It’s been fifty years since George McEvoy bought and moved the Freeport Train Station to Boothbay. That purchase, precipitated by his mother’s ultimatum to get his collections out of her house, was one of many that has preserved a slice of Maine’s history for future generations.
By 1963, George was amassing a collection of railroad memorabilia that was driving his mother mad. He had filled the family home in Grafton, Massachusetts and it appeared that their Southport summer cottage was about to succumb to the same fate. He had to find a place to store his collection.
Teaching in Bowdoinham at the time, George had befriended Phillip Carr, the station agent at Freeport, on frequent visits on days off. On one such visit a sign was posted on the door that said the station would be closing. When Phillip told George that the station itself would be put up for sale the first idea of having a Museum took hold.
The historic depot had been built in 1912 to replace the one burned in 1911. It was of a style called a New York Central type, and was one of the youngest in the State. During its heyday it saw bundles of L.L. Bean parcels leaving for destinations around the world and visitors coming to Maine for fresh air and a recreation. By 1961, passenger service had been discontinued. Most of the freight has also shifted to truck transportation, the only major client was the U.S. Mail.
On January 2, 1964 Maine Central Railroad Officials announced that George had submitted the winning bid to purchase the historic station. George believes to this day that he could not have possibly been the highest bidder but that the Railroad must have looked favorably on his plan to turn it into a Museum.
A new problem arose in that a 60 foot by 22 foot building was not going to fit in the backyard on Southport. George frantically searched for a piece of property that would be the new home to the station and found a 15 acre parcel along Route 27 in Boothbay.
The next issue to address was how to move the building itself. It was fifty miles from Freeport to Boothbay and the old Carleton Bridge over the Kennebec River in Bath was smack dab in between. “They said it couldn’t be done. The building was too big to move. It only made me all the more determined to do it.” George remembers.
As luck would have it George just happened to know the guys to help. While a foundation was dug and concrete poured at the site, Torben Anderson, Maine Truck Owner’s Association, and Jack Ballard, Kennebec Trucking, planned out the route. According to George, Torben Anderson gave him a deal because he wanted to show the public that trains were obsolete and that it would take a truck to move a train station.
Frank T. Greenleaf of Westport Island sawed the building into a total of nine pieces, 4 for the structure and 5 for the massive roof with 7 foot overhangs. Even the bricks from the chimney were dismantled to be moved to Boothbay.
On February 3, 4, and 5, 1964 the nine pieces were each loaded one at a time. A total of nine trips, three per day, crawled at a snail’s pace on the backs of flatbeds up Route 1 to Brunswick, Route 24 through Brunswick, back to Route 1 through Bath and Wiscasset and finally to Route 27. State Police Troopers accompanied the entourage stopping traffic and guiding the way. According to legend, the employees at Bath Iron Works all left their stations to come watch the spectacle of the huge pieces narrowly clearing the bridge at one time with just two inches of clearance.
Once in Boothbay, the building was re-erected where it remains today. When it opened to the public in 1965 it became Maine’s first public railway museum.