‘You guys rode history tonight!’: WWFRY reopens with landmark trip

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 7:15am

    “This is the part where the train said, ‘I thought I could, I thought I could,” Maynard, Massachusetts’ John McNamara said in a narrow gauge train in Alna Friday night after it took public riders down from Top of the Mountain and to the bridge at Trout Brook for the first time since Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway last did in 1933. Friday’s face-masked riders went further on the rails than the public has gone in the 31-year-old WW&F Railway Museum’s history.

    Conductor Ed Lecuyer of Manchester, New Hampshire told riders, to cheers, “You guys rode history tonight!” They were also the first riders in the Cross Road nonprofit’s pandemic-delayed season.

    Sonny and Peggy Brannon of Livingston, Texas were glad the museum was open; nearly everything else they wanted to do on their Maine trip was canceled or shut down. Pompton Plains, New Jersey’s Tom Rose, there with wife Marj, said, “It’s wonderful they were able to open.”

    Lecuyer told Wiscasset Newspaper before the ride, he and fellow volunteers were excited to give people a chance to go back in time and “forget this year, for just a moment.”

    The nearly two-hour, sunny early evening trip included pie at Alna Center. Wiscasset’s Liz Palmer manned the table full of blueberry, mixed berry, pecan and other slices she said were all from Creamed in Wiscasset. 

    “Very good,” Westport Island’s Mireille Martel said of the raspberry. Husband Warren had the pecan.

    As riders sat or stood eating at social distances on the lawn, museum member Kenneth Steeves of Kensington, New Hampshire stood piloting a drone hundreds of feet overhead. As the device took video, a Laconia, New Hampshire-built freight car sat near lawn’s edge. Museum member Stewart Rhine said the car dated to about 1900.

    The trains’ lighter schedule, with rides every other Saturday, stems from having fewer volunteers this year due to COVID-19, spokesman Stephen Piwowarski said earlier Friday. Some live out of state, and some are older and some have health issues, he noted. Member donations in an internal fund drive helped with the lost ticket sales from the late start and the cut to 40 riders a trip for social distancing; and the rides have higher prices due to their added features including a talk, a concert and a belated egg hunt. 

    Open cars and cars with their windows open are helping keep the experience as outdoors as possible, Piwowarski said. For the museum’s precautions and upcoming dates, visit wwfry.org