Sunday, June 28, 2009

Portland Past: Street Trolleys

The only reminder left that Portland once had a streetcar/trolley network is found on Munjoy Hill, where a small patch Congress Street features exposed cobblestones and old rails.

I am having a hard time finding any information about the trolley network in Portland. The topic mentioned in a blog post here, and that the network was completely removed by the mid-1940's. I also checked for some information on the Seashore Trolley Museum's website but they didn't have any information specifically about Portland's trolleys.

Most small towns in Maine had a trolley system around the turn of the 20th century. I would love to see a map of Portland's network. What I do know is that there was a line that went up and down Congress Street and also a line that went to Riverton Trolley Park. Here is a website created by a USM student, which has a brief history of the trolleys of Portland. Here's an excerpt:

More trolley lines were added over the next forty years that include: “the Congress Street line that operated from Atlantic to Vaughan Street, in 1864 and the last one, the Saco and Old Orchard line in 1901-1902. The Deering line was electrified in 1891 and the city lines changed to electricity in 1895” (Portland Evening Express, 1941).
Here is a picture from the Maine Memory Network, showing a busy Congress Street in 1930. It's sad that Portland is no longer this 'bustling' but it does show that the city can perhaps support this type of acitivty again someday:

Many other countries have cities with popular, safe, and efficient light rail networks and even a few American cities have great modern networks. (see a list here)

I guess this post doesn't have much purpose other than to reminisce about the long-ago existence of what sounds like a great mass transit system. The removal of the system was most likely due in large part to the rise of the automobile and suburbia.

I attended the open house at the Maine Historical Society on Saturday and am considering joining in order to do some research about this trolley topic. I will keep you posted!

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