In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

The Railroad Station

Text by Michael Armstrong, Alexis Judkins, Emily Love, and Otto Werwaiss
7th grade students at Bath Middle School
Images from the Patten Free Library

Patten Free Library

The current railroad station, just south of downtown at the south end of Commercial Street, was built in 1941. The new station was constructed completely out of brick, as protection against fires. The people of Bath were very proud of the station. It was reportedly one of the finest and most modern railroad stations in New England. During the construction of the new station, William S. Newell, the president of B.I.W., gave the station a weather vane depicting a destroyer at the start of World War II. The newly built station served as a passenger station and freight depot for eighteen years until Maine Central Railroad (MCRR) shut down its passenger service in 1959. The station was open for freight business from 1959 until 1971 when the building was changed into a dental clinic for the poor, the Jessie Albert Memorial Dental Clinic. The clinic stayed in the station until 2000 when it moved to its present location on Congress Avenue. After the clinic moved, the station stayed vacant for seven years. In 2007 the building was restored and reopened as the Maine Eastern Railroad Station.

Before the current railroad station, in 1871, MCRR built a station at almost the same location. In that same year, ferries began carrying train cars across the Kennebec River to the Knox and Lincoln railroad line that ran from Woolwich to Rockland. The earliest train ferries, the City of Rockland and the Hercules, could only carry passenger and freight cars. The Fernando Gorges, which operated from 1909 to 1927, could also carry locomotives. With the opening of the Carlton Bridge in 1927, train ferries were no longer needed.

The opening of the Carlton Bridge in 1927 and its dedication in 1928 marked the beginning of a new transportation era in Bath and along the coast of Maine. Train service improved greatly and long waits for automobile ferries disappeared. Passenger and freight train traffic increased enough to justify the building of the 1941 MCRR station. In Bath, the steady increase in automobile traffic caused a number of changes in the approach to the bridge. Finally, in 1959 the viaduct was completed and cars could avoid the traffic light at Washington Street. However, drivers could also avoid stopping in Bath and spending money at local stores. Many large department stores left Bath for Brunswick and Cook's Corner. Also in 1959, passenger train service on the MCRR was discontinued.

The last big change in crossing the Kennebec River happened in 2000 with the opening of the Sagadahoc Bridge, which was built to end the congestion caused by increased car traffic, especially in the summer and when B.I.W. changed shifts. The Carlton Bridge continued to carry train traffic. Today, that train traffic includes summer tourists who ride the Maine Eastern trains from Brunswick to Rockland. Many of those tourists use the restored train station in Bath. The restored station is also a welcoming center for tourists traveling the coast on U.S. 1.

On October 25th, 1927, after the Carlton Bridge was finished, the Maine Central Railroad passed the first train over the newly built structure. There were two trains that crossed the bridge that day, carrying a total of 2,500 people with 880 of them coming from Rockland and other places along the Knox and Lincoln branch of the Maine Central Railroad.