Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Short History of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban & Narcissus

The Narcissus with restoration work underway in the Town House Restoration Shop
at Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine
September 2015 PWM image

Portland-Lewiston Interurban


No. 14


 No. 14 (Narcissus) – Portland-Lewiston Interurban – 1912 – Wooden Interurban Coach by Laconia Car Company, Laconia, NH

·      National – National Register # 1980111480000262 
·      National – 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, was a passenger on August 18, 1914
·      State – Only surviving railway equipment from the Portland-Lewiston Interurban

By: O. R. Cummings -

            Maine’s finest and fastest electric railway, the Portland-Lewiston Interurban, commenced regular operation on Thursday, July 2, 1914, its 29.8 miles of main track extending almost due north from a connection with the Cumberland County Power & Light Company-leased Portland Railroad Company in Portland through West Falmouth, West Cumberland, Gray and the town of New Gloucester to Auburn and a connection with the Mechanic Falls line of the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway. Trackage rights over the PRR and the LA&W permitted the operation of through cars between Monument Square, Portland and Union Square, Lewiston, 34.37 miles, and the initial two-hour headway soon was replaced by hourly service, which was maintained until the line was abandoned. The connections in Portland and Auburn were known as Deering Junction and Fairview Junction respectively and from register stations, at both points, conductors called the dispatcher in Lewiston for orders.
            Six passenger cars on hand on opening day consisted of six 36-foot double truck coach smokers – Nos. 10, 12, 14, and 16, built by the Laconia (NH) Car Company, and Nos. 18 and 20, outshopped by the Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Mass. The Laconia order was placed April 24, 1912, and the car bodies arrived in Portland in January 1913, being placed in storage in a temporary wood frame carhouse until the late spring of 1914 when they were towed to Lewiston to be equipped with trucks, motors, controllers and air brake systems and otherwise made ready for operation.
            Because of interurban promoter W. Scott Libbey’s desire that each car has a distinct personality and not be identified just by number, all six were named after flowers.
No. 10 was the Arbutus; No. 12, the Gladiolus; No. 14, the Narcissus; No. 16, the
Clematis; No. 18, the Azalea; and No. 20, the Magnolia. A seventh coach-smoker, No. 22, acquired from Wason in 1920, became Maine.
            Each of the original cars was 46 feet long overall and 8 ft. ¾ in. wide and had steam coach roofs and straight vertically sheathed sides. There were seven arch windows – six double sashes and one single sash – on each side, the sashes being arranged to lift.
The arches above the sashes and the windows in the roof clerestory were glazed with ornamental leaded glass. The exterior livery was Pullman green with gray roofs and dark red doors and trim and gold leaf numbers and lettering.
            The main passenger compartment in each car was 30 feet long and contained twenty 19 in. by 31-in. reversible transverse seats and two 18 in. by 32-in. longitudinal seats upholstered with green plush and accommodating 44 passengers. The six-foot smoking section had two 18 in.-wide leather-covered longitudinal seats for eight riders. According to the Electric Railway Journal of Sept. 25, 1915, the center aisle in the main compartment was 24 in.-wide while that in the smoking section was 4 ft. 10 in. wide, the two areas being separated by a bulkhead having a central sliding door with ribbed glass panels. The interior finish was mahogany with ebony and holly decorations, and interlocking rubber tiling was used on the floors.

Quoting from the Journal:
“The vestibules are each 4ft. 6in. long and 3 ft. 4in. wide. Each is provided with two sets of Pullman type steps with trapdoors in the floor, three steps being provided in each case. The steps are each 10 in wide. The bottom step is 22 in. above the rail, each of the risers being 10 in high. In front of each vestibule is a small door with a latch, which can be operated from the outside only to facilitate operating the cars in trains.
            “Heiwado reversible seats are used and the cars are fitted with baggage racks. The end of each seat is provided with a leather ticket holder, eight holders also being attached to the inside sheathing, with four more in the smoking compartment.
“The car lighting is accomplished by two 60-watt lamps in each vestibule above the steps, three lamps of this size in the smoking compartment and sixteen in the main compartment. The last named was installed in three parallel rows.”

            The trucks under the Laconia cars were of Baldwin 79-25A type with a wheelbase of 6 ft. 7 in. while each of the Wason cars rode on Brill 27MCB-2X trucks.
(Both types of trucks had 36-in. wheels with a standard MCB flange an a 3 1/2 in. tread.) Each car was powered by four Westinghouse 304 (90 hp) inside hung motors geared for a maximum speed of 59 miles an hour at 600 volts. Other equipment included Westinghouse HL automatic control systems with 15-B master controllers. Westinghouse air brakes, auxiliary hand brakes, Consolidated electric heaters, air whistles, Van Dorn couplers and Crouse-Hinds luminous arc headlights of the portable type. Initially, the cars had steel bar pilots on one end only, similar pilots soon were installed on the other end.

            (Although the cars were equipped for double end operation, they normally were run with the smoking compartment forward.)

            Each car had two trolley poles with the conventional harps and wheels and carried destination signs of the revolving four-sided wooden box type lettered PORTLAND, LEWISTON, and SPECIAL and mounted on the vestibule hoods. The signs were illuminated from below by incandescent lamps inside two reflectors. Between the reflectors were receptacles for electrical jumper cables used when cars were operated in trains. Air brake connections probably were made with flexible hoses. The original couplers eventually were replaced by the Westinghouse automatic type and in 1917 the harps and wheels on the trolley poles were replaced by Miller sliding shoes. New
luminous arc headlights were purchased in 1924 and in 1930 the whistle at the No. 1 end of each car was replaced by a dual air horn. Brass plates, with spaces for inserting the names of crew members, were installed in the main passenger compartments of Nos. 10-20 in 1927 or 1928 an as automobile traffic in Portland, Auburn and Lewiston increased, the end dashers on at least some of the original cars were painted orange with green diamonds to make the interurbans more visible at night. Each car was equipped with a fare register but the make and type are unknown – and there’s nobody around to ask!

*                      *                      *

            The Azalea made the first trial trip between Lewiston and Portland on Tuesday, June 16, 1914, and several additional trips were made on subsequent days. Then on Friday, June 26, two of the state Railroad Commissioners, Frank Keizer of Rockland and John A. Jones of Lewiston officially inspected the PLI. The trip was made in the Narcissus which, in addition to the commissioners, carried about 30 other passengers.
            Among those in the party were Mr. & Mrs. Henry M. Dingley, Mrs. Nelson Dingley, Mr. & Mrs. John A Morrill, Mrs. Annie E. Libbey, Mrs. Gertrude Libbey Anthony, Miss Alla Libbey, Mr. and Mrs. Harold S. Libbey, W. Scott Libbey, Jr., George W. Bowie, general superintendent of the Lewiston, Augusta  & Waterville Street Railway, and representatives of the press. Regrettably absent was W. Scott Libbey, PLI promoter, who had died unexpectedly on May 17, 1914.
            Numerous stops were made en route so the commissioners could look over bridges, major culverts, cuts and fills, special work and the like and upon arrival in Portland the car was joined by Mayor Oakley C. Curtis. Then the party proceeded to Riverton Park, the Portland Railroad’s pleasure resort beside the Presumpscot River in Deering, where a “splendid” banquet was served in the casino “under the supervision of Dan Smith, supreme dictator of the inn.”
            Then on Tuesday, August 18, the Narcissus carried what probably was the most distinguished passenger in the PLI’s history. Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt was invited by the interurban management to inspect the still new railway. He rode from Lewiston to Portland and at brief stops in New Gloucester and Gray, the former chief executive addressed gatherings of townspeople. Upon arrival in the Forest City, “Teddy” voiced his pleasure over the “bully” ride he had enjoyed and gave motorman Charles H. Mitchell and conductor Joseph N L’Heureux, best known as “Joe Happy”, each a tip of $10, a not inconsiderable amount in those days.

*                      *                      *
            The Narcissus is known to have been involved in two fatal accidents, the first of which occurred on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1917, when one James E. Flynn, 40, of Auburn was struck and killed near Marston’s Corner on the outskirts of the city. Flynn, who reportedly had been seen in an intoxicated condition at an earlier hour, was lying on the track and failed to heed the whistle blasts sounded repeatedly by motorman John E. Abbott, who had cut the power and applied the brakes as soon as he spotted the man. The railway was absolved of all blame.
            Somewhat more than two months later, on Friday, December 21, No. 14 and a Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville double truck closed car, No. 280, collided head-on on Minot Avenue, near High Street, in Auburn. Albert W. Beals, a LA&W motorman, and Eugene Roux, a student motorman, were fatally injured in the collision. George Blair, motorman on the Narcissus, shut off the power and applied the brakes when he saw the collision was imminent and then “joined the birds.”
            According to newspaper reports of the crash and the investigation, which followed, No. 280, entering Minot Avenue from court Street on its way to Mechanic Falls, failed to trip a block signal, which would have caused the Narcissus to stop at the corner of Minot Avenue and Washington Street. Blair, believing he had a clear line, was heading toward Court Street when he observed the LA&W trolley approaching at a fast clip about 200 feet away. Witnesses testified that Beals made every effort to stop his car, reversing the motors and throwing the air brake handle into emergency, but because of the speed at which the car was traveling, his actions were too late. No passenger in either car was injured but all were shaken by the impact. No. 280 was heavily damaged and had to be towed to the Lewiston carhouse but the Narcissus received only minor damage and was able to proceed under its own power.
            No further accidents or incidents involving the Narcissus are known to have occurred after 1917 and the car still was active when the Portland-Lewiston Interurban was abandoned on June 28, 1933. (Two of the Laconia cars, the Arbutus and the Gladiolus made the very last trips on that sad day.) Three months later, on September 27, the railway properties, including all rolling stock, had been sold to H. E. Salzburg Inc. of New York City, a railroad salvage concern, and dismantling of the property began shortly thereafter. One complete car, the Arbutus, was conveyed to Mrs. Gertrude L. Anthony, daughter of W. Scott Libbey, as a memorial to her father. A number of car bodies were sold to private parties and among them was the Narcissus, which eventually became the summer home of J. Henry Vallee near Sabattus Lake in the present town of Sabattus.
            For reasons not entirely clear today, Mrs. Anthony had the Arbutus dismantled during World War II years and in 1969, Seashore Trolley Museum initiated efforts to acquire the Narcissus, which was deemed sufficiently sound to warrant restoration. Mr. Vallee agreed to dispose of the body if the Museum would have the shell of a replacement cottage constructed and after a major fundraising effort, the deal was consummated. The Narcissus arrived at the Museum in October of that year. Funding is needed to complete the restoration.

Funding Partners:
  • 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation (La Canada, California) - Matching Grant Challenge
  • Thornton Academy (Saco, Maine) Staff and Alumni - Matching Grant Challenge
  • New England Electric Railway Historical Society (Kennebunkport, Maine) - Member Donations
  • Amherst Railway Society - Heritage Grant
  • National Railway Historical Society - Heritage Preservation Grant
  • Enterprise Holdings Foundation - Community Grant
  • Theodore Roosevelt Association (Oyster Bay, New York) - Member Donations
  • The Conley Family - In Memory of Scott Libbey
  • New Gloucester Historical Society - Member Donations

In Search of:

During the restoration and development of educational materials, we will be on the hunt for evidence, artifacts, pictures and personal stories of:
Theodore Roosevelt and his visits to Maine. We're specifically looking for info, etc. related to...
  • In 1872, as a 14-year-old, he attended summer camp at Moosehead Lake
  • In 1878-79, as a 20+ year old, he was with Maine guides William Sewall and Wilmot Dow in Island Falls
  • During his presidency, he visited Maine in summer 1902
  • On August 18, 1914, he was campaigning between Lewiston and Portland on the Portland-Lewiston's Narcissus
  • On August 31, 1916, he was campaigning between Portland and Lewiston aboard the Portland-Lewiston Interurban railway...he rode one of the interurbans, we don't know which one?
  • In July 1918, he was with his family in Dark Harbor, ME (Islesboro) with his family grieving the death of his son Quentin.

Also looking for info on the construction of the PLI, any of the interurbans, PLI employees, and PLI patrons.

Please Consider becoming a supporter of this exciting Narcissus project by making a donation today!

Thank You :)

W. S. Libbey. The visionary that built,
what became to be known as the "Finest
Electric Railroad in All-New England."
O. R. Cummings collection

The Narcissus c 1914 with Oscar S. Adkins (left) and
John I. Cluff motorman at Gray. O. R. Cummings

The Lewiston Daily Sun, August 19, 1914,
page 2. Last sentence in the first paragraph
stats that Colo. Roosevelt boards the
Narcissus for Portland on August 18, 1914.

The Narcissus. O. R. Cummings collection.

Theodore Roosevelt greets the crowd in Gray, Maine on August 18, 1914
from the Narcissus. O. R. Cummings collection

Porcelain sign from PLI ticket Booth. O.R. Cummings collection
The end of the PLI announcement. Seashore Trolley Museum collection

Narcissus as a summer camp for the Vallee family at
Sabattus Pond near Lewiston in 1969 just before traveling to
Seashore Trolley Museum. O. R. Cummings Photo

Narcissus shortly after it arrived at Seashore Trolley Museum
Norm Downs photo

Publicity for the restoration of the Narcissus and its role
in the Teddy Roosevelt Days event weekend was
exemplary in July 2015. Patricia Pierce Erikson photo
Narcissus nearly ready for visitors during
Teddy Roosevelt Days event weekend 2015
Patricia Pierce Erikson photo
Narcissus at night 7-31-2015 with a few stained
glass windows in temporarily for visitors to see during
Teddy Roosevelt Days event weekend.
Patricia Pierce Erikson photo

Mark your calendars (purchase your Friday-opening tickets in advance) and plan to attend the 2017 Teddy Roosevelt Days Event July 21-23, 2017

A Benefit Event For the Narcissus Project!

Click Here: First Post on 2017 Teddy Roosevelt Days - W. S. Libbey's 1908 Stanley Steamer
Click Here: Second Post on 2017 Teddy Roosevelt Days - Suzanne Buzby Hersey - "My Maine"
Click Here: Third Post on 2017 Teddy Roosevelt Days - Wade Zahares - Artist

More details on the celebration will be announced soon.
The Friday activity requires a ticket to be purchased in
advance. There is limited seating for the Friday gala
opening activity. Saturday and Sunday are
general admission public offerings at

The Narcissus Project Blog was created in April 2015 for the purpose of reaching out to a large number of folks through the power of social media to introduce them to the Narcissus. The Narcissus is a luxury, high-speed, wooden electric interurban. The Narcissus was built in 1912 in Laconia, NH and operated on the Portland-Lewiston Interurban, in Maine, between Portland and Lewiston, from 1914 to 1933. Theodore Roosevelt was a passenger on the Narcissus on August 18, 1914. The blog posts appeal to folks with an interest in Theodore Roosevelt's connection to Maine, to folks generally interested in regional/local history, as well as those folks within the greater railway family. Hopefully, these posts will endear many of the readers to help support the Narcissus financially, as it undergoes a complete restoration over the next few years at Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. 

We Did It!! 

$40,000 Raised!

Your Donations to the Narcissus Combined to Achieve the Goal Set Nineteen Months Ago. Raise $40,000 for the Narcissus to Meet the Challenge of the Matching Grant from the 

This brings the Combined Total Amount of Donations to the
Narcissus, based on the 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation's matching grants to $100,000!  

The $40,000 donation will be the 2nd donation to the Narcissus from the 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation as a result of successfully raising funds for a matching grant. A previous $10,000 matching grant challenge was achieved in 2014.

Donations made to the Narcissus Fund 816-A, for the remainder of 2017 and until further notice,
 will be used for work and materials needed to restore the interior of the Narcissus.

See below for Donation options -

It starts with YOU...
Your Donation Matters...
Make a Donation TODAY....

Please Help the Narcissus
Donations are now being raised to restore the interior of the Narcissus.

Donation Options to Help Restore the Narcissus:

The New England Electric Railway Historical Society (NEERHS)
is the 501c3 organization that owns and operates the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, ME and the National Streetcar
The NEERHS is registered with the IRS (EIN# 01-0244457) and was incorporated in Maine in 1941.

Check or Money Order ***** should be made payable to:
New England Electric Railway Historical Society (NEERHS)
In the memo please write: Narcissus Fund 816-A
Mail to: Seashore Trolley Museum
              P. O. Box A
              Kennebunkport, ME 04046

Credit Card ***** donations can be a one-time donation or you
may choose to have a specific amount charged to your card
automatically on a monthly basis. Please contact the Museum bookkeeper, Connie, via email at finance@NEERHS.org or by phone, 207-967-2712 ext. 5.

Online Donations - may be made by using a Credit Card: 
Click Here to make an online donation through the Museum's website - When at the Donation page: Fill in donor info, etc., when at "To which fund are you donating? Scroll down to "Other" and type in: 816-A Narcissus, then continue on filling in the required information.

Click Here for PayPal - to make an online donation: you can use email: finance@NEERHS.org and in the message box write:
For Narcissus fund 816-A

Donation of Securities ***** We also accept donations of
securities. You can contact the Museum bookkeeper, Connie, via email at finance@NEERHS.org or by phone, 207-967-2712 ext. 5,
for brokerage account information for accepting donated securities.

BONUS ***** If you work for a company/corporation that will
"match" an employee's donation to an approved 501c3 non-profit,
educational, organization, please be sure to complete the necessary paperwork with your employer so that your donation is matched :)

Questions? ***** Please contact Narcissus project manager:
Phil Morse, pmorse31@gmail.com or call 207-985-9723 - cell.

Thank You :)

Thank You for our Current Funding Partners
20th Century Electric Railway Foundation - 2017/2014 Matching Grant Challenges
Thornton Academy (Saco, ME) - Staff & Alumni - Matching Grant Challenge 2014
* New England Electric Railway Historical Society (Kennebunkport, ME) - Member Donations
Amherst Railway Society - 2015 Heritage Grant
National Railway Historical Society - 2016 & 2015 Heritage Preservation Grants
Enterprise Holding Foundation - 2015 Community Grant
Theodore Roosevelt Association - Member Donations
John Libby Family Association and Member Donations
* The Conley Family - In Memory of Scott Libbey 2017/2016/2015
The W. S. Libbey Family - Awalt, Conley, Graf, Holman, Libbey, McAvoy, McLaughlin, Meldrum, O'Halloran, Salto, - 2017
* The Hughes Family 2017/2016/2010
New Gloucester Historical Society and Member Donations
Gray Historical Society and Member Donations
Gray Public Library Association - Pat Barter Speaker Series
* IBM - Matching Employee/Retiree Donations
* Fidelity Charitable Grant - Matching Employee Donations
* Richard E. Erwin Grant - 2017/2016
Seal Cove Auto Museum

The Narcissus, with interior back-lit, stained glass windows are majestic.
Make a donation today to help restore the interior of this Maine gem.
Help Theodore Roosevelt's Maine Ride get back on track! Once restored,
you will be able to ride in luxury on this National Historic Treasure at
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.
PWM photo

Please Consider Making a Donation to the Narcissus Restoration Project. We are currently raising funds to restore the interior of this Maine gem.

Various News stories during the summer of 2015 about the
Narcissus and its connection to Theodore Roosevelt. TR
was a passenger on the Narcissus on August 18, 1914.

Click Here to See the list of All Previous Blog Posts - 100-Plus

Link to Libby/Libbey Family connections

Click Here - Portland Public Library Presentation - History of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban
Click Here - W. S. Libbey - The Man and His Mill
Click Here - W. S. Libbey - His 1908 Stanley Steamer K 30-hp Semi-Racer
Click Here - W. Scott Libbey's 1908 Stanley Steamer History to be Featured - July 21, 2017
Click Here - Scrapbook Celebrates the People of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban
Click Here - May 18, 1914, Newspaper Story on the Passing of PLI Builder, W. Scott Libbey
Click Here - 102nd Anniversary of the Opening of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban
Click Here - 83rd anniversary of the Closing of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban
Click Here - Sophia, W. S. Libbey Descendant Visits the Narcissus
Click Here - Libby/Libbey Family Connection to Narcissus becomes Personal
Click Here - Ode To the Grand Old Interurban
Click Here - The Portland-Lewiston Interurban "Bouquet" is Ordered (1912)

Links to Narcissus Restoration Work:
Click Here - Ornate Leaded Stained Glass Work
Click Here - Narcissus Enters Town House Restoration Shop
Click Here - Sorting and Cleaning Materials on Interior of the Narcissus
Click Here - September 7, 2015, Restoration Report
Click Here - December 7, 2015, Restoration Report
Click Here - December 14, 2015, Restoration Report
Click Here - Beautiful Brass of the Narcissus
Click Here - December 28, 2015 Restoration Update
Click Here - January 4, 2016, Restoration Update
Click Here - Vallee Family Photos of Narcissus 1960s
Click Here - February 11, 2016, Restoration Update
Click Here - A Wooden Interurban - Restoration Info
Click Here - NRHS 2016 Heritage Grant Award to Narcissus
Click Here - Announcement of 2016 Teddy Roosevelt Days Fundraising Event for the Narcissus
Click Here - Series of Restoration Posts related to work on exterior poplar frames
Click Here - Vintage Poplar used in Narcissus restoration
Click Here - Mahogany Sash passenger windows being restored
Click Here - "A President Has Ridden in My House!" - Video of Dan Vallee
Click Here - Teddy Roosevelt Days 2016 - Weekend Event Benefits the Narcissus
Click Here - August 2016 Restoration Update
Click Here - Mid-September Restoration Update
Click Here - Theodore Roosevelt & the Narcissus: Connecting Maine Communities
Click Here - How to Make New Seats for the Narcissus?
Click Here - 2016 Summary of Research and Outreach
Click Here - 2016 Restoration Summary

Narcissus - July 31, 2015. Make a donation today. 
 Help Theodore Roosevelt's Maine Ride get back on track!
Once restored, you will be able to ride in luxury on this
National Historic Treasure at
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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