Thursday, August 28, 2014

More “off the rails” looniness; is an epidemic afoot?

We’re beginning to worry that the mere thought of diesel fumes emanating from an Amtrak locomotive, let alone inhaling them, can lead to worrisome cognitive imbalance. Symptoms appear to include living in the past, and related flights of fancy.

Witness our case in point.  George Betke, Jr, who appeared on Side as a guest columnist in June (, had a column published in the Bangor Daily News last week.  You can read it here:

Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.
Oscar Wilde

Wilde clearly said that well before the age of ‘on-line chatter.’  But in the same vein, it’s sometimes informative to look at the comments that follow opinion pieces.  At other times, it’s downright depressing to see the rancorous and immature discourse that passes for civic exchange in this day and age.  Velcome to ‘social media,’ Mr. Bonks!


Mike Kiernan posted this response to Betke’s column.  We don’t know him, but we believe he has a history in the Bath area.  As you’ll see, Kiernan waxes romantic and nostalgic for trains.  And in the process, seems unable to separate the economic distinctions between passenger and freight rail, and to fathom the economic realities for rail overall.  While not quite worshipful of the Downeaster, he comes close, and we have no doubt the deities of TRNE are doing their best to bring him into their fold.  “Fanciful dream flight” fits the theology perfectly.

I had to think on this one, and do some research as well. And given the tone of Betke's piece here it's clear that this was written as a 'hit' piece, politely worded but a 'hit' piece, any way you want to call it. Betke makes the assertion that rail into Northern Maine, anywhere north of Portland, is already a doomed venture, without even giving it a chance, even on paper, to make the argument for itself. He asserts that car's and bus's, all on their own, are rapidly making the rail issue a dinosaur, and not worthy of consideration. What BS ! Rail, both here and elsewhere, has consistently proven to be a major economic driver wherever it goes, thru the sheer ability to move both people, raw material's and finished goods, to both the manufacturer's (who need worker's, and thus create job's) and to the various marketplace's on both a massive, but also economical, scale. The historical fact of the Trans-Continental Railroad, and it's effects on opening up the West, make that case all by itself and beyond any dispute. Likewise, here in Maine, rail had a huge impact on Maine's logging industry (both In-State with the paper mill train's but also the Out-of-State building material's trains as well) , and is again, with the rail expansion of Pan Am, and other's, that are now looking to expand their running increased traffic into the rail yards at Portland's Terminal Container Yard's. This is fact, and not some fanciful dream flight. And both Lac-Megantic and the E-W aside, the fact that rail, via the new CMQR line's, as well as the current Eastern Maine Rail and Irving's own rail operation's, is also playing a major part in expanding business good's moving to the Maine Port's, be they in Portland, Searsport, Bar Harbor (cruise ship's need Ship's Store resupplied at some time ! ) Lubec and Eastport (and their newly built flash freezer for the seafood folk's) all shows that rail, as a major mover of good's and providing service's, is far from dead here in Maine.

The same argument can be made for what some still remember as the tourist and holiday train's that ran thru Maine not so long ago, and need a refresher, more so given the insane rates that the airline's are now charging, that rail can undercut with volume that's been a fact not so long ago. These rail line's and route's, some of which Maine DOT Rail still have the ROW's to on the book's, can and should be used, or at least explored, for the potential of re-opening them for the State's tourist and outdoor business community's benefit, that wind's up benefiting us all in the long run. The State's various fishing camp's alone would hugely benefit, as would these camp's 'ripple effect' business's and community's. And as these effort's spread and work, the next, and inevitable effect, actual long term business's, would take place, that being these same people, who actually own business, would start looking at what's being offered here, on a permanent basis, and see reasons to come to Maine and do business here, ie, set up shop. Maybe it's time we all quit whining and crying about this short term, Me Me Me nonsense and started looking at the long term potential of what Maine, both individually, and as a whole, have to offer, and then move on it. And for those who won't, or can't, move forward with the rest of Maine, then at least have the gut's and decency to get out of the way of those that want, and are willing to, invest in Maine's future, for ourselves, our kid's and our grandkid's.

There’s too much foolishness, hyperbole, and hyperventilating to waste our time responding to, but we do want to make a point or two. 


We’re particularly bemused by Kiernan’s argument for the MLF as a job generator for the long term.  No doubt he bases this on a keen knowledge of railroad history.



But as many would know, especially the older among us, railroads offer other employment opportunities deriving from the economic ‘stimulus’ they generate.  Someone has to make sure the new ‘tourists’ are dealt with tactfully, not to mention seeing to it their horses are put up in a certified livery.  Who knows; if things work out, there could be another sausage fragrance in Brunswick’s air.


So we should all be grateful for Mike’s visionary thoughts on local and state matters.  Even if he failed to address other related growth areas.

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1 comment:

  1. This opposition to what the government wants to do has gotten their dander up. Now it will be next to impossible to change their mind as there is no one who will gain or lose votes over it. You will note that none of our local political creatures have taken sides against the government and none of the sitting ones dare be too vociferous. It is going to happen just the way the government wants and all the energy and money being wasted in a fight is just that, wasted.