Friday, June 25, 2010

Gaining Ground

We've had a long and busy spring working with the Maine Trolley albums. Description of individual photographs continues, but our primary effort has been around preservation. With the help of Olivia and two new volunteers, Deb and Alicia, we have succeeded in passing the halfway point: 12 out of 24 albums are completely preserved! That means photocopying the original album, prepping the cataloging sheets and mounting pages, and then shifting the photos from the old albums to the new archival binders. We are going through tons of supplies - more than I anticipated. But oh, the binders are looking good! In the photo above, the blue binders on the top shelf are the completed albums.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Library volunteer receives award

On May 15, 2010, Mike Frost received a Trustee Recognition Award from the New England Electric Railway Historical Society in honor of his devotion and invaluable service to the Seashore Trolley Museum Library. In January 2009, Mike Frost began the task of inventorying and packing over 1000 books held by the Seashore Trolley Museum Library. This activity involved removing the books from various boxes or loose piles in the old library building, filling out a data sheet, including a location code for the volumes’ new storage location. Mike sorted books for appropriate storage (permanent collection versus those outside of the Library collection’s scope), packing them accordingly. He also moved the vast majority of these books by himself to the safety of the library container. Mike’s efforts have helped to rescue the collection from the environmental threats posed by the old Library structure and have also made possible a computerized inventory of these materials. This computerized inventory will ultimately become the searchable catalog of the Seashore Trolley Museum Library.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The grant project begins!

The much-anticipated check from the State of Maine arrived at the Seashore Trolley Museum last week. You know what that meant: shopping spree! We quickly ordered the supplies we needed to begin preserving the Maine Trolleys photo albums.

Below is Olivia Weiser, our Preservation Intern, working on the first album. Olivia has been a volunteer with the Museum for the past year. Olivia was our first pick to intern on the O.R. Cummings Photograph Collection preservation project because of her considerable skill with scrapbooking techniques.

Olivia will be remounting all of the photos, maps, and postcards onto archival cardstock and slipping them into archival protective sleeves. Descriptive information for each image will be printed out and placed on the facing page. Here is where all of the hard work of our Library volunteers begins to pay off!

Above: one of the completed pages for the Portland Railroad Company's Saco Division album. We have approximately 25 albums to complete for the grant project and plan to finish by early summer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Inventory Project

Here is the amazing Kaz Powell, doing data entry on the inventory sheets. She's entered over 1200 titles since the New Year. This is the beginning of an actual catalog of Seashore Trolley Museum Library holdings.

Kaz couldn't be doing this work without the inventory sheets that have been created by Mike Frost, Seashore volunteer extraordinaire! Mike has been almost single-handedly inventorying the collection, packing material up in boxes, and moving them to safer storage in the container. He's been so busy that we need to get two more containers to hold all of his work!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

January 15, 2010 Work Party

We had a great work party on January 15 at York County Community College. Here is a photo of some of our volunteers: O.R. Cummings, front left; from left to right in the back row: Ed Ramsdell, Ed Dooks, Amber Tatnall, Karen Dooks, and Herb Pence. We are posing with the newly arrived and complete collection of O.R.'s research albums.

Do please note Herb's Mickey Mouse gloves which he loves to show off ;) What you can't see behind us is what keeps us going: delicious coffee and donuts from Congdon's and Karen's famous beef and barley soup.

Over the last few months, as we prepared for the grant project, the volunteers had been working with a small subset of the collection - just to get things started. Now, with the entire collection on campus, we are primed to Get Busy. Thanks to Donald Curry, the Seashore Trolley Museum shop manager, who has been housing the albums safely for several years. Thanks also to Ed Dooks and Randy Leclair for their assistance in transporting the collection to the College.

The volunteers have been very busy cataloging and describing the images in the albums, as we prepare for the actual grant project to begin. It's a big job: over 25 albums filled with photographs, postcards, maps, and ephemera. At this week's work party, we finished the cataloging and description for five of the albums. We had a great turnout of hard-working volunteers, including O.R. who provided oracular magic as usual! Funniest moment of the day: when Herb asked O.R. if he knew the name of the horse in the photograph. There was an actual pause while we all waited confidently for the answer. Best laugh of the week, Herb!

Here you see Ed and Karen with their completed albums. Only twenty something more to go! These folks work *so* hard!

The next step will be to enter all of that hard-won data into a database to create a finding aid, as well as to generate the descriptive pages that will face the newly mounted images in the archival albums. Today we created the database and began data entry.

Here's a screenshot. What can I say? I'm a database geek.
Submitted by Amber Tatnall

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recollections of a Trolley Fan

Many of us at Seashore grew up riding and seeing trolleys – an experience that the younger generation has not had, unless they live in Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, or others of the few cities that still have trolleys. One of the things that almost no one of the present generation can experience are the huge networks that once existed.

This writer had the rich experience of discovering Pittsburgh in the early 60’s when much of its electric railway system was still intact. It was incredible – standing on just about any corner in downtown and boarding the first car to come along.

“Le’s see where this goes…” and I was never disappointed. There were so many lines that it seemed that just when you thought you had ridden them all, along came another one you didn’t know about.

I will never forget walking down the street in McKeesport, Pa., where we were performing on a river barge with the American Wind Symphony. I knew all about the “56 McKeesport” line, had ridden it many times. It was a delightful line that used to go cross country along grass-grown tracks amid morning mist and hollyhocks. So imagine my surprise in McKeesport when along came a car signed “98 Glassport”. A new line – one I had never heard of! It turned out that it was a connecting line from McKeesport to Glassport that never got near downtown so it was no surprise I had never heard of it. In those days, I didn’t know any other trolley fans who would have had maps and other things.

Another time I boarded a car downtown about 8 or 9 o’clock at night. The car went across a bridge across a major river, and soon began climbing a hill through quaint neighborhoods. Then it made a sharp turn and began climbing an even steeper hill. I have since learned this was the steepest hill in Pittsburgh and had a fleet of cars with special gearing made just for that line.

The car made a couple sharp turns and went along some narrow streets where you were a couple of feet away from people sitting in their kitchens or living rooms watching TV. Then – wonder of wonders! – it was no longer narrow streets but brick paved track through the woods. Branches scraped the right side of the car, then branches scraped both sides, but we were still on that paved single track. The climax of this adventure was when we went over a little hill and scraped the bottom of the car. I thought I had disappeared into some kind of parallel universe. The car finally arrived at an intersection on a busy street back in civilization and reality.

It turns out the line was the very famous ’21 Fineview’ and the darling of trolley fans the world over. What a great experience to discover it without ever hearing about it before hand.

Fans of an even older generation than this writer got to experience the “interurbans” – high speed intercity trolley that largely disappeared in the Depression. I got to ride a few survivors – the “North Shore” from Chicago to Milwaukee, and the “Roarin’ Elgin”, the Chicago Aurora and Elgin. Those were both unusual in that they went to the loop in downtown Chicago over the Chicago elevated tracks. Imagine standing on the “El” tracks in Chicago waiting for your train when along comes a large train of interurban cars.

Another experience a lucky few had was riding the incline in Cincinnati. That to my knowledge was the only city in the world where the trolleys went on the incline. There was the line “49 Zoo – Eden” that went up the incline to the top of Mt. Adams, through the woods in Eden Park, and ended up at the Zoo. I was quite young, but remember how exciting it was to be able to get off the car and watch the city below as we were pulled up the steep hill. I remember how neat it was to get back on to the car without having to pay another fare. There was an effort when the incline closed to save it, but it wasn’t successful. What a shame – it could have been a world famous historical landmark.

Experiences like the above are why we volunteers at the museum work so hard to give people a small taste of the very short-lived but wonderful world of trolleys.

Submitted by Lloyd Rosevear

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tools of the Trade I

Cataloging and fully describing the images in the Cummings Photograph Collection can definitely be a challenging task. Not all of our library volunteers are trolley experts. Some of us, actually, are pretty ignorant about trolleys! Or at least we were ignorant until our volunteer Lloyd Rosevear came up with this handy guide, Trolleys for Dummies.

During one of our work sessions, I pestered Lloyd with so many questions like, "What kind of car is this?" and "What kind of roof is this?", that he had a brainstorm and created a visual dictionary of trolley cars. This reference has been a valuable "tool of the trade" as we tackle the many photographs in O.R.'s collection. And to think: Lloyd used to get into all sorts of trouble in grammar school from teachers who begged him to stop drawing trolley cars all over his schoolwork!

Thanks, Lloyd! And when are we going to get more pages??

Submitted by Amber, STM Library volunteer

Friday, January 8, 2010

O.R. Cummings and his research collection

O.R. Cummings, Seashore Trolley Museum Member #5 and author of more than 50 books on the history of electric railways has been a fan of trolley cars since he was a child. Trolleys captured O.R.’s interest at a very young age:

“My first memory of a trolley goes back to 1926 or 1927 when my parents and I lived at 3 Gardner Street, Salisbury, Massachusetts. The house was only a short distance west of Route 1, Lafayette Road, along which the trolleys from Salisbury to Smithtown Square, Seabrook, N.H. ran. Well, I was playing in the yard on a warm spring or summer day when I heard the noise of a collision. I ran to the scene of the crash and saw that a Model T Ford had tried to make a left turn as what I now know to have been a Birney car approached. The right front wheel of the flivver was demolished, but there were no injuries. The driver was a Gardner Street neighbor. I got holy Hell from my mother for going up to the scene of the crash.”

O.R.’s love of trolleys continued as he grew up:

“Late in 1927 we moved from Gardner Street to our newly-constructed home at 1 Maple Street, Salisbury. The house was very close to Elm Street (now Route 110) along which Haverhill-Salisbury Beach and Haverhill-Newburyport trolleys of the Massachusetts Northeastern Street Railway ran. Until Sept. 7, 1930, I enjoyed the sight of yellow trolleys passing the end of Maple Street at least twice an hour. One of my neighbors, Rollins French, frequently took me to the carhouse in Salisbury Square where I became friendly with some of the operators.”

By the time O.R. became an active trolley fan in 1940, he had already amassed some excellent material for the research collection he was beginning to assemble and that is the focus of our Maine Historical Records Collections grant project.

Born in 1923, O.R. attended Bates College from 1940 to 1942 before joining the U.S. Coast Guard to serve in World War II. Between 1942 and 1946, O.R. served primarily in the Marshall Islands and the Central Pacific. In 1948, O.R. graduated from the Bentley School of Finance and Accounting (now Bentley University) and then was employed as a reporter for the Newburyport Daily News until 1956, with the exception of 11 months of active duty in the U. S. Navy in 1951-52. After the Korean War, O.R. worked as a rewrite man and later the copy editor for the Manchester Union Leader from 1956 until his retirement in 1987. In his “spare time”, he published a series of definitive electric railway histories that are loaded with illustrations, facts, and anecdotes, drawing from the images in his research collection. According to Herb Pence, a Seashore Trolley Museum volunteer, O.R. has the mentality of an historian, with a meticulous writing style and attention to detail that can be credited to his education in finance and accounting.

O.R., in collaboration with Charles Heseltine, continued to enlarge his research collection of photographs, maps, and postcards which he donated to the Seashore Trolley Museum Library in 2009. The collection consists of six hundred images dating from 1895 to 1949 from every electric street railway that ever operated in the state of Maine. The images are not just of trolley cars, but of street scenes in cities and towns across Maine, including buildings, parks, shops, factories, billboards, and recreational destinations. Also pictured are other forms of transportation (notably sea scenes), and people wearing the changing fashions in dress over half a century. Students and researchers of Maine history, sociology, and economics will find this unique collection to be a valuable primary source.

The Library at the Seashore Trolley Museum has successfully applied for a Maine State Archives Historical Records Collections grant to preserve O.R. Cummings’ research collection. The grant will support a Preservation Intern who will remount all of the photographs in new archival albums on acid-free paper. A team of volunteers, with O.R.’s invaluable assistance, has been busy over the last few months identifying and describing each photograph, while another volunteer has been scanning each image for inclusion in the Maine Memory Network, an online virtual museum.

While the research collection is invaluable, even more amazing is O.R.’s vast store of knowledge about electric railways. The other volunteers have nicknamed him “the Oracle” because O.R. can look at a photograph and give you details about the car, its life history, the location of the photograph, and sometimes the day the photograph was taken based on visual clues. O.R.’s love of trolley cars, his willingness to share his knowledge, and his enthusiasm for preserving transit history has inspired all of our library volunteers as they tackle this challenging and worthwhile archival project.

Seashore Trolley Museum Library receives a preservation grant



AUGUSTA- Maine State Archivist David Cheever has announced New England Electric Railway Historical Society Library will receive $1,011.50 to preserve and provide better access to its historical collections as part of the Historical Records Collections Grant Program. The program is administered by the Maine Historical Records Advisory Board, with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant program is coordinated in Maine by the State Archives. Work on the grant project will take place on the campus of York County Community College. YCCC student Olivia Weiser has been selected to be the Preservation Intern for the project.

Recent studies show that cultural resources are important in decisions to locate businesses or to choose a community in which to retire. These grants help sustain the basic infrastructure of this key element of our society.

“Grants such as this support community efforts to protect the stories of our birth, property rights, government, and how we lived our lives,” said Cheever. “People need to document their birth or naturalization to obtain a passport or to get medical care; others research their property boundaries; some seek long-lost relatives or to understand the history of the old saw mill down the road. Without these precious records, most questions like this would remain unanswered.”

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says a recent report to the Maine Legislature indicates that many of Maine’s historical collections (photographs, paintings, natural history collections, and letters) are in danger of being lost to fire, theft, mold, or misuse.

“Maine has an estimated 200 million such records, many in facilities with little or no security, fire protection, or environmental controls. Recent surveys show that local governments, historical societies, and libraries are seeking help to preserve our heritage,” Secretary Dunlap commented.

Small grants have stimulated local citizens and organizations to commit more of their own resources to these projects. "Although financial support is important, recognition of local concerns and efforts through an award also generates a substantial amount of enthusiasm," Cheever said.

The Maine State Archives is a Bureau within the Department of the Secretary of the State. For information about the Historical Records Collections Grant Program, call Janet Roberts at 287-5791 or e-mail or visit