Maine Narrow Gauge Museum

Fresh from watching the Downeaster, we made our way downtown to the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum.

A train staged on the mainline and waiting for the day’s visitors. With so much outside, on display, it was fun to wander through the yard.


Of course, outside can take its toll. I’d love to devote some volunteer time to documenting items like this if it helps.

Hidden among the Museum’s collection are some real gems from other narrow gauge lines such as this string of Magor flat cars.


These little GE diesels are such neat machines. My Dad has had the pleasure of a cab ride – I can only imagine how cosy that ride must have been!

The Museum’s track is recycled, former standard gauge track. I thought the self-guarding frog on this stub switch was a neat touch. The derail was cool too!

I remember articles in magazines, like Model Railroader, describing how to cut apart and reassemble standard gauge turnouts to suite narrow gauge use. There’s a prototype for everything as this turnout shows.


With the sun making its way through the clouds, it’s time to make our way to Boothbay and our next stop for the day.

The Maine Narrow Gauge Museum operates a wonderful length of track along Portland’s waterfront. Not only by location, but also in terms of community, I am proud of how well integrated the Museum is in Portland life. Events seem well-attended and the Museum does a fine job of promoting their site well beyond the narrow gauge fan community. They are currently planning the next phase of their life and a massive move of the entire Museum to a new location. Follow along with events at the Museum, find out how to get involved, and receive updates at their website:

Categories: How I think

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2 replies

  1. Hi Chris:
    In what now seems like another life, I was a member of the Maine Narrow Gauge RR & Museum in Portland. (In reality, it was about a decade ago, but that’s now two scale/gauge/era/theme combinations ago in model railway terms for me.)
    Your observations are spot-on. The harsh weather of the Portland waterfront is taking its toll on the equipment, which is exposed to the elements. That said, the move out of Portland will be bittersweet – because Portland sure is the place to tell the Maine NG story to tourists. I worry about how much their ridership will plunge when they move out of the state’s largest city.
    The little diesel is indeed neat, and I recall an article in RMC many years ago about building one in, I believe, On2. My experience with the diesel was enlightening. I booked an “engineer for a day” package, to run Monson 0-4-4T #4. We were not allowed to raise steam in the yard, however – Portland smoke laws prevented it. So we hopped on the diesel, and used it to tow the cold Forney to the far end of the line.
    The diesel was ready to go in about a minute: we got in the cab, checked the position of throttle, brake, etc., inserted a key, pushed a button, and we were running.
    We then hauled the Forney out of the engine house, added water, checked the coal pile, stopped at a storage boxcar to collect a pile of wood, a can of kerosene and other fire-making tools, and then trundled to the far end of the line.
    There, we called the fire department to let them know we were steaming up (because they would get calls from people who “saw smoke”) and then built a wood fire in the firebox, doused it with accelerant, and introduced a burning rag. We added more wood. We polished the brass. We added more wood. Eventually we added a bit of coal. Finally, we had a coal fire. Then we polished more brass while watching the boiler pressure needle creep off the stop. We greased around the valve gear and filled the grease cups for the axles. We packed the journals. Eventually, we had enough pressure to open the blower. We waited. We waited. We waited.
    About 2-1/2 hours after we started the fire, we had 100 psi on the needle – enough to work the steam brake on the engine, so we were good to go. Even as we started back to the other end of the line, we continued to build the fire until we reached 115 psi.
    Steam is a lot of fun as a railfan or as a member of a steam team. But after this experience, I fully understand why railways embraced the diesel.
    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

    • Excellent memories. Thank you for sharing them Trevor.

      I agree on the point regarding the location. The move outside Portland offers the Museum an opportunity to tell its story to people in a place like where it all happened. However, on the Portland waterfront it can do so to so many more people.

      The Museum’s current location is an ideal opportunity to invite people to experience railroading in a very open and accessible way. A way that is not possible to many these days. In that way, I’m excited for the enthusiasm the move brings but concerned that it will cost more than it earns.


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