Brooks group buys railroad station, locomotive
Brooks — The historic Brooks railroad station and a 60-year-old locomotive have been purchased by the Brooks Preservation Society, which has plans to transform them into productive parts of the community.
Joe Feero, president of the fledgling society, said the properties were bought from the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad Preservation Society, which is liquidating the assets of the railroad that ran between Belfast and Burnham, with stops in Brooks, for more than 130 years.
Mack Page, who runs the City Point Central Railroad in Belfast, hailed the purchase as a necessary first step toward restoring freight and passenger service on the 33-mile line.
The two organizations plan to cooperate in developing excursions between Page's property at City Point in Belfast and Brooks, though Feero said, “a lot of things will have to happen” before passengers board the train.
Page said the equipment he keeps on a siding at City Point “is ready to roll,” and that the lack of a locomotive has kept him from running trains in the past. He said excursions could start next year if funders can be found, and that prospects for freight, including pulp wood and scrap iron, are good.
Page helped to inspect the old B & ML tracks between Belfast and Brooks this summer and said except for two breaches, one of which the B & ML promised to fix, the tracks are fine for operating at 10 miles per hour. That's the speed trains were restricted to during the railroad's grain-hauling heyday in the 1960s and '70s.
Locomotive 53 was purchased second-hand by the B & ML and rebuilt in the 1970s. Page said, "It's the best of the fleet (of engines)” now owned by the railroad.
The locomotive needs eight new batteries, at a cost of $4,500, Feero said, and must be moved from Thorndike, where it is stored, before mid-October for the sale to be complete. Page said the engine also needs an oil change, which involves removing and replacing 125 gallons of oil.
Feero said the engine will likely be taken to Belfast where Page, whose family worked for the B & ML for four generations, will handle the repairs.
Volunteers have already begun repairing the station, which Feero said needs a new roof and platform.
Page said the Brooks station “is famous because it's the last one in Maine to not have been” modernized. “You walk in and it's like Mr. Moody was still there.”
Linwood Moody, a well-known railroad historian and photographer, was for many years the station agent at Brooks.
Feero, 29, is a weekend railroad buff who during the week works for a mental health company in Augusta. He said the Brooks Preservation Society was formed recently after the Brooks Historical Society decided it didn't want to go into debt to acquire the station and locomotive.
Feero said the society currently has four or five members, including Page, and seeks both volunteers and donors to support its work.He would not disclose the price paid for the properties, though Page said they were advertised for sale for $35,000 apiece.