By Justin Franz
BROWNVILLE, Maine — A stretch of the former Bangor & Aroostook that has had three different owners in the last decade has been sold once again, this time to J.D. Irving’s Eastern Maine Railway.
Eastern Maine Railway and Canadian Pacific, the current owner and operator of the track, recently informed the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that about 37 miles of the former BAR between Grindstone, Maine, (just north of Millinocket, home to a major yard on the railroad) and Brownville (near where the BAR traditionally interchanged with CP) was sold to the short line. The sale also includes a branch to East Millinocket.
The route was built in the 1890s and operated as BAR until 2003 when RailWorld, Inc. purchased the bankrupt railroad and created Montreal, Maine & Atlantic. In 2010, MM&A sold much of the former BAR to the State of Maine, which in turn contracted J.D. Irving (which owns Eastern Maine Railway and New Brunswick Southern) to run it as Maine Northern. The southern section of BAR, including the line between Grindstone and Brownville, remained part of MM&A. MM&A went bankrupt in 2013 following a deadly oil train wreck in Quebec. The railroad was sold the following year and became Central Maine & Quebec. In 2020, CP purchased CM&Q, which included part of the CP’s own former main line east of Montreal that it had cast off 25 years earlier.
Presently, the section of railroad between Millinocket and Brownville is a busy one because the J.D. Irving road has trackage rights over it to connect with sister-railroad Maine Northern. That means it has been possible to see trains of both EMR and CP. However, CP’s ownership of the line made little sense, especially considering the railroad’s focus on main line traffic to the Maritimes (which it reaches via NBSR). So CP has decided to simply sell the 37 miles of track. The deal also includes trackage rights through Brownville Jct. yard, so EMR can connect with NBSR.
According to the STB filing, the sale occurred in September and should go into effect in November.