Lost rail lease could spell the end of Bath-Wiscasset Candy Cane Train

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BATH — This year marks the 10th, and possibly final, year of Tri-County Literacy’s annual Candy Cane Train.

For a decade the literacy nonprofit has decked out a Maine Eastern Rail Road train in holiday decor for its largest fundraiser. The train runs from Bath to Wiscasset and back, and features cookies, singing, and Santa.

But the company that operated passenger service on the line from Brunswick to Rockland lost its lease with the state earlier this year, throwing the Candy Cane Train’s future into jeopardy.

Central Maine & Quebec Railway, the new company that will be operating Maine Eastern Railroad, has said it will only run freight, and not passenger, service.

So is this the last year for the Candy Cane Train?

“We’re hoping not,” Tri-County Literacy Executive Director Deb Nowak said Wednesday. She said she reached out to the Maine Department of Transportation, where officials said they are interested in continuing passenger service on the line.

“It might be a little time before we find out” if the state will find a way to continue it, Nowak added.

In the meantime, planning for this year’s Candy Cane Train “is going fast and furiously,” she said.

Tri-County has sold more than half of the available tickets, according to Nowak, and there are about 600 remaining for the Dec. 12 and 13 runs.

Nowak said they raised about $30,000 last year, and hope to make a similar amount with a sold-out train this year.

The money raised goes to Tri-County’s two family and adult literacy programs serving northern Cumberland, Sagadahoc, and Lincoln counties, she said.

Tickets can be purchased on the organization’s website, tricountyliteracy.org, by phone at 800-838-3006, or at 34 Wing Farm Parkway.

Tickets are $18 per person or free for children under 2.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Tri County Literacy volunteer Dave Japikse reads “The Night Before Christmas” to an attentive group of children on the Candy Cane Train in 2010.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.