This year, Carver’s Edaville Family Theme Park is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and a couple of train fanatics are helping to bring its storied history back to the park in recognition of the milestone.

Brian Fanslau is the owner and operator of Maine Locomotive & Machine Works, and he and colleague Hannah Miller have been working to prepare some of Edaville’s classic apparatus to be able to return it to its former home for one weekend only April 23-24.

“When we realized Edaville had been around for 75 years, we decided we should celebrate that,” Miller said.

“We thought of doing this a couple of years ago, that’s about when the whole COVID thing hit, and now that the pandemic is easing off, we thought we could get everyone together and do this,” Fanslau said. “Edaville is a very special place to a lot of people.”

However, it is important to note that this event is all about the trains and Edaville’s history, and the park will not be open to the public that day, nor will any of the amusement rides be running.

“We’ve tried to be very clear that this is a railroad-centric event, focusing on the Edaville of old,” Miller said. “They used to hold Rail Fan Days, showing off all of the old equipment, and that’s what we’re doing.”

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Edaville Railroad began in 1947, when cranberry grower Ellis D. Atwood purchased a narrow-gauge (two-foot) railroad from Maine, and built a five-mile loop around his bogs for the purposes of transporting cranberries from the bogs to the screen house.

However, he also realized that in the off-season, he could use those trains to transport people out to the bog ponds, and could decorate the loop with Christmas lights and displays in the winter, keeping families coming back a couple of times a year.

Fanslau grew up in southern New Jersey but would travel to Maine as a child, and that trip always included a stop at Edaville.

“Like every other kid in New England, I went to Edaville as a kid and I remember the old days,” he said.

Edaville Family Theme Park via Facebook
Edaville Family Theme Park via Facebook

He said that is what inspired him to want to go into the business of rebuilding steam engine boilers and taking care of the steam engines that are still out there in operation. He also said he’s remained close to Edaville, working on their equipment over the years and forging friendships the same way he forges steel in his shop.

“John (Delli Priscoli, owner of Edaville) came here as a kid, Brenda (Johnson, the general manager) came here as a kid and has worked here pretty much her whole life,” Fanslau said. “The other neat part of it is, we’ve got all of these connections to people who have supported us, as we take care of their antique equipment, and old employees coming back here as well. So this event is like a big reunion.”

When Edaville shut down for a time in the late 1990s, much of the original railroad Atwood purchased was returned to Maine.

“We still take care of that equipment up in Maine,” Miller said.

Courtesy Maine Locomotive & Engine Works
Courtesy Maine Locomotive & Engine Works

“When Edaville went out of business in the '90s, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum began preserving the equipment, such as four steam engines, and 40 to 50 cars,” Fanslau said. “Part of this event that we’re doing is that we’re partnering with all of these organizations that have this original equipment and bringing it back to Edaville.”

One of them will be steam engine No. 3, one of the original steam engines passengers would have ridden behind at Edaville.

Edaville Family Theme Park via Facebook
Edaville Family Theme Park via Facebook

Edaville still has a steam engine, No. 11, that is used on specific occasions. That engine was actually a rebuild project of Maine Locomotive & Machine Works.

“The steam engine at Edaville now was a static display for years that people probably remember climbing on,” Miller said. “Brian rebuilt the boiler, and made it a running steam locomotive once again.”

That project took about a year and a half, Fanslau said.

“Probably about 40 to 50 percent of the original engine is still there, the rest is all new,” he said. “That was a very fun project. John approached me, we talked about it, shook hands and it was one of the more fun things we’ve ever done.”

Courtesy Maine Locomotive & Machine Works
Courtesy Maine Locomotive & Machine Works

Both steam engines will be in use for the anniversary celebration. No. 3 will run on the old main line, the mile and a half that is left of the original Edaville track. Meanwhile, No. 11 will run on the current two-mile park loop. There will also be a “double header” ride in which the train cars will be pulled by both steam engines.

Tickets start at $75 for the double header ride, and $50 for the hour-and-45-minute ride on No. 3 on the old main line. Tickets can also be purchased solely to ride No. 11 on the current loop for $30 for a two-day pass, and $20 for one day. Children under 18 are $15, and children under age three are free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Those prices all include access to the special displays and presentations that will take place throughout the weekend. Tickets are only available on the Maine Locomotive & Machine Works website, and are not available through Edaville, nor can previously purchased Edaville tickets be used for this event.

Maine Locomotive & Machine Works recently announced two of the special guests that will be giving lectures during the event.

Joe Falconieri, who has been a signal maintainer at Edaville since 1996, will give a talk “on the workings and history of Edaville’s unique and historic signal system,” including having “an interactive signal system display on the boarding platform.”

Savery Moore has visited Edaville every year it has been open since 1956 and has an extensive collection of Edaville memorabilia and photographs, and will give a talk on Edaville from the 1940s through the 1970s.

If this 75th anniversary celebration is successful, could it become an annual event, like Rail Fan Days once was?

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” said Miller.

“It’s certainly possible,” echoed Fanslau.

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