Forgotten Rails to Bar Harbor

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If you travel east out of Ellsworth on Route One, you will eventually reach the small somnolent town of Hancock. This forested tract of land boasts a population of just under 2400 residents, with a large point that is embraced by the emerald waters of the cold Atlantic. With a host of bays, coves, points, and peninsulas, this area of the world is a ruggedly beautiful landscape where the craggy shores, scraped bare by the glaciers, ripple their bedrock fingers out into the lapping briny sea. Taunton and Hog’s Bays, just east of Hancock, are the breeding grounds for a large population of Horseshoe Crabs, those prehistoric creatures encased in their carapace, which have always piqued the imaginations of many children.

Besides legions of Horseshoe Crabs swarming these waters, Hancock is known for something more popular to the American public. Down the Point Road–on the right if you are heading south–sits the house used for the exterior shots, throughout filming of the iconic movie Pet Sematary. The yellow house adorned with a blood-red shingled roof still stands today, recognizable to any movie buff, since it doesn’t seem to have changed, since we first saw it on the big silver screen in 1989.

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Off this road sits another unique feature of this small town. A small parking lot across from the town hall, nothing more than a non distinct patch of gravel with four by four fencing, is the beginning of a 2.9 mile one way trail, with a unique history.

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The Old Pond Railway Trail is a non looping walking path, which follows the route of the defunct Maine Shore Line Railroad Company. Although this is only one small section of this almost forgotten piece of history, it is a fun piece of exploration nonetheless.

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The trail still has ties imbedded in the soil, so you do have to watch where you step. The rails, for the most part, have been taken up, but some vestiges of the past still linger.

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A railroad bridge connects a large berm of land and rocks. This old causeway constructed in the late 1800s is an oddity today, as you walk between the two bodies of water, elevated ten feet above. The waters rush under the bridge between tides, and the clear water seems inviting, even in the chill air of spring. Trees have begun to grow up on this isthmus, narrowing the trail, but the views of the surrounding marsh land and bays are uninhibited by the flora.

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This rail line connected to the Maine Central Railroad at one time, and brought the rich and the rusticators along the rails to McNeil Point. Once they arrived, their voyage was not complete, and boarding a ferry, these tourists were whisked across the bay to Mount Desert Island, landing in Bar Harbor.

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Today this seems so far out-of-the-way, but since automobile traffic was not allowed on the island until the 1920s, and then only in Bar Harbor, this was still the most direct route. The Bar Harbor Express rattled across the tracks that were once laid on these paths, ghosts of a forgotten era. All that exists of this little obscure piece of history is this 2.9 mile stretch, and a railroad bridge stretching over Old Pond. Thanks to a group of local Eagle Scouts–who improved the parking area and rehabbed the path–we can all now walk over the same path that President Benjamin Harrison clattered along almost a century ago.

 

 

 

David Jester

About David Jester

David Jester lives in the Midcoast region of Maine. He received a masters degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Maine. David is a full-time firefighter/paramedic and writer, who maintains another blog www.firefighterwithapen.com. He travels the world, but chooses locales that many would never consider for vacation. The world is full of many different and unique places, why not see them all?