By Justin Franz
ROCKLAND, Maine — The Finger Lakes Railway will be the new operator of Maine’s scenic Rockland Branch starting next month. This week, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved a deal between Finger Lakes and the current operator, Canadian Pacific, to transfer the contract to operate the state-owned branch.
Operations are expected to begin in September and this week, the Finger Lakes was sending two B23-7 locomotives east. The new operation will be called Midcoast Railservice, Inc. Canadian Pacific and Finger Lakes asked the STB to approve the deal earlier this summer. CP got the lease to run the state-owned branch between Rockland and Brunswick in 2020 when it purchased Central Maine & Quebec. The current lease runs until December 31, 2025.
The scenic 56-mile branch has had a parade of operators over the last three decades. In 1987, the state purchased the line from Guilford Rail System so that it would not be abandoned. From 1990 until 2000, the line was run by the Maine Coast Railroad, a spin-off of the Massachusetts Central. In the early 2000s, Safe Handling Inc., a Maine-based logistics company, operated the line for a few years before New Jersey’s Morristown & Erie won the contract and ran it as the Maine Eastern Railroad from 2005 until 2015. Maine Eastern ran freight and seasonal passenger services. Central Maine & Quebec began operating the branch in 2016.