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!

This map is of the Bangor-Old Town Division From:
Bangor Street Railway by Charles D. Heseltine -
 book dated January-December 1974.

     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 passengersDuring a single day of the State Fair in September that fall, 8,200 passengers were transported on these trolley cars! 

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."

Rockport & Camden Railway -PWM postcard

     In the late 1880s/90s, when the fledgling electric companies in Maine were starting up, residential homes were 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. A 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. Text from: The Light from the River: Central Maine Power's First Century of
Service by Clark T. Irwin, Jr. dated 1999. 

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. The 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.

The Berwick, Eliot & Dover Street Railway would become part of the 
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 1956

     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.

Click Here for the post: Ninety Communities in Maine had Electric Railway Service!
Click Here for the post: 57 Million Passengers Carried on Electric Railways in Maine in 1915!
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - History of the Portland Railroad 1860-1941
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - History of the Calais Street Railway 1894-1929
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - History of Aroostook Valley Railroad 1909-1946
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Fryeburg Horse Railroad 1887-1913
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - The Norway and Paris Street Railway 1894-1918
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Skowhegan & Norridgewock Railway 1894-1903
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Benton and Fairfield Railway 1898-1928
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - The Somerset Traction Company 1895-1928
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - The Fairfield and Shawmut Railway 1903-1927
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Waterville, Fairfield, & Oakland Rwy 1887-1937
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Trolleys to Augusta, Maine 1889-1932
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Rockland, South Thomaston, & St. George Rwy
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Biddeford and Saco Railroad Co. 1888-1939
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Mousam River Railroad - 1892-1899
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Sanford & Cape Porpoise Railway 1899-1904
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Portsmouth, Kittery & York St Rwy 1897-1903
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Bangor Street Railway 1889-1905
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Bangor Railway & Electric Company 1905-1925
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Bangor, Orono & Old Town Railway 1895-1905
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Bangor, Hampden & Winterport Rwy 1896-1905
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Penobscot Central Railway 1898-1906
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Bangor Hydro-Electric Company 1925-1945
Click Here for the post: Maine Bicentennial series - Lewiston, Brunswick & Bath St Rwy 1898-1907

Restoration work continues on the Narcissus. The Narcissus is more than 100 years old now and has so many incredible stories to share. The restoration is but one.

     The Narcissus is featured in the national Gold Award-winning novel, Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride. The "Elegant Ride" is the Narcissus. Theodore Roosevelt was a passenger on the Narcissus on August 18, 1914, between Lewiston and Portland, Maine, during campaigning for the Progressive Party candidates. June 2020

Independent book publisher, Phil Morse, holding
the Gold Book Award Winner plaque for
 the Middle Reader category for The Eric
Hoffer Book Award. Congratulations to
award-winning Maine author,
Jean M. Flahive

     The paperback edition of Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride can be purchased online through the Seashore Trolley Museum's store website. Books purchased through the Museum's website directly benefit the Museum and the Narcissus project. Amazon book purchases also benefit the Museum and the Narcissus.

Click Here to go to the Museum Store webpage to order online

Click Here to go to the Amazon page to order the book online

Click Here to go to the ebook page

Books are available at these local bookstores in Maine:
The Book Review, Falmouth
The Bookworm, Gorham
Letterpress Books, Portland
Nonesuch Books and More, South Portland
Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shops - All locations

Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride
by Jean M. Flahive
Illustrations by Amy J. Gagnon

     Millie Thayer is a headstrong farmer's daughter who chases her dreams in a way you would expect a little girl nicknamed "Spitfire" would-running full tilt and with her eyes on the stars. Dreaming of leaving the farm life, working in the city, and fighting for women's right to vote, Millie imagines flying away on a magic carpet. One day, that flying carpet shows up in the form of an electric trolley that cuts across her farm. A fortune-teller predicts that Millie's path will cross that of someone famous. Suddenly, she finds herself caught up in events that shake the nation, Maine, and her family. Despairing that her dreams may be shattered, Millie learns, in an unexpected way, that dreams can be shared.
A resource for teachers 
Maine Historical Society has created companion lesson plans inspired by Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride - These State-standard-based lesson plans for classroom use in grades 6, 7, and 8 are now completed. They will be uploaded to the Maine Memory Network and will be included with the other statewide lesson plans K-12. Once a link is available, it will be posted here. The lesson plans will also be uploaded and available through the Seashore Trolley Museum's website later in July 2020. Go to the Teacher Resource Page in the pulldown for more details.

The ebook is available through Amazon Kindle Click HERE

The audiobook is now available Click HERE to go to the Audible page.

2-minute, 30-second, Retail Audio Sample of the Audiobook 

Award-winning author, Jean M. Flahive


Click Here to read the post - Coveted Blueink Starred Review  - Notable Book - January 20, 2020

Click Here to read the post - Three 5-Star Reviews from Readers' Favorite posted on January 6, 2020

Click Here to read January 24, 2020 - Four-Star Clarion Review

Click Here to read January 19, 2020 - Theodore Roosevelt Center Blog Post Review

Click Here to read the December 25, 2019 4-Stars out of 4-Stars Review through OnlineBookClub

Please Consider a Donation to the Narcissus Project to help us tell the incredible story of the Narcissus through the interpretation portion of the Narcissus Project.

     Here is an example of how donations to the Narcissus Project now will help with the interpretation portion of the project. The interpretation programming will include exhibits, displays, education programming. During 2019, through generous donations to the Narcissus Project, we were able to conserve, replicate, and have high resolutions digital image files made of the original, 1910, 25.5-foot long, surveyor map of the elevation and grade of the 30-mile private right-of-way of the Portland, Gray, and Lewiston Railroad (Portland-Lewiston Interurban)
Thank You!

MUST-READ! - Click Here 

   Inside the Donald G. Curry Town House Restoration Shop, the Narcissus is in the midst of major work as we strive to complete its restoration. We are now planning the interpretation portion of the Narcissus Project. Donations to the Narcissus Project may be used in the future to help tell the incredible 100-plus-year-old story of the Narcissus. Your donation to the Narcissus is helping to make the dream of the project's success, a reality.

See below for Donation options -
It starts with YOU
Your Donation Matters
Make a Donation TODAY

Please Help the Narcissus. 
Donation Options to Help the Narcissus Project:

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 - 2018 - Major Gift, 2017/2014 Matching Grants
Renaissance Charitable Foundation (LPCT) by Fiduciary Trust Charitable Giving Fund
Mass Bay RRE - 2018 Railroad Preservation Grant 
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 2018/2017/2016/2015
* The W. S. Libbey Family - Awalt, Conley, Graf, Holman, Libbey, McAvoy, McLaughlin, Meldrum, O'Halloran, Salto, - 2018/2017
* 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
* LogMein - Matching Employee Donation
* IBM - Matching Employee/Retiree Donations
* Fidelity Charitable Grant - Matching Employee Donations
* Richard E. Erwin Grant - 2017/2016

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 Register Treasure at
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.
PWM photo

Please Consider Making a Donation to the project of the National Register of Historic Places member, Narcissus. We are currently raising funds to tell the incredible story 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 - Index

The 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
Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.

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