Our tribute to the Maine Central and the railroaders who made The Pine Tree Route what it was.”

This is a story about a railroad, a song, a songwriter, a singer, a photographer, and a Maine Central Railroad veteran. And it’s about how people with common interests, located thousands of miles apart, connected, collaborated, and created a musical tribute to the Maine Central Railroad, The Pine Tree Route.

Maine Central, Engine 263

Last August, The Trackside Photographer published my article entitled “A Maine Central Education.” It was distributed quite widely to fans of the Maine Central via Facebook, links forwarded by fans, and other media. I was pleased to hear from friends, former MEC employees and others who reminisced about the Maine Central and other railroads, who said my story brought back fond memories of railroading as it was 50 years ago.

One of the people reading the article was Alden Cook, who worked for the Maine Central as an agent/operator for 18 years. Al, who left railroading shortly before the MEC was destroyed by the Guilford Industries takeover, is now retired, living in Augusta.

Billrack Clerk Al Cook caught in action at the Waterville Yard Office

Al is also a music buff, and avid fan of a singer/songwriter named John Stewart.

Al Cook with John Stewart, Rockport Opera House, Maine, 1990

Now, I’ve been a longtime fan of Folk and Country music going back to the early days of The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash, and others. But I didn’t know who John Stewart was. With a Google search, I found his bio and many YouTube videos of his songs and learned John Stewart was part of the Kingston Trio between 1961 and 1967.

When the Trio disbanded, John struck out on his own, writing and releasing more than 45 albums. His dedicated, knowledgeable and loyal fan base supported him and attended his concerts for forty years until he passed in 2008.

It was through an internet forum for John Stewart fans known as ‘Bloodlines’ that Al became acquainted with Denis Hurst, a singer/songwriter from England. Drawing on Al’s knowledge and railroad experience, Denis was inspired to write a song entitled “Maine Central.”

It was some three years later, in September 2017, that Al forwarded my article “A Maine Central Education” to Denis, who was immediately struck by how strongly it echoed the tone of Al’s Maine Central recollections. Denis emailed me a thank you for writing the article and subsequently sent me his song, which I think you will agree really captures the spirit and times of the Maine Central’s last days.

Denis Hurst

The circle was completed when The Trackside Photographer’s Editor Edd Fuller suggested we collaborate and produce a video of Denis’ Maine Central song illustrated with my photos of Maine Central. And so we did.

For me, it has been terrific to find these widely separated people, who have never met one another face to face, who live hundreds or thousands of miles apart, and who have common interests that can be shared openly and freely, thanks to email and the internet.

Bob Hughes

This is our tribute to the Maine Central and the railroaders who made The Pine Tree Route what it was. We hope you enjoy the music and this song about a great little railroad.

Al CookAugusta, Maine

Bob HughesWarren, Rhode Island

Denis HurstEngland


Note: More music written and performed by Denis Hurst can be found via YouTube search. Several songs (North Platte Canteen and Roots on the Rails), have a railroad theme.
Maine Central rails at Tower MD on a bitterly cold January day. – 1967

Bob HughesPhotographs Copyright 2017
“Maine Central” written and performed by Denis HurstCopyright 2014

4 thoughts on “The Pine Tree Route  
via John Stewart

  1. I enjoyed the movie and music, very well put together. I used to work in the same building as Al Cook, I was Chief Clerk in the Engineering Dept., in Waterville retiring 1/31/2002

  2. I was at Northeastern University from 1984-89 during the ravaging of the MEC and B and M under Guilford by Mellon and his minions. I studied transportation mgt, and in 1986, had an opportunity to take a COop position up in Billerica, I refused. No way , as the son of a union steward, was I crossing a picket line…

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