Railway Village Museum-Boothbay

12 EXCITING Railroad Museums & Train Rides in Maine

When exploring Maine, you’re sure to come across defunct railroad tracks, placards designating historical railway spots, and even museums dedicated to railroad history.

Since the mid-1800s, trains and railroads have been an important piece of Maine’s transportation system. Railroads connected rural parts of Maine to suburban areas and even big cities like Boston Massachusetts.

Though few railroads carry passengers down the lines, many well-preserved tracks, museums, and fun scenic rides transport visitors back in time to when the railways of Maine were bustling with activity.

Amtrak Downeaster

Various locations

Those looking for a modern, high-speed train experience can book a trip on the Amtrak Downeaster. Amtrak offers five roundtrips every day from Brunswick to Boston. Popular beach destinations like Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, and Freeport are stops on the Downeaster line.

The train runs year-round and is perfect for those looking to visit Maine’s coastal communities or take a trip from Maine to Massachusetts in comfort.

In the summertime, the Amtrak Downeaster is the perfect way to travel to the beach. After a day of relaxing in the sun and enjoying Maine’s gorgeous coastline, passengers can comfortably travel home on Amtrak.

Let the Amtrak Downeaster navigate the 146-mile route while you sit back and relax without having to worry about traffic.

Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad


The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad dates back to 1871 when it ran as both a passenger and freight train. The train stopped at eight stations between Belfast and Burnham Junction and was in operation until 2007.

Luckily, the historic railroad and trains have been preserved, and visitors can enjoy rides on one of the vintage trains. The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad does a fantastic job making train rides enjoyable for the whole family.

Choose from a basic, scenic ride in a classic coach, or opt for a themed ride. The themed rides change throughout the season but typically include a Fall Foliage Ride, the Pumpkin Express, and Santa Express.

Special snack or meal train rides have been offered as well, like the Pizza & Whoopie Pie Train and Lobster Roll Express.

Railway Village Museum


The Railway Village Museum in Boothbay Maine brings you back in time, immersing you in a mid-1800s village. Complete with historic buildings and replica structures, the village includes shops, homes, a schoolhouse, a workshop, a blacksmith, and more.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a railway museum without model railroads and train displays. This museum focuses on railways but also has a wealth of village and automotive history throughout.

Next, climb aboard a Henschel steam locomotive that dates back to the early 1900s, and get ready to ride the rails. Train rides run daily when the museum is open, and there are even specially themed trains, including a North Pole Express, a Fall Foliage train, and a Ghost Train.

The Boothbay Railway Village Museum has so much to explore that you’ll need a full day to get through it all!

Cole Land Transportation Museum


The Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor Maine features historic trains, fire engines, farming vehicles, snow plows, motorcycles, and other transportation exhibits.

A highlight of the museum is the Maine Central Caboose that traveled on the Western Maryland Railroad in the early 1900s. Visitors can walk through the caboose and get a feel of what life was like when traveling on the railroad.

The museum has scavenger hunts for children to keep them engaged and entertained. You’ll walk out brimming with knowledge about vintage vehicles and trains.

Downeast Scenic Railroad


If you’re looking for a scenic rail ride, the Downeast Scenic Railroad is the perfect experience. Running on what was part of the Maine Central Railroad Calais Branch, this railroad offers a 12-mile roundtrip ride through Maine’s beautiful forests and even over a river bridge.

Other sights to look for on the ride are wild blueberries, wildlife like osprey and beavers, and a sawmill. The trip is just under two hours long and is narrated by a friendly conductor.

Plus, the railroad has special events like Touch a Train Day, Pumpkin Trains, and Autumn Gold Trains. The trains run rain or shine, so dress appropriately.

Fort Fairfield Railroad Museum

Fort Fairfield

The Fort Fairfield Museum is housed at the original Bangor & Aroostook Railyard in the Canadian-Pacific Railroad Station from 1875. The museum has locomotives and train cars outside. The small collection inside the station includes historical information about the railway, maps, photographs, and more.

Special events can be booked in one of the refurbished train cars where refreshments or dinner can be served. It’s a lovely location for a peaceful, private event.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum


Dedicated to preserving the history of Maine’s railways, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland has a wonderful collection of historic trains, including steam locomotives, cabooses, box cars, passenger coaches, and more. Most of the trains in the collection are from the early 20th century.

Experience the amazing trains firsthand — Purchase a ticket for a scenic train ride that travels 3 miles roundtrip past Casco Bay. Special train rides include the Ice Cream Train, Sunset Express, Pride Train, Polar Express, and Pumpkin Train.

Every train ride includes a narration from the conductor that will regale you with historical facts, stories, and points of interest.

Oakfield Railroad Museum-Oakfield
Oakfield Railroad Museum | photo via mainerailfan

Oakfield Railroad Museum


The Oakfield Railroad Museum is a small museum housed in an original station from the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. This lovely rehabbed station is owned by the Oakfield Historical Society and is free to visit.

The museum is located inside the historic station and includes photographs, railroad signs, signal lanterns, maps, and newspapers. Visitors can view the C-66 caboose and a Hand Car too. This quaint museum is packed with loads of railroad history.

Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad


The Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad brings visitors back in time with a ride on the original 2-foot narrow gauge railroad. A ride on the train takes riders past beautiful natural scenery, original railroad structures, and a roundhouse.

The Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad ceased railroad operations more than 70 years ago, but thanks to a group of volunteers, the railroad has been preserved for generations to enjoy.

Seashore Trolley Museum-Kennebunkport
Seashore Trolley Museum | photo via mousamview

Seashore Trolley Museum


The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport Maine is different than many of the other train and railroad museums on this list because it focuses on vintage trolleys.

It’s the first electric railway museum in the world and features the history of streetcar systems, omnibuses, light rails, rapid transit cars, and more. Guests can see vintage trolley cars up close and even take a ride!

Running on part of the original Atlantic Shore Line Railway, the vintage streetcars operate throughout the day, treating guests to fun and relaxing rides. If you have a Daniel Tiger fan on your hands, they’ll love pretending that they’re riding along with Daniel on the streetcars.

Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Museum


The Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington railways ran through the Sheepscot Valley of Maine for almost 40 years. The Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Museum aims to preserve the era of the 2-foot narrow gauge railway with informative and fun excursions.

Visitors can choose from a number of themed excursions. Music on the Railways transports guests to Alna Center for a concert, food, and drinks. Or, try the Ice Cream Express, which includes a 15-minute train ride that’ll drop you at Alna Center for ice cream.

For guests looking for a longer train ride, book the Sheepscot Valley Steam Train ride which takes you on a round-trip, 7-mile adventure through the forests of Sheepscot Valley. Other adventures include the Lavender Picking train, Sheepscot Stargazing, and a World War I Reenactment Train.

History of the Railroad in Maine

In the early 1800s, there was a push to build railroad tracks and establish railroad companies that would stretch across the state of Maine.

Railway Development

The first railroad company was the Bangor & Piscataquis Canal & Railroad, which ran out of Bangor. A second railway — the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad — emerged in the late 1800s, stopping from Houlton to Caribou to Fort Fairfield and a few others in between.

A third railway — the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad — started to run around the same time as the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. It made stops from Belfast to Burnham.

These Maine railroads carried passengers to popular tourist destinations, especially for summer retreats. They also carried logs from local logging camps, granite, supplies, and other cargo from one part of the state to another.

Narrow Gauge Railway

Along with the typical railways, Maine started the narrow gauge railway or 2-foot rail. This interesting type of railroad, as the name implies, was built only 2 feet wide with slimmer passenger train cars. These small passenger cars were quite popular with riders.

The tracks were built fairly quickly across challenging terrain and were less costly than the standard railroad tracks. Famous railroad lines — like Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes, Bridgton & Saco River, Wiscasset & Quebec, and Monston Railroad — connected many remote areas of Maine.

While these railroads are now defunct and do not run regular passenger or cargo routes, their history has been preserved through wonderful historical societies, donors, and citizens looking to maintain the tracks and history.

Amtrak Downeaster-Train
Amtrak Downeaster | photo via mikevalletta

Explore Maine via Train or Learn About Maine Railroad History at a Museum

Except for the Amtrak Downeaster, visitors in Maine can’t ride the rails for a trip from one city to another anymore. But thanks to preservation efforts, scenic train rides help us understand the history of Maine’s railroads.

Visitors can take a step, or ride, back in time and experience what it was like to travel along Maine’s major railways and narrow gauge railroads. There’s no better way to gain an appreciation for Maine’s important railroad history than visiting a museum and then hopping aboard one of the train rides in Maine.

For those looking for a full train ride that spans from Northern Maine to Massachusetts, the Amtrak Downeaster is a modern railway that will have you traveling in comfort at a high speed.

Without the railroads that were built in the 1800s, Maine would not have been able to connect rural towns to Maine’s coast and cities. The important part that trains played in the evolution of Maine’s economy and community cannot be forgotten.

Whether traveling alone or as a couple, group, or family, a scenic train ride at one of Maine’s railroad museums or special event scenic trains is a fun and fascinating experience.

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