyond.
The railroad is the former Edaville Railroad of South Carver, Massachusetts. Phineas Spragur, Jr. and a group of rail fans transported much of that line to Portland in the 90s.
Get on board while you can!