Amtrak’s Downeaster welcomed as seasonal economic boost

By Faith Gillman Staff writer |  Posted: Friday, December 26, 2014

KENNEBUNK -The last time a train stopped at the station on Depot Road in Kennebunk, Lyndon Johnson was president. That same year “Downtown” by Petula Clark, and The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” were at the top of the Billboard charts. 

Fifty years have passed since riders were able to hop on a train in Kennebunk. But now that a seasonal stop on Amtrak’s Downeaster line has been approved for the town, passengers will soon be able to ride the rails and visit downtown and neighboring areas from Kennebunk once again – providing, supporters hope, a welcome seasonal economic boost.

Plans to bring the train back are well under way, according to Mat Eddy, Kennebunk’s economic development director. 

“We got the green light from Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (in May 2014) and hired Sebago Technics to do a conceptual drawing,” said Eddy. “We will have a 300-foot platform (that) will allow for bicycles to be loaded and unloaded at the stop.

When the train does stop, it will do so at Kennebunk’s original station, which is now home to Dietz Associates, a design and advertising firm. The building and the business are owned by Tim and Kathy Dietz of Kennebunk. The town is negotiating a lease with Dietz Associates, which will continue its operations from the depot, but will offer space in the building for ticket sales and a waiting room for passengers. Tim Dietz is onboard with the project.

“We do want it for the town and for us,” said Dietz. “Kathy and I are delighted to have the building come back to its original use. We love this building. It’s exciting for it to be the focus of activity, and everyone involved has been working well together.”

Dietz, who is a bit of a history buff, did a considerable amount of research on the building to find out as much as he could about its history. 

“The foundation for the station was laid in 1872,” said Dietz, “which was discovered at the Brick Store Museum while reading the day-to-day diary of Andrew Walker (Kennebunk’s town clerk during the mid-19th century). And at one time the stationmaster here was given an award for the most beautiful garden of any train station. Kennebunk was spelled in flowers in the garden.”

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