58 Fore Street Marina Public Hearing Coming; Mini-railroad Future Undecided


A Rendering of the Proposed Redevelopment of the 58 Fore Street Marina.

Rendering of an Elaborate Museum Designed by the Railroad’s Architect, Paul Stevens.  All Equipment Would be Under Cover Which It Isn’t Currently.  (See Below Photo.)

Some of the Train Equipment that Sits Outside at 58 Fore Street Exposed to the Elements.  Some Have Said That This Rundown  Equipment is Dangerous as Well as Unsightly.Recently the Museum Experienced a Vandalism.

Donnie Carroll, executive director of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad.  He Was Dressed in his Conductor Uniform for the Polar Express Fundraiser Event in 2016.

A plan to double the size and modernize the marina at 58 Fore Street on the Munjoy Hill waterfront was presented to the Harbor Commission late this afternoon on behalf  of CPB2LLC. for its approval. If the permit is granted, construction would begin this fall. The modernized marina would be available for use in the spring of 2018.

There will be 141 dedicated spaces for boats and additional dedicated space for dinghies according to Laurie Sweatt, of Woodard & Curran, who made the presentation to the Harbor Commission on behalf of CPB2LLC, Jim Brady, managing partner.

Plans also call for wave calmers to reduce the effects of the northeast exposure, a marine resource building, an office for a marina manager and a space for fuel pumping services.

These are all updates from the former Portland Yacht Services, formerly owned by Phineas Sprague, Jr. A waiver for a 25 ft. setback has been requested. The lighted wave calmers will be mostly underwater and built to be finished working docks.

The docks will stay in the water year round because they are not light weight and consequently are difficult to move around said Jim Brady at the Harbor Commission meeting.

Meanwhile, a twenty-five year tenant, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum, is still considering its future location.  Will it stay in Portland or move to Gray?  No decision has been made.  As of last week the mini-railroad had not secured the many millions, $10 M, required to finance the move to the Gray Plaza.  The 40 acres of land owned by Dan Craffey that the mini-railroad had planned to buy from Craffey.  Obviously, an important factor in the equation. The $10 M figure has been downsized from the original $14 M of a few years ago.

“It’s not just a matter of rent.  There are other factors for the mini-railroad to consider.  It’s about its future,” said a member of  CPB2LLC this afternoon.

The railroad architect, Paul Stevens, has designed a station that it would like to see implemented in Gray.  (See above left photo.)

The proposed Museum  would include “administrative space, a library and archives space, meeting rooms, a catering kitchen and space that can be converted into function space…… and a 5,000 sq. ft. restoration building/engine house, a roundhouse, a car barn (capable of holding up to 15 rail cars under one roof) picnic areas, outdoor exhibits and walking paths….the planned route will be shared with cyclists, joggers, walkers, snow mobilers and ATV riders..providing the public with a multi-use recreational opportunity,” according to two-footers literature.  It will also be environmentally efficient AND13,000 sq. ft. large.

Carroll, who admitted he’s stressed – you don’t know what I’m going through personally – acknowledged last week that there had been a recent vandalism on the property that cost less than $10,000.  Vandalism has not been a rare occurrence at the Museum in its twenty-five year life span in Portland. However, there once were volunteers who were able to fix most of the damage caused by the vandals.

The Museum has been looking for funds for the move to Gray since before 2011.  Since he came on board less than five years ago, Carroll has written a plethora of grants and has come up empty-handed.  Recently the executive director acknowledged there is lots of competition for funds – many non-profits looking for money – which has made his task all the more difficult to accomplish.

Last year Gray residents voted not to float $500,000. to the railroad to assist in permitting and similar fees necessary before the move could be made – a disappointment to the Museum. This result, despite the affable, but stressed Carroll’s intense campaign to persuade Gray voters to vote for the funding to assist in the Gray move,  Carroll is a former state representative used to winning campaigns he once said.

However, plans to move to Gray continue to go forward.  Surveying work is being done.  Literature on the move to Gray is available at the grocery store owned by Dan Craffey up there.  It asks for volunteers and donations for the move “in the coming years.”  It’s a good thing that the two-footers own a small plot of land other than the Craffey land on which the train equipment can be stored if necessary.  Because according to a spokesperson for CPB2LLC, the current Portland lease has been extended through this summer -2017 – with provisions to extend it until the end of the year, if necessary.  Previously, the lease agreement between the two was to have ended in February of 2017.

When the two-footers relocated to Portland in 1992 from the Edaville Railroad, in South Carver, Massachusetts, the entire project was done by an all volunteer workforce.  The railroad cars and other equipment came up via a convey of historic, antique trucks organized by the late Irv Bickford, owner of a trucking company  in Yarmouth. The two-foot tracks were laid by volunteers – luxuries that the Museum does not have any more.  Volunteers also ran the Museum store and formed the train crews.  Some of those options no longer exist today.  Volunteers are hard to find.

The two-footers have been trying since 2011 to consummate the move to Gray Plaza.  But a lack of funding since then has prevented the move from taking place.  It was viewed as a compliment to the popular Wildlife Park that draws many children and their families to the area.   Prior to 2011 an interim executive director issued the equivalent of many RFPs to numerous municipilities – looking for someone with the interest and financing to relocate the Museum elsewhere.  A group of rail buffs from Bridgton tried mightly to relocate the “rails” there.  But this group was unable to raise the necessary funds and so a tentative agreement fell through. Please visit post herein dated October 16, 2011 for more background information on the Gray effort.  Additional stories on the two-footers have been written herein.

Meanwhile, the Harbor Commission scheduled a public hearing for the redevelopment of the marina for Thursday, May 11th at City Hall.  Fore Street abutters of the property will be notified of the upcoming public hearing according to Brady.

(P.S. This local Museum situation does bring parallels to mind of a current national situation.  That situation is Dictator Trump’s  determination to build a long wall of very dubious benefit on the US, southern border with funds that have not been procured.  There are plenty of  questions among many whether or not this still unfunded relocation Dream would have the hoped for consequences of its stakeholders.)