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Pan Am Railways
Reporting mark BM, MEC, PTM, ST
Locale New England
Dates of operation 1981–
Track gauge 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Billerica, Massachusetts
Pan Am Railways headquarters
Maine Central locomotives wearing the Pan Am Railways "Phase II" paint scheme at Rigby Yard in South Portland, Maine.
Maine Central locomotives wearing the Pan Am Railways "Phase I" and Guilford Rail System "Phase II" paint schemes at Rigby Yard.

Pan Am Railways (PAR), known as Guilford Rail System (GRS) before March 2006, is a holding company that owns and operates a Class II regional railroad covering northern New England from Mattawamkeag, Maine to Rotterdam Junction, New York. The primary subsidiaries of PAR are Boston and Maine Corporation (reporting mark BM), Maine Central Railroad (reporting mark MEC), Portland Terminal Company (reporting mark PTM), and Springfield Terminal Railway (reporting mark ST); BM and MEC are operated under lease by ST. PAR is a subsidiary of Pan Am Systems, formerly known as Guilford Transportation Industries (GTI). GTI bought the name, colors and logo of the Pan Am airline in 1998. The company headquarters is located in North Billerica, Massachusetts (an unincorporated village within the town of Billerica).[1][2]



GTI developed as a child of railroad deregulation in the United States. The passage of the Staggers Rail Act allowed GTI to execute a business plan unlike those of earlier railroads in New England. It revolved around the idea of buying up as many local railroads as possible, to create full “horizontal integration” over New England and the northern Mid-Atlantic states, gaining efficiencies of scale.

GTI started by purchasing the MEC in 1981 from U.S. Filter Corporation. This was followed by its 1983 purchase of the BM, and in 1984 it purchased the Delaware and Hudson Railway (DH). Its network sprawled from the border between Maine and New Brunswick to Boston, west to Albany, north to Montreal, and south (via trackage rights) to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.

Following the purchases of MEC, BM and DH, GTI began several major changes to the operations of these railroads and their workforces. One of the first changes took place with new management, followed by consolidation of locomotive repair work at the MEC shops at Waterville, Maine, resulting in repainting of locomotives from the predecessor companies into GTI corporate colors.

In the mid-1980s, GTI began to eliminate marginal low-density routes, particularly in Maine. Fully one-third of MEC trackage was eliminated, including the “Mountain Division” from Portland, Maine to St. Johnsbury, Vermont; the “Rockland Branch” from Brunswick to Rockland, Maine; the “Calais Branch” from Bangor to Calais, Maine; and the “Lower Road” from Augusta to Brunswick.

When the Calais Branch was cut, service was kept on a now-orphaned section of trackage running between Calais and a pulp mill in nearby Woodland; these tracks ran for several miles through New Brunswick, Canada, and their only remaining connection to the North American rail network was with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) at St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Following the Calais Branch abandonment, CPR agreed to haul MEC traffic from the interchange at Calais to an interchange with MEC at Mattawamkeag. In spite of the fact that new labor agreements had removed the requirement to use a caboose at the end of each train, and crew size had been reduced from as many as five employees to just two, GTI leased the operation of the remaining portions of the Calais branch to its tiny Springfield Terminal subsidiary, which had much more advantageous labor agreements.


Springfield Terminal Railway

EMD GP40 #339 at Wells, Maine, 1999.

The Springfield Terminal Railway was a 6-mile (10 km) shortline connection from Springfield, Vermont, to Charlestown, New Hampshire,[3] that was owned by the Boston and Maine Railroad.

From 1897 to 1921, it was known as the Springfield Electric,[4] and was converted from electric to diesel power in 1956. Passenger service lasted until 1947, and freight service was discontinued in 1984.[5]

The ST had once been an interurban, and following typical interurban and shortline practice, it had a union agreement that allowed fewer crew members per train and operation without cabooses. By the time Guilford took over, the operation had been cut back to a stub of a few hundred yards serving one customer and operating infrequently. The tracks have since been removed and the route is now a rails to trails bike/walking path.

Labor disputes and recent history

A Maine Central boxcar in Guilford livery

More branch lines were subsequently leased to the Springfield Terminal, and eventually all of the B&M and MEC were operated by ST. This saved GTI money, but angered labor. In 1986, GTI endured a lengthy and extremely bitter strike by its workforce, which required the intervention of President Ronald Reagan's administration. In 1988, GTI declared the D&H bankrupt and the employees of the railroad took it over, with the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway managing it. The employees then sold out in 1991 to the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In the years that followed, GTI forced many management and salary changes, resulting in other strikes over wages and work rules.

The paper industry provides the largest source of business, both inbound chemicals, clay and pulp (although PAR has lost a lot of that business to truck), and outbound paper. Rail had a slightly more than 50% market share for outbound paper shipments from Maine, most of which used PAR (truck and boat carry the balance). By comparison, rail has a better than 80% market share from mills in Wisconsin (primarily served by Wisconsin Central Transportation). A 2008 report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers rated Maine at 48th of the 50 states in volume of freight traffic that moves by rail.[6] The Maine Motor Transport Association web page reports that trucks transport 94% of total manufactured tonnage in Maine.[7]

In some years, PAR rail traffic had trended up somewhat, following national rail industry trends. However, as of recent times, PAR rail traffic has dropped considerably. A report issued by the Maine Department of Transportation listed rail traffic on the Maine Central Railroad as being 162,658 loads in 1972.[8] As of 2008, PAR rail traffic over the remaining portions of the MEC was estimated to be no more than 69,000 loads.[9] Interestingly, in this same time period, the Association of American Railroads estimates that rail traffic in the United States has more than doubled.[10]


The former Guilford "Big G" logo

The main line runs from Mattawamkeag, Maine, to Mechanicville, New York, via the lines of the following former companies:

Former proposed expansion

In 1985, the company, then known as Guilford Transportation Industries, entered into an agreement with Norfolk Southern to run trains to St. Louis. Norfolk Southern was attempting to win approval of a plan to purchase Conrail from the United States government and proposed allowing Guilford to lease Conrail lines to St. Louis in order to restore competition that would be lost in the merger. The plan would have allowed Guilford to use the Conrail mainline from Toledo to Ridgeway, Ohio and from Crestline, Ohio to St. Louis. Guilford would also purchase other Conrail track for $35 million.[11] Norfolk Southern did not prevail in its attempt to purchase Conrail in 1985, and the Guilford plan was dropped.

Partnership with Norfolk Southern

Pan Am Railways boxcar at Rigby Yard, South Portland, ME, August 2006.

On May 15, 2008, Norfolk Southern Corp. announced that it had come to an agreement with Pan Am Railways to "create an improved rail route between Albany, New York, and the Boston, Massachusetts area called the 'Patriot Corridor'." [12][13][14]

On March 12, 2009, the Surface Transportation Board approved the deal.[15] Each of the two companies will own 50% of a new company to be known as Pan Am Southern (PAS). PAR's trackage between Ayer, Massachusetts and Mechanicville, New York will be transferred to PAS and will continue to be operated and maintained by PAR's Springfield Terminal Railway subsidiary. NS will transfer to PAS cash and property valued at $140 million.

Planned improvements to the route include track and signal upgrades, and expansion of terminals, including construction of new automotive and intermodal terminals in Ayer, MA and Mechanicville, NY.

External links


  1. ^ "Billerica town, Massachusetts." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on August 27, 2009.
  2. ^ "Table of Contents Page." Pan Am Railways. Retrieved on August 27, 2009.
  3. ^ Springfield Terminal Railroad map
  4. ^ Springfield Electric / Terminal Railway Company
  5. ^ Springfield Electric / Terminal Railway Company 1
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Mountain Division Rail Study; Maine Department of Transportation, December 2007
  9. ^ Atlantic Northeast Rails and Ports, 08#02A
  10. ^
  11. ^ Behr, Peter. "Norfolk Southern Moves To Erase Antitrust Issue." Washington Post, September 26, 1985.
  12. ^ Norfolk Southern Corp. (2008-05-15). "Pan Am Railways and Norfolk Southern Create the Patriot Corridor to Improve Rail Service and Expand Capacity in New York and New England". Press release. Retrieved 2008-05-15.  
  13. ^ "Introducing the Patriot Corridor" (PDF). Norfolk Southern Corp.. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-05-16.  
  14. ^ The Associated Press (2008-05-15). "2 railroad freight companies combine effort". AP Business News (Worcester Telegram & Gazette). Retrieved 2008-05-16.  
  15. ^ US Board Approves Joint Ownership Of Pan Am Southern LLC, CNN Money,, 3/12/09


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