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A Field Guide to Trolley Cars

This slideshow contains 20 items
1
Horse car #87, Portland, ca. 1885

Horse car #87, Portland, ca. 1885

Item 50414 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Passenger Cars

Horse car

An early mode of public transportation was the horse car. Horse cars were often open cars, drawn by horses or mules.

It is interesting to note that the cars rode on tracks.

With the advent of electricity, horse cars were replaced by trolley cars with electric motors.


2
York Utilities Company car #88, Sanford, ca. 1930

York Utilities Company car #88, Sanford, ca. 1930

Item 50710 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Closed car

Closed cars had a roof, floor, end bulkheads, and sides with windows that could not be removed, although they could be opened.

Closed cars were generally in use during the cooler months of the year. Some closed cars had coal-burning water heaters that heated the cars.


3
Biddeford & Saco Railroad Car #31, Saco, 1935

Biddeford & Saco Railroad Car #31, Saco, 1935

Item 50685 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Open car

Open cars were generally in use during the summer months for city and suburban service. Open cars had a roof, floor, and end bulkheads, but no sides.

The seats typically extended across the car. Canvas curtains mounted between the side posts could be pulled down to the floor during summer squalls to protect passengers from wind and rain.

Open cars are often referred to by the number of seats or benches provided: a 14-bench car, for example.


4
Semi-convertible trolley car, Portland, 1935

Semi-convertible trolley car, Portland, 1935

Item 51068 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Semi-convertible car

Semi-convertible cars were closed cars with cross-seats, and with entrance and exit platforms at the ends.

The windows were constructed so that both the upper and lower sashes of the side windows could be removed or raised in warm weather, making the car sides completely open between the window sills and the side plates.


5
York Utility Company's car #80, Sanford, ca. 1920

York Utility Company's car #80, Sanford, ca. 1920

Item 50687 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Birney Safety Car

Birney Safety Cars were small, single-truck cars made of lightweight steel.

The word "truck" refers to the set of wheels under the car. Single-truck cars had one set of four wheels. Double-truck cars had two sets.

The Birney cars were popular with street railways between 1910 and 1930 and were designed to be operated by only one person, saving labor costs during wartime.


6

"Merrymeeting" parlor car, Lewiston, ca. 1915

Item 50897 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Parlor car

Parlor cars were luxurious interurban cars or special chartered cars for city service. They often were fitted out with individual seats or arm chairs, carpeting, draperies, mirrors, stained glass windows, and fine wood paneling.

Observation platforms at the ends of the cars had ornamental wrought iron railings. These cars were hired for special events or excursions and were often employed by the railroad commissioners during rail inspections.

There were only ever two parlor cars in Maine. The Merrymeeting ran for the Lewiston, Brunswick & Bath Railway and the Bramhall ran for the Portland Railroad Company.


7
Portland-Lewiston Interurban's car #14

Portland-Lewiston Interurban's car #14 "Narcissus", Gray, ca. 1930

Item 50686 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Interurban car

Interurban cars were used in long-distance service, as distinguished from city or suburban cars.

Interurban passenger cars were large -- up to 65 feet of very sturdy construction -- and were capable of traveling at high speeds. They looked very similar to steam railroad coaches.


8
Combination car #70, Presque Isle, ca. 1940

Combination car #70, Presque Isle, ca. 1940

Item 50418 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Freight cars

Combination car

Combination cars were cars that had one or more compartments for passengers and a separate compartment for baggage, mail, and luggage.


9
Railway post office car #108, York, ca. 1920

Railway post office car #108, York, ca. 1920

Item 50709 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Mail car

Mail cars, or post office cars, were closed cars used exclusively for the transportation of mail. Some cars carried mail in closed pouches, but some cars were fitted out with racks and tables for sorting the mail en route.

The mail was transported from the post office to substations where it was then collected and delivered by postal carriers.

Not all Maine electric railways had mail cars in service.


10
Aroostook Valley Railroad car #52, Presque Isle, ca. 1915

Aroostook Valley Railroad car #52, Presque Isle, ca. 1915

Item 50711 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Box freight

Box freight cars were closed, self-propelled cars used for carrying freight and pulling trains of cars.


11
Motor flat car #710, Lewiston, ca. 1930

Motor flat car #710, Lewiston, ca. 1930

Item 50415 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Motor car

Motor cars were self-propelled flat cars as opposed to non-motorized trail cars.

Unlike locomotives, motor cars had space to carry freight.


12
Wooden gondola car #545, Bath, ca. 1936

Wooden gondola car #545, Bath, ca. 1936

Item 50417 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Gondola car

Gondola cars had sides and ends, but no roof. They were used to haul coal, ballast, and other rough bulk freight.


13
Atlantic Shore Line Locomotive #100, Sanford, ca. 1930

Atlantic Shore Line Locomotive #100, Sanford, ca. 1930

Item 50684 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Locomotive

Locomotives were tractors that did not carry freight or passengers.

Electric locomotives were used by interurban roads for hauling trains of freight cars.


14
Baggage car, Bangor, ca. 1915

Baggage car, Bangor, ca. 1915

Item 50413 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Baggage car

Baggage cars were closed cars that were used to carry the passengers’ luggage.


15
Snow plow, Bangor, ca. 1940

Snow plow, Bangor, ca. 1940

Item 50943 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Utility cars

Wedge plow

A wedge plow was a snow plow with a large wedge-shaped plow mounted to the front of the car. They were also equipped with side wings.


16
Rotary snow plow, Portland, ca. 1910

Rotary snow plow, Portland, ca. 1910

Item 51066 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Rotary plow

A rotary plow was a snow plow with a large revolving screw cutter mounted in front that bored through deep snow drifts, discharging the snow to one side through a chute.

Street railways used rotary snow plows in regions with extreme winter weather to clear drifts of snow that were too deep for wedge snow plows to handle.


17
Snow sweeper, Portland, ca. 1910

Snow sweeper, Portland, ca. 1910

Item 51069 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Snow sweeper

Snow sweepers were designed to sweep snow off of the street railway track, typically during light snow falls.

The sweeper was a closed car mounted high on a single truck. Beneath the floor of the car, at each end, rotating brooms made of flexible rattan sticks were set at an angle of about 45 degrees to the center line to throw the snow to one side of the track.


18
Tower car, Presque Isle, ca. 1910

Tower car, Presque Isle, ca. 1910

Item 51067 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Tower car

Tower cars -- or line cars -- were cars that strung up and maintained the trolley wires that powered the cars.

Tower cars were equipped with a tower or elevating platform that allowed linemen to reach the electrical wires overhead.


19
Construction car, Portland, ca. 1920

Construction car, Portland, ca. 1920

Item 51065 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Work car

A work car was a trolley assigned to maintenance and support of the track and overhead electric wires.

Work cars came in a variety of forms, some built specifically as work cars and others converted from retired passenger trolleys.


20
Portland Railroad Company's crane car #1000, Portland, ca. 1940

Portland Railroad Company's crane car #1000, Portland, ca. 1940

Item 50712 info
Seashore Trolley Museum

Crane car

A crane car was a flat car equipped with a pillar crane used to handle rails and heavy construction material. Crane cars were useful in dealing with derailments and wrecks of trolley cars.

Sources

Hitt, Rodney. Electric Railway Dictionary. New York: McGraw Publishing Company, 1911.


This slideshow contains 20 items