Amtrak in New Hampshire.

This is an article about the Amtrak Downeaster train running from Boston to Portland. Yesterday's Union Leader had an interesting story (which I can't get) about the need for future funding for this train in light of the upcoming expiration of a federal grant which was used to start the service.

To date, New Hampshire has not contributed any financial resources for the Amtrak Downeaster. The question associated with this statement is: is this good policy? Should New Hampshire be supporting the operations of this train?  

Concerning policy the State of Vermont which has substantially less population and financial resources is still able to provide financial subsidies for two Amtrak trains the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express.

Again, I'll ask the question should New Hampshire be providing funding for the Amtrak Downeaster?

Boston-Portland train service resumes with Downeaster's inaugural run

By Clark Canfield, Associated Press, 12/14/01

ABOARD THE DOWNEASTER -- Amtrak's Downeaster rolled from Boston to Portland on Friday amid hoopla and celebration, marking the return of passenger trains after a 36-year absence.

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The run was ceremonial and largely symbolic, with hundreds of politicians, state and Amtrak officials, guests and whistle-stops at stations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

At each stop, flag-waving, camera-toting crowds cheered the train, and marching bands played in celebration.

Regularly scheduled Amtrak service from Portland to Boston, with stops at seven stations in between, begins Saturday.

Maine Gov. Angus King called the long-awaited arrival of passenger trains a historic occasion that will strengthen the connection between Boston and Maine and New Hampshire.

"It only took 13 years, but we've done it at this point," King told a crowd of several hundred people who turned out to greet the train in Wells. "Now we've got to ride it."

Train supporters have been working for more than a decade trying to bring passenger rail service back to Maine.

So it was almost with a sense of disbelief when, at 10:50 a.m., the Downeaster glided down Track No. 7 out of Boston's North Station. For the next four-and-a-half hours, it rolled smoothly through countryside and cities with stops in Haverhill, Mass., Exeter, Durham and Dover, N.H., and Wells, Saco and Old Orchard Beach in Maine before arriving in Portland.

The train's nine cars carried more than 400 people; when regular service resumes, the Downeaster will have an engine, three passenger cars and a cafe car with a total capacity of 230 passengers.

Friday's trains carried dignitaries including King, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Maine Reps. Tom Allen and John Baldacci and other officials, including acting Amtrak Chairman Michael Dukakis.

Al White was also on board. He was a conductor on the "State of Maine Express" passenger train for its last run out of Portland on Oct. 29, 1960. A one-car train continued running from Portland to Boston until 1965, White said.

Wearing the same conductor's cap and uniform he wore 40 years ago, and carrying the same train record book he carried back then, White said it was a mistake to give up on train service in the first place.

"I'm tickled to death to see the trains come back," said White, who is 80 and lives in Falmouth. "It's something I never thought I'd see while I was alive."

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority estimates 320,000 passengers will ride the Downeaster in the first year. Supporters say the number is conservative, while New Hampshire officials say it could be half that.

But Friday was not a day for critics. It was a time of celebration wherever the train stopped.

In Durham, N.H., for instance, hundreds of train supporters and members of the University of New Hampshire marching band were on hand when the train pulled into town.

"We've been waiting for the train for five years," said Elaine Mangan of Durham, who came with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. "We can't wait to take the train to Boston and to Portland.

"And the train for her," she said, gesturing to her daughter Lily, "is really exciting."

In Wells, the high school band played "I'm a Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville."

The Downeaster will have four round trips each day; the first train will leave Portland at 6:05 a.m., and the last will arrive back in the city at 11 p.m. A round-trip ticket will cost $35, and a one-way ticket will cost $21.

For now, the train is restricted to a maximum speed of 60 mph, and the 114-mile Portland-to-Boston trip will take 2 hours and 45 minutes. But the top speed is expected to increase to 79 mph if tests determine the tracks can handle that speed, which would make the trip 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Dukakis said Congress needs to commit itself to funding Amtrak as part of a national transportation policy.

Without a viable high-speed train system, he said, the country's highway and airport systems will eventually come to a grinding halt.

"It's a no-brainer," he said.

The return of train service is especially gratifying for Wayne Davis, chairman of TrainRiders Northeast, who has been pushing for the return of trains for 13 years. Getting Amtrak service took longer than construction of the transcontinental railroad and cost more than $50 million.

Davis said he became frustrated at times at how long the process took. But he never lost hope, and he never stopped working to bring trains back.

"I still wonder why it took so long," he said. "But it was the right thing to do."