In contrast to previous Then & Now entries where the landscape was changed when a building was demolished, this week the landscape changed because the building was moved.

Pictured are the efforts of Maine Central Railroad to move a defunct signal tower out of Bath on Nov. 18, 1974.

The tower was formerly located at the corner of Vine and Washington streets, roughly where the small pedestrian island is today. These days, it’s in its new home as a part of the Boothbay Railway Village.

Little could be found about the history of the tower itself, aside from the fact it was built before 1945, according to old Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The date it was built, or who built it, is still a mystery. Perhaps due to its utilitarian nature, no one bothered to see it as a significant event. Even the article about its move to Boothbay, dated Nov. 21, 1974, doesn’t mention much, aside from that it was being moved.

The tower served multiple purposes over the years.

According to Brian Fanslau, shop foreman at Boothbay Railway Village, it was originally used to control train movement around the yard as trains approached the ferry that carried train cars across the river before the bridge was built.

“Essentially the fellow up there, he was your dispatcher,” said Fanslau.

Before radio communications, keeping trains from crashing into each other was all up to careful scheduling. Trains would follow that schedule closely according to guidance from dispatchers, who would keep two trains from trying to use the same track at once.

However, once trains got closer to the yard, moving trains without incident was largely up to a careful eye. That eye was situated up in the tower.

Later, the tower was used to stop automobile traffic from crossing when a train was coming, according to George McEvoy, founder of the Railway Village.
Once new automated crossing signals were put in place, the tower was largely obsolete.

McEvoy’s earlier efforts to move the Freeport Station to Boothbay had put him on Maine Central Railroad’s radar, so when they no longer had need of the signal tower, they let him know.

“They notified me when it came on the list as unneeded property,” said McEvoy. “That (tower) became outmoded, and we got that and some section houses.”

Special thanks to the Patten Free Library’s Sagadahoc History and Genealogy Room for assistance. Early editions of the Coastal Journal are preserved on microfiche and archived at the library.