The rain in Maine falls mainly on Portland. The heavy skies that appeared on our departure from NY have followed us to Boston and then burst over Casco Bay in the morning and for much of the day. The endless drizzle provided the perfect excuse to join the other kids, most of them over seventy, on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway. This is no white knuckle ride, you could walk faster but on a rainy day it is the driest option for getting out to Eastern Promenade. Although narrow gauge, it actually follows the path of the original standard gauge line into Portland; much of the sleepers are the original standard width, the narrow gauge being achieved by the simple expedient of shifting the existing rails. The trains may be on the wrong lines but the rolling stock is genuine and the interior of the carriages in the small museum straight from Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man.
Railways may appeal to ‘anoraks’ obsessed with numbers, names and bogey configurations but they are also romantic places. Sean O’Faolain wrote of them often in his short stories:
Hymeneal – Forty years ago. On the platform of Amiens Street Station smelling of midnight dust, fish, steam petrol. The two of them joking upwards to the two girls in the lighted carriage, holding their hands until the very last moment when the engine shook itself and chugged slowly out. Then two white hands waving back through the steam until train and lights and hands vanished around the curve like falling cards.