PORTLAND, Maine — Every train in the country requires government subsidies. The Amtrak Downeaster is no exception.
Several of its runs are full, however, and the train is unable to add additional cars because none are available.
"Oh, if only it was like the old days when I was a child," says Wayne Davis, one of three and the only survivor among those who founded the Downeaster.
Amtrak owns the cars and won't make anymore available to the Maine line.
The Downeaster operates five times a day between Portland and Boston with most of those runs heading north to Brunswick, as well.
Executive Director Patricia Quinn says adding cars would not necessarily add to the railroad's bottom line.
"We don't have the time or the year crews because we would have to pay the yard crews all the time," she told NEWS CENTER Maine. "We operate all of our trains with four coach cars between 70 and 72 passengers -- we're able to accommodate 300 passengers.
The Downeaster has about 16 cars, which must be divided between three train sets. This includes cafe cars. Two of the trains run twice a day, and the other goes once.
Staff can switch a car here or there, but they can't switch too many cars, as they will end up out of position for succeeding runs.
"We don't make passenger cars anymore in this country," laments Davis. "There was Pullman, Budd and several others, and they all went bankrupt."
The Downeaster is considering adding another run, but staff points out that people want to ride at prime times, and the trains aren't available.
The Downeaster's ridership has grown each of the last several years, and this year, its ridership has grown each month -- so officials expect another record year.
Fiscal hawks, however, criticize the railroad for not breaking even. Proponents say it is the most successful Amtrak line.
Passengers are also recommended to buy their tickets a few days in advance.