As a longtime railroad buff, I looked forward to seeing the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co & Museum, in Portland. Toward the end of the 19th Century, the Pine Tree State boasted five “narrow gauge” railroads, whose name came from the fact that the span of their rails was but two feet.
Some 200 miles of narrow gauge railroad lines operated in Maine from the 1870s until the 1940s. Transporting passengers and freight alike, those in Maine were the smallest narrow gauge common carrier railroads in the United States. They performed an important function, connecting the less populated rural areas with the larger cities. Thus, they played an important role in the economic development of the state’s interior.
Founded in 1992, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization, whose mission is to educate the public and preserve historic equipment related to Maine’s two-foot gauge railways. Over 55,000 visitors come to the museum annually.
The MNGRC&M boasts an impressive collection of rolling stock, although not all of it is operational. There are steam locomotives, passenger coaches (open and enclosed), combine cars, cabooses, box cars, a snow plow, a line inspection car (constructed from a pair of co-joined Model Ts, and a rail bus. As is usually the case with organizations that preserve the technology of the past, virtually all of the museum’s workers are volunteers. Keeping locomotives and cars that are over a century old in working order is a labor of love – and it entails a heck of a lot of hard, dirty work.
The day we rode the rails was rather chilly and damp, but we thoroughly enjoyed the ride we took on the train!