Down by the sea

Barbara Dyer: Trolly Transportation

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 11:15am

Years ago, the Midcoast needed transportation in addition to boats. Before cars became prevalent and buses were nonexistent, Camden to Thomaston had the electric trolley cars. The track was laid beginning at Kennedy’s Store (now the House of Logan). It went up Union Street (that was the main route then) and on up Richards Hill in Rockport. My wish as a child, during the Great Depression, was that someday I would have a dime to ride on the Rockland, Thomaston and Camden Street Railway. However, I was only seven years old when it was discontinued.

It was the principal mode of transportation in our Midcoast and it operated for 39 years.

On July 30, 1892, at 7 p.m., the first two electric cars left the power station in Glen Cove. One trolley headed for Rockland and the other to Rockport, and both returned. The hill on Route 1 today is still known as Power House Hill by the older natives, and a fish peddling truck is parked there selling fish.

The following day, four more cars were taken out and tested.  Everything went fine, even the inexperienced help, so on August 7, 1892, the cars entered Camden and began their regular schedule carrying passengers, baggage, express and mail.

There were eight and 10 bench open cars and 20 to 25 foot closed cars. Plus freight express cargo, mail cars and snowplows. Some cars were replaced and rebuilt, and larger ones were purchased in the 1900s.

It was the railway company that created Oakland Park in 1902, which was 72 acres in size, with a casino, dance hall, restaurants, a bandstand and baseball diamond.

There was no charge for the people to enjoy this high class resort, because the trolley fares covered the cost of maintaining Oakland Park. By 1916 the cars went to Thomaston, and side trips to the Lily Pond, lime quarries and Oakland Park.

In the 39 years of operation, only two serious accidents occurred. 

The first happened on August 12, 1911, when Car 22 carrying school children to Warren after a day at Oakland Park, and Car 17 met head-on near O’Brien’s siding in Warren. One person was killed and six were injured. 

They felt it was a misunderstanding of orders given by the railway superintendent. 

The second accident occurred when Car 12 failed to make the curve by the Rockport Opera House.  The motorman and one woman were killed and nine were injured. That car was never returned to service.

The fare started at five cents; increased to six cents in 1918 and seven cents in 1919 for each zone.

There were six zones between Camden and Warren in 1924, and the fare was raised to 10 cents to its closing.

There were comfortable waiting rooms in several places for the travelers. Some held 10, 20 or 30 people. The company changed hands and named it the Knox County Electric Company.  Then the Central Maine Power Company took over in 1920.

It was wonderful then, but unfortunately would not work today with all the traffic on the roads.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.

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