Hissing steam, tooting whistles and clanging bells filled the air Saturday, July 8 as the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum held an ice cream social to expose visitors to the joy of riding a narrow gauge railroad.
Dispatcher James Patten said the open house took a twist this summer with the simultaneous use of two trains, one driven by a steam engine and the other powered by diesel to take visitors to the secondary station to be treated to free Round Top ice cream. Those wishing to continue rode on newly laid track to the end of the line before returning, said Patten.
New to the museum is a round table which allows engines to be turned around. “It is run by hand,” said Patten.
Also new is a modern bathroom facility. Patten said the museum is supported by over 1,000 members of which 200 take an active part in construction, mechanical work, running the trains and taking tickets.
Visitors on Saturday came from near and far and included returnees that have followed the museum’s progress over the years.
“We have been coming every year,” said Devon Grant of Palmyra, Pennsylvania. who has brought his family for 15 years. “We came even before the trains were running.”
Alan Downey of Austin, Texas has volunteered during summer visits for many years. This year, he brought his friend Jennifer Nordhauser to help scoop ice cream
Taking it easy was nine-year president of the organization, Stephen Zuppa. His wife Kathy said they both went into retirement, she after being president of the Alna Fire Department for 15 years.
The Byam family visits from South Carolina, where they say they live in the winter to make money so they can spend it in Maine in the summertime.
The WW&F railroad was built in 1894 and ran until 1933 hauling freight and passengers from Albion to Wiscasset until an accident caused it to cease operations. Many school children used the railroad to get to and from school in towns such as Whitefield, said Zuppa.