Once Upon a Time in Dedham, Maine

by John Delach

What now seems to have happened a long time ago, our good friends, Geoff and Judy Jones invited us to the wedding of their son, Greg to a sweet young woman named, Amie. Many of the details have faded away, but I do recall that the event took place just after Labor Day and that we drove from our vacation home in Marlow, NH to Dedham, ME, the location of the Lucerne Inn where most wedding guests were staying.

What I don’t recall is why we brought, Maggie, our Looney Tune Golden Retriever with us. Usually we arrange other accommodations for our dogs, but not this time. Again, I’m not sure if we snuck her into our room or kept our actions above board?

The Lucerne Inn wasn’t near the site of the ceremony and reception, but our hosts provided bus service to and from the inn.

We had several rough moments with Maggie, especially on Friday night when she broke out of our room and crashed a wedding reception in our hotel. Fortunately, no damage or injuries happened, and we successfully coaxed her back to our room.    

In one respect, this trip afforded Maggie one of her best experiences ever. Maggie loved to swim, and we discovered that Phillips Lake was not far from the hotel. Saturday produced a glorious early autumn morning, so we decided to walk Maggie down to the lake. Since it was after Labor Day most homes were vacant and the lake was practically uninhabited. When I let Maggie off leash, as expected, she immediately took off water bound. Maggie had a glorious time swimming in the lake then racing back to us only to repeat her circuit. She continued in and out of the lake while we walked along a dirt road that provided access to the lake houses.

Maggie reveled in her freedom while we took in the autumn scenery.  

An abandoned railroad that ran parallel to the road caught my attention.  It seemed to be intact and useable for the most part, but no longer in service. On one of her return trips Maggie flew right by us barking as she made her way to the tracks.

We followed wary of what had disturbed her. On reaching the tracks, we were surprised to see a group of railcars coming toward us. We leashed Maggie and watched them pass. What a hoot.

I had read about this unusual activity in a magazine article explaining how rail fans were buying these old diesel and gasoline powered railcars. Historically, railroads had used these machines to carry inspection and work crews along their systems. They were nothing more than a square box, low to the tracks with a motor that could transport two occupants to their assigned destination.

The major railroads eliminated them years ago in favor of pick-up trucks, but some short lines and tourist railroads still utilized them if they operated on rights-of-way off the beaten track and away from serviceable roads.

Six of those railcars in convoy approached us, moving slowly to avoid obstacles along their path. I was mesmerized by their appearance seemingly coming from nowhere. We stepped aside to let them pass. The occupants were too preoccupied to acknowledge us or Maggie.    

I could see why, the tracks had dangerous areas. One I had previously noticed was a grade crossing that had been paved over. I watched as the first railcar approached it. The middle-aged couple knew what they were doing, they shifted the rail car into low gear, stepped out on either side, and expertly steered the unit across the pavement and re-railed it on the other side. They hopped back in and continued on their way.

I love trains and I love railroad history. What these people were doing seemed to be a natural fit. But I demurred. The operators were too intense, and I learned that these machines required extensive tinkering to keep them running while my mechanical ability is zero, point zero.

I let that gleam of an idea evaporate as we returned to the road, unleashed Maggie and watched her resume her joy.  

Still, I too can dream.