Portland, ME (POR)
The Portland Transportation Center offers easy connections between Downeaster service trains and intercity buses. The train platforms are noted for their wave-arched canopies.
100 Thompson’s Point Road
Portland Transportation Center
Portland, ME 04102
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 168,027
- Facility Ownership: Concord Coach Lines
- Parking Lot Ownership: Concord Coach Lines
- Platform Ownership: Pan Am Railways, MaineDOT
- Track Ownership: Pan Am Railways
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The inauguration of the Downeaster Service on December 15, 2001 signified the first train route to run between Maine and Boston since 1965. Amtrak passengers initially shared the Concord Trailways Bus Station waiting room, which was constructed in 1996, until a large addition to the terminal was completed in early 2002. Amtrak and Concord Trailways still share space in the renamed Portland Transportation Center. The bus station portion is a brick, hip-roofed building with a central gable and two small towers rising from the roof line, with colonial revival trim. The newer portion is primarily glass and steel with a distinctive arched roof. The enclosed walkway leads from the bus station to the train platforms, with their unique wave-arched canopies. Complimentary coffee and newspapers are always available to passengers in this staffed station.
The route of the Downeaster Service is similar to the historical route of thePine Tree from Boston to Bangor, which was a joint Boston and Maine/Maine Central train. The primary difference is that the Downeaster Serviceterminates in Brunswick, but bus travel is available for the rest of the trip.
The return of passenger service to Portland and northern New England began as a grass-roots movement with the founding in 1989 of TrainRiders/Northeast. This non-profit volunteer organization was started 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’ 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 inauguration of the Downeaster Service. Today, TrainRiders/Northeast provides volunteer train hosts on the trains. In late 2012, the service was extended northward to Freeport and Brunswick.
The Abenaki Native Americans who inhabited the peninsula upon which Portland was founded originally called it “Machigonne,” meaning “great neck,” referring to the crook of the peninsula. On the north side of the peninsula is Back Cove, and on the south is an arm of the sea called the Fore River; it rises to Munjoy’s Hill on the easternmost end, 161 feet above the waters, overlooking numerous islands and Casco Bay beyond. The first Europeans arrived with Captain Christopher Levett, who had been granted the land on the inner waters of the bay for the founding of a settlement. His efforts at stirring up interest back in England met with no success, however, and settlers did not arrive until 1633, when George Cleeves and Richard Tucker founded a fishing and trading village on the peninsula with permission from Sir Ferdinand Gorges, whose claim it was. The peninsula was known as Casco Neck; its waterfront and sheltered port soon became busy with shipping and trading. In 1658, the Massachusetts Colony usurped Gorges’ claim and the peninsula and the region surrounding were renamed Falmouth. Fort Loyal, the largest fortification on that stretch of coast, was been built on the waterfront at the site of the original Portland settlement in 1678.
The settlement was destroyed twice by the Abenakis in conflicts before the Royal Navy bombarded the village in 1775, during the American Revolutionary War. But the inhabitants rebuilt persistently, and in 1786 citizens from Falmouth formed a separate town and named it Portland. The War of 1812 and prohibitions against trade with England suppressed growth for a short time, but when Maine became a state in 1820, Portland became its capital, remaining such until 1832, when the capital moved inland to Augusta.
The first steamboat had reached Portland’s harbor in 1823, and the steamboats together with the first railroad to reach the city in 1842, the Portland, Saco and Portsmouth Railroad (PS&P), took much Portland business to Boston from Commercial Street, which is still the city’s waterfront. The Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad arrived in 1848, which, along with the Boston and Maine, the Maine Central, and the Kennebec and Portland Railroads, made Portland the closest year-round ocean port for the cities on the St. Lawrence River. The Grand Trunk Railway, which purchased the Atlantic and St. Lawrence in 1853, opened the city to the grain-growing regions of the burgeoning Midwest. Steam service met the rails on Commercial Street and shipped passengers and freight overseas as well as to Boston and New York. When the Grand Trunk came to Portland, its roundhouse, depot, and grain elevator were built upon the former site of Fort Loyal.
At one time Portland possessed four passenger rail stations, two of which were on the waterfront. The Grand Trunk facility was on India Street at the waterfront, terminating trains from the north. The PS&P terminated on Commercial Street, and brought people in from the south. In 1873, when the Boston and Maine arrived, their northern terminal was named Union Station, and met trains from the Maine Central; it was rebuilt in 1888. The Grand Trunk demolished the older station in 1903 and complete a new station with office building and grain elevator in 1905, and by that time, only two passenger stations remained active in the city.
Between 1921 and 1923, a larger, longer Maine State Pier was constructed on the waterfront with extensive facilities for processing immigrants, and hauling freight and allowed the Grand Trunk trains to meet passengers on the pier itself. Fish and canned goods were produced in the city, as well as steam locomotives from the Portland Company. However, Canadian shipping traffic was diverted from Portland when Grand Trunk was nationalized in 1923. By 1932, the Portland and Rochester (subsumed by the Boston & Maine) had shut down all passenger traffic, and the Maine Central was operating buses in place of trains in some cases by 1954. The Grand Trunk still operated one daily train to Portland and Lewiston from Montreal at that time. All passenger service ceased on the Maine Central in 1960.
As passenger services declined, the India street station lost its tower in 1948, and the station itself was demolished in 1966. Union Station in Portland had been razed in 1961. Grand Trunk finally ceased its weekly summer-only Sunday service to Montreal in 1967. The Grand Trunk wharves were destroyed in a fire in 1969, and its last grain elevator was demolished in 1974.
At the same time as the decline of the railroads, Portland suffered from the 1960’s urban renewal, which required the razing of older structures to qualify for Federal money to modernize and improve. That and the construction of indoor shopping centers in South Portland, across the Fore River, contributed to the decline of the older parts of the city, since many goods and services were no longer available there.
Union Station’s demolition in August 1961 served as a rallying cry to those who wished to preserve Portland’s identity. The station building was immediately replaced with a strip shopping center, spurring the city’s preservationist movement into organizing, and Greater Portland Landmarks (GPL) was incorporated in 1964. By the 1980s, the preservationists were able to push back more destructive development, and GPL is still active in establishing and maintaining historic districts throughout the city, recuing many of the city’s fine antique buildings from the bulldozer.
Portland’s economy, like its waterfront, faces the sea, and the city still retains its fish processors, shrimp fisherman, lobstermen, slime eel harvesting (which make eelskin leathers), marine research, as well as retail. Outside the waterfront, the Maine College of Art has had an impact in the downtown area, and the city also hosts three other institutions of higher education: the University of Maine School of Law, the University of New England and the University of Southern Maine. The Arts District is home to the Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage Company, Maine Historical Society and Museum, and several other cultural and performing arts organizations. The childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the most influential men of his time, was built in 1785 near the waterfront and still survives today as the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula and a monument to an influential American poet and his family.
The Maine Studios, an independent film studio in Portland, owns the largest green screen in New England; Portland is also home to a number of other publishing and broadcast companies. Movies filmed in Portland include The Preacher’s Wife, Man Without a Face, Message in a Bottle, Thinner, and The Shawshank Redemption.
The Downeaster Service is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. Amtrak provides ticketing but not baggage services at the Portland station, which is served by 10 daily trains.
- 26 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 700 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office