End of the line for B&MLRR

By Beth Staples | Feb 05, 2008

Unity — The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad and Preservation Society announced Tuesday, Feb. 5, that it will cease operations and is looking to sell its assets and equipment, following two disappointing years of ridership and a lack of member support.

The announcement, made in a press release, follows several previous attempts to stimulate interest in supporting the 140-year-old railroad, whose original charter was signed in 1867 by Gov. Joshua Chamberlain.

“We are very grateful to our corporate sponsors and other members who have supported the Preservation Society as we provided special excursions, holiday and foliage tours, and special events,” said Robert Lamontagne, president of the Belfast Railroad Preservation Society.

“We regret that the society cannot continue running operations at a loss. We want to carefully review and examine our status with the state and other contractors in order to ensure an orderly transition, and hope to find interested buyers for the equipment and station house facilities.”

Under the ownership of several different organizations over the last 140 years, the railroad carried freight through Central Maine. Following the decline of the freight business in the 1980s, it operated as a tourist attraction. The Preservation Society was formed in 2005 to run the railroad and operate a train museum, catering to tourists and railroad buffs.

According to Lamontagne, there was public sentimental interest in the train, but not enough financial support for the organization to break even.

According to a press release, the nonprofit organization carries tremendous financial overhead due to the costly equipment and rail operations. Its dependence on grants and memberships, said the release, was not a sustainable financial plan.

Because the railroad runs on tracks owned by the state, Preservation Society officials met with representatives of the Maine Department of Transportation to agree on a transition plan for track maintenance and oversight.

Following this agreement, the nonprofit organization said it would plan a responsible and speedy approach to closing down operations.

Visit unitytrainmuseum.org for updates on the transition.
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