ON THE RIGHT LANE – Railroaded.gov


Do you know where the middle of nowhere begins? It begins in a place that most people would never believe. It starts where a certain train track comes to a screeching halt and what’s really disgusting is that this is the second time this has happened. Is it Presque Isle, Maine, or White River Junction, Vermont? If you think so you are not even close. Nowhere starts 200 feet south of the railroad bridge that crosses Mallison Falls Road below the prison located in South Windham because that’s where the Mountain Division Rail Line comes to a sudden stop.

I would love to sit on the that last section of 40-pound rail with a scrumptious picnic lunch and wonder how many dangerous compounds are leaking out of the old Keddy Mill Site located a short distance up-river. Maybe I should also wonder why those who created the pollution never occupied a room at the Maine State Prison located above that railroad track.

Before the reader thinks I am no fan of railroads, I grew up in a town where the railroad was a very important part of the economic engine, especially employment. I can remember going to the rail yard on a school trip when I was in elementary school and climbing into an engine to observe how the engineer drives the train. One of my classmates actually drove the train a couple of hundred feet. I used to ride AMTRAK between Washington, DC and White River Junction because it was cheaper than driving one way especially because of the tolls on the interstates. That was until a freight train dumped into the Connecticut River, which happened on the same tracks as the passenger trains ran on.

I have no problem with a railroad owned by a private corporation out to make a profit. The one thing I am confident of is that any government-owned railroad will lose its butt, along with all of the money paid by us taxpayers. Government making money is like watching a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon. We know that the coyote will never catch the road runner and we also know that government will waste far more money than it receives. After all, why should it worry over such a small detail when it has the taxpayers to make up the difference it needs to operate. I wonder why politicians in Augusta would want to resurrect a railroad that never made money. I am not bashful in stating that there must be some sort of political payoff, especially after looking at a list of contributions to elected officials in Augusta.

I do have one simple solution to rebuilding the Mountain Division Rail Line and that is to let all those companies who desire rail service to establish a company to provide and pay for the reintroduction of that rail line. That keeps the taxpayers from paying for a railroad that the vast majority will never use. Maine’s infrastructure is falling to pieces at an alarming rate while politicians in Augusta create new places to spend tax dollars. The insanity in Augusta is getting to the point that we might as well bring back the horse and buggy. The benefit there is that the waste the horse produces is useful as fertilizer instead of what is produced by elected officials.

Just to make sure that the quotation at the beginning of this column is taken in the right context, I am not talking about anyone who works for any railroad. Why I refer to driving a train high on cocaine comes from taxpayers wanting the same thing they fear that’s smoked in the State House in Augusta. I guess it’s time to do a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see how the railroad in Northern Maine, which the state took over, is doing financially. Hopefully they will honor the FOI request, which Windham seems to be denying lately.

If Lane Hiltunen, of Windham, sounds grouchy this week, it’s because he has installed Dragon speech recognition software on his computer, which probably will increase his capability to swear.