As a Father’s Day treat, Susan & Peter took me to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Arundel, ME. Admission was free for Dads with their children and Peter was free himself by virtue of being under five.
There are two surprising things about the Museum that stand out. First, despite being a museum of mass transit the museum is located in a relatively remote and wooded area. And yet, as we would soon learn, during the golden age of trolleys even this part of Maine had a trolley line. Second, on first view the Museum has kind of a “cluttered attic” look to it with various vehicles parked all over an open yard, some of them in rather decrepit condition. Again we would learn that restoration of these trollies is a long and laborious process which is a labor of love by the Museum’s volunteers. It is to their credit that they save so many vehicles from becoming scrap and making the available for visitors to see.
Right upon arrival we boarded a restored Third Avenue Railway streetcar from New York City (which later did a stint in Vienna, Austria after WWII) for a ride along a restored portion of the Atlantic Shore Line Railway. A conductor punched our tickets, and Peter & I enjoyed looking out the window and playing on the seats.
After returning to the Museum proper, we took another ride on the Shuttle – a Dallas Railway & Terminal Co. car – to the Riverside barn. One of the volunteers gave us an excellent walk through of the trolleys on exhibit. From that point we were pretty much on our own to wander around and explore the trolleys and other vehicles on display and dodge rain drops. Not only are there passenger trolleys but work cars, freight cars, mail cars, and even a prison car!
Some of our favorites include:
- Glasgow Corporation Transport #1274 – a double decker with plush upholstered seats on the first floor and leather seats on the upper deck because that was the smoking area. Peter enjoyed climbing up the steep narrow staircase.
- City of Manchester parlor car – an elegantly decorated and detailed car used by railway officials and dignitaries in Manchester, NH.
- State of the Art Cars (S.O.A.C.) – rapid transit cars designed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and tested in five cities – including Boston – in the 1970’s. Peter particularly enjoyed exploring this train.
- Twin Cities Rapid Transit #1267 – these homemade “gate cars” worked the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul with the large platform and gates allowing for quick boarding by large numbers of passengers.
- West End Railway Co. #396 – a “Boston Special” wooden streetcar from the early part of the 20th century
- Cleveland Railway #1227 – The conductor/volunteer (in the photo above) snuck us in the center-car entrance of this trolley which was undergoing renovation for 20-years to get to its current lovely condition.
Although there are trolleys from around the world, I particularly liked the relics from Boston’s public transit. These include signs from when the Charlestown elevated and Washington Street elevated closed down. The biggest piece of Boston transit history sits in the parking lot surrounded by weeds. Northampton station once was elevated over Washington Street near Massachusetts avenue but was torn down after the Orange Line was rerouted in 1987.
I had a great time and would love to visit again to explore this large collection of transit history.