New England Vacation – Part 4

I’m a trolley fan of long standing. I still remember, as a young child, riding a P.C.C. car in Pittsburgh with my maternal grandmother, as we embarked on a visit to the Heinz factory there. Many middle-aged men build HO scale railroad layouts in their spare rooms or basements. Me? I’ve got a trolley layout!

Quite by accident on our vacation in Maine, we came across the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport (trolleymuseum.org). In 1939 a small group of railfans learned that, like many public transit companies across America, the Biddeford and Saco Railroad intended to replace its fleet of trolley cars with motor buses. (Numerous trolley companies’ rolling stock was then disposed of by being pushed over a rail siding and set alight.)

For $150 the enthusiasts purchased a trolley to preserve, moving it to a rented plot of farmland. Around the same time another group of railfans bought a trolley from the Manchester and Nashua Street Railway. The two organizations merged, formally incorporating in 1941 as the New England Electric Railway Historical Society.

The steady acquisition of vehicles in the years following World War II made the N.E.E.R.H.S. the world’s first and largest museum of mass transit vehicles. As of 2016 its 260+ item collection included trolley cars from around the globe (horse-drawn and electrically-powered), rapid transit trains, interurban cars, trolley buses, motor buses, and even experimental transit vehicles. In addition to trolleys from the United States, there are examples from Australia, Canada, England (including double deckers), Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, and Scotland.

As is usual with such organizations, what’s now known as the Seashore Trolley Museum is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, who work hard to restore the museum’s holdings to their former glory. Three car barns on site house the numerous trolleys that have been restored to running condition. Some twenty trolley buses are also operational. Many vehicles are stored outside, where, sadly, they are prey to the vicissitudes of New England weather.

Museum visitors can ride one of the operational trolleys along a one and a half mile long demonstration track, which leads to a turnaround loop and thence back to the Visitor Center. The latter features an exhibit area, plus a store with trolley-related books, DVDs, toys, and souvenirs.

If you’re at all interested in the past history of mass transit, the Seashore Trolley Museum is a must-see. It is open from May to December.

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