Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in Alna has secured the last piece of land it needs to expand its track north to Route 218.
“I love it,” Stephen Zuppa, president of the nonprofit museum said about the land buy that closed in mid-April. “It's something we've been striving for, for five years.”
Fundraising, permit-getting and the labor of lengthening the museum's approximately 2.5-mile track a mile northward are expected to take 5 to 10 years, said officials at the museum on Cross Road. The 23 acres purchased from Dave Clark comprise the last remaining right-of-way to make the project possible.
For the museum and its membership, the hope of expanding the railroad has been a source of enthusiasm, board member and chief mechanical officer Jason Lamontagne said.
A few years ago, the all-volunteer museum got an easement on property owned by Judith Fossel; and in 2013, Melissa Kelly sold the museum an approximately one-acre wooded lot along Trout Brook.
The track currently ends about an eighth of a mile from a spot known as “Top of the Mountain.” It was the original, 1894 to 1933 railroad's steepest southbound grade, so steep that when the locomotive was loaded with freight going to Wiscasset, the train's operators could get only half the train up it at a time, Zuppa said.
“At the bottom of the hill, they would break the train in half, bring half the train up the hill, which was all the locomotive could pull, park it ... then go back down and get the other half, bring it up, put the train back together and bring it all the way to Wiscasset.”
This fall, plans call for carrying out the project's first leg: adding hundreds of feet of track, taking it to that steep grade's high point.
“When our train stops you can see it, and now that we own it, we can build on that site,” Zuppa said.
The museum has about everything it needs for the fall work. A capital campaign will be launched to help fund the remainder of the multi-year project. Cost estimates still need to be gathered, but the total could come to about $1 million, Lamontagne said.
The buy of the Clark acreage comes on the museum’s 25th anniversary year. The museum commemorates the narrow-gauge, freight and passenger railroad that ran from Wiscasset to Albion. For more on the organization, and a schedule for steam train rides, go to www.wwfry.org.
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