Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Maine: Kennebunkport

     Welcome to our last stop in Maine - Kennebunkport.  Maine is a much larger state than I realized before starting this trip.  

     Kennebunkport has become a commonly recognized name as 3 of the last 4 presidents vacationed here.  Off of the beaten path there is an interesting museum here.

     The Seashore Trolley Museum started in 1939 when 3 college students wanted to save a piece of history.  A local town was getting rid of their electric trolleys in favor of the more modern buses, and the three decided to try to save one of the cars.

     After much negotiation they got the company to agree to sell them a car for $150, with the condition that they must take it outside town.  So the 3 boys recruited 7 more folks to put up $15 each.  The found a piece of land in Kennebunkport that had an old part of the rail system that had been cut off.  They negotiated with the land owner and agreed to a lease for $5 per year with an option to buy.

      They spent their Saturdays building rails and fixing up the car.  The next year another local trolley company was going out of business and they were able to obtain a second car.  The next year they incorporated as a non-profit and began operating as a museum.  Today there are many electric trolley cars available to tour, and several that are used to give passengers rides around the property.

     With over 250 cars, it has grown into the largest electric railway car museum in the world and has managed to salvage and restore cars from almost every American city and has models of most of the cars that were built.

     Over 250 volunteers come from all over the world to spend time working on or operating these machines.  Some folks live within a couple of hours and drive up on days off and weekends to spend time here.

     Robert Daye is one of these - he works as a computer programmer for a hospital in New Hampshire but spends many of his days off operating a car.

     For older folks that grew up in urban areas, these cars bring back nostalgic memories.  Most of them ran on rails, but there were some called "trolley buses" that had tires but still relied on overhead electric lines for their power.

     At one time, this was a booming industry.  In the 1880's there were 415 street trolley companies in the United States operating on over 6,000 miles of track.  Early models were horse or mule drawn, and during the mid 1800's a number of steam powered models appeared.

     Steam engines were noisy and the animals had to be cleaned up after, so when the electric systems started appearing around the 1880's they were well received.  Montgomery Alabama installed the first electric trolley car system in 1886.  Although the United States pioneered this mode of light rail for urban passenger traffic, much of the system's infrastructure was dismantled by auto manufacturers and rubber companies who bought up many of the systems in the 1930's.  

     Today the United States lags far behind in mass transit systems.  However, the Obama administration has made investments in public rail transportation so it is making a small comeback of sorts.

     Part of the museum is a section of the old track that runs a couple of miles out into the countryside.  

     On the return trip the cars pass through an area that has a collection of a large variety of old electric rail vehicles.

     Kennebunkport itself lies a mile up the Kennebunk River.  

     Maine has strict ordinances on signage.  Businesses can have a small sign on the property itself, but off of the property these small signposts are the closest thing to a billboard in the state. 

     The town was first established in 1663 as Cape Porpus.  It was later abandoned and rebuilt in the early 1700's.

     Today it is a popular tourist destination.

       Several large resort style hotels overlook the river and the ocean.

     One thing I found especially pleasing to the eye is this church just outside town.

     St. Ann's Episcopal Church was built in 1887.  A local company donated the land, and along with the land came the rights to use the stones on the property.  Eons of wave action had left the small point with a large collection of smoothed rock.

     It was a project that drew the community together - even the community's children pitched in by raising the money for a stone vestry.  

     A freestanding stone arch leads the way into the gardens and the parsonage.  These would have to be fun to build.

     You get the feeling that this at this time of year it is the flowers are making a final attempt to make an impression.  Fall is in the air.

     By the time I got done photographing the outside area, someone had locked up the church so I didn't get photos of the inside. But it is as rustic inside as out, truly a gem of a chapel.

     Just around the bend from the chapel is the old Bush family property.  

     This was a favorite spot for George H.W. Bush.  A large anchor with a plaque expresses appreciation for his steady leadership while president.

     And a few miles down the coast is the Cape Elizabeth area.

     It features a state park called Two Light State Park which has no lighthouses.  The two lighthouses are privately owned and can be seen from a small public park.

     The rock formations are interesting here.  It breaks into a rough sort of hexagonal shape, making it look like petrified logs.

    A stone chair built out of a leaf spring looked a bit too risky to try.

     And that brings us to Maine's southernmost lighthouse.

     This is the Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery, Maine.  Built in 1872 and replacing two earlier lighthouses at this location, it marks the Maine side of the entrance to the Piscataqua River.

     And that brings us to the New Hampshire border.  Maine was good to us - in 31 articles spanning over 3 months we met a lot of great folks and saw over 1,000 photos along the coastline.  In the end we visited 47 of the state's 65 lighthouses.  I think only Michigan has more.   

    I find the people of Maine a bit harder to get to know, but when they learn to trust you they open up quickly.  They have a lot of depth and all seem to be proficient at numerous skills.  The state is clean and has much natural beauty, aided by the signage laws and a deposit on all canned or bottled beverages to encourage folks to recycle rather than litter.   People are proud of their heritage and care about the coming generation.  I look forward to returning to the state.

     And that brings us to New Hampshire.

     There are only about 40 miles of coast in New Hampshire, so we will be through it in a week.  

     That brings us to today's Faces in the Crowd.    

     This was one of the volunteers at the Trolley Museum.  And today's parting shot:

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Make it a great day !!

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