Walking the tracks

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The end of Arcadia Street

The view above, the end of Arcadia Street, is what gave me the idea of writing about what lies between and behind Portland’s streets. I’m fascinated by dead-end streets — the ending really isn’t “dead,” in my opinion. It can be an open door to sights I’ve never seen and experiences I have to go “out of my way” for.

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Arcadia Street runs off Veranda toward Presumpscot Street. Part of this neighborhood faces the outflow of the Presumpscot River, though it’s hard to see through the houses and foliage. Come fall it will be easier.

The other part of the neighborhood — this part — runs down to the railroad tracks that in the last couple of centuries were heavily used as transport between here and Canada. The Grand Trunk roundhouse and other buildings still stand on Presumpscot Street, though they’re used as offices and for other purposes. According to my reference, “Deering: A Social and Architectural History” (William David Barry and Patricia McGraw Anderson, Greater Portland Landmarks; 2010), Presumpscot Street also was the site of railroad-related industrial facilities including a grain elevator (not sure if there was more than one), stockyards, and a rendering company.

So I’m guessing it wasn’t as pleasant to walk along the tracks then as it is now.

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These days it’s all quiet once you cross the narrow strip of trees from Arcadia Street to the tracks. The back of Presumpscot Street is right there ahead of you, but nature has made its inroads on the in-between strip. Well, except for the occasional auto part discarded beside the tracks.

The beauty of this spot is subtle. It’s the appeal of the giant human footprint fading out as nature takes over. To either side of you, the human population has plenty going on, but you’re in the middle, out of the fray, gazing at goldenrod.

I’ve approached these tracks often from the Sherwood Street side, through a peaceful wooded area with a cemetery where my neighbors from the 18th and 19th centuries are buried. I’ll post about that some other time. I’ve also walked the short distance to the dramatically beautiful end of the tracks at Casco Bay (see “Fish Flakes, Anyone?”). This current walk is not flashy, not spectacular in any way. I just like it.

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Looking toward the Veranda Street overpass

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