Pan Am Railways

Pan Am Railways, Inc. (PAR), known before March 2006 as Guilford Rail System, is an American holding company that owns and operates Class II regional railroads covering northern New England from Mattawamkeag, Maine, to Rotterdam Junction, New York. The primary subsidiaries of Pan Am Railways are Boston and Maine Corporation, Maine Central Railroad Company, Portland Terminal Company, and Springfield Terminal Railway Company.

Pan Am Railways, Inc.
IndustryRail transport
Founded1981 (Guilford Transportation Industries)
2006 (Pan Am Railways)
FounderTimothy Mellon
Area served
Key people
Timothy Mellon
David Fink
David A. Fink
Number of employees
750 (2011)
ParentPan Am Systems
SubsidiariesBoston and Maine Corporation
Maine Central Railroad Company
Portland Terminal Company
Springfield Terminal Railway Company

Pan Am Railways is headquartered in Iron Horse Park in North Billerica, Massachusetts.[1][2] It is a subsidiary of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Pan Am Systems, formerly known as Guilford Transportation Industries. Guilford bought the name, colors and logo of Pan American World Airways in 1998.



During much of the 20th century, heavy manufacturing industry tended to move out of New England, making the region primarily a receiver of freight traffic rather than an originator. Originating freight or carrying it long distance are far more profitable than final delivery or short haul. New England's railroads have long been handicapped by traffic flow that makes them delivery agents for other railroads and by short distances. Practically the longest one-railroad haul in New England was Boston & Maine's (reporting mark B&M) route from the Hudson River to Portland, Maine, 267 miles (430 km) — less than one-eighth of the distance from Seattle to Chicago on the BNSF Railway.[3]

A merger consisting of the B&M, the Maine Central Railroad (MEC), and the Delaware & Hudson Railway (D&H), along with one or more other New England railroads, was proposed as long ago as 1929 by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) as part of its nationwide merger proposal. Frederic C. Dumaine, Jr., president at various times of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (NH), the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad and D&H, proffered much the same idea. The benefits of such a merger would include economies of scale and longer hauls.[3]

In 1977, Timothy Mellon, heir of the wealthy and influential Mellon family of Guilford, Connecticut, teamed up with ex-Penn Central employee David Fink to form Perma Treat, a railroad tie treatment company. Mellon wanted to acquire a railroad and considered several: Illinois Central Railroad and the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad. None of those acquisitions happened, but Mellon's interest in railroads continued.[3] The passage of the Staggers Rail Act in 1980 allowed Mellon and Fink to execute a business plan (unlike those of earlier railroads in the region), centering on buying up as many local railroads as possible, thus creating full horizontal integration over New England and the northern Mid-Atlantic states, and gaining efficiencies of scale.

In June 1981, Mellon purchased MEC and its wholly owned subsidiary Portland Terminal Company (then owned by U.S. Filter Corporation) through his holding company, Guilford Transportation Industries.[3][4] In June 1983, the B&M became the second piece of the Guilford system, bringing with it a subsidiary, the 6.5-mile (10.5 km) Springfield Terminal Railway, a former interurban line connecting Springfield, Vermont to Charlestown, New Hampshire. The Springfield Terminal subsidiary continues to exist and houses most of the operational side of the entire company including train crews and dispatch.[3][5]

The formation of Penn Central (PC) in 1968 and its takeover of the NH at year's end had left New England with only one non-PC connection to the rest of the country: B&M's interchange with D&H at Mechanicville, New York. The D&H made a logical extension to the Guilford system — and a necessary one if Guilford was to be more than a terminal company for Conrail traffic moving into New England. D&H was surrounded by Conrail and not doing well. The state of New York, which had financed much of D&H's rehabilitation program, approached Guilford about acquiring the railroad. In October 1981, the Norfolk & Western Railway, which owned D&H through a subsidiary holding company, agreed to sell it to Guilford. The purchase was completed at the beginning of 1984.[3]

By the time the Guilford system was formed, the one-time multiplicity of connecting railroads had become a single, healthy, well-managed railroad: Conrail. Any New England-bound traffic Conrail originated would move as far as possible on Conrail before being handed over to Guilford (e.g. to Springfield, Massachusetts, rather than Buffalo, New York), and it would move faster. The Guilford remained a short-haul, terminating railroad.[3]


Guilford's first few years were defined by abandonments, labor unrest and strikes, and a draconian management style that damaged the company's reputation. The railroad struggled financially to turn a profit and implemented cost-cutting measures.[3] Guilford then began to shrink its system by eliminating marginal low-density routes.

MEC's Mountain Division from Portland, Maine, to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, carried almost no local traffic and served only to give MEC a connection with a railroad other than B&M. With the formation of the Guilford system, it was deemed redundant. B&M was now part of the family, and interchanging traffic with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) at Mattawamkeag, Maine, was easier than battling the grades of Crawford Notch in New Hampshire.[3] A section in New Hampshire was salvaged and reborn as the Conway Scenic Railroad.

Similarly, the only business on MEC's Calais Branch from Bangor to Calais, Maine, was at the extreme eastern end, which could be reached by CP. Service on most of the branch was discontinued, and the line was sold to the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT).[3] The remaining service in Calais serves a pulp mill in Woodland and is operated by ST; MaineDOT leases a 10-mile (16 km) segment between Brewer and Ellsworth to the Downeast Scenic Railroad.[6] The remaining 85-mile (137 km) Ellsworth-Calais segment was leased to the Downeast Sunrise Trail, an interim rail trail.[7]

MEC's Rockland Branch from Brunswick, to Rockland, Maine, was also on the chopping block, as was part of the Lower Road, the Portland-Waterville route via Augusta, Maine.[3] This branch would later be sold to MaineDOT, and operated on its behalf by the Maine Eastern Railroad until the end of 2015, when operations were transferred to the Central Maine and Quebec Railway (CMQ). The operation of this branch would soon be transferred to CP, upon that rail system's acquisition of CMQ.[8]

Labor disputes and mismanagement

Guilford announced layoffs, shop closings, and pay cuts. MEC's maintenance workers went on strike in March 1986, and the strike spread to B&M and D&H. To take advantage of a lower wage scale and more flexible work rules that apply to shortline railroads, Guilford began leasing portions of the MEC and B&M to B&M subsidiary Springfield Terminal (ST) for operation. This saved money for Guilford, but angered labor, resulting in another, more lengthy strike in 1987.[9] In 1988 an arbitrator on behalf of the ICC ruled that Guilford could not lease D&H to ST and had to abide by pre-ST labor agreements.[9] The ruling precipitated D&H into bankruptcy. Guilford withdrew from D&H, and the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway was designated to operate the railroad.[9] In 1991, the D&H was sold to CP Rail, where it grew into a more prosperous railroad than it had been during Guilford's tenure.[3] The Philadelphia Inquirer later commented that Guilford had "become the bane of organized labor for a harsh, confrontational approach to trimming costs".[9] Most railroad executives dismissed Mellon as a wealthy heir who suffered from gross mismanagement, possessed a willful misunderstanding of the inner workings of a railroad, and was a "stubborn ideologue".[9]

Amtrak conflicts

Guilford proved to be an unwilling participant in assisting Amtrak on several occasions, forcing the U.S. federal government to get involved. The company had two north-south routes to Canada, the D&H line north from Albany and B&M's Connecticut River Line. The D&H line was in better condition, so Guilford downgraded the B&M route, reducing maintenance. Complications arose. B&M and the Central Vermont Railway (CV) each owned a portion of the route. South of Brattleboro and north of Windsor, Vermont, CV maintained its track so that good speeds were possible, but between those two points was a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of B&M track, much of it limited to 10 mph (16 km/h). Amtrak, whose Montrealer used the route, found the slow running intolerable.[9] The train was suspended in 1987, and the ICC ordered B&M to sell the Windsor-Brattleboro segment to Amtrak, which immediately resold it to CV, who rehabilitated the track.[9] The Montrealer was restored in 1989 on a new route: CV all the way from New London, Connecticut, to Cantic, Quebec, bypassing B&M entirely.[3]

Service on Amtrak's new Downeaster line between Boston and Portland was delayed when negotiations between Guilford and the national passenger carrier slowed due to the former's issues with equipment weight and speed limits. In December 1998, a speed limit of 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) was agreed upon between both parties, with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) approving it in 1999. Guilford then refused to assist Amtrak with any track improvements, forcing the STB to deal with Guilford on Amtrak's behalf. Track upgrades were eventually made in 2000, but the proposed 2001 start-up was further delayed when Guilford refused to allow Amtrak speeds in excess of 59 miles per hour (95 km/h) (despite STB approval of 79 mph), as well as prohibiting Amtrak from operating test trains. Again the STB informed Guilford that they were in violation of their agreements signed with Amtrak. Downeaster service finally began on December 14, 2001.[10]

Expansion attempt

In 1985, Guilford entered into an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) to run trains to St. Louis. NS was attempting to win approval of a plan to purchase Conrail from the U.S. 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 955 miles (1,537 km) of Conrail track and 1,300 freight cars from Norfolk Southern for $53M.[11] NS did not prevail in its attempt to purchase Conrail in 1985, and the Guilford plan was dropped. In 1987, Guilford also placed a bid to buy Southern Pacific.[12]

The paper industry provides the largest source of business, both inbound chemicals, clay and pulp (although Pan Am has lost much of that business to trucks), and outbound paper. Rail had a slightly more than 50% market share for outbound paper shipments from Maine, most of which used Pan Am (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.[13] The Maine Motor Transport Association web page reports that trucks transport 94% of total manufactured tonnage in Maine.[14]

Despite the general growth in freight transport throughout the US, Guilford's growth remained stagnant due to poor management decisions, despite an initial growth spurt in the 1990s. With the creation of Pan Am Railways, traffic dropped considerably. A report issued by MaineDOT listed traffic on MEC as being 162,658 loads in 1972.[15] As of 2008, Pan Am traffic over the remaining portions of MEC was estimated to be less than 69,000 loads.[16] During the same time span, the Association of American Railroads estimates that freight traffic throughout the US more than doubled.[17]

Pan Am Railways (2006-present)

In 1998, Guilford bought the name, colors and logo of Pan American World Airways. In March 2006, Guilford Transportation Industries changed its name to Pan Am Systems, and Guilford Rail System was rebranded as Pan Am Railways (PAR). Then in March 2009, PAR was ordered to pay the largest corporate criminal fine in Massachusetts history — $500,000 — due to the company's negligence to report a spill of hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel in violation of state and federal environmental laws and regulations.[18]

As of 2011, PAR employs 750 people and has a $40 million payroll.[19] The company continues to operate with subsidiary entities bearing the names of former railroads which over time formed the present day company. The company's assets are housed separately in these various subsidiaries for various reasons. For example, the Boston and Maine Corporation owns the railroad property itself while the Springfield Terminal branch operates the railroad (most of the company's employees are under the Springfield Terminal umbrella.) Meanwhile, the Maine Central entity owns rolling stock.

Norfolk Southern

On May 15, 2008, NS announced that it had come to an agreement with PAR to "create an improved rail route between Albany, New York, and the Boston, Massachusetts, region, named the Patriot Corridor.[20][21][22] The STB approved the deal on March 12, 2009,[23] with each railroad owning 50% of a new company known as Pan Am Southern (PAS). PAR's trackage between Ayer, Massachusetts, and Mechanicville, New York, was transferred to PAS and continues to be operated and maintained by PAR's ST subsidiary. NS transferred to PAS cash and property valued at $140 million.

Improvements to the route include track and signal upgrades, and expansion of terminals, including construction of new automotive and intermodal terminals in Ayer and Mechanicville.[24] In March 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded a $2-million grant to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for preliminary engineering on removing 19 obstacles to allow double stack container trains to use the Patriot Corridor route. The project includes raising clearance by two feet in the 4.75-mile (7.64 km) Hoosac Tunnel.[25]

Disputes with local governments

The company has been criticized for dumping used railroad ties that contain creosote rather than sending them for safe disposal or recycling.[26]


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

Locomotive fleet

1, 2PARGMD FP92, Ex CN units where they were originally numbered as 6505 & 6516, later Via Rail, and also on New Hampshire's Conway Scenic Railroad between 1995 & 2009.
305-307, 310,
312-317, 319, 321
326-327, 330,
333-335, 337,
343-345, 350-354, 370,
371, 373-374, 376-381
MECEMD GP4019, 343-354 Ex CR-PC-NYC, 370-380 Ex NS-N&W,
501-508MECGMD GP40-2L(W)8, Ex CN
509-512, 514-519MECGMD GP40-2(W)10, Ex CN
600-601, 604-607, 609, 616-619MECEMD SD40-212, Ex KCS, TFM, SP, ATSF, SCL, MILW
3400-3404MECEMD SD40-25, Ex QNSL
5930, 5933, 5936, 5943, 5946, 5948, 5953, 5956, 5966-5967-5968, 5972-5973-5974, 5976MECGE B40-815, Ex CSX, Nee CR & NYS&W
7489, 7500, 7517-7518, 7523, 7528,
7534-7535, 7541-7542, 7545,
7552, 7561, 7575, 7585, 7594-7595, 7605, 7609,
7620, 7622, 7627, 7635, 7643
MECGE C40-824, Ex CSX (7489 is an Ex Conrail C40-8)
7655, 7727, 7797, 7835, 7875, 7898MECGE Dash 8-40CW6, Ex CSX
Fleet total:122

Heritage locomotives

In August 2011, PAR repainted an EMD GP9 locomotive (ST #77) into the maroon and gold "Minuteman" paint scheme used on B&M locomotives in the 1950s.[27] In December 2011, ST GP9 #52 was repainted using MEC's 1950s-era "Pine Tree Route" green and gold livery.[28] Both were sold to the Heber Valley Railroad and departed Pan-Am property in September 2018.


Road Trains:

  • EDPO/POED Daily manifest between East Deerfield and Portland
  • RJED/EDRJ Daily manifest between Rotterdam Junction and East Deerfield
  • SEPO/POSE Daily manifest between Portland and Selkirk via CSX Worcester-Selkirk
  • SJWA/WASJ Daily manifest between Mattawamkeag and Waterville (NBSR interchange traffic)
  • WABK/BKWA Daily manifest between Bucksport and Waterville (VERSO traffic)
  • WAPO/POWA Daily manifest between Waterville and Portland
  • WAAY/AYWA Manifest between Waterville and Ayer
  • PORU/RUPO Daily manifest between Portland and Rumford
  • DJJC/JCDJ As needed unit chemical between Danville and Jones Chemical
  • DOBO/BODO Daily unit gravel between Dover and Boston (New Hampshire Northcoast traffic)
  • AYED/EDAY Daily manifest between Ayer and East Deerfield (Works Fitchburg Yard & Gardner Yard)
  • EDPL/PLED Manifest between East Deerfield and Plainfield (over Connecticut Southern Railroad trackage)
  • EDBF/BFED Manifest between East Deerfield and Bellows Falls

Local operations:

Pan Am Southern operations

  • 22K Intermodal from Chicago (47 Street Yard) to Ayer
  • 23K Intermodal from Ayer to Chicago (47 Street Yard)
  • 28N Autorack from Fostoria to Ayer
  • 287 Autorack from Ayer to Bellevue
  • 16R Manifest from Binghamton to East Deerfield
  • 11R Manifest From East Deerfield to Binghamton/Enola


  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. Drury, George H. (1992). The Train-Watcher's Guide to North American Railroads: A Contemporary Reference to the Major railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 123–125. ISBN 0-89024-131-7.
  4. "Wayback Machine" (PDF). June 16, 2006.
  5. "Terminal Railway Map". Archived from the original on July 2, 2008. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  6. "Welcome to the Downeast Scenic Railroad". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  7. "Sunrise Trail Coalition Home". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  8. "CP to acquire Central Maine & Quebec Railway from FTAI".
  9. Belden, Tom (May 6, 1990). "An Investor Believes He's On Track; Banking Heir Timothy D. Mellon Has Poured Millions Into Regional Railroads; He's Also Stirred Controversy". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  10. "Highlights from Formation of TNE to the Downeaster Inaugural". Trainriders Northeast. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  11. "Firm Conditions Conrail Bid on Approval This Year." Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1985.
  12. The New York Times, November 25, 1987
  13. "2008 Maine Infrastructure Report Card - Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers". 2015-09-15. Archived from the original on 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  14. "MMTA: ECONOMIC FACTS". Archived from the original on May 10, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
  15. Mountain Division Rail Study; Maine Department of Transportation, December 2007
  16. Atlantic Northeast Rails and Ports, 08#02A
  17. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved April 27, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. Arata, Mary E. (12 October 2011). "Ayer may weigh injunctive relief against Pan Am". Nashoba Publishing. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  19. Billings, Randy (19 May 2011). "On the right track? Rail officials, South Portland residents hope to forge solution to idling trains". The Forecaster. Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
  20. "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). Norfolk Southern Corp. 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  21. Norfolk Southern Railway and Pan Am Railways (2008-05-16). "Introducing the Patriot Corridor" (PDF). Norfolk Southern Corp. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  22. "2 railroad freight companies combine effort". AP Business News. Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Associated Press. 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
  23. Retrieved March 15, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. "Pan Am's second takeoff". Trains Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing. January 2010.
  25. "Olver, Kerry, Brown, Neal: Massachusetts Awarded $2 Million to Initiate Improvements Needed to Expand Freight Rail Service Into New England". Archived from the original on September 15, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  26. Ashline, Shelby (July 6, 2017). "Buckland Board of Health: What can we do about dumped railroad ties?". The Recorder.
  27. Sprague, Bob (14 August 2011). "ST 77". Railroad Picture Archives. Archived from the original on 30 December 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  28. Smith, Kevin. "ST 52". Railroad Picture Archives. Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2011.

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