PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle Historical Society has acquired a unique mode of transportation — Molly the Trolley — that will enable the public to take historic tours not only in Presque Isle but throughout Aroostook County, according to Kim Smith, the society’s secretary-treasurer.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to unveil our new toy. Our goal was to have some sort of vehicle to offer a bus tour, both in the city and throughout The County,” said Smith, during the Sept. 22 unveiling. “For a 26-year-old lady, she looks darn good.”
Currently the trolley, once used in southern Maine communities such as Old Orchard Beach, is painted red and green. Smith indicated plans were to eventually repaint the vehicle, but a color scheme has yet to be determined. Molly is a 1985 model, with a gas-driven Chevrolet 454 engine. The body is aluminum, contains etched windows, extensive wood paneling and brass rails.
“In addition to a new paint scheme, Molly could undergo a name change — perhaps Polly the Trolley, since she’s based in Presque Isle,” said Smith.
Society President Craig Green was confident Molly was the first of its kind to make it this far north.
“No one in Aroostook has ridden such a vehicle locally,” he said.
According to Green, the Presque Isle trolley got its start in Ogunquit.
“She was built by the Molly Corporation of Ogunquit. These trolleys are used in southern Maine to reduce congestion along Route 1. Trolleys are now being made, shipped and used all over the world,” said Green.
According to www.mollytrolley.com, the idea for providing Ogunquit with trolley service to ease parking problems originated in 1979. The Molly Corporation was subsequently formed in 1981. In the summer, the trolleys run in Ogunquit during tourist season; during winter months, these same trolleys operate in Scottsdale, Ariz. The company once operated trolleys in several cities but the respective cities or private businesses now manage them.
Green thanked Barry Carmichael and T.A. Service for making the trip south to pick up the vehicle.
The trolley holds 29 people, including the driver and tour guide. Fitted with wooden bench-type seats, the vehicle has removable side windows so that when the weather’s hot, passengers can enjoy an open-air ride.
“It has 13 bench seats that will fit two people each,” said Smith. “We would like to install DVD players to show historic photos during our tours.”
Smith said the trolley can be used year-round, providing more opportunities to share historic sites with visitors and residents alike.
“We haven’t established a tour schedule yet but hope to have something in place in the near future. We’re also interested in hearing from officials from other county communities about the possibility of scheduling historic tours in their areas also,” she said.
Smith said the trolley can also serve as a fundraiser, with rentals being considered.
“We’ve already been approached by someone wanting to rent it for a wedding and another interested in renting it for a prom ride,” said Smith.
About 30 people were on hand for Molly’s inaugural ride. To commemorate the event, Green handed out boxes of Rice-A-Roni (a rice-based side dish whose logo includes a San Francisco trolley).
Passengers were treated to a short tour of Presque Isle, with Smith providing many facts about the community. Departing from the historic firehouse on Church Street, the tour followed Main Street, turning onto State Street, then on to Parsons Street, with a brief detour around ACAP’s Child and Family Services facility — where youngsters anxiously awaited the trolley and its riders, waving as they ran along the fenced yard, trying to keep up with Molly as she passed by. The tour then continued across Park Street, back to Main, then returned to the fire station.
“Molly serves our mission by helping us to promote local history and will be used as part of the Presque Isle Historical Society’s regular programming. With Molly, the society will be able to offer narrated citywide historic bus tours — not only in town but to destinations like the Double Eagle II monument, James School, Mantle Lake, Maysville Grange, MicMac Museum and more,” said Smith.
“We can also do a museum crawl — an all-day trip to include a box lunch to a different area of the County each month during the summer, designed to showcase the museums in that portion of the County. Area trips would include: Patten/Oakfield, Houlton/Monticello, the St. John Valley, Caribou/Fort Fairfield, Ashland/Mapleton/Washburn and Presque Isle,” she said.
Smith said the uses are numerous.
“We could also use it for fall foliage tours and as part of the transportation for the upcoming Summer History Camp Program for children ages 8-12. It could also be used as a local guide service for visiting tour group companies, as well as for private charters,” said Smith.
For more information, contact the Presque Isle Historical Society, PO Box 285, Presque Isle, ME 04769; call 762-1151; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.pihistory.org.