Monday, November 20, 2017

Looking For the Right Match For the Narcissus - Paint Analysis Begins

Magnified cross-section image of paint Sample 2, taken from a soffit board
from the clerestory roof of the 1912 Narcissus. This image reminded me of
a slide image one might see in a dentist's office. Taking a look, one would not
expect good news from the dentist. However, in this case, we received
great news from Amy Cole Ives, President at
Sutherland Conservation& Consulting
in Augusta, ME. Image SCC

Steps towards engaging a Professional Conservation Paint Analysis for the Narcissus

     The 1912 Portland-Lewiston Interurban No. 14, Narcissus has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1980. Theodore Roosevelt was a passenger on the Narcissus on August 18, 1914. Getting the color scheme right for the exterior and interior of the majestic icon of Maine's Fastest and Finest Interurban is imperative.

     As we move closer to completing components of the exterior of the Narcissus, we must determine specific colors for these components. The PLI ended operations in early July 1933. The builder of the Narcissus, the Laconia Car Company in Laconia, NH has also been closed for decades. No records that specifically detail the color formulas for the PLI interurbans are known to exist.  There is text describing the colors of the exterior of the interurbans. So, that is where we began.

Sister interurbans to the Narcissus in a PLI book
by O. R. Cummings

     A portion of the description of the exterior of the 1912 Portland-Lewiston Interurban No. 14, Narcissus reads;

     Each of the original cars was 46 feet long overall and 8 feet, 3/4 inch wide and had steam railroad 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.

     Reads pretty straight forward. Gray roof, Pullman green exterior, dark red doors, and trim, with real gold leaf numbers and lettering. 

     The gray roof and gold leaf are indeed pretty straight forward. However, the Pullman green and dark red has been anything but, straight forward. Turns out, like so many other colors in paint, there are various shades of Pullman green. And to add more head-scratching to the conundrum, the "dark red" may not be red paint at all?

The Pullman green

     We had heard from folks that had ridden the interurbans of the PLI that the green was very dark. So dark, that the interurbans really looked nearly black. Our initial search for Pullman green came up with various shades of green paint that were all named or called Pullman green, but none that looked nearly black. 

     Other clues to how dark the Pullman green color of the Narcissus includes:
Seashore Trolley Museum's annual report from 1969. The Narcissus arrived at Seashore Trolley Museum on Halloween in 1969. The trip from Sabattus to Kennebunkport was quite a media event. In preparation, Museum volunteers "temporarily" attached new masonite strips on the Narcissus and painted the strips in Pullman green and authentically lettered the strips with Portland-Lewiston Interurban. Those masonite strips are still with the Narcissus today. The Pullman green color on the masonite strips looks almost black.

The masonite strip that was painted Pullman green in 1969.

     A visit to the Gray Historical Society in Gray, Maine gave us a view of an original destination roll sign from a sister Laconia-built PLI interurban, No. 10, Arbutus. Following the end of operation of the PLI, the Arbutus was purchased by Gertrude Libbey Anthony, as a complete operating interurban, and moved to her property in the Bay View community in Saco, Maine. There the Arbutus was on a set of tracks as a memorial to Mrs. Anthony's father, W. S. Libbey, the builder of the PLI. Sadly the Arbutus was scrapped for the war effort in the late mid-forties. However, Mrs. Anthony did donate various components from the Arbutus to the Gray Historical Society and the Maine Historical Society. Most of the interior mahogany panels from the passenger and smoking compartment were used in the interior of a chapel at St. Francis in Biddeford Pool. And somehow, many of the arched sash and leaded windows from the clerestory found their way to Branford Electric Railway Association in East Haven, CT.

An original destination roll sign from the Arbutus, sister interurban to
the Narcissus, at Gray Historical Society. PWM 

     There were a lot of alligatored paint materials on boards up in the soffit area of the clerestory arch windows too.
The roof boards of the Narcissus have been removed from the soffit that
extends over the clerestory arched windows. In between the roof ribs you
can see the alligatored paint of the dark Pullman green on the fascia board.

The dark red doors and trim

Image of an originally painted porcelain PLI advertising panel
from one of the PLI ticket booths. 

     Looking at a color image of an original PLI porcelain advertising panel from a PLI ticket booth shows the dark red to be just that, a dark red. However, volunteer Tom Hughes had restored all the surviving  Narcissus clerestory sash, and he was quite certain that the mahogany sash for the leaded stained glass windows in the clerestory was never painted. Tom surmises that none of the mahogany sash was painted red. That instead, the combination of the natural color of the mahogany, coated with layers of varnish and or perhaps shellac, would appear to be a dark red. The same might be said for all the mahogany "trim" components; all exterior doors, and sash of all the exterior windows? All of the original mahogany sash for the arched clerestory windows were restored/repaired fifteen years ago or so.

Interior Colors

     While searching for clues to help identify exterior colors, we decided to add the colors needed for the interior to the list. The floor has a shade of what might be called a tile-red color. A name that has been used to describe the color of the headliner (Center ceiling panels and the side or clerestory ceiling panels) is Nile green. The Narcissus was the Vallee's summer camp for thirty years or more, and during that time all of the headliner panels and many other interior components of the Narcissus were painted white. The center ceiling panels each have an ornate gold leaf fleur-de-lis in each corner. Each fleur-de-lis has two gold leaf lines that reach out and travel along the perimeter of the panel to the next fleur-de-lis. The side ceiling panels do not have fleur-de-lis but do have lines of the gold leaf along the perimeter of the long panels. Over the years, the gold leaf has been working its way up through the flaking, alligatored white paint. A couple of the side panels do show a little of the original green. Upon inspection, it is not clear whether the center ceiling panels and the side panels had the same shade of green? Hopefully, this question will be resolved with the analysis.

interior view of the Narcissus 2015 shows the
headliners in the center ceiling panels and the
side ceiling panels. Also, you can see the floor's
faint red color next to the interlocking tiles
that are in the center aisle. DGC

Gold leaf fleur-de-lis in a corner of one
of the center ceiling panels. The ceiling
panels and many other interior components
were painted white during the time the
Narcissus was the Vallee's summer
camp in Sabattus, ME. PWM

Next steps - Reaching out to a Professional Conservator for Paint Analysis

     Donald Curry and I are invited by various organizations to talk about the Portland-Lewiston Interurban and the restoration of the Narcissus. One of those presentations in the summer of 2017 was at the 470 Railroad Club in Portland, ME. The President of the club, Ron Cole, was Donald's roommate in college at Northeast University. As it turns out, Ron's daughter, Amy Cole Ives, is the President of Sutherland Conservation & Consulting in Augusta, Maine. So, of course, Donald & Ron discussed the possibility of Amy having an interest in testing the Narcissus colors for analysis. Soon thereafter, contact was made between Amy and Donald and initial emails were shared about the Narcissus. In preparation for a site visit by Amy, a couple of sections of roof soffit boards with what may have been dark green paint was sent to Amy. Amy made a site visit to the Museum and the Narcissus on November 4, 2017. following her visit, Amy submitted the initial results of the paint analysis from the roof boards and included the next steps.

The Old Federal Building295 Water Street, Suite 306
Augusta, ME 04330207-242-0618

Images from Sutherland Conservation & Consulting of the two roof
boards from the soffit area above the arched window opening in
the clerestory of the Narcissus. Using a scalpel, samples are taken from
boards and then put through a series of procedures for analysis.
Images from SCC

Image from SCC

Image from SCC

Image from SCC

Image from SCC

     Through the initial paint analysis, it is becoming clear that Amy will be able to provide the match we were looking for with the dark Pullman green.

     We next need to zero in on the exterior dark red for the doors and trim. All of the Narcissus original doors and sash for the passenger windows and the clerestory windows have all been restored and or repaired. So, no original samples are available from the Narcissus. However, do you recall from the text above, that a number of the clerestory sash from the Arbutus had found their way to the Branford Electric Railway Association in East Haven, CT? Well, back in 2001, the Narcissus was having some work down in the restoration shop. Details of that work were printed in an article in the Museum's newsletter, The Dispatch. The Dispatch is sent to Museum members, and to other railway museums around the globe. While reading the issue, Bill Wall from the Branford Electric Railway Association, recalled that they were in possession of the clerestory sash from the Arbutus. He contacted Donald Curry and the Arbutus sash arrived at Seashore Trolley Museum early in 2002. When we had the Narcissus ornate leaded stained glass windows professionally repaired and restored in 2014 by Deb Caron Plourde at Sundancers Stained Glass in Saco, ME, the glass was removed from most of the Arbutus clerestory windows and used in the restoration of the Narcissus clerestory windows. The empty mahogany sash of the Arbutus has been kept in storage. Now we could choose one of those original clerestory sash from the Arbutus and send it to Amy for analysis. A sash was chosen and sent to Amy. She should receive the sash in Augusta on November 21st.

The mahogany clerestory sash from the Arbutus chosen to be sent to
Sutherland Conservation & Consulting for analysis. This view is showing
the side of the sash seen from the inside of the interurban. The two screw
holes seen on the lower right-hand corner is where one arm of the brass
window opener attaches. Certain pairings of clerestory windows can be
partially opened to allow air to circulate in the passenger compartment and
in the smoking compartment. The mahogany seems to be protected with
varnish, or perhaps a shellac mixture? PWM

This view is of the side of the clerestory sash where the leaded stained glass is
held in place with three wooden trim boards (glazing). This side faces the
exterior of the interurban and was exposed to the elements of the weather
throughout the year. There seems to be a heavy, yet sporadic, layer of the
dark Pullman green. PWM

     We are making headway. The analysis will be done on the floor color (tile red?) and on the headline color(s) (Nile green?). As the results are confirmed, a future blog post will be released with the results.

Museum of Mass Transit is celebrating its 81st Birthday year in 2020! 
Special Events are scheduled  - Public operations start on May 2, 2020. 
Click Here for the 2019 Events & Special Activities for the 80th Anniversary Season, with hot links

Click Here for 2019 Special Events 

Check out the new book that features the Narcissus!
Look below to read the many great reviews!

Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride

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

"An eye-opening and entertaining ride - you won't want the train to stop!
Highly recommended.
Andrew Vietze, award-winning author of Becoming Teddy Roosevelt.

Books are available at these local bookstores in Maine:
The Book Review, Falmouth
Letterpress Books, Portland
Nonesuch Books and More, South Portland
Nubble Books, Biddeford
Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport
Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shops - All locations

A resource for teachers. 
     We are working with the Maine Historical Society to create State-standard-based lesson plans for classroom use in grades 4, 5, 6, and 7. We hope to have the vocabulary for the various grades released soon and to unveil the full lesson plans early in 2020. In the meantime, the teacher resource post has a listing of online references for people, places, and events that are referred to throughout the book, Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride - written with a focus on using vocabulary words and sentence structure that might be useful in classroom studies for students and teachers in grades 4 to 7. Though, there are numerous words, sentences, topics, and references that students and teachers in a variety of grades, as well as readers of all ages, will find useful and of interest. 

Click Here for the announcement of the award-winning narrator for the audiobook :) 

     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.

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 Kindle page through Amazon

Click Here for the post on the ebook release video with a guided tour of the Narcissus

Book, ebook, and (soon) audiobook available through Amazon.

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

Click Here to read January 20, 2020 - Coveted Starred Blueink 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

     In June of 2018, I was very happy to release a blog post announcing that award-winning Maine author, Jean M. Flahive, had agreed to write a young reader historical fiction chapter book that would benefit the Narcissus Project. In October of 2019, I was happy to report, that the book, Teddy Roosevelt, Millie, and the Elegant Ride, had been printed and was available to purchase! Below are some blurbs/reviews from a few individuals who read the manuscript after being professionally edited by Maine Authors Publishing in Thomaston, Maine. 

MUST-READ! - Click Here
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)
MUST-READ! - Click Here  (In case you hadn't "clicked" and read it above :)

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.
Thank You

   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. With our estimate to have the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Narcissus in the fall of 2021, 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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