It’s 4 am! What am I doing up???

This was the day I had planned to drive up to Pemaquid. Everyone tells me that the best time to photograph the lighthouse is at dawn. My research makes me think I will have an hour and a half drive from Portland. That means if sunrise is 5:30 am I have to be on my way by 4 am.

Beep Beep Beep my cell phone alarm let me know that it was time to rise and shine. Boy was it dark! I peeked out the window and the reason for the extreme darkness (besides being 4 am) was that it was raining, hard and from the looks of the halos around the street lights it was foggy too. The storm predicted  had finally arrived.

In that case there was only one thing to do….Go back to bed.


Day is done, Gone the Sun

On April 13, 1899, President McKinley named the one-time subpost of Fort Preble, Cape Elizabeth’s first military fortification, Fort Williams. Named after Brevet Major General Seth Williams, Fort Williams grew to be a tremendous military asset during World War II. Besides protecting the shoreline of Cape Elizabeth, the infantry and artillery units provided the Harbor Defense for    Portland. After the war, many of the forts in Casco Bay were closed, including Fort Williams, which traded in its defense of the coast for caretaker status    and Army Reserve accommodations. Fort Williams was officially closed and    deactivated on June 30, 1963. (from Cape Elizabeth’s web site)

Today, Fort Williams is still one of the most treasured sites of Cape Elizabeth. Home to the oldest lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light.

As I made my way back to Fort Williams and Portland Head Light the bright blue skies faded and the wind began to blow. There’s be no sunset shots tonight. The predicted storm was on its way.

While I was out chasing the other lighthouses the tide had gone out so there wasn’t much surf even with the wind. But I was there and intended to make the most of it. I would stay until one of 3 things happened

  • It got too dark to see what I was doing
  • It started to rain
  • or until I got a good shot of the lighthouse

I’m happy to report that I didn’t have to stay until full dark and I didn’t get rained on. Did I get the shot? Well I’ll let you be the judge.

Lighthouses by Land

With the clock heading into the late afternoon it was time to see if I could find my way back to Portland Head Light. I wondered if I could get an evening picture. The weather report had said there was a storm coming but you’d never know it by looking at the blue sky and sunshine of late afternoon.

My path took me over “The Bridge” . The Bridge is a wide span that takes you over to Cape Elizabeth.

The view from the bridge of Casco Bay is great. I got a good look when I was on the trolley tour but driving was a different story.

Especially driving during “rush hour”. I admit Portland’s rush hour isn’t anything like Boston’s. Boston’s rush hour is more congested, stop and go, a  tough on the brakes kind of drive. On a bad night it can take hours to get from one end of the expressway (AKA distressway) to the other. On the other hand being on “The Bridge” in Portland during rush hour has earned the name “Rush”. I  felt like I was  driving in the Indie 500. Cars were flying by me like I was standing still!  I checked and I was doing the speed limit which was plenty fast for someone who doesn’t know the road.

Once off “The Bridge” I was doing pretty good from memory until I hit a large intersection that I didn’t remember from the trolley tour. I made my best guess and of course, it was wrong. After a few more tries I was hopelessly twisted around. Time to break out the trusty GPS. Back on track I finally pulled into Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light. Even getting twisted around it was way too early for the photo I was trying to get. So I decided to back track and see if I could find the lighthouses I’d seen from the “Sea” part of the Land and Sea Tour.

Since I didn’t have an address I couldn’t use the GPS and was left to my own devices. It wasn’t too long before I found a lovely park and there was Portland Breakwater Light  in the distance.

There was a parking attendant but she really only gave me directions. She pointed out another entrance to the park and told me to drive down that and it would take me much closer to the lighthouse. Success! I could walk the large rocks of the breakwater right up to the “Bug” light.

This is really a cute lighthouse. It’s classical Greek Styling combined with its short stature (the tower is only 13 ft tall) makes this little lighthouse look like it belongs on a chess board.

After exploring the light I spotted another interesting structure. It was a giant hull of a boat with ribs exposed. I’d seen this on the boat tour as well but up close it was enormous. It’s a monument to the men and women that worked in the shipyards that built the vessels for the war effort in World War II. This is the Monument to the South Portland Liberty Ships. It was building ships like these that made Rosie the Riveter and Wendy the Welder household names.

Beyond the “ship” I could just see the Spring Point Ledge Light so I headed back to the car to see if I could find my way to that lighthouse. Several bumps and turns later I was pulling into the Portland Harbor Museum parking lot. To reach the lighthouse you walk through the ruins of an old fort, climb a short set of stairs and there you are.

The breakwater stretches out before you, at the end, another “spark plug” of a lighthouse.

This  one much more simple without the Greek frills.  The design of this lighthouse was intended to help it survive the gale force winds , high water and pressure from winter ice floes.

I sat on the steps leading down to the breakwater watching the boats sail past and the sun sink toward the horizon. It was time to head back to Portland Head light.

A little Engine that Could

Back on terra firma I realized I was hungry. A pizza place across from the wharf seemed like a quick solution. The pizza was good but it was the 2nd most expensive pizza I’ve ever had. The most expensive was in Honolulu, Hawaii.  But this was 2 slices and a soft drink…$10.00 +. So if you enjoy a slice at Bill’s Pizza expect it to cost you.

So pizza break under my belt I retrieved the car and headed out to find Fore St. I was looking for Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. I found Fore Street but I couldn’t seem to find the museum. Up and down the street I went then I spotted it. It was just a little sign and it looked like a kind of beat up neighborhood. I followed the signs as the pot-holed driveway wound between run down commercial buildings. I finally pulled into a dirt parking lot that seemed to be the end of the road.

A train sat on the tracks next to the parking lot, the engineer  leaning out of the cab talking to another man. I trotted over and asked if I had found the museum. Assured that I was in the right place the engineer said this was the last run of the day and directed me to the museum to purchase a ticket to ride.

The museum was located in another beat up commercial building. I grabbed a ticket and climbed aboard.

The open air car I was in had wooden benches that ran the length of the car. You sat facing out of the windows on the side of the car. I didn’t have long to wait before the “All aboard” sounded and the train began to move.

The conductor came around to punch our tickets explaining to the children how each conductor had their own punch so you could tell who the conductor was on a run by the shape of the hole in the ticket.

Once all of the tickets were punched we were told a little bit about the railroad. Our conductor was a retired history teacher so he loved this part of the trip when he could  teach again.

The railroad is a “narrow gauge” railroad. All of the cars they have were purchased from Edaville Railroad when it shut down at one time. Edaville is in Carver, MA right near where I live  and almost closed last year  (again) but thankfully it was resurrected  and some real changes are being made. But Edaville has had an up and down history and during one of the down points much of their “rolling stock” was sold off. It seems that this little railroad in Maine  was the beneficiary of Edaville’s misfortune.

The trip took us along Casco Bay, past lovely parks and into a more disreputable section where we came to a stop and everyone piled out. A man was walking his dog but other than that there was nothing here.

The bridge ahead was unsafe so the trip stops there.

A high point of the stop was the osprey nest on top of the bridge supports. There were 3 osprey perched there watching us watch them.

After the brief stop they loaded us back on the train and back we went to the rail yard.

I took a few minutes to explore the little museum.

There were full-sized rail cars, trunks, signal lights and miniature trains, all things train related. A railfan would love this place. The train even had  the “little red caboose”.

As it was time for them to close up, I wrapped up  my visit. I still had to figure out how to get back out of there.