Old Pond Railway Trail – Hancock, Maine - Atlas Obscura

Old Pond Railway Trail

Walk the same tracks that once ferried Gilded Age aristocrats to their vacation destinations.  


The Old Pond Trailway is a walking path along what was once the rail bed for the forgotten Maine Shore Line Railroad Company. As a spur off the Maine Central Railroad, this short length of rail connected the main trunk line to a ferry which would whisk tourists and summer residents away to the popular Victorian destination of Eden — which was renamed in 1918 to its current name of Bar Harbor. 

In 1884 the tracks were laid by Colonel John M. Green, and the ferry terminals at both McNeil Point in Hancock and at the town wharf in Eden were constructed. Those seeking the sublime and picturesque beauty of the bare, pink-granite mountain tops of Mount Desert Island boarded the trains in southern New England and traveled north for a rusticator’s delight of Victorian pleasures. Prior to this rail line’s construction, visitors would have taken a steam ship from more southernly ports in Portland and Rockland. With the railroad’s construction, the journey became considerably easier; rather than a lengthy and nauseating sea voyage, the comfortable Pullman cars zipped passengers northwards. Upon arrival in Hancock, it was only a 12-mile ferry journey to Eden.

Bar Harbor, situated on Mount Desert Island, was a popular destination for wealthy Americans. It attracted the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Astors, Morgans, and many other families who prospered during the Gilded Age. The Maine Shore Line Railroad carried all of these families along this route, as well as President Benjamin Harrison, who visited Bar Harbor in 1889. Eventually, when automobiles became more prevalent, and the island allowed them onto their shores, the railroad fell out of favor for quicker means of transport. 

Today, evidence of this spur line exists on old railway maps and on this walking trail, which recently received a facelift by local Eagle Scouts. The 2.9 mile trail has two entrances, one on Point Road, and another on Old Route One — both in Hancock. 

The trail is narrow, with spruce, hemlock, and fir trees encroaching on its borders. In many spots it is built high up on earthen berms, surrounded by marshland. At times the path runs against old wire fences, likely constructed to prevent trespassing animals from turning into roadkill on the tracks. Crossing Old Pond, a causeway was built with a steel bridge. A small break in the causeway, under the planked bridge, allows for the tide to rush through with its emerald green waters, that are so common to the oxygen rich northern waters of the Atlantic. 

Even today, there is clear evidence of the path’s past life as an active railway. Several spots feature rails ready for a phantom train to roll across its tracks. Wooden ties run horizontally along the path creating a plethora of stumble hazards. As such, it’s not a path recommended for biking.

Know Before You Go

The trailhead is across from the Town Hall, almost immediately after you turn off Route One onto Point Road.

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