Train Museums to Visit in Maine

One of the top things to do in Maine is visiting a museum to learn about the state’s rich history. One of the most interesting aspects of the state’s history is how trains played an important part in the logging, tourism, and transportation industries. We’ve put together a list of our favorite trains museums that make a great day trip from your Maine vacation rental.

Maine Narrow Gauge Museum

Currently, Portland hosts the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum near its waterfront and offers rides as well as the museum highlighting cars that have been preserved through the years. A really popular event is the Annual Polar Express. 

Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Museum

In addition to Portland, Wiscasset has the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Museum.  This is a renewal of an original line and has been striving to return as many cars and engines as possible to its rejuvenated line.  It is preserved by volunteers who spend many hours on restoration, laying of track, cleaning of the original right of way and planning special events for the public to enjoy.  Check out the specials on their website.  

Boothbay Railway Museum

The third one is the Boothbay Railway Museum in Boothbay Maine.  This museum, in addition to the trains, maintains an antique auto collection and boasts a reproduction village, vintage 1870. In addition to its train collection, there is also an Antique Car Museum which showcases 60 Antique Autos.  Many special events throughout the year, daily train rides during the summer and fall season.  The Railway Museum also hosts the Annual Harvest Festival highlighting local crafts, music, and food. It coincides with the Annual Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta held Columbus Day Weekend.  

Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad

Located in Phillips, Maine. This line began operation 1879 and connected Franklin County to the standard gauge Maine Central Railway. As well as a ride on an authentic locomotive from that period, riders can enjoy the exhibits at the museum.  This line was important to tourism and business (logging) in its heyday.  The advent of the automobile began to cut into the need for the trains. A group of volunteers is working to reconstruct the railroad line and preserve a part of our history.  Rail buses made from modified streetcars (trolley) ran quite successfully on the line transporting visitors to the area.

History of Maine’s Railroads

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroads began service about 1870.  At their height, there were 5 lines throughout the state that covered 200 miles of track. Trains were a crucial part of the state in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They moved logs from the lumber rich North Maine Woods to market, goods between areas not easily reached otherways.  They also were important to Maine’s tourism industry transporting tourists to Rangeley Lakes, Mid Coast Maine, and more.

Today you can reach Maine from about anywhere by train.  Generally, you travel north from Boston’s North Station on the DownEaster which runs between Boston’s North Station and Brunswick Maine with many stops in between.  Travel by train is a relaxing and economical way to get here.  No lines at toll booths, no need to make stops for food or bathrooms as these are right on the train. 

Planning your vacation? Stay at one of our beautiful Maine waterfront vacation rentals