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[New Hampshire Union Leader website report, 11-24-13]


The possibility of passenger rail from Montreal to Portland, Maine, is gaining momentum in the North Country. Two plans to use the rails are awaiting a nod from St. Lawrence and Atlantic.

The Golden Eagle Railway Corporation is proposing a commuter-type day train between Portland and Montreal. It would go from Portland to Montreal one day and back the next day. Its proposed route through New Hampshire would include the towns of Conway, Berlin, Gorham and Groveton.

David Schwanke, president of Golden Eagle, said there would be several stops. Eventually Golden Eagle would like to provide commuter service back and forth four times a day, perhaps more on the weekends.

He said if approved by St. Lawrence and Atlantic, the company would also be looking for a place for a restoration facility and corporate headquarters.

Part of their proposed route would be over New Hampshire-owned rail lines. The late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, a big supporter of passenger rail, was helping the company with that, Schwanke said.

The second proposal comes from Francois Rebella, a former representative on the National Assembly of Quebec, who has teamed up with former Maine State Senate President Richard Bennett. They are proposing a night train that would run between Montreal and Portland. That train would leave Montreal at dinnertime and would include dining cars, lounge cars, a coach and sleeper cars.

 It would arrive in Portland in time to connect with the Amtrak Downeaster to Boston.

The train would return to Portland that evening. Rebella met with Gorham selectmen a couple of weeks ago. He said he is hoping for a three-month pilot program next summer. Because the train would be going through New Hampshire in the middle of the night, it is not clear yet whether other stops would be made.

Proponents of both proposals have requested letters of support from local and state officials, as well as other groups. It is hoped these letters of support will help the railroads get money to upgrade the tracks.

"I would like to see both go," Schwanke said of the two proposals. "There's room for both and it would be wonderful for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and for Montreal."