Exploring the east coast - Maine to Miami by train

Nov 6, 2020

Brunswick’s Maine Street Station, in Brunswick, Maine is a somewhat random location to travel over 18,000km to visit. Brunswick isn’t a major rail hub or even a large city. The station’s single platform is attached to a 2009 constructed quintessentially north-eastern light grey real estate development and looks onto a supermarket parking lot across the tracks. Brunswick is served by only by a few daily Downeaster commuter trains to Boston. So why have I just travelled for more than 26 hours to reach this remote corner of the American rail network? Well, Brunswick is the end of the line - the northernmost point on the east coast that can be reached by passenger train. I have a plan to follow the coast some 3,100km south to Dadeland South, a metro station in Miami which marks the southern extremity of the network. On the way I'll ride five trains through fifteen states and the District of Colombia, visit some of North America’s largest cities, pass historic locations that have shaped the US to this day and meet people from all across the world sharing the ride.

The logistics of arriving Brunswick, Maine, involved three flights - a fourteen hour marathon to Los Angeles, a five hour trek across the US to New York and then two hours crammed onto a Regional Jet. Coupled with the 14 hour time change, I decided I'd earned a day or two relaxing before setting off on my adventure south. If you’d asked me prior to this trip what a coastal town in Maine looked like I would have described Camden, where I spent a day recovering. I was lucky enough to arrive right at the start of the autumn foliage when the forested hills rolling down to the harbour still glowed shades of orange and red. Clam chowder is served on the pier, small candy and craft shops line the main street. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexia tied up to one of the town's docks.

Lovely as Camden is, I had a train to catch and the excitement of my upcoming adventure soon overcame my exhaustion from the flight. So, early one morning as the fog rolled in over the bay I loaded up the rental car and hit US Highway 1 south to Brunswick. The first few days of driving on the opposite side of the road are always interesting – let alone in almost no visibility. Had I been a few years earlier I may have been able to board the now defunct Maine Eastern Railroad in Rockland, only 10km south of Camden. Until 2015 the Maine Eastern operated a popular seasonal tourist train between Rockland and Brunswick using ex-Amtrak locomotives and a string of stainless steel streamlined passenger cars. There was even a plan to extend the Downeaster to Rockland, which unfortunately did not come to fruition. For now my only option is to continue the 90km to Brunswick in the car.