The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 15, 2002


A family takes a trip to Portland by train
Downeaster Amtrak's new train to Portland, Maine on the right track for family getaways

Some families have parties to celebrate, but my family celebrated my birthday by giving me the greatest gift a rail fan could receive -- a family train trip on Amtrak's new train from Boston to Portland.
Train buff Bill Koerner is ready to board the train to Portland.

The Downeaster runs four times a day each way from Boston's North Station to Portland, Maine. We could have driven to Haverhill where parking is free, but from there we wouldn't have been assured of sitting together. Or we could have taken the T from Concord to North Station and had even more "train time." We chose to drive into Boston and park in an indoor city parking garage next to North Station. Once on the train, the seats can be rotated so we had two sets of four seats making a nice family setting for the eight of us. The train was nearly full; I overheard someone say there were 280 passengers on this Saturday run. The scenery was fascinating going from city to suburb to country to shore line. The café car offered snacks and beverages. Staff was friendly and passengers were relaxed and congenial.

We left North Station on the 9:45 a.m. train and arrived in Portland at 12:30 p.m. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn by the Bay. Their shuttle van picked us up at the train station for the ten-minute ride to the hotel.

Rooms with a view

The rooms with a view over Portland Harbor are delightful and worth requesting. The hotel offers a few special packages. We checked in and then walked about 1/2 mile to the Portland Public Market. It is a wonderful indoor market place with individual vendors selling soups, coffees, cut flowers, vegetables, sushi, sandwiches, meats and almost anything else you might want to eat. We chose our lunch items and sat together to eat and people-watch. Back at the hotel some enjoyed the indoor pool, sauna and exercise room, while others did more walking around the city. In the evening we walked six blocks to the Sebago Brewery -- a relaxed, informal restaurant. The hostess seated us in a large corner booth, perfect for a group with children. The food was delicious and reasonably priced.

Later that evening we had TV in one room showing "Mary Poppins" for the children, in another room the exciting Patriots football game and in the third room a movie on HBO. Our granddaughter said she wished she lived in a hotel all the time so she could visit with the relatives and choose which TV show to watch (shades of Eloise)!

A variety of things to do in Portland

In the morning we enjoyed the varied and delicious brunch in the hotel dining room. They kindly stored all our belongings so we could check out of our rooms and roam around freely until train time. Portland has a wide variety of things to see and do. Their web site,, is very helpful. We took a cab down to the Portland Railroad Museum. A wonderful collection of old narrow-gauge passenger cars is on display. Unfortunately the narrow gauge railroad, which runs along the waterfront, was closed until mid-February but a bike/footpath along the waterfront
Grandson Daniel Koerner watches the world go by.
provided the perfect walk for us as we headed back towards the hotel. The tiny shops in the old part of the city opened at 11 a.m. on Sunday. We each headed off to shops of our choosing sportswear, gifts, coffee specialties, and for our three-year-old grandson, a toy store. As he entered, he looked around and announced, "I like this kind of place." We all found our own kind of places and did a bit of shopping before heading back to the hotel. The van took us back to the train station in time for the 2 p.m. trip home. The Amtrak schedule is available on the Internet or by calling 1-800-872-7245. There are coach and business class seats. Tickets are under $50 roundtrip for adults. There is a two-for-one fare until February 29.) All seats are reserved, which means ticket holders are assured of having a seat somewhere, although no specific seat is assigned. This is a very popular train at the moment, so I advise planning ahead.

This trip is a wonderful way to enjoy a weekend or even a long day. Adding time in Portland is the frosting on the cake. I hope my family decides to do this for every birthday!

Photos courtesy of the Koerners.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito