• Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

The Seashore Trolley Museum – StreetsblogMASS

ByKeith M. Jones

Aug 27, 2021

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:

Boston Elevated Railway Streetcar 5821, ready to take passengers to the Seashore Trolley Museum demonstration track.
A few streetcars in the Seashore Trolley Museum’s collection, like this 1924 Boston Elevated Railway Co. train, have been restored to the point where they can take passengers a short 1.5 mile round trip through the woods on a section of the Atlantic Shore Railway.

Note the roll sign on the train above: “Liban-Malden”, 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:

Boston Elevated Railway Company car 396, built in St. Louis in 1897, at the Seashore Trolley Museum, showing a "Newton via Cambridge East" destination sign.
Boston Elevated Railway Company car 396, built in St. Louis in 1897, at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

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.

“It’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, ”says 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:

Remains of the elevated cast iron station of the Northampton Orange Line on display at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
The remains of the elevated station of the Northampton Orange Line are on display at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

While many of the Museum’s vehicles have been impeccably restored, many more are still awaiting restoration.

“A lot of the rooms, at the time, were painted with lead paint or had asbestos floors,” says Orlando.

Many of the museum’s new acquisitions bear the scars of deferred maintenance that continues to affect transit systems to this day:

An old Blue Line train and an MBTA bus await restoration at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
Decommissioned MBTA vehicles await restoration at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
An era of the 1970s "state of the art" train on display at the Seashore Trolley Museum.
In the 1970s, the US Department of Transportation ordered new “state-of-the-art” trains to demonstrate new technologies. This train operated on the red line for a month in 1974.

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.

“We 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,” 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]