Saturday, March 5, 2016

57 Million Passengers Carried on Electric Railways in Maine in 1915!!

Fair Week Passenger Travel - Three Duplex convertibles and a 14-bench open
on Main Street, Waterville, are jammed with passengers for the fairgrounds,
typical of the pre-automobile travel to special events. From: Waterville,
Fairfield, & Oakland Railway Company by O. R. Cummings, book dated
January 1, 1965.

57,422,739 total passengers carried on the 520 miles of electric railway tracks in Maine in 1915!
Revenues generated from passenger, freight, and express services in 1915 totaled more than $3,000,000. That is equivalent to $70 million today.

Public Transportation was incredibly important in Maine's economic and social development late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century.

The passenger counts below seem crazy to us today. Seriously.....Crazy!

Bangor, with a total population of about 20,000, was the first in the state of Maine
to have electric railway service. The first trial trip took place in the very early hours of
April 29, 1889. Two closed cars provided the first public passenger trips on
May 21, 1889. On this original 3-mile section of track, from May 21, 1889, through
September 30, 1889, four closed cars and four open cars carried 215,547 passengers.
During a single day of the State Fair in September that fall, 8,200 passengers were
transported on these trolley cars! This map is of the Bangor-Old Town Division From:
Bangor Street Railway by Charles D. Heseltine - book dated January-December 1974.

What was the total population in Maine in 1915? The 1910 census says 742,371. The 1920 census says 797,423. So, 1915 was somewhere in between. 

I'm deep in researching materials involving electric streetcars, trolleys, and interurbans in Maine. The information will be used in part for a large grant application to help with the restoration of the 1912 Narcissus that operated on the Portland-Lewiston Interurban from 1914 till 1933. I'm feeling compelled to dig deep for the broader impact of electric railways' influences on Maine's economic growth and its implications on Maine's societal development. This blog post shares some of the early findings. It may take more than one blog post to disseminate the info :)

The vast majority of the materials I will share have come from a number of books released by Seashore Trolley Museum's long-time historian, O. R. Cummings. Also books by Charles D. Heseltine and Clark T. Irwin, Jr. 

Please consider making a donation to the Narcissus Project. Funds are still needed to complete the restoration of the National Register of Historic Places member, Narcissus.  Scroll to the end of this post to find all donation options. All donations are currently matched, dollar-for-dollar, as part of a $40,000 matching grant challenge, thanks to the generous offer from 20th Century Electric Railway Foundation! 
Thank You :)

This map is the Bangor-Charleston Division. In total, Bangor expanded
service over the years to have about 57 miles of service trackage. Passengers
carried in 1915: 6,571,038. In 1921 - 7,835,046. From: Bangor Street Railway
by Charles D. Heseltine - book dated January -December 1974

As O. R. says in his intro in his September 1, 1955, book, Toonervilles of Maine: The Pine Tree State.
"Maine is well known among New England's electric railway enthusiasts for its four major traction systems - the Atlantic Shore Line Railway, the Portland Railroad, the Lewiston, Augusta and Waterville Street Railway and the Bangor Railway and Electric Company - and for its famous Portland-Lewiston Interurban as well! - but not so well known is the fact that the Pine Tree State had a number of small trolley lines, none over 15 miles in length, which were either contiguous to the larger systems or operated by themselves."

In the late 1880s/90s, when the fledgling electric companies in Maine were
starting up, residential homes was not their market of choice. Initially, the
usual market sequence was; contracts to provide electricity to a town/city for
electric lights on the main street(s), then electric railway companies (for
obvious reasons :), then industrial factories, and then later the residential
market. Serious pursuit of the residential market didn't start until about
1910, after the cost of electricity, had dropped to 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
From: The Light from the River: Central Maine Power's First Century of
Service by Clark T. Irwin, Jr. dated 1999. PWM postcard
In 1910, only one in ten American homes had electricity. 
Farms' access to electricity took even longer - in the mid-1930s, 8,400 (17%) of Maine's 53,000 farms had electricity. 
The National average was 6%. From: The Light From the River by C.T. Irwin, Jr

It was expensive to acquire the land, build the power plants and dams, place poles and string wire for the new electric companies. Having long-term contracts and receiving funding advancements were important to the fledgling electric companies. When a new street railway signed a 30-year contract with a funding advance to the Massalonskee Electric Company, a power plant was completed in 1907 and began generating the power for the Waterville, Augusta, and Lewiston Railway in 1908. The railway provided $30,000 a year in electric revenue - nearly half of Massalonskee Electric Company's total revenues. Successes were leveraged and successes continued to mount. The electric company had 4,500 customers in 1909. In January 1910, the Massalonskee Electric Company changed its name to Central Maine Power. In 1919, CMP had 21,361 customers.

The Lewiston, Augusta and Waterville Street Railway had 153 miles of
service trackage. The Portland Railroad had more than 80 miles of service
trackage. From: Lewiston, Augusta, Waterville Street Railway by O. R.
Cummings dated September 1, 1963. 

The Lewiston, Augusta and Waterville Street Railway's high point in passenger traffic was during the year ending December 31, 1917, when 15,499,524 riders traveled on the electric railway. 

Where in the world did all these passengers come from? Or Where were they going? Simply stated, during those early years, the late 1880s/90s and early in the 20th century, the main mode of transportation was for folks to walk. Yes, a few folks had horses and carriages. But not most people. In Maine, roads were dirt in those days. Muddy in the spring and after it rained. Snow made travel challenging too. The trolleys were the most dependable means of year-round transportation for the public in the pre-automobile era. People tended to use the electric railways in Maine to go to work, to go to town to shop, to visit family, and to recreate. With most workers working a six-day week, the electric railway companies often extended tracks to a destination for recreation. A park perhaps. Some parks had amusement rides that operated on the railway electricity. Often, there was a "casino" at the destination. Casinos in those days were a place for music and dances, and a restaurant. The beaches of southern Maine and the eastern coastline were major destinations. Inland, parks near a lake or a larger pond where picnics and canoeing took place were attractive to the public and summer visitors to Maine. O. R. states; No self-respecting street railway company considered itself complete without a pleasure resort...

Lake Grove Park at Auburn Lake. PWM postcard

  Passengers dressed to the "nines" pose at a stop along an excursion on the
popular parlor car "Merrymeeting" of the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville
Street Railway. O. R. Cummings collection from NEERHS Library
The Portland Railroad system in 1903 had more than 500 employees, owned 217 passenger cars, and carried 13 million passengers in the single year between July 1, 1903, through June 30, 1904. 

Each of these open trolley cars, "breezers", could carry 75 passengers.
PWM postcard

Each of these open trolley cars, "breezers", could carry 75 passengers. How
many trolleys are lined up here in total? Amazing. The casino mentioned is
located where the photographer taking this image would be standing. See the
postcard below. PWM postcard
The casino at Riverton Park in Portland, Maine. Riverton Park was located
a few miles outside the downtown area of Portland. PWM postcard

Monument Square in downtown Portland, Maine. PWM postcard
The "Camilla" of the Portland & Brunswick Street Railway at the front of the
Casco Castle Park at South Freeport during the winter on 1903-04. From:
the collection of Ronald Cummings in the book, Trolleys to Brunswick, Maine
1896-1937 by O. R. Cummings dated 1966.
More than 90 miles of service trackage. Including tracks from South Berwick, Maine
to Dover, New Hampshire and railway-owned ferry service from Kittery, Maine to
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. From: Atlantic Shore Trolleys by O. R. Cummings
dated January 1, 1966
The Atlantic Shore Line Railway's high point in passenger service was the year July 1, 1907, through June 30, 1908, when 5,881,581 riders traveled basically from Kittery to the connection at the Biddeford and Saco Railroad. Passengers enjoyed access to the beaches along the York County coastline. The ASL made a connection with the nearly 8 miles, Biddeford & Saco Railroad. In the summer, ASL passengers would transfer onto the B&S for a trip to Old Orchard Beach.

The Biddeford & Saco trolleys stopped at the Railroad crossing. From there it
was a short walk to the Pier in Old Orchard Beach. PWM postcard
The Pier at Old Orchard Beach had a casino at the end of the pier. At one
point, the pier stretched out 1,800 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Summer
visitors are drawn to the beach and the other attractions offered there,
attributed to the strong ridership numbers in 1921 when 1,871,154 riders
traveled on the Biddeford & Saco Railroad. PWM postcard
Portland-Lewiston Interurban included about 34 miles of service trackage. Map
from: Maine's Fastest Electric Railroad: Portland-Lewiston interurban by
O. R. Cummings dated 1967
The seven high speed, luxury wooden interurbans, along with two additional traditional passenger cars, carried 7,302,000 passengers on the PLI line during the twenty years of operations between the major cities (1914-1933). The six original interurbans were named after flowers. The seventh interurban was built in 1920 and was named Maine.

Restoration of the sole surviving PLI is underway. The Narcissus entered
Seashore Trolley Museum's Town House Restoration Shop on May 20, 2015. Complete restoration of the exterior of the Narcissus is phase one. 

Portland-Lewiston Interurban's, Narcissus, featured in Promo Material - PWM

The four major electric railway systems above and the PLI may have been Maine's best known in New England, however, the other railway systems throughout Maine were well patronized during the early 20th century. The next Blog Post will delve into those smaller railways.

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 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: 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 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, 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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