Main Street construction unearths long-hidden remnants of Bangor transportation history

Bangor’'s first trolley car is shown in this 1889 photo.
Courtesy of Dick Shaw
Bangor’'s first trolley car is shown in this 1889 photo.
Posted June 25, 2014, at 6:30 p.m.
Trolleys provided visitors and residents transportation within Bangor, as well as to and from nearby communities, in the early 1990s. This trolley car was built in 1910 in Philadelphia and, as one of the larger cars, would serve the city for many years.
Courtesy of Bangor Public Library
Trolleys provided visitors and residents transportation within Bangor, as well as to and from nearby communities, in the early 1990s. This trolley car was built in 1910 in Philadelphia and, as one of the larger cars, would serve the city for many years.
A portion of Bangor's extensive former network of trolley rails along Main Street shown on Wednesday.
A portion of Bangor's extensive former network of trolley rails along Main Street shown on Wednesday. Buy Photo
A piece of Bangor's extensive former network of trolley rails along Main Street that was pulled up by construction crews on Wednesday.
A piece of Bangor's extensive former network of trolley rails along Main Street that was pulled up by construction crews on Wednesday. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — As work crews dig up Main Street to replace aging water lines, they are unearthing an often forgotten piece of Bangor’s transportation history — trolley tracks.

Until the years after World War II, Bangor was home to an extensive network of street trolley lines that stretched through the Queen City, connecting outlying towns, including Charleston, Brewer, Old Town and Hampden.

When the war came to a close, buses began to gain favor, according to Dana Lippitt, curator at Cole Land Transportation Museum. Personal automobile ownership also started to take a stronger hold. Trolleys didn’t mesh well with regular vehicle traffic, and the trolley system was shut down on the last day of 1945.

The first Bangor trolleys were launched in 1889 as electric service started spreading across the city. Over the years, service expanded off of Main Street, with spurs spreading to serve neighborhoods.

“Having the trolley as a means of transportation enabled the neighborhoods to grow” because people could begin to live on the outskirts and still have a reliable method of getting into town,” Lippitt said. Residents who couldn’t afford horses — or automobiles in later decades — could then afford to travel to and from the city on a regular basis.

Once the tracks were abandoned, at least some of them were just paved over, while others likely were torn out. It’s unclear how many tracks are still buried under Bangor streets.

A century and a quarter after the tracks began serving the region, construction crews are digging up more than 3,000 feet of Main Street to replace outdated water lines. To clear the way, they’ve had to tear up tracks in the way.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.

 

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