Logo of Once Storied Airline Will Ride the Rails

WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) -- The once-familiar logo of Pan American World Airways, one of the most storied names in commercial aviation, will now be riding the rails.

Months after Guilford Rail Systems halted all Pan Am flights, it launched a project that puts the airline's blue-and-white globe on hundreds of Guilford box cars.

Guilford, a regional rail system based in North Billerica, Mass., has owned the Pan Am name, colors and logo since 1998.

Pan Am President David A. Fink, who also serves as executive vice president of Guilford Transportation Industries, declined to comment on the boxcar project. Guilford Transportation Industries is the Guilford Rail affiliate that controls Pan Am.

Railroad enthusiasts and industry insiders told the Morning Sentinel the project appears to be an attempt to rehabilitate the rail company's image.

''They started getting re-painted this month,'' said Jeff Bolduc, a Waterville rail enthusiast. ''They're painting 250 cars, some Boston & Maine, some Maine Central.'' Guilford bought the Boston & Maine Railroad in 1983 and Maine Central Railroad in 1981.

''I suspect they're trying to re-brand the railroad and raise the airways' profile,'' said Jeffrey Mills, a Bellaire, Texas, film producer and director who has been trying to finance a Pan Am documentary.

The original Pan Am World Airways began flying in 1927 and grew into one of the world's largest airlines before it shut down in 1991, three years after the terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.

The discount carrier that followed never turned a profit. It served 14 cities in Florida, the Northeast, Midwest and Puerto Rico before falling into bankruptcy.

Guilford bought the airline's name, jets, parts and flight certificates and began passenger service out of Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth, N.H., to points including Florida and Maine.

But Guilford has faced problems including fines for environmental violations in Massachusetts, union lawsuits in New Hampshire and overdue taxes in Waterville.

The boxcar project was confirmed by a pilots' union involved in a lawsuit with the railroad company over its recent alleged union-busting moves.

''Its boxcars are being painted in Pan Am colors despite the fact that Pan Am is not in operation right now,'' said John Perkinson, a spokesman for the Airline Pilots Association International.

Guilford stopped Pan Am flights on Oct. 31 after the union sued the company for transferring flights from unionized Pan Am to its non-unionized subsidiary, Boston-Maine Airways. A federal appeals court ruled in Guilford's favor in February.

Boston-Maine may restart Pan Am operations in May, Perkinson said, although the union has filed for a re-hearing.

Last week, Guilford was fined $35,000 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for violations at a fuel oil clean-up site. In Waterville, where the railroad has a depot, the company owes more than $263,000 in overdue taxes.

''Big Pan Am supporters probably won't be very happy that their airline is being used to promote a freight railroad,'' said R.T. Dowling, a Wells rail enthusiast. ''If this is a plan to become Pan Am Railways, it would get rid of a historic (name).''

The airline still evokes nostalgia. Cinema super-spy James Bond used to give instructions to schedule his flights: ''Pan Am, as always.''