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This article is about the passenger train. For other uses, see Down Easter.
Downeaster logo.svg
Downeaster NPCU Ballardvale.JPG
A Downeaster train passing the Ballardvale MBTA Commuter Rail station
Service type Regional rail
Status Operational
Locale New England
Predecessor Pine Tree
Flying Yankee
Speed Merchant
First service December 15, 2001
Current operator(s) Amtrak/Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority
Ridership 1,530 daily
559,977 total (FY13)[1]
Start Boston, Massachusetts
Stops 12
End Brunswick, Maine
Distance travelled 145 miles (233 km)
Average journey time 3 hours 25 minutes
Service frequency Five daily round trips
Train number(s) 679–699
On-board services
Class(es) Business class
Reserved coach
Catering facilities Downeaster Café
Rolling stock Amfleet coaches
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Operating speed max:79 miles per hour (127 km/h)
Track owner(s) MBTA, Pan Am Railways
Route map
145 mi
233 km
136 mi
219 km
116 mi
187 km
104 mi
167 km
Old Orchard Beach
100 mi
161 km
90 mi
145 km
84 mi
135 km
New Hampshire
68 mi
109 km
62 mi
100 km
Durham–University of New Hampshire
51 mi
82 km
New Hampshire
34 mi
55 km
13 mi
21 km
0 mi
0 km
Boston North Station
Amtrak Downeaster (interactive map)

The Downeaster is a 145-mile (233 km) regional passenger train service, managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA, created by the State of Maine), and operated by Amtrak. Named for the Down East region of Maine, the train runs from North Station in Boston, Massachusetts to Brunswick, Maine, with 10 intermediate stops. The train operates five daily round trips between Portland and Boston, two of which continue to Brunswick.

In fiscal year 2013, the Downeaster carried 560,000 passengers.[1] In November 2012, service was extended to Freeport and Brunswick, an expansion expected to add 36,000 annual riders.[2]


In November 2012, the Downeaster traveled through Wakefield, Massachusetts, on the inner Haverhill Line during track work on the Lowell Line.

The Downeaster uses the MBTA's Lowell Line from Boston's North Station to Wilmington, the Wildcat Branch to Wilmington Junction, and the Haverhill Line to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire state line. From there to Portland, it uses the Pan Am Railways Freight Main Line. All of these lines were once part of the Boston and Maine Railroad; the part south of Wilmington Junction was once the mainline and a branch of the Boston and Lowell Railroad, and the rest was the mainline of the B&M.

If the Downeaster were to run solely on the Haverhill Line, it would conflict with the local commuter rail service, since the Amtrak train makes no stops between Woburn and Haverhill. By using the Wildcat Branch to cross between the Lowell and Haverhill lines, the Downeaster can pass a Haverhill train.[citation needed]


The Downeaster is separated from the rest of Amtrak’s system because there is no link between Boston's train stations. Downeaster passengers continuing south from Boston on Amtrak must take MBTA subway trains to Back Bay or South Station.


The Downeaster offers two classes of service: Reserved Coach and Business Class. All seats have electrical outlets, and Amtrak Connect (Amtrak's Wi-Fi (wireless internet) service) is available.[3] All trains have a cafe car that sells snacks, light meals, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages.[4]

Some Downeaster trains carry volunteers, coordinated by Trainriders Northeast, to inform passengers about destinations, attractions, and transfers.[5]


Previous service (1989 and earlier)[edit]

The Downeaster follows the route historically used by the Pine Tree and Flying Yankee trains that traveled from Bangor to Boston and were operated jointly by the Boston & Maine Railroad and Maine Central Railroad. All passenger operations between Portland and Boston ceased in 1965.

Planning for new service (1990–95)[edit]

At the urging of Maine's congressional delegation, Amtrak in 1990 estimated the cost of creating passenger rail service at about $50 million: $30 million for infrastructure improvements and another $20 million for equipment. The following year, Amtrak agreed to provide the equipment at no charge to the State of Maine. Earlier in that same year, the Maine State Legislature adopted its first citizen-initiated bill, the "Passenger Rail Service Act", which was endorsed by the Maine DOT and signed by the governor. In 1992, Maine voters approved a $5.4 million rail bond for right-of-way improvements, and $60,000 was granted to the Maine DOT to design a Portland intermodal terminal. Later that year, Congress approved $25.5 million for more right-of-way improvements, and 1993 saw an additional $9.5 million in track improvements. By the end of 1994, total appropriations for infrastructure had reached $38.6 million. In 1995, then-governor Angus King and Commissioner of Transportation John Melrose ordered the creation of a passenger rail authority; TrainRiders/Northeast worked with the state Chamber of Commerce and industry, Maine DOT, and others to convince the Maine Legislature to create the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in August.[6]

Start of service (1996–2001)[edit]

A typical Downeaster consist containing 4 coaches, 1 business/cafe car, a NPCU, and a GE Genesis P42

Service was initially expected to start in the 1990s. Negotiations between NNEPRA, Amtrak, and Guilford Industries (now Pan Am Railways) began in 1996, but began to fail over many factors, including equipment weight and speed limits. In December 1998, a speed limit of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) was agreed upon; the following year, the Federal Surface Transportation Board approved a limit of 79 miles per hour (127 km/h). Most right-of-way improvements were complete in 2000, but the following year, start-up was delayed again when Guilford refused to allow Amtrak to test track modulus or run trains faster than 59 miles per hour (95 km/h).[6] The Downeaster made its first run on December 15, 2001.[7]

Service improvements (2002–11)[edit]

In August 2007, top speeds were increased from 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h), cutting 20 minutes from trips between Portland and Boston. The first expansion of Downeaster service came that month, when the improvements made it possible to increase from four to five daily round trips from Portland to Boston.[6]

In 2011, the Downeaster was the first Amtrak train to offer free Wi-Fi service and E-ticketing.[8]

Brunswick extension (2006–12)[edit]

A Downeaster special train at Brunswick Maine Street Station in June 2012, five months before the start of service

Service to Brunswick was originally intended to begin within five years of the Downeaster's 2001 launch, but was delayed by lack of funding and other obstacles. Ground was broken in October 2008 for the Brunswick Maine Street Station, a retail development that included shops, condominiums, an inn, and office space. In January 2010, NNEPRA received a $35 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for track and signal upgrades for the Portland-Brunswick line.[9] Pan Am Railways began work on the line in summer 2010, and on May 14, 2012, the platforms in Brunswick and Freeport were declared complete.[10] Service began on November 1, 2012.[11]

2015 winter and track work (2014–16)[edit]

The Downeaster's ridership, finances, and performance suffered in the first half of 2015 because of an exceptionally brutal winter and a subsequent large-scale tie replacement project funded by the NNERPA. During its fiscal year 2015 (July 2014 to June 2015), Amtrak cancelled 488, or 13 percent, of its scheduled Downeaster trains. The trains that ran saw an on-time percentage of 30%, less than half the national average of 71%; during the tie replacement, none ran on time in May and 8% in June. Ridership dropped 18.2% (nearly 100,000 fewer riders) from the previous fiscal year.[12]

The Downeaster resumed its full schedule on August 1, 2015, following the completion of the track repairs.[12] By December 2015, the Downeaster was up to a monthly on-time percentage of 86%, well above the national average.[13]

Ridership and finances[edit]

Between December 2001 through 2005, annual ridership ranged from 250,000 to 300,000 passengers. Since 2005, ridership has increased an average of 13.1% per year, excluding calendar year 2009, which saw ridership shrink by 4.7%. In fiscal 2008, the Downeaster was Amtrak's fastest-growing service, with ridership up 22.9% from the previous year. In fiscal 2011, ridership topped 500,000 for the first time.[14][15] Fiscal 2013 was the Downeaster's busiest year. Compared to fiscal 2012, ridership rose 6.1% to 559,997 passengers (about 1,530 passengers a day), while ticket revenue rose 6.1% to $8.2 million.[1] The extension to Freeport and Brunswick is expected to boost ridership by 36,000.[2]

The line's busiest station is North Station in Boston. The busiest station in Maine is the Portland Transportation Center, while Exeter is New Hampshire's busiest.

In fiscal year 2012 the Downeaster generated $8.1 million in revenues, of which $7.4 million was from ticket sales.[16] As of 2013, operational costs were around $15 million annually,[17] $5.6 million of which is covered by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding,[18] $8.1 million in revenues, and $1.8 million in operating subsidy from the State of Maine.[17] The state governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not pay to operate the train.[citation needed] 58% of the overall ridership travels to or from the state of Maine.[16]

Economic impact[edit]

A 2008 study by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology suggested that the Brunswick extension, combined with commercial developments along the "Downeaster Corridor", could generate several billion dollars in construction investments plus $55 million annually in tax revenue for the state of Maine.[19]

In 2013, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority estimated that the Downeaster has an annual economic impact of $12 million from visitors to Maine, and directly or indirectly employs 200 people.[20]

Future plans[edit]

Speed and service frequency (2009–present)[edit]

Future plans include operating one or two additional round trips between Portland and Boston (six or seven round trips daily).[21]

The route the Downeaster follows is designated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a potential high-speed rail corridor. If the Northern New England Corridor were funded and completed as proposed, passenger trains would travel at up to 110 miles per hour (177 km/h) between Boston, Portland, and Lewiston.

In 2009 the rail authority applied for federal stimulus money to increase train speeds—cutting 10 to 12 minutes off the current travel time—and increase the number of daily round trips from five to seven.[22] No money was ever awarded for this project.

Brunswick layover facility[edit]

Downeaster trains laying over at the Portland Transportation Center in 2004. A controversial layover facility in Brunswick will replace this outdoor storage in late 2016.

As of January 2016, Downeaster trains are stored outdoors in Portland. A layover facility is under construction in Brunswick to store three trainsets under cover, allowing a third daily Brunswick-to-Boston trip.[21][23] The project was approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, which determined that there would be little impact on the local environment,[citation needed] and construction was slated to run from summer 2013 until late 2014.[24] However, local opposition delayed the project. Neighbors of the planned location demanded further environmental studies, saying they believe the facility would hurt nearby areas.[25]

In March 2014, Governor Paul LePage added his objections to the location, saying it would hurt his efforts to create jobs at the Brunswick Landing complex. LePage suggested two alternate locations in eastern Brunswick which might promote economic activity without what he called "undue negative consequences" on neighborhoods.[26] On July 8, 2014, a Maine judge revoked the stormwater permit issued to NNEPRA, saying that NNEPRA had not given proper notice to property abutters.[27]

The maintenance facility under construction in July 2016

In July 2014, several Democratic state legislators asked NNEPRA Director Patricia Quinn to build the facility instead in an existing rail yard in South Portland. They urged NNEPRA to focus on what they called the "core product" of Boston-Portland service, to expand service to the Lewiston/Auburn area, and to add a second track to single-track portions of the line.[28]

In June 2015, the Maine Department of Transportation approved — with various conditions — the stormwater permit NNEPRA needed to begin construction. MaineDEP planned to make a final decision by June 17.[29] Construction began on October 23, 2015, despite ongoing appeals, because NNEPRA wanted to get concrete in the ground before winter.[30] The last appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection was unanimously rejected on November 19.[31] In January 2016 the neighborhood group, due to a lack of funds, ended their legal fight against the facility, which will be completed in September 2016.[32]

Kennebunk station[edit]

In May 2014, NNERPA agreed to add a station stop at Kennebunk, Maine.[33] Like Old Orchard Beach, it will be a seasonal stop only open from April to October. Plans call for a temporary platform for service in 2016, with a permanent platform constructed with $300,000 in town money and $800,000 in state money for 2017 or 2018.[34] A small section of the former Boston & Maine depot building will be leased for use as a waiting area.[35] The depot was previously used for passenger service from 1873 to 1965.[35][36]:95

Lewiston-Auburn extension[edit]

In April 2013, NNEPRA announced that a plan to expand passenger rail service to Lewiston–Auburn, Maine's second-largest metropolitan area, would be released later in the year.[17] As of September 15, 2015, the city of Lewiston had approved spending $50,000 to pay its share of a $400,000 Maine Department of Transportation study to develop the service. The city of Auburn would also have to pay $50,000, and a vote was expected by Nov 1, 2015.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Amtrak Sets Ridership Record And Moves the Nation's Economy Forward" (PDF). Amtrak. October 14, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Downeaster rolling north to Freeport, Brunswick". Associated Press. November 1, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ "On Board Services – Amtrak Downeaster". Amtrak Downeaster. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ "On Board Services". Amtrak Downeaster. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Trainriders NE – Host Program." The Official Site of Trainriders NE. May 5, 2009 <>.
  6. ^ a b c "Highlights from Formation of TNE to the Downeaster Inaugural". Trainriders Northeast. Retrieved November 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Amtrak's Downeaster rolls out". Daily Herald. December 16, 2001. p. 2. Retrieved September 3, 2014 – via  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ Billings, Randy (November 11, 2011). "Amtrak Downeaster rolls out electronic tickets, improved Wi-Fi". Sun Journal. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ White House Published Document: Recovery Act High Speed Rail Awards
  10. ^ Kelley Bouchard (May 14, 2012). "Downeaster platforms ready in Freeport, Brunswick". Portland Press Herald. 
  11. ^ "Downeaster Service to Freeport & Brunswick Begins November 1, 2012" (Press release). NNEPRA. September 12, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Bell, Tom (August 2, 2015). "Downeaster in recovery mode after dismal year". Portland Press-Herald. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  13. ^ Bell, Tom (11 January 2016). "Amtrak's Downeaster chugs into 2016 in timelier fashion". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  14. ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2006, State of Maine" (PDF). December 1, 2006. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  15. ^ Associated Press (July 11, 2011). "Downeaster ridership tops 500,000 for 1st time". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "FY2012 Year End Report" (PDF). NNEPRA. July 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c "Downeaster plans train to L-A, eventually". Sun Journal. April 14, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Federal funding for Maine's Amtrak service, Portland-area buses riding on success of highway bill". NNEPRA. July 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ Chappell, George (April 10, 2008). "Report: Downeaster train will generate billions". Bangor Daily News. p. A5. 
  20. ^ "A New Alignment: Strengthening America's Commitment to Passenger Rail". Brookings Institution. March 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Downeaster's new service to Brunswick doing better than expected". Portland Press Herald. December 13, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Amtrak's Downeaster Hopes To Tap Stimulus Money". TheStreet. December 13, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Brunswick Layover Facility". Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. August 18, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Layover Facility" (PDF). Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. March 25, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Foes of Amtrak depot in Brunswick demand more environmental study". Bangor Daily News. September 27, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  26. ^ "LePage calls for 'thorough review' of proposed Amtrak layover facility in Brunswick". Bangor Daily News. March 24, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Maine judge throws out stormwater permit for proposed Downeaster train depot in Brunswick". Bangor Daily News. July 8, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Lawmakers question plan to build Downeaster layover facility in Brunswick, suggest South Portland". Bangor Daily News. July 11, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  29. ^ Bell, Tom (4 June 2015). "Train layover facility in Brunswick nearly over final hurdle". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  30. ^ Carrigan, Don (23 October 2015). "Construction begins for controversial train facility". WSCH6. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  31. ^ Bell, Tom (19 November 2015). "Appeals board upholds permit for Downeaster shed". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  32. ^ Wuthmann, Walter (7 January 2016). "Brunswick group abandons fight against Amtrak facility". Maine Sun Journal. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  33. ^ Gillman, Faith (26 December 2014). "Next stop, Kennebunk: Amtrak's Downeaster welcomed as seasonal economic boost". The Village. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  34. ^ Lynch, Nathan (28 October 2015). "Downeaster platform in Kennebunk chugging along". Journal Tribune. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  35. ^ a b Bell, Tom (October 29, 2014). "Downeaster train service adds stop in Kennebunk". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  36. ^ Lindsell, Robert M. (2000). The Rail Lines of Northern New England. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0942147065. 
  37. ^ "Lewiston in for Portland to L-A rail study". 2015-09-15.  External link in |publisher= (help)

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google