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Maine Interurban and Streetcar History


Published: June 7, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The state of Maine contained a few systems that would be classified as interurbans, as well as several local streetcar operations.  Among true interurbans, the state contained about 200 miles of track, most of which was operated by the Aroostook Valley, Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad, Atlantic Shore Line Railway, Bangor Railway & Electric Company, and Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway.

2957235872873628637216830207983089.jpgA postcard featuring a car belonging to the Skowhegan & Norridgewock Electric Railroad is seen here in Skowhegan, Maine, circa 1905. This short-lived system linked Skowhegan and the vacation area of Smithfield, running via Norridgewock. The 14-mile system struggled from its start in 1894 and closed in 1907.

Bangor, Hampden, & Winterport Railway

The Bangor, Hampden, & Winterport Railway was chartered in the late 19th century to connect its namesake cities. The system later became part of the Bangor Electric & Railway Company.

Biddeford & Saco Railway

The Biddeford & Saco Railway connected its namesake cities and operated until 1939 upon which time it was abandoned.

Bangor Hydro Electric Company

The Bangor Hydro Electric Company today is a utility company. However, it once also operated a streetcar operation which served Bangor. It lasted until the final day of December, 1945 when operations were discontinued.

Calais Street Railway

The Calais Street Railway was chartered in March of 1893 to operate the St. Stephen Street Railway Company, which was created in 1891. Streetcar lasted until 1929 when it was discontinued.

Rockland, Thomaston & Camden Street Railway

The Rockland, Thomaston & Camden Street Railway served Rockland and Glen Cove operating between 1892 and 1931 before become part of Middle West Utilities. Streetcars were discontinued that same year (1931).

Bangor Railway & Electric Company

This interurban began operations in 1906 as the Bangor & Northern Railroad connecting its home city with Charleston, a distance of 26 miles.

It did operate some freight service, notably moving potatoes. However, with little of either freight or passenger traffic service only survived until around 1930.

Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway

The LA&W served its namesake cities as well as Bath and Yarmouth. It began life as the Auburn, Mechanic Falls & Norway Street Railway and later was renamed the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway.

It took over a number of small systems, notably the Lewiston, Brunswick & Bath Street Railway, August Winthrop & Gardner Railway, Brunswick & Yarmouth Railway, and the Auburn & Turner Railroad.

It went bankrupt in 1919 and reemerged as the Androscoggin & Kennebec Railway. It fell apart piecemeal through the 1930s before finally being sold at auction in early 1941.

Androscoggin & Kennebec Railway

The Androscoggin & Kennebec Railway was created in 1919 and took over the operations of the Lewiston Augusta & Waterville Street Railway (successor to the Lewiston Brunswick & Bath Street Railway, originally known as the Bath Railway chartered in 1891). It operated until 1932 when streetcar was discontinued in favor of buses.

Norway & Paris Street Railway

The Norway & Paris Street Railway connected the small towns of Norway and Paris which were once home to paper mills. It operated on a just a two-mile railroad and was abandoned in 1918.

Portland Railroad

The Portland Railroad was one of the state's first interurban railroads. It opened in 1860 as a horse-powered operation and and was operated for over 50 years before being taken over by the Cumberland County Power & Light Company in 1912. Streetcar service in Portland remained until 1941 when it was discontinued.

Portsmouth, Kittery & York Street Railway

The Portsmouth, Kittery & York Street Railway began operations in 1897 serving Badger's Island, Kittery and York Beach. The PK&Y became part of the Portsmouth, Dover & York Street Railway in November, 1901. It remained in service until 1923 when streetcar railroad operations were discontinued.

Atlantic Shore Line Railway

The Atlantic Shore Line Railway served Sanford operating until the spring of 1947 when it became part of the York Utilities Company.

The history of the line dated back to 1893 and was created through several small streetcar systems in southern Maine. At its peak the company served Kittery, Biddeford, Saco, Dover, South Berwick, and Portland (where it interchanged with the Portland Railroad).

It operate some LCL freight service but nothing of significant profit. It fell into bankruptcy a few times before being purchased York Utilities in 1922, which a year later constructed a new line between Sanford and Springvale and abandoning much of the original system.

The last remaining part of the interurban served York and Springvale before being abandoned.

Somerset Traction Company

The Somerset Traction Company began operations in 1895 serving Madison, Lakewood and Skowhegan.

The interurban railroad was built for local residents and tourists to enjoy the attractions in the area, such as the amusement park built by the company at Lake Wesserunsett. It remained in operation until 1928 when services were discontinued.

Aroostook Valley Railroad

The Aroostook Valley Railroad dates back to 1909 when it was chartered to connect Washburn and Presque Isle (it later also connected New Sweden, Carson and Caribou).

At the railroad's peak it operated 32 miles of track and was electrified between 1910 and the mid-1940s. Around this time passenger operations were also discontinued. Interestingly, however, the AVR continued on as a freight line using General Electric 44-tonners and remained in service until April, 1996 when operations were finally suspended.

Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland Street Railway

The Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland Street Railway served its namesake cities operating from around the turn of the 20th century until 1937 when services were abandoned.

Portland-Lewiston Interurban Railroad

This system dated back to the Portland, Gray & Lewiston Railroad of 1907. However, due to securing financing the line did not open between the two cities until 1914.

Soon after it was opened it was purchased by another party, the Androscoggin Electric Company, and renamed as the Portland-Lewiston Interurban.

It was built to high standards not commonly found the east (especially in New England) and more resembled western interurbans in that it tried to act as a feeder freight line for railroads.

However, its connections were with the Maine Central, a railroad never interested in dealing with interurbans. Still, it did its best to serve freight on the 31-mile line dispatching two box motors daily.

The state forced the power company to divest itself of the interurban in 1932 cutting off the line's funds. As such, a year later on June 29, 1933 service was abandoned.

Other Systems

Auburn & Turner Railroad

Augusta, Winthrop & Gardiner Street Railway

Rockland, South Thomaston & St. George Railway

Lewiston & Auburn Street Railway

Portland & Yarmouth Street Railway

York Utilities Company