We like a few days off in September, after a busy summer putting out fires both crackling and imaginary, and like many we arrived at the conclusion that a ride around a less populated section of our great state might be the best of all possible vacations. Halifax, alas, wouldn’t have us this year. I’d been angling for a walk across the Angus Macdonald Bridge, from Halifax “to the dark side” as they say, but no.

Heading north, as we tend to be impelled that way, we crossed paths with a small fleet of heavy-duty pickup trucks assembling in the rear parking lot of our Bangor hotel. Laden with chrome toolboxes and other equipment, and Kentucky license plates, the four trucks disgorged a large contingent of men, one carrying a small gas grill and another a few racks of liquid refreshment. I announced to my traveling companion (the rail fan part of our little team) that R.J. Corman Railroad Services was on the premises.

“Oh yeah? They’re who you call when there’s a big wreck!”

Now, the expression “big wreck” always makes me hear in my mind the words “the big wreck up to Bodfish.” I have memory of hearing about this incident for some reason, but had no idea where (or what) Bodfish was, exactly, except that it was Up North on the C.P. line. Oh, and don’t bother trying to Google “Bodfish.” More on that later.

“Any of those trucks got road-railers?” my companion asked, before checking them out for himself. That means an extra set of steel wheels making it possible for a pickup truck to travel down a railroad track. If you Google this term you’ll see tractor-trailers, but I’ve only seen them on railroad maintenance pickups.

I went out and talked to the guys from Kentucky. I did not exactly blurt out, “Hi there! Anything exciting going on? You’re the guys they call when there’s a big wreck!” but something like that, and the fellows grinned. With an accent indicating that the Kentucky plates were for real, one of them replied, “We’re just doing maintenance; it’s our job to prevent anything too exciting.” I asked where they were working. “Brownville, Greenville, over to Jack … Jack something. Jackson?”


“Yeah, Jackman!”

That all used to be the Canadian Pacific, and did include the spot on the map called Bodfish (which is not a town, but maybe was a station, once long ago) and Onawa (also not a town, but a pretty lake and a railroad trestle), and we were glad that maintenance was happening. “The Canadian Pacific recently bought it,” the guy from Corman explained.

Well, the Canadian Pacific bought it back then, I thought. Anyway, I left them scratching their heads about this strange female in Bangor who seemed to care rather more than made sense about the railroad through the middle of the Maine woods. I don’t know where they went to work the next morning, but we vacationers continued north to Onawa. That’s near Bodfish.

My companion, the one with the actual railroad knowledge, used to visit at a friend’s family camp “up to Onawa,” where they’d sleep outside in order to hear the midnight train go over the trestle. After some poking around we made our way out onto the trestle to walk it both ways, which is absolutely not what the railroad wants us doing. Do not follow our lead; we are idiots. Well, he’s a rail fan; I’m an idiot. I’m actually a bridge nerd. I’d clip in and climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge if it wouldn’t land me in jail (and if you could see anything anyway, which normally you can’t). “This is really cool!” says I to he, who used to do the same thing decades ago. His reply: “Well, I’m here to tell you — when you’re 16 or 17, it’s even cooler!”

As we walked back off the trestle we heard a pickup truck on road-railers driving up behind us. “Uh oh, we’ll get in trouble now!” The Central Maine and Quebec truck passed us, the guy waved, and we received no safety lecture. I took it we weren’t the first railroad nerd tourists he’d passed. CM&Q, by the way, owned it in between the CP and the CP. There may have been others.

I tried to look up “the big wreck up to Bodfish” online and found a selection of rail accidents in the general environs of what is now Elliottsville (once Elliott) and Onawa, and Bodfish. In any case we both always just liked the word “Bodfish.” If you do Google it, you find that there is another Bodfish (also not really a town) in California. Those guys have a T-shirt emblazoned, “Where the hell is Bodfish?”

I may need to order one of those.