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Star Parties at Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway

Saturday, May 13th, 2023 and Saturday, May 20th, 2023

Setup 7:00pm or earlier; trainloads of guests arrive 8:10pm

Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway, Alna Center Station, Alna, Maine

All aboard for CMAS’s star parties at the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railway! There will be two star parties here in May, two Saturdays in a row. These are favorite star parties among those who helped last year, so be sure to join us! Bring your telescopes. The crowds for these star parties at the railway museum are typically large.

The railway museum is a perfect venue for astronomical outreach. Its thoughtful, scientifically minded members ask remarkable questions and are eager to learn about astronomy. CMAS sets up telescopes in the field by Alna Center Station. The public boards an antique, narrow-gauge railway a few miles down the tracks at Sheepscot Station, and rides to an observing field with clear views and dark skies for the star party. This will usually be a steam train, which is a fascinating contraption for the astronomers to see as it delivers the guests to the party.

There are three options for attending these parties:

(1) Help with the star party. Bring a telescope, or help with one that someone else brings. There is, of course, no charge for this.

(2) Attend as a guest at the star party only. There is also no charge for this.

(3) Buy a ticket to ride the railroad to the star party. The railroad sells tickets at its Website; follow the “Book Online” link from the home page. Note that the train starts its journey from Sheepscot Station at 97 Cross Road in Alna, a different location from where the star parties will be held, and which Google Maps appears to consistently find correctly:


These directions are for astronomers who will be driving directly to the star party at Alna Center Station. (People who will be riding the train from Sheepscot Station must not follow these!) Alna Center Station can be tricky to find, so here is what you need to know to make the trip easy.

Alna Center Station is at 1620 Alna Road in Alna. Its narrow, gravel access road is only briefly visible as one drives along Alna Road, so it is easy to miss. In the great tradition of online maps of Maine, none of the online mapping services currently find this address correctly! They may send you several miles away instead, or divert you onto Po Folk Road, which absolutely does not access Alan Center Station. Follow these directions to arrive at the right place:

Use Google Maps. (Bing Maps worked last year, but does not work now.) Google Maps is loaded with landmarks that are found by name, not by address, so these are always found correctly. You are going to find two landmarks that are fairly close together and where it is safe to turn a car around, knowing that the access road you want is between them. Worst case, you will drive back and forth a few times until you happen to find the access road, a far better result than becoming lost.

Search for “Alna Meetinghouse, Alna, ME.” Alna Meetinghouse is a distinctive landmark three-tenths of a mile north of the access road into Alna Center Station. Note its picture on Google Maps. It is a large, bright yellow, exceptionally beautiful, traditional clapboard building set conspicuously in a field on the right for cars approaching from the north. Coming from the meetinghouse, the access road will be on the right where the large field abuts the tree line

Search also for “Alna Fire Department, Alna Road, Alna, ME.” The fire station is plainly visible two-tenths of a mile south of the access road into Alna Center Station, set conspicuously in a large, paved parking lot on the right for cars approaching from the south. Be sure to check also its picture on Google Maps. Coming from the fire station, the access road will be on the left

Note that the fire station and the meetinghouse are on opposite sides of the road, half a mile apart, with the access road into Alna Center Station between them. It is possible to find the star party simply by asking Google Maps for directions to either of these landmarks, after which the access road can be found by driving between them. Stop reading here if the fine points of online mapping software are not to your taste!

For those who are feeling more adept with Google Maps, try this: From the fire station, look up (north) on the map. The first named road on the left, just one-tenth of a mile away, is “Po Foke Road.” (You may have to adjust the zoom to see the name.) Look that distance again further up (north) on the map to find a sharply defined tree line on the left (west) side of the road, just below the fields of the clearly marked Albee Farm, running almost exactly horizontally (east-west). The access road into Alna Center Station is hidden in the shade cast by that treeline. Follow that tree line for three-tenths of a mile to the left (west) from Alna Road to find a distinctive, straight line running almost exactly vertically (north-south). Zoom in to see that that line is a set of railroad tracks. Those happen to be the main track and a siding, because this is Alna Center Station, where the star party will be held.

Now try this: Close the left sidebar (the part containing the directions). Zoom back out. Right-click on Alna Road at the intersection with the access road into Alna Center Station. From the pop-up menu, select, “Directions to here.” This will cause the left sidebar to pop back out. Enter your home address as the starting point, and press “Enter.” Presto! That will create accurate driving directions from your home to the access road, making the trip easy. (Do not try right clicking on the railroad tracks. Any attempt to get directions all the way to the tracks will generate a map wrongly requiring you to drive across fields where no roads exist!)

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