These days, rail-based cargo in Bath tends to travel straight through the city. And the days of massive railyards, bustling freight sheds, and trolleys transporting folks from town to town have been gone for decades.

However, rail cargo was important to businesses in Bath for much longer than you may think. The older picture shown is of men laying rail lines in September 1967 along Commercial Street, repairing and replacing existing rails that were used for shipping cargo north along the Kennebec River.

At the time, there was some debate about whether to replace the rail lines Commercial Street or not. A hotel developer had stepped in to assert that they company would be interested in building a new property in the area, so long as the rail lines were removed.

However, S. Prawer and Co., a wholesale grocery company, along with Maine Minerals, Inc. (dealers in road salt), used the tracks extensively. Both said the lines were essential to their business operations.

As the picture makes obvious, Maine Central Railroad obtained the go-ahead for laying new lines, and did so down the center of Commercial Street. Later, the area around the rails was paved, allowing both rail and car traffic on the street.

The rail lines apparently worked out for S. Prawer, as the company outgrew its operations in 1978 and moved to a larger facility in Portland. As large-scale businesses on Commercial Street gradually left, the need for rail lines dwindled, and they were eventually paved over some time in the mid 1980s (exact dates couldn’t be found).

Interestingly enough, the space S. Prawer once used eventually ended up empty, and was torn down and replaced by the Hampton Inn. Hotel developers got their wish in the end.

Today, you can still see the remnants of the rail lines on Commercial Street. Their presence is betrayed by a pair of parallel cracks running the length of the area.

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.

Additional information provided by Bath Historical Society.

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