Downeaster graces the rails of Amtrak
Operation of the Amtrak Downeaster Passenger Rail Service
commenced on December 15, 2001, the date originally projected by Northern
New England Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director Michael J. Murray
on October 18.
The passenger line, named after the antiquated journey made
by sailing ships from Boston Harbor to Maine, is also synonomous with
the charm of the Maine coast. This name is particularly fitting because
it offers a journey by train across northern New England connecting Boston,
Massachusetts and Portland, Maine.
The Downeaster's first week of operation was deemed a success
with sold-out weekend runs and boastful weekday business. The midmorning
run from Portland to Boston proved to be so popular that some passengers
found themselves standing in the filled-to-capacity cars of the Downeaster.
This unexpected popularity prompted local rail officials to request an
additional passenger car for the 8:45 a.m. run. The first five days of
operation saw an unprecedented ridership of 4,300 passengers. This figure
yields an average of 860 passengers a day and an estimate of 320,000 riders
a year. Ridership is expected to increase in the summer months and wane
in the winter.
The Downeaster makes four round-trips daily between Portland
and Boston with seven stops along the way. Stops include Old Orchard Beach,
Saco, Wells, Dover, Durham, Exeter, and Haverhill before arriving in Boston.
The one-way trip takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. Amtrak boasts
that the Downeaster Passenger Rail Service provides riders with a "sleek
and sophisticated" ride with stops offering "expansive beaches,
majestic lighthouses, unlimited outdoor recreation, quaint villages, thriving
arts, entertainment, and the best lobster and seafood in the world!"
The Downeaster is equiped with an on-board Café Car where passengers
can enjoy native culinary specialties.
Amtrak officials are optimistic that the popularity of the
rail line will continue into the future. Proposed expansions of the Downeaster
line will include stops north of Porltand in Freeport, Brunswick, and
Lewiston/Auburn and are estimated to begin service within the next 2 to
3 years. Long-term plans by state officials are to extend the line to
points as far north as Ellsworth or Bangor with connections to Bar Harbor.
Some are even hoping to extend the line to Montreal and other parts of
Downeaster tickets may be purchased in advance at www.thedowneaster.com
or www.amtrak.com or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
They may also be purchased at Boston North Station or at the Portland
Sewall St. Station with required photo I.D. The round-trip fare is thirty-five