Take a Ride Back in Time–Literally and Virtually

A fun activity at Kennebunkport's Seashore Trolley Museum, a longtime Maine Memory contributor and recent online exhibit grantee.

For those of you who associate “trolley” largely with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, it’s high time to get down to Kennebunkport. The Seashore Trolley Museum teems with the rich history of this unique form of transportation–literally.

More than 250 transit vehicles, most of them trolleys, fill the expansive property. Several are in good enough shape to ride, which you can do as much as you like for the price of admission.

While the museum was founded in 1939 with just one Maine trolley car–No. 31 from the Biddeford Saco & Railroad Company–the vehicles in its current collection come from all over the United States, Canada, and a number of other countries.

Two of the 250ish transit vehicles on Seashore Trolley Museum's many acres.

But that’s not all that comprises the gargantuan collection owned by the museum. It also boasts a colossal collection of books, maps, booklets, manuals, photographs, and historic trolley postcards. More than 300 of these items–mostly postcards and photographs–are already on Maine Memory. (And nearly 2,000 books are cataloged online via LibraryThing.)

"Morrison Hill" -- a waiting station that once provided shelter for passengers of the Portland-to-Lewiston Interurban Line (1914-1932). The station is now part of the museum's collection and along the line that visitors can ride.

There are about to be a good deal more trolley items and history on MMN thanks to a recent grant to the museum to build an online exhibit. The exhibit will take viewers on a virtual tour of Maine trolley life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of cities and towns will be featured, along with the tourist destinations in those locales that drew the trolley riders. Additional features will cover the history of the trolley era and present a “field guide” to trolleys for those who have little understanding of the mechanics of this historic mode of transportation.

YCCC intern Chris Carney next to a colorful Australian trolley car

Spearheading this project is York County Community College‘s librarian Amber Tatnall., while intern (and former student) Chris Carney will do much of the research, writing, digitizing, and exhibit construction. You can follow their process on the “Seashore Trolley Museum Library” blog.

The college has long maintained a relationship with the museum that involves organizing, cataloging, and storing as much of the museum’s collection as staff and interns can process–and as YCCC’s library can hold on-site. While the thousands of items processed so far amazingly amount to a small portion of the overall collection, the college’s generosity has gotten at least a great number of rich primary sources out of a run-down building at the museum and into a much more secure facility.

The front of a trolley used for street sweeping. The individual "bristles" appear to made of bamboo.

And equally important–the transfer of many of those items to MMN, and the new exhibit project, has made the trolley history that much more accessible to the public at large.

While Mr. Rogers’ may have sent his trolley to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the Seashore Trolley Museum and its dedicated friends are doing their best to “keep it real.”

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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