It’s an unusual final destination for any transit line, but for more than 80 years disused trams, buses, and trains from around the world have retreated to the Seashore Trolley Museum on the rural outskirts of Kennebunkport, Maine.
There, a small army of volunteer transit enthusiasts – including many current and retired MBTA employees – spend their free time restoring and repairing the world’s largest museum collection of transit vehicles.
And when the museum is open to visitors, volunteer drivers offer rides in historic streetcars along the museum’s 1.5-mile electrified demonstration line, a segment of Maine’s former Atlantic Shore Line.
In the summer of 2020, the author brought TransitMatters Executive Director Jarred Johnson and his then five-year-old daughter for a visit to the Seashore Trolley Museum, where we took this 1924 Boston Elevated Railway Co. streetcar:
Note the roll sign on the train above: âLiban-Maldenâ, a route which is still served to this day by MBTA bus 106.
Several large barns house dozens of restored streetcars, including this 1897 Boston streetcar, whose rolling sign suggests it once ran on parts of the modern Green Line:
The museum’s collection includes transit vehicles from around the world, but most of its artifacts are from New England, including many pieces of equipment donated by the MBTA.
In a phone conversation with Streetsblog earlier this week, Katie Orlando, the museum’s executive director, said the museum has enjoyed a “great partnership over the years” with the T and its employees.
âIt’s not a formal arrangement, but when something is about to go offline, because we have so many contacts at T, we can make arrangements to acquire vehicles and equipment when they’re about to be decommissioned, âsays Orlando. .
In fact, one of the first things visitors see when they arrive is the enormous copper-clad bridgehead of the old Northampton Station on the Orange Line, which has been abandoned along with the rest of the elevated railway. of Washington Street in 1987:
While many of the Museum’s vehicles have been impeccably restored, many more are still awaiting restoration.
âA lot of the rooms, at the time, were painted with lead paint or had asbestos floors,â says Orlando.
Many of the museum’s new acquisitions bear the scars of deferred maintenance that continues to affect transit systems to this day:
Ironically for a museum of transit equipment, the Seashore Trolley Museum is nearly impossible to reach without a car. The best option is to take the Amtrak Downeaster to Wells or Biddeford / Saco stations, then call a cab. Alternatively, the museum is an hour’s bike ride from Saco Amtrak Station via the East Trail.
Orlando says the organization is raising funds to get its buses back to working order and hopes they can eventually fill the local void in transit services with vehicles from the museum’s collection.
âWe plan to get some of our buses in our collection back in working order, and use them to make connections with the Amtrak Downeaster in Wells or Saco,â Orlando told Streetsblog.
The Seashore Trolley Museum is open until the end of October, Wednesday through Sunday. It will reopen again in December for vacation-themed rides.
Potential volunteers can register on the organization’s website or email [email protected]