16 Station Avenue Brunswick Visitors' Center Brunswick, ME 04011
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Facility Ownership||JHR Development of Maine, LLC|
|Parking Lot Ownership||Town of Brunswick|
|Platform Ownership||Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA)|
|Track Ownership||State of Maine|
|25 Long Term Parking Spaces||25 Short Term Parking Spaces||Accessible Platform|
|Accessible Restrooms||Accessible Waiting Room||Accessible Water Fountain|
|Dedicated Parking||Enclosed Waiting Area||High Platform|
|Quik Trak Kiosk|
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
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Brunswick, home to well-respected Bowdoin College, is located on the shores of the Androscoggin River in Maine’s popular Southern Midcoast region. Downeaster Service to Brunswick began on November 1, 2012 amid much fanfare.
When the route was planned in the late 1990s, Brunswick and Freeport were envisioned as the two northern stops, but funding was only available to upgrade the tracks and build the platforms and stations between Boston and Portland, Maine. The extension northward was finally made possible through the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR) with funding distributed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo was on hand in Brunswick to kick-off the expansion project in August 2010.
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), which serves as the business manager for the Amtrak Downeaster, applied for the HSIPR grant in 2010 and was subsequently awarded $35.3 million, later supplemented with an additional $3 million. The state of Maine contributed approximately $3 million to the project. The funds were spent on the rehabilitation of 30 miles of track between Portland and Brunswick, as well as improvements to three dozen at-grade road crossings, wayside signals and culverts in the right-of-way. New platforms at Brunswick and Freeport were paid for by the state, and their design and construction were overseen by the Maine Department of Transportation.
On May 14, 2012, Joseph Szabo was again on hand, along with Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt and local officials, to dedicate the two completed platforms. After a ribbon cutting and remarks at each stop, a Downeaster trainset was opened to the public in Brunswick for tours. The Brunswick stop consists of an ADA compliant concrete platform with tactile edging. It also contains heating elements to minimize snow and ice build-up during the cold Maine winters. A canopy shelters waiting passengers from inclement weather while bright lighting helps create a welcoming environment.
Passengers may also wait inside the adjacent Visitors Center, which is located in Brunswick Station, a mixed-use development containing a hotel and commercial and office space. The Visitors Center houses local and intercity bus services, rental car agencies and the Maine Eastern Railroad, an excursion train service that runs between Brunswick and Rockland. Brunswick will also be the site of a future layover facility for the Downeaster trainsets.
The land on which Brunswick Station is located has long been associated with the railroads. It was the site of the former Maine Central (MEC) rail yard and depot; the latter was demolished following the termination of passenger rail service in September 1960. In response to planning undertaken for the initiation of Downeaster service in 2001, the town purchased the 3.88 acre property in 1998 with the intention of returning it to active railroad use. The first priority was to remediate the land, which had become contaminated with coal ash and other toxins.
Between 2004 and 2006, the town received four grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Program, which focuses on the remediation of property contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants that harm local ecosystems and create blight. The grants, totaling $750,000, covered the costs of an assessment of the site as well as the actual cleanup effort. With a remediation strategy in place, attention then shifted to the redevelopment of the site to include a rail passenger station and other amenities.
Redevelopment efforts were supported by Brunswick and Bowdoin College, as the railroad property sits between downtown and the school and thus had the potential to act as a transitional space connecting these two areas. In 2006, the Brunswick Town Council accepted a master plan recommending redevelopment by a private entity, and the following year, JHR Development was selected to lead the project. According to the conditions for development, 1,200 square feet had to be reserved for a future train station.
The project was divided into three parts. Phase I, which included the Bowdoin College Store and the building containing the Visitors Center, offices and retail, began construction in winter 2008. They were finished and occupied by fall 2009. Station Avenue, connecting Maine and Union Streets, was also cut through the site south of the proposed buildings. Phase II began in fall 2010 when ground was broken for the 52-room Inn at Brunswick Station. An office building was also constructed, and both projects were open by late summer 2011. Phase III will consist of a residential building with office and retail space on the ground floor. All of the buildings echo traditional New England architecture through the use of clapboard, shingles, multi-light windows and gables. Through a property exchange with Bowdoin College, the town plans to consolidate its administrative offices in an existing building directly southwest of Brunswick Station.
As of early 2012, public funding for Brunswick Station amounted to approximately $5.2 million obtained from the following sources: $750,000 through the EPA Brownfields Program; $902,500 from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; $300,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; $350,000 from Maine’s Municipal Investment Trust Fund, established by the state legislature to provide financial assistance for the design, construction and improvement of public service infrastructure and downtown renewal projects; $2.25 million in municipal bonds; and $668,594 expended by the town to acquire the property. The town government estimates that these public funds have leveraged more than $25 million in private investment by the developer.
The Brunswick area was first settled in 1628 by Thomas Purchase, an English colonist who came to North America in search of adventure and wealth. Along with others, he established a camp near the falls of the Androscoggin River, which was noted for its abundant supplies of salmon and sturgeon. In recognition of the importance of this fishery, the area was referred to as “Pejepscot,” an American Indian term meaning “the long, rocky rapids of the river” where the fish gathered. Purchase and fellow settler George Way were eventually granted a patent right to the surrounding land by the Plymouth Company. A decade later, Purchase put his lands under the protection of the Massachusetts Bay Colony based at Boston and submitted to that group’s authority. Purchase remained near present-day Brunswick until 1675 when the settlement at the falls was attacked and destroyed by American Indian groups during King Philip’s War.
In 1714, property in the Brunswick region was sold to the Pejepscot Proprietors, a group of investors that in turn sold small plots to settlers. The next year, the village was named “Brunswick” in honor of King George I of England, who was also the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in northern Germany. The principal settlement grew around Fort George, built by the Proprietors at the falls of the Androscoggin. Brunswick was destroyed again in fighting in 1722 between the English and the Abenaki American Indians, but the town was rebuilt five years later.
In time, the natural energy of the Androscoggin, a result of the 41 foot drop at the falls, was harnessed to power saw and grist mills along its shores. The saw mills gave rise to shipbuilding, a popular industry in Maine due to the presence of ancient forests and protected coves and inlets along the rocky coast. Middle Bay was the nucleus for the shipbuilding industry, as it was home to a shipyard maintained by the Pennell family that had arrived in the Brunswick area in the 1760s. Over the next century, the family built a variety of ships such as barques, schooners and brigs.
Brunswick set itself apart from local communities in 1794 when the Proprietors donated 200 acres to a college named for the late James Bowdoin—the first institution of higher learning in Maine. A noted advocate of American independence who also served as the second governor of Massachusetts, Bowdoin’s name was attached to the educational institution following a generous financial gift from his son. Although far removed from the battlefields of the Civil War, persons associated with the town and college played a large role in the conflict, and local houses served as stops on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowe accompanied her husband to Brunswick in 1850 when he took up a teaching position at Bowdoin. While living on Federal Street, she wrote most of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an anti-slavery tome that made her simultaneously one of the most praised and reviled women in the nation.
When the war broke out, Joshua Chamberlain was a professor of Modern Languages at his alma mater, but left to join the Union Army. He would go on to become a celebrated figure noted for turning back Confederate forces at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg—considered a turning point in that fight. General Ulysses S. Grant chose Chamberlain to receive the formal surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, Chamberlain returned to Brunswick and later served as president of Bowdoin as well as governor of Maine.
With the college at its heart, Brunswick prospered. The arrival of the railroad in June 1849 strengthened Brunswick’s connections to regional markets in Maine, but more importantly, it provided a vital link to Boston, New England’s primary international port. What had been a three day trip between Brunswick and Boston by carriage was now cut down to six hours by rail.
The Kennebec and Portland Railroad, later reorganized as the Portland and Kennebec Railroad (P&K), completed a line between Portland and the state capital at Augusta in 1851. The Maine Central (MEC), chartered in 1856, would lease the P&K in 1870 and purchase the line four years later. In acquiring the P&K, the MEC gained entry into Portland, a terminal for the important Boston and Maine Railroad, which by the end of the 19th century was the dominant railroad in the far Northeast. The MEC would reach the apogee of its influence around World War I, when its system stretched from Portland up to northeastern Maine and eastern Vermont and even across the border into southern Quebec.
Brunswick’s first depot was a small wooden building refurbished to accommodate waiting rooms for men and women (and children) separated by a ticket office. The second depot was erected in 1855 but only survived two years before it was destroyed by fire. A third structure soon rose and was added onto numerous times. In historic photographs, a large gabled train shed looms behind the depot where it spanned a few tracks and protected passengers and freight from inclement weather. This wooden structure was replaced in 1899 by a new stone and brick depot just west of the Mall where Brunswick Station is today. Granite, which provided a rich textural contrast to the brick, was used for the base and in trim such as the lintels, sills and coping. The expanse of the large hipped roof was broken by dormer windows while its large overhanging eaves sheltered passengers as they waited outside for the arrival of the train.
Rated one of the best small towns in America by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012, today Brunswick is noted for its rich history and ample cultural organizations. Included among the latter is the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, highly regarded for works spanning more than 2,000 years of art history. Among the highlights are paintings, letters, photographs and other memorabilia related to famed American artist Winslow Homer. Those interested in the natural world are drawn to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, named for alumni Robert E. Peary, discoverer of the North Pole, and Donald B. MacMillan, an explorer who visited the Arctic more than 30 times.
Southeast of downtown, the former Naval Air Station Brunswick was established during World War II to train pilots and house squadrons performing anti-submarine missions. During the Cold War, squadrons tracked Soviet submarines as part of the defense of the North Atlantic. Long an important employer in the area, the base was once home to thousands of soldiers and their families. Decommissioned in 2011, the 3,200 acre property has been rebranded “Brunswick Landing” and is undergoing a long-term transformation into a new business center and mixed-use community with an emphasis on technological innovation, environmental sustainability and “green” development.
Amtrak does not offer ticketing or baggage services at this facility, which is served by six daily trains. The Downeaster Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northeastern New England passenger Rail Authority.
Photo courtesy of NNEPRA