This is the rhythmic cadence you hear when you ride a trolley car at Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport. But it is more than the repetitive sound of the trolley’s wheels beating a tempo along the two miles of curving track through the scenic Maine countryside. It is the sound of fun, nostalgia and history.
It is the echo of a by-gone era when trolley rail lines weaved through cities, connected communities and created new opportunities for commerce and personal achievements.
Trolley travel expanded the horizons for millions of city and country dwellers and helped reshape the economic and political destiny of our nation from the late 1800s until the 1940s.
The memory of the historic trolley era has been kept alive at Seashore Trolley Museum since it first began in 1939.
This year, Seashore Trolley Museum celebrates its 70th Anniversary.
One of the highlights of this festive year is the restoration project of an extraordinary rail vehicle, Atlantic Shore Line Railway electric Locomotive No. 100. Also called ASL-100, it was one of three identical locomotives built in 1906 by the Laconia (NH) Car Company for the Atlantic Shore Line Railway. They were of a distinctive design as a flatbed car with a “cab-on-raft” in the center of the deck. The cab housed the operators and crews as they hauled freight in railroad boxcars from the B & M Railroad connectors in Kennebunk, West Kennebunk, and Springvale along the 22 miles of track to the various mills in those communities.
They also hauled trains of coal from the seaport at Cape Porpoise to the Goodall mills in Sanford. The museum acquired ASL-100 in 1949 when trolley freight service ended in that area. ASL-100 is known to be one of the first and last electric locomotives to operate in Maine. This distinction, in part, earned its place on the National Historic Register in 1980. Starting Saturday, September 26, ASL-100 will be on view for the public at the museum.
The museum is located at 195 Log Cabin Road, Kennebunkport. Hours: Open daily 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission: Adults – $8; Children 6 to 16: $5.50; Seniors; $6; Children under 5 – Free.
Phil Morse, Project Manager of the ASL-100 project, has been a volunteer at the museum for 18 years. Morse says, “The physical restoration of the car began three years ago, but the restoration of the locomotive is but one of three components of the overall project. First is the car’s restoration to working condition for limited public operation. Second is to create an informative exhibit. The exhibit invites viewers to journey into the history of how trolleys changed the lives of people in Maine and to learn what past forms of transportation can teach us about possible futures that we face today. The third part of the project is the classroom education component. This includes creating lesson plans that integrates social studies with science and technology. It also makes those lessons available on-line through the museum’s web site and introduces those lessons to educators through a series of teacher workshops.”
The project had a budget of $165,580. Eighty percent of the funds spent were reimbursed through the Historic Transportation Enhancement Fund which includes Federal Highway Transportation and Maine Department of Transportation funds. The remaining funds were donated by museum members, local and national organizations, and individuals. Donations from nearly twenty different states and from as far away as Hawaii and England and have supported the ASL-100 project.
Since 2006 when the actual restoration of the car began, volunteers have contributed more than 3,500 hours to the project. Foreman of the museum restoration shop, Donald Curry, has been responsible to oversee the paid staff and volunteers that have worked on the restoration. Curry started working in the museum’s restoration program in 1954.
Morse says, “We are so fortunate to have dedicated volunteers and staff that have the skills necessary to manufacture missing or broken parts that we could not find available commercially for such a unique vehicle. It was a constant challenge to recreate the specialized pieces we needed. You can read about the restoration or see more than 250 video clips of the process by visiting the museum’s website and clicking on the Project News section of the ASL-100 Project home page.”
To assist us with the exhibit and education portions of the project, Patricia Erickson from Whitecap Museum-Consulting Service on Peaks Island was contracted. She helped the Museum develop a partnership with the Maine Department of Education and the Boston Museum of Science’s Engineering Is Elementary Program of the National Center for Technological Literacy.
In late May, the Museum hosted its first teacher professional development workshop in collaboration with the Boston Museum of Science. She also curated the new exhibit – History in Motion: Public Transportation Connecting Maine Communities. New mural-size wall panels wrap around the museum’s exhibit room, presenting compelling images and interpretive text.
Also included in the project are exhibit collaborations with the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk and the Kennebunkport Historical Society. All three organizations have trolley-related exhibit materials that will be featured online as part of the Maine Memory Network project. The Brick Store will also feature an exhibit at its Main Street location that will run through the spring of 2010 titled: Pennies to Ride: The Kennebunks’ Turn-of-the-Century Trolleys.
The Trolley Museum got its start in 1939 when eight trolley car enthusiasts purchased a destined-to-be-scrapped trolley car for $150 from the Biddeford & Saco Railroad Company. That event is considered to be the beginning of the railway preservation movement. Over the years the museum has grown to become the largest electric railway museum in the world. The museum’s collection features more than 250 transit vehicles from cities around the United States, Canada and many other countries. (See sidebar for a partial list of cities.) In addition to trolley cars, the museum includes interurban and rapid transit cars, trackless trolleys, buses, work equipment, locomotive and service cars.
A major reason for the success and growth of the museum over the years has been the support and hard work by thousands of volunteers. In some case three generations of families have devoted their time and passion to be sure the museum could take a nostalgic place in the hearts of trolley lovers.
Lee Duncan of Danvers, Massachusetts is an example of a third generation of volunteers. Duncan’s grandfather had membership number 11 when he joined the museum. To honor the long tradition of his family’s service, Duncan was awarded his grandfather’s membership number when he became a part of the museum.
Morse says, “We are proud to say we have many multi-generational families connected with the museum. Many volunteers have moved to this area or vacation here so they can work on museum projects.”
The public is invited to the museum to see ASL-100, the History in Motion exhibit, take a trolley car ride, visit the gift shop and enjoy the other transportation related displays.
For more information call (207) 967-2712 or visit: www.trolleymuseum.org.
Facts about the Seashore Trolley Museum and the Railway Industry
• The mission of the museum is to present a living history of public transportation relevant to North American life through community-related educational programs.
• There are more than 1,000 members who come from 30 states and England.
• The museum consists of 330 contiguous acres in Arundel, Kennebunkport, and Biddeford.
• Trolleys were most commonly used for four major reasons:
o Commute to work
o Visit families
• The Atlantic Shore Line had 87 miles of track in Maine between Kittery and Biddeford.
• In 1907 the ASL carried about 5,000,000 passengers.
• Between 1910 – 1917 the electric railway industry was the 5th largest industry in the U.S.
• From the late 1880s until the mid 1940s, Maine had about 2,000 electric railway vehicles that operated on 520 miles of tracks from Aroostook County to Kittery. Only 13 of those vehicles are known to have survived. All are at Seashore Trolley Museum today. Ten are listed on the National Historic Register
U.S. City | Year Built
Atlanta, GA 1927
Atlantic City, NJ 1925
Baltimore, MD 1917
Brooklyn, NY 1906
Boston, MA: 20 Cars 1884-1951
Chicago, IL 1908
Cincinnati, OH 1917
Cleveland, OH 1914
Dallas, TX 1914
Denver & So. Platte 1919
Harrisburg, PA 1918
Kansas City, KS 1911
Knoxville, TN 1925
Los Angeles, CA 1906
Milwaukee, WI 1920
Mobile, AL 1930
New England: 23 Cars 1885-1927
New Orleans, LA 1924
New York, NY 1939
Oakland, CA 1919
Philadelphia, PA 1912
Pittsburgh, PA 1942
Richmond, VA 1910
Roanoke, VA 1929
Rochester, NY 1916
San Francisco, CA 1907
Sioux City, IA 1914
Washington D.C. 1910
Wheeling, WV 1924
Montreal, Quebec 1906
Ottawa, Ontario 1925
Montreal, Quebec 1911
Toronto, Ontario 1923
Berlin, Germany 1927
Blackpool, United Kingdom 1925
Dunedin, New Zealand 1903
Glasgow, Scotland 1940
Hamburg, Germany 1921
Leeds, United Kingdom 1931
Liverpool, United Kingdom 1939
Nagasaki, Japan 1911
Rome, Italy 1914
Sydney, Australia 1923
Word count: 1,502
Every word: a journey