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Edition #21, January 1, 2006
Photographer: Christopher C. Dalton
Photo © 2005 by Christopher C. Dalton
When you are the president of a railroad, I guess you can put a station where ever suits you. I suspect this is the reason the tracks in the town of Wells, along the coast of Maine, make a sudden arc toward the sea near my house. Laudholm Farm, now home to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, was settled just up the road from here in about 1650, and became the country residence of Boston and Maine Railroad's president in the late 1800's. He had a station built just across the old Post Road (now U.S. Route 1), allowing himself and his family to step off the train and practically into their driveway. His private station still stands today, home to a bookstore.
Whatever the reason for the railbed's route, every night, I am it's beneficiary as I lie in bed and hear Guilford Rail freight trains rumble into earshot minutes before sounding their whistle for the Cole's Hill Road crossing. Four times a day, I can hear the little Downeaster, Amtrak's only service into Maine as it sails down the tracks it leases. On a still day, you can easily hear the trains as you gaze out at the ocean from the old railroad president's porch. His home was saved from destruction by local citizens who formed the Laudholm Trust, and is open to the public every day of the week. From his porch, you can walk about a mile down a tiny stretch of the former King's Highway (chartered in the 1600's and today called Laudholm Farm Road) to the railroad crossing pictured here.
One bitter February night in 2005, the spirit moved me to make a photograph of this crossing. I grabbed my camera and walked in the middle of deserted streets to Cole's Hill Road. As I felt the cold numb my fingers and creep up my coat sleeves, my hope for a picture faded.
After 15 minutes, I folded up my tiny tripod and turned back. After a few steps, the road turned red as the railroad crossing lit up behind me and the bell started ringing. I barely managed to catch this glimpse of the Downeaster before it was gone and the road was silent again.
Christopher C. DaltonWells, Maine
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