Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Beginning of a Classic Interurban - July 2, 1914

Wednesday, July 1, 1914 issue of the Lewiston Evening Journal image
is a collage of pictures taken during June 26, 1914, official inspection
of the Interurban by the State Railroad Commissioners accompanied
by a party of about thirty officials and guests. Story below.

Collection of Donald G. Curry

     To celebrate the one hundred and second anniversary of the opening of what we now know as the Portland-Lewiston Interurban - "The Finest Electric Railroad in All New England", first requires some background information for those readers that may not be as familiar with the series of events in the previous few weeks that unfolded leading up to the opening day of the line.

     You will see references to the "Libbey Road". W. S. Libbey was the driving force behind the creation of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban and was a well-respected businessman in the twin cities of Lewiston-Auburn.

     You will see references to the Portland, Gray & Lewiston Railroad. This was the name of the line prior to July 10, 1914.

     O. R. Cummings' excellent books on the Portland-Lewiston Interurban (May 1956 & September 1967) are wonderful resources and much of the information imparted here is from those publications.

     In 1905, two companies had their proposals approved to build a 32-mile railway between Portland and Lewiston. The Portland and Lewiston Railway, led by Edward W. Gross and Lewis A. Goudy and the Lewiston and Portland Railroad, led by Winfield S. Libbey (known as W. S. or W. Scott Libbey) and Henry M. Dingley. At the time, Gross & Goudy were associated in the development of the Automatic Telephone Company in Lewiston and Libbey & Dingley were co-owners of the Lewiston & Auburn Electric Light Company, which held important water rights at Deer Rips on the Androscoggin River, where they had constructed a modern hydroelectric plant and planned on their new electric railroad to be a major customer.

Libbey-Dingley Dam, Lewiston, Maine

     Fortunately, the interests in the two companies were friendly and ultimately came to an agreement to organize as one company, with Gross & Goudy leading the company and the power for the new railroad to be supplied by the electric company owned by Libbey & Dingley. The newly formed Portland, Gray & Lewiston Railroad was approved in 1907. The capital required to fund a major construction project as was planned for this new line was not easy for Gross & Goudy and early in 1909, Gross appealed to Libbey, a prominent Lewiston industrialist, for assistance. To make a long story short, by early in 1910, Libbey & Dingley had purchased all the interests in the company with Libbey having the controlling interest.

A four-horse team draws the scoop breaking ground for the PLI at
Danville in 1910. Collection of O. R. Cummings

     Under the direction of W. Scott Libbey, construction started on April 7, 1910, when Sam Ferguson, construction superintendent, turned over the first piece of sod near Littlefield's Corner in Auburn. As built, the Portland, Gray & Lewiston had a private right of way 50 feet wide, with a maximum grade on the line of 4 percent and the sharpest curve was 780 feet in radius. In fact, the line was constructed in as substantial a manner as many steam railroads. In all respects, an electric railroad, not a street railway. 

     In 1913, consolidation of the Libbey & Dingley electric light and railroad properties into a single corporation brought the birth of the Androscoggin Electric Company.

W. Scott Libbey
O. R. Cummings Collection

     Sadly, on May 17, 1914, just a few weeks prior to the opening of the new electric railroad, W. Scott Libbey died. Control of the line was vested in Mr. Libbey's estate, although Mr. Dingley held a substantial interest. The name of the Portland, Gray & Lewiston was changed to the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad on July 10, 1914. In October 1914, Mr. Dingley sold his interests in the line to the Libbey estate, the estate, in turn, conveyed the properties to a syndicate, that also acquired the capital stock of the Androscoggin Light Company. Central Maine Power Company took over the ownership of the Androscoggin Light Company (including the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad) in April 1920.

The actual opening day of service to the public received
a short announcement on page 12 (back page) of the
Lewiston Evening Journal's July 2, 1914 issue. Seven
passengers. The peak year would be 1920 when
the PLI carried 531,440 passengers.

No. 10 Arbutus with Lewiston terminal personnel l-r two unidentified men
then; R G Weeks, master mechanic; Guy W. Mitchell, barn foreman;
H. L. Wright, Mrs. Lucy Card Matthews, E J Chateauvert, Milan H Spinney,
Charles E Kennison, L R Penny.  June 29, 1914
Collection of Barney Neuburger from O. R. Cummings

     When the line started public operations on Thursday, July 2, it was not prepared for full service between Portland and Lewiston. Trips from each direction met in Gray, the mid-point between the terminal cities. The running time between the terminal cities was 1 hour and 50 minutes. There were six interurbans in the fleet, but only three were operational. The two that were used for public trips on opening day were the Azalea and the Arbutus. The Narcissus was held back in service. The other three cars needed to be "fitted" out, meaning, in part, to have their motors installed. 

     By late July, the Gladiolus, Clematis, and Magnolia were ready and sufficient motormen and conductors had been qualified to permit the start of full service. As a result, an hourly headway was established on Monday, July 27, the new schedule calling for 15 daily trips in each direction over the line. Running time was about 1 hour and thirty minutes.

     The PLI quickly established an enviable reputation for reliability and on-time performance and even in the worst winter weather, the big green cars, thanks to an efficient snow fighting force, usually managed to get through.

     From the beginning, the Interurban was a "spit and polish" road, with cars being cleaned inside and out and being given thorough inspections at the Lewiston terminal between trips. Shortly after the line opened, as a token of elegance, each motorman and conductor was issued a pair of kid gloves, which the form was to wear while running the car and the latter were to don while assisting passengers to board and alight, running railroad crossings, throwing switches and the like. 

Every indication is that the PLI enjoyed excellent public relations throughout its entire existence. The Interurban appears to have largely escaped unfavorable criticism from the press. Crews were capable, courteous and friendly, most of the conductors and motormen being Maine born and raised and knowing and being known by the regular passengers on a first name basis. To many of the trainmen, the Interurban was more than just a means of earning a living - it was a way of life. They took a deep interest in the affairs of the road and always were ready to make an extra effort to better accommodate the riders and to attract and retain patronage.

No. 18 Azalea at Deering Junction with Walter E Pinkham, one of the first PLI
motorman and Clarence J Cobb who became PLI's first Freight Agent in 1915.
From the O.R. Cummings Collection

Porcelain sign from PLI ticket stand.
Collection of O. R. Cummings

     Here is the newspaper story from the June 27th issue of the Lewiston Evening Journal's recap of June 26, 1914, official inspection of the line. Images were added by PWM: 


Railroad Commissioners and Party of Invited Guests Made Trip In Special Car

Banquet at Riverton Park Casino - Road Will Open For Traffic Latter Part of Next Week

In the beautiful car Azalea, the State railroad Commissioners made an official tour of inspection over the Portland, Gray & Lewiston Inter-urban Railroad yesterday. After completing the trip to Portland the car was run out to Riverton Park where a fine banquet was served at the Casino under the personal direction of the manager, Dan Smith.

  With ideal weather and other conditions favorable the trip was one of the great enjoyment to all. Probably with no exception this is the most up-to-date, substantially constructed and finest equipped electric line in New England. Heavy irons, heavy rolling stock, and perfect grading all of which tend to make the going smooth for the passenger comfortably placed in one of the fine plush upholstered seats of these parlor-like cars.
  The start from Lewiston was made at 10 A. M. The party consisted of Railroad commissioners Hon. John A. Jones of Lewiston, Hon. Frank Keizer of Rockland; George F. Giddings of Augusta clerk of the board and his son. Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Dingley, Mrs. Nelson Dingley, Mrs. Annie E. Libbey, Mrs. A. W. Anthony, Miss Alla Libbey, Mr. and Mrs. Harold S. Libbey, W. Scott Libbey Jr., Fred D. Gordon, superintendent of the Lewiston & Auburn Electric Co., Hon. and Mrs. John A. Morrell, Mayor and Mrs. A. W. Fowles, George W. Bowie, general superintendent of the L. A. & W. St. Ry., Mrs. Bowie, L. H. McCray, manager of the Atlantic Shore Line, Mr. and Mrs. Sam E. Connor, Mr. and Mrs. N. W. Benner, J. Everett Parkhurst, Miss Alice Rowe, Miss Fogg, Miss Jones, Mrs. Brady, Mayor R. J. Wiseman of Lewiston was detained at home on account of illness. The car was in charge of Motorman Charles H. Mitchell and Conductor Charles Kennison.
  Over a line of far-stretching tangents and slow winding curves, cutting through woodlands, and fields and broken by hills and vales offering a succession of panoramic views of rare picturesque beauty, the ride to Portland was made in about one hour and 40 minutes which will probably be about the schedule running time between the two cities when the road opens for traffic the latter part of the week. On the downward trip, occasional stops were made for sight-seeing and to give the commissioners opportunity to inspect the construction of the road, especially the culvert and bridge work. Suffice it to say that the thoroughness and high class of the construction far exceed the legal requirements and the commissioners found no feature to criticize and had only words of praise to speak of the road.

PLI right-of-way view through Chandler's Woods near New Gloucester
shows the excellence of the PLI track and roadbed. Trolley Poles are on
the right and high tension lines on left. Image from G.F. Cunningham
Collection of O. R. Cummings

     As soon as the car was in its way Mrs. Anthony distributed among the party small bouquets of Feverfew the favorite flower of her father the late Hon. W. Scott Libbey builder of the road which today stands as a splendid and lasting monument to his memory.

Feverfew, W. Scott Libbey's favorite flower.

     The party proceeded directly to Portland, circled Monument Square and then the car was run to Riverton Park where at 1:30 P. M. a fine banquet was served in one of the private dining rooms at the Casino under the personal direction of the manager Dan Smith. The tables were decorated with cut flowers including a large bouquet of Feverfew. A pink lay at each plate. As a closing and touching feature of the banquet, at the suggestion of President Dingley, all arose and drunk a cold water toast. After a stroll about the Park observing points of particular interest and posing for a group picture, the return trip to Lewiston was made, the running time being in perfect accord with the proposed schedule. The car reached  Lewiston at about 5 P. M.

Casino at Riverton Park, Portland, Maine
PWM Collection

     While the exact date of opening the road for regular traffic has not been fixed, the officials state that barring disappointments, it will probably be the latter part of next week. Six cars will be used in the service, the Arbutus, Narcissus, Gladiolus, Magnolia, Azalea, and Clematis, one of which will leave hourly from either terminal, the running time probably about one hour and 40 minutes and the fare from Lewiston to Portland 75 cents.
  The using of names other than numbers to designate the different cars was the idea of Mr. Libbey the builder of the road. He desired that each car be given a personality and as he was a great lover of flowers it was suggested by one of his daughters that the names of cars should be those of Mr. Libbey's favorite flowers. Thus with his approval, they were named in the order given.

No. 10 Arbutus interior.
Collection of O. R. Cummings

     These cars are truly flowers of their species. Each car has a seating capacity of 52. This includes the smoking compartment. There is a baggage rack completely around the top of each car. This is for use and not ornamentation. They are finished in mahogany, with ebony and holly inlaid as decorations. The windows are of plate glass, arranged, as are those of a Pullman, with art glass overhead. The upholstering is in green plush in the main car and leather in the smoking car. All metal work is of bronze. The vestibules have trap doors which drop down over the car steps when the car is in motion, after the design of the standard steam road cars. The advantage of this is that the car steps can be made sufficiently low for easy access by patrons of the road. It surely will be appreciated by lady passengers, who wear dresses of the prevailing style.
     Each car has motors of 300 H. P. (actually each had four-90 hp motors..PWM) guaranteed to give a speed up to 70 miles an hour when desired. The wheels, 31 inches in diameter, are of pressed steel with a steel rim shrunk on. They have roller bearings and all cars are fully equipped with searchlights and air brakes.
     Another feature of these cars is the end door in the vestibules. These open from the outside. They are designed exclusively for the use of conductors when more than one car is run in a train. The conductor, having a key can pass from one car to the others, but passengers cannot.
     The construction of the road was begun in April 1910 under the supervision of Sam Ferguson and since that time its progress has been steady. The roadbed is said to be one of the best in New England, the heaviest grade is a fraction over four percent and the shortest curve has a radius of 700 feet and the cars can safely take it at a 40  miles an hour clip. The average radius of curves is 1100 feet.
     Between the junction with the T. A. & W. rails on Minot Avenue, Auburn and those of the Portland Railroad at Deering Jct., there are 12 bridges. Ten of those are concrete, reinforced with 3/4 inch steel rods, a much heavier reinforcement than is usually employed. There are two steel bridges, one of these is where it passes over the Rumford Falls line, the other where it passes under the Grand Trunk.

The interurban tracks burrowed under the Grand Trunk Railway's mainline
from Portland to Canada a short distance east of Danville station.
O. R. Cummings Collection

     There are two types of culverts; concrete and corrugated tubular iron, according to conditions which have to be met.
     Along the line, there are 50 cattle passes. These are of concrete, reinforced, and have an eight-foot clearance. 
     Open hearth steel rails, 70 pounds to the yard, are used on the road.
     The method of hanging the trolley wire is new to Maine. IT is known as the Catenary system. It reduces the danger of the trolley wheel leaving the wire to a minimum. Under this method, the trolley wire is not attached directly to the arm from the pole. A five-strand copper wire rope hangs from the arm. From this rope drop similar wires, about a foot in length, on which are suspended the trolley wire proper.
     The electric current to operate the road is supplied by the Deer Rips with transformers at Danville Junction, Gray, and West Falmouth. A convenient waiting room has been provided at each of the three transformer stations. (Ends Here)

Map of PLI
Collection of O R Cummings

     The six original cars (there were only a total of nine cars in total ever owned by the PLI, 7 were interurban), No. 10, Arbutus, No. 12, Gladiolus, No. 14, Narcissus, No. 16, Clematis were built by the Laconia Car Company. No 18, Azalea and No. 20, Magnolia, were built by the Wason Manufacturing Company. Except for some differences in the shapes of the windows and doors, they were essentially identical. 

No. 16 Clematis prepared for shipment from the Laconia Car Company plant
to Port-Lewiston Interurban. Notice the difference in ornate windows above
the passenger windows, compared to the Azalea in the image above.
Collection of O. R. Cummings

As we pause to reflect on this one hundred and second anniversary of the end of an era in Maine and the loss of so much of our electric railway history, there is cause to be hopeful and to give Thanks!

We are in the midst of restoring the only surviving interurban from the Finest and Fastest Electric Railroad in Maine.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Phil- neat to see the Teddy Roosevelt and Maine thing posted here too with all you other goings on!