The fortunes of the old Maine Central Railroad have always been tied to the paper production industry. Over the last 30 years, operations have been scaled back as old plants closed down and production either shifted to new locations or was lost to foreign competition. In 1981, Maine Central became the first building block of Timothy Mellon’s Guilford Rail System, joined by Boston & Maine in 1983 and Delaware & Hudson in 1984. Responding to the changing economy in Northern New England, Guilford began a slow retreat from the branch lines that were once the lifeblood of the railroad.
In 2006, the old Guilford image was shed for rebranding as Pan Am Railways. Recent developments in the paper industry have reversed years of decline and, as a result, train schedules have been modified to meet demand. The old Mead paper mill in Rumford, now owned by ND Paper (the American subsidiary of Chinese-owned Nine Dragons Paper Holdings), has increased its use of the railroad. Last October, the company announced a $111 million investment in the Rumford mill that will increase production and employment.
Last July, it was also announced that Verso Paper, the operator of the former International Paper Androscoggin Mill in Jay, would also begin upgrades to increase production. This news and increased traffic prompted Pan Am to re-establish daily service on the former Maine Central Rumford Branch.
Train PORU (Portland–Rumford) spots three loads of chicken feed at the Hillandale Farms feed mill at North Leeds on March 26. Pan Am 515 (officially marked for subsidiary Maine Central) leads the consist. Photo by George Melvin
Maine Central’s Rumford Branch
What is now considered the Rumford Branch is comprised of the remaining trackage of three separate lines. The 20-mile portion of the line from Leeds Junction, 47 miles from Portland, to Livermore Falls was once part of the Androscoggin Railroad that operated from Brunswick through Leeds Junction to Farmington. The portion west of Leeds Junction to Crowleys Junction in Lewiston was abandoned in 1938. The line from Livermore Falls to Farmington fared much better, lasting until the early 1980s.
The next piece of today’s Rumford Branch, the 10-mile former Canton Branch, extends from Livermore Falls, past the now-abandoned Chisholm Yard and the former International Paper Otis Mill (now being torn down), to Whitney Brook in the town of Canton.
The remainder of the branch from Whitney Brook, 14 miles to Rumford, was originally part of the 52-mile Portland & Rumford Falls between Rumford Junction in Auburn and Rumford. The line west of Canton to Rumford Junction was abandoned in 1952…