RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Maine 137

Many times camping trips involve exploring new territory and discovering enticing attractions along the way. Passenger tour trains have that magnetic appeal for many RVers, providing a novel way to see hidden countryside not normally viewed from the road. Railroad passengers learn about local history, culture and the many colorful characters from the communities visited.

Camping World wants to make sure you don’t miss the departing whistle, so we have created a series entitled RVing the Rails. You will find the most popular excursion trains to ride in each state, complete with any specialty trains they might offer.

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Colorado - Camping World

Today we will start with the most popular trains in Maine:

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Paul VanDerWerf (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

The late 19th century brought an unusual hybrid to the railroad industry in Maine. Two-foot narrow gauge tracks connected rural communities, creating five railways between 1870 and 1940. This small system played a large part in the economic growth of rural Maine.

Today, one of those unique railroads still transports passengers in Portland. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum introduces rail enthusiasts to this full-size train on a pint-size track, as it navigates the rails along Casco Bay for a delightful 35-minute ride.

Railway and Locomotive Types

With track laid two feet apart, the MNGR is considered a narrow gauge railroad. The train is pulled by a vintage steam engine, and the accompanying museum displays a variety of equipment, with hands-on exploration opportunities for children of all ages.

Seating Options

The railroad offers open seating with both enclosed and open cars, dependent upon the season. Docents are available on the train to answer any questions and point out various landmarks on the ride. There is no need for reservations, and all tickets, with the exception of the Polar Express Train, can be purchased at the museum on the day of your trip.

Riding Options

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad has enclosed cars available during cold weather, and the train has both enclosed and open cars available for more temperate days of travel. The locomotive pulls out of the depot on the hour from 10:00am to 3:00pm during the season and there are no assigned seats. As the entire journey is only 35 minutes in length, there are no alternative train schedules.

Specialty Trains

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World

  • Polar Express – More than 15,000 people ride this special Christmas Train each year, with visits from Santa, hot chocolate and cookies and a special reading of the enchanting Polar Express story. Sing Christmas carols as the train takes passengers to the North Pole. This endearing ride takes place from Thanksgiving to Christmas and tickets are purchased in advance online. Check the train schedule for more information.
  • The Cork & Rail Limited – A special ride for passengers 21 and over involves a local sommelier, wine tastings paired with appetizers, and a stunning end to the day, as the sun sets on the Maine coast out your train window.
  • Ice Cream Train – On select Friday evenings in the summer, the train makes special ice cream runs, so passengers can enjoy a cold treat during their journey.
  • Diesel Guest Engineer – For those who have always dreamed of operating a train locomotive, reserve a spot as a Diesel Guest Engineer. Spend one hour running the throttle of a 1949 diesel engine up and down the tracks. It’s every little boy’s dream, but participants must be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver’s license.
Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad

Length of Season

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad runs from April 13 to October 27, with trains running on the hour from 10:00am to 3:00pm. The purchase of a train ticket also allows visitors entrance into the museum for a self-guided tour.

Boothbay Railway Village

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Boothbay Railway Village

This outdoor living history museum in Boothbay, Maine includes another “Maine Two Footer,” narrow gauge tracks that ran two feet apart. The smaller tracks lowered the cost of railroad construction, providing transportation to rural communities that otherwise could not have afforded the luxury. They were used in the timber industry and to transport passengers.

Today, the Boothbay Railway Village has a three-quarter mile track with restored cars that takes visitors on a journey into yesteryear. The museum within the village exhibits vintage rolling stock, authentic train stations, and several railroad buildings, along with rare train artifacts.

Railway and Locomotive Types

Boothbay has a fleet of both steam and diesel engines that are still in operation. The tracks themselves are part of the nearly 200 miles of original Maine Two Footer narrow gauge railroads.

Seating Options

This railroad is usually comprised of three vintage cars, which can be changed out. There are no assigned seats, so passengers can select where they would like to ride. Because the locomotive leaves the depot every hour on the hour, visitors are welcome to ride the rails more than once, if they’d like. In fact, tickets are good for two days within a seven day period!

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Boothbay Railway Village

Riding Options

On a busy day, the Boothbay Railway may include a covered car, enclosed car, and caboose. The trek is approximately 30 minutes long, so no alternative riding options are available. However, passengers may enjoy more than one ride, if they are so inclined!

Specialty Trains

  • Rails, Tails & Ales – A special day in July is set aside for steam train rides through a village set up with vintage autos, hot rods, and muscle cars. This event has craft brews to taste test from all over Maine, with a family-friendly atmosphere for both humans and well-behaved hounds.
  • Fall Foliage Tour – Enjoy a railway journey during the Fall Foliage Festival, a stop along Maine’s Pumpkin Trail.
  • Steam School – Once a year, Boothbay Railway Village hosts a school for those interested in the operation of coal-fired steam locomotives. Participants spend one day in the classroom learning about theory, and one day operating a steam engine.
Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Boothbay Railway Village

Length of Season

Boothbay Railway Village is open from May 25 through October 14, and tickets grant passage not only on the train but visitation to all the village buildings and museum. The village is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm daily, with trains running on the hour (here’s a schedule). Don’t miss an opportunity to view rural Maine as it was from the mid 19th century to mid 20th century, and ride on a piece of vintage Maine history.

Down East Scenic Railroad

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Down East Scenic Railroad

Ellsworth, Maine plays host to a ten-mile section of track once called the Maine Shore Line Railroad, first constructed in 1884. The railroad became the premier passenger railway in New England, taking its riders to summer resorts on Mount Desert Island.

The line’s elegance was enhanced by rail workers who maintained the tracks to their highest standards, assuring that “not a drop of coffee or champagne were spilled.” Today’s 90-minute journey on the Down East Scenic Railroad takes place in the lovingly restored cars from that genteel era, traveling through forested lands and wetland marshes, where giant osprey and beaver coexist.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Down East Scenic Railroad utilized restored diesel engines on standard gauge rails. They have numerous renovated passenger coaches, enclosed and open gondola cars, as well.

Seating Options

The railway has no assigned seating, and passengers are allowed to select a seat in open-air gondola cars or enclosed passenger cars during the trip. Movement between cars is also allowed.

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Down East Scenic Railroad

Riding Options

The round trip on the Down East Scenic Railroad is approximately 90 minutes, and the train leaves twice daily from the depot, making use of a wye turn-around, so there are no alternative riding options available.

Specialty Trains

A train line that once catered to the wealthy summer homeowners of the region now runs two trains a day for weekend passengers. There are no specialty trains at this time, but the existing trip is sure to please riders of all ages, with a comfortable journey in restored cars that travel through some of Maine’s finest scenery, where wildlife abounds.

Photo Tripping America - Excursion Trains in Maine - Camping World
Photo Credit: Down East Scenic Railroad

Length of Season

The Down East Scenic Railroad runs on Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend through October 20, with two trains a day. Check out their schedule here.


Join the thousands of RVers that have a love affair with trains and ride the rails on your next camping trip. Check out the other excursion trains available on a state-by-state basis in our series, RVing the Rails. Here’s the one on Colorado!

 

Shelley Dennis Contributor
Shelley Dennis is a travel photographer and writer who threw caution to the wind and gave up most of her belongings to travel the country in an RV. Her trusty sidekick for this lifetime adventure is her Golden Retriever, Sully. You can find them both at www.PhotoTrippingAmerica.com

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