Old Orchard Beach, ME (ORB)
A seasonal stop served from mid-spring through mid-fall, the station is located within short walking distance of the beach and other seaside amenities.
11 First Street
Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 15,684
- Facility Ownership: Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce
- Parking Lot Ownership: Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce
- Platform Ownership: Town of Old Orchard Beach/Pan Am Railways
- Track Ownership: Pan Am Railways
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Old Orchard Beach is a seasonal stop (May to October) at the town’s Chamber of Commerce Visitor Welcome Center, within 100 yards of the beach and other beachfront amenities. The station consists of a concrete platform with a canopy to shelter travelers from inclement weather. The Welcome Center provides an information area and public restrooms as well as offices and function space for the Chamber of Commerce staff and members. On portions of the journey between Boston and Brunswick, the train advocacy group TrainRiders/Northeast runs a host program in which volunteers assist customers on board by doling out useful advice about the train and the stations and towns along the route.
The Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M), chartered in New Hampshire on June 27, 1835, was the dominant railroad in New England until the 1960s. Purchased by Guilford Rail System in 1983, it has been succeeded by Pan Am Railways (Guilford changed its name in 2006), and it is on these tracks that the Downeaster passes through Old Orchard Beach.
The railroads came to Maine when the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth met the Boston and Maine in 1842 in South Berwick, Maine; and by 1843 the B&M brought a passenger stop to Old Orchard Beach two miles from the town. By 1853, the Grand Trunk Railroad made the connection with Montreal, enabling Canadian visitors to flock to this closest ocean beach. In 1873, the B&M finally came directly to Old Orchard Beach with a passenger station on the site of today’s Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.
The B&M flourished with the growth of New England’s mill towns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but began to dwindle with the de-industrialization of the area as well as competition from trucking. The B&M continued passenger service to Old Orchard Beach until 1965.
The route of the Downeaster is similar to the historical route of the Pine Tree from Boston to Bangor, which was a joint Boston and Maine/Maine Central train. The primary difference is that the Downeaster terminates in Portland today and bus travel is required for the Portland–Bangor leg of the trip.
The return of passenger service to Maine and northern New England began as a grass-roots movement with the founding in 1989 of TrainRiders/Northeast led by Wayne Davis, who possessed a strong vision of what that passenger service could be. On July 14, 1989, the Maine State Legislature enacted the Passenger Rail Service Act directing the Maine Department of Transportation to take all actions necessary to establish regularly scheduled passenger rail service within and outside the State of Maine. The Act further directed that the expenditure of funds to carry out this mandate would be spent first to restore passenger rail service between Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass.
In 1995, the Maine Legislature further established the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) to develop and provide passenger rail service between Maine and Boston and points within Maine. Davis’s work came to fruition with the beginning of the Downeaster service in 2001, which is applauded for providing relief to traffic congestion, high gasoline prices, and parking scarcity. Maine’s Governor Angus King and Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as well as Amtrak officials and many of the train-riding public attended the Downeaster’s inauguration.
On February 26, 2010, NNEPRA announced a $35 million grant, awarded as part of the High-Speed Intercity Rail Program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to restore service between Portland and Brunswick along 30 miles of track owned by Pan Am Railways. Work on the extension of theDowneaster began with its kickoff on August 2, 2010, in Brunswick, Maine.
The first settler of European descent on this stretch of the Maine coast, Thomas Rogers, established what he called his “Garden by the Sea” in 1636, planting apple and pear trees on the hill above the beach. In 1676 natives attacked and burnt the Rogers’ homestead during King Phillips War, and the Rogers family fled to nearby Kittery. However, the orchards lived on for another century, becoming a landmark for passing ships. In 1722, Patrick Googins returned to the Old Orchard with his bride, Mary Rogers, and the settlement began in earnest—in time to send its sons to fight in the revolutionary war. After the conflict ended, the Staples family arrived from Kittery to establish their farm and built the first “Staples Inn” to take advantage of summer visitors’ need for rooms.
Throughout the 19th century, the resort trade grew in Old Orchard Beach while nearby Saco and Biddeford prospered as mill towns. Ned Clemens, the town’s first newspaper editor, also began the first commercial clambake on the beach in what is known as the “shore dinner industry” locally. By 1874, Old Orchard Beach had three railroad stations to serve throngs that came to attend the Baptist Camp meetings there, where many famous orators held forth, including Henry Cabot Lodge and Thomas B. Reed. The Staples family built the 300-room “Old Orchard House” in 1875, which became synonymous with the beach; and which served guests at the shore until torn down in 1943. The town was formally chartered on February 20, 1883.
The pier at Old Orchard Beach became a focus for summer entertainment when it was first opened to the public on July 2, 1898, offering concerts, dancing, lectures and a casino located at its very end. This first incarnation stretched 1825 feet and was built with three pavilions by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company for a cost of $38,000. That November, a storm damaged the pier; the casino was rebuilt in 1899.
A fire destroyed the pier’s entrance in August 1907 and they rebuilt, only to suffer storm damage in 1909 that swept away one of the pavilions. When rebuilt, the pier was shortened to 825 feet. And the heyday of the Pier Casino Ballroom was to follow: The Ballroom, capable of holding 5,000 people, became noted for its moving picture shows and live entertainment, featuring celebrity acts such as Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman. Sadly, coastal storms continued to take their toll, and the Casino had to razed in 1970; a blizzard in 1978 destroyed the remainder of the pier.
Yet, the town rebuilt its pier once again and re-opened it in 1980. While the casino has moved onshore, there are still restaurants, nightclubs, performances, carousels, rides, and shopping keeping the visitors coming back year after year.
Close by Old Orchard Beach lies Prouts Neck, which extends into Saco Bay from its northern reach, where American painter Winslow Homer lived on his family’s estate from 1883 until his death in 1910. This was where Homer painted many of his famous seascapes and the dramatic images of man struggling with nature. While Homer never took students, his works have been revered by artists for generations and he strongly influenced 20th century illustrators such as Pyle and the Wyeths.
The Downeaster is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Amtrak provides ticketing but not baggage services at the Old Orchard Beach station, which is served by 10 daily trains during the summer season.
- 10 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 10 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Dedicated Parking
- High Platform