We were in Portland Maine today, and headed downtown this morning to ride the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad http://mngrr.org/index.php. So what’s the difference between narrow gauge and standard gauge? Standard gauge rails are set 4 feet 8.5 inches apart (4’8.5”). Why this odd size is for another post, but it may have to something to do with wales. Narrow gauge rails are set just 2 feet apart. These 2-foot gauge steam trains connected rural Maine with
the rest of the world from 1879 until just before World War II. Shipping everything from passengers, farming goods, and lumber, these diminutive steam-powered trains served to strengthen Maine’s infrastructure and communication as a great improvement from the days of the rather impractical and weather-reliant horse-drawn buggy. The reign of the 2-footers thundering through Maine’s countryside lasted until the dawning of the modern era of paved roads, trucks, and private automobiles. Some of the appeal for the 2 footers was they were less expensive to build, rolling stock was less costly, and the narrow gauge was able to handle the tight curves that are found in the Maine mountains.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad is in process of restoring much of it’s rolling stock from a number of Maine narrow gauge railroads.
In 2004, the MNGRR's Steam Program fell under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration. This means all four of their steam locomotives now have to go through a thorough inspection. FRA mandated upgrades must then be completed before a locomotive is allowed to run. At the start of 2004, the MNG used it’s available funds to put Monson Railroad engine #4 through the FRA process. To this day, number 4 is their only available steam locomotive.
The museum has since set aside funds to put Bridgton and Harrison engine #7 through the same process. Since #7 is much bigger than #4, the cost for rehabilitating engine #7 exceeds what the railroad can currently afford. They estimate it will cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to put #7 back on track. A fire destroyed much of the engine shed where #7 was being restored in March. Besides the damage to the shed, #7’s chassis and many tools and parts were damaged. This has put their endeavor further behind.
Steam Engine #4 was not operating today so we were pulled by a diesel with no number. The ride is 3 miles round trip along the beautiful Portland water front. The museum is hoping to extend the line an additional three miles. The problem is a swing bridge that needs repair to the tune of $100,000. Maybe if you cough up the hundred grand they would rename the bridge for you!!!! Here are some of the other rolling stock of the MNGRR.
So what is in the museum? Besides the usual displays and gift shops this museum allows you to roam around one of the restoration shops.
So if you are passing through Portland Maine, take time to ride the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad along the Portland Waterfront on beautiful Casco Bay.