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Scarborough: They Called It Owascoag

Transportation Through the Years

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Text by Bruce Thurlow
Images from Scarborough Historical Society, Rodney Laughton and Joseph W. Snow

Pine Point RR Station, Scarborough, ca. 1890
Pine Point RR Station, Scarborough, ca. 1890

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

See a Red Sox game in Boston—easy, hop in your car, drive to Boston via high-speed roads, see the game, and return home the same day. See a Broadway show; visit family in Arizona; experience springtime in Paris—easy, surf the web to find the best airfare, pack a bag and you’re off. Such ease of travel is quite recent. Before train service came to Scarborough in the 1840s, travel was by shanks’ mare, boat, horseback or stagecoach. In the 1600s walking from Scarborough to Portland could take two days via a circuitous dry-land route. Because of Scarborough’s unique geography consisting of marsh and rivers, it was often quicker to travel from Dunstan to Black Point via boat. Travel of any distance was usually via boat or horseback. The arrival of the train, and later the trolley, allowed residents greater flexibility of travel, opened up greater trade opportunities, and made it possible to seek employment outside of Scarborough. The train, trolley and the automobile also brought tourists to Scarborough and a new industry that created jobs for residents. For a short period of time, Scarborough was part of the new age of aviation and had its own airport, yet another means of travel that increased opportunities and mobility for residents. The airport is no longer in Scarborough, but it is close by and easy to reach via automobile.

Boston and Maine Railroad Poster, ca. 1890
Boston and Maine Railroad Poster, ca. 1890

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

Railroads: Scarborough’s World Expands

Portland, Saco & Portsmouth; Boston & Maine

Before the Portland, Saco & Portsmouth Railroad began operations in 1842, people walked, rode horseback or traveled by boat or stagecoach. The railroad company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Eastern Railroad, was the first link between Portland and Boston and points south. The train traveled from Portland stopping at stations in Scarborough and other towns on its way to South Berwick where it connected with the Boston & Maine. With the train came increased opportunities for trade, jobs and travel. Completion in 1853 of the Grand Trunk Railroad linking Portland to Montreal expanded even further opportunities for trade and jobs. Also, Canadian tourists no longer had to endure long carriage trips to visit Scarborough beaches. By the 1870s, sixty-five trains a day brought passengers and freight in and out of Portland, many through Scarborough.

In 1871 the Eastern Railroad tendered a hostile takeover bid for the Boston & Maine Railroad, terminated its lease with the Boston & Maine and refused to allow its cars use of the tracks. Conductors of through trains were instructed to connect with the Boston & Maine cars at South Berwick only if they were in sight; but, if not, the Portland, Saco & Portsmouth trains were to proceed to Portland without waiting. The public was upset, because the Boston & Maine trains were sometimes late and connections were missed. Eventually the Boston & Maine Railroad was forced to build its own extension from South Berwick to Portland. This extension opened in 1873. By 1884, in an economic downturn, Eastern Railroad branches and leased roads were leased to the Boston & Maine Railroad; and by 1890 all of its officers and employees were under the direction of the Boston & Maine. The Eastern Railroad ceased to exist. It had been taken over by the Boston & Maine and had become the Eastern Division of the Boston & Maine Railroad.(1)

In 1935 with revenues dropping, the Maine Central and the Boston & Maine railroads bought the first streamliner east of the Mississippi, the famed Flying Yankee. The novelty wore off and revenues continued to drop. In 1947, the Boston & Maine and Maine Central purchased 20 new cars, the latest in passenger equipment, but potential passengers were turning to air and automobile travel. Other attempts to remain solvent failed, such as eliminating certain stations and not buying other divisions. By 1959, rail freight revenues were sufficient enough to offset losses in passenger numbers and passenger service was terminated. Passenger service was reinstituted recently with the advent of Amtrak’s Downeaster service between Boston and Portland. The Boston & Maine still exists and its one remaining line accommodates both freight and Amtrak passenger service. The Portland, Saco & Portsmouth is long gone and its rail bed is now part of the Eastern Trail.

Scarborough Railway Stations

Train at Scarborugh Beach Station, ca. 1900
Train at Scarborugh Beach Station, ca. 1900

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

The Boston and Maine had stations at Pine Point and Scarborough Beach, two very popular tourist spots. Summer residents of Pine Point objected to crossing the double tracks, so the station was moved. Men and heavy equipment arrived about 9:00 A.M. one morning; and by 4:00 P.M. the same day, the station was moved to the Pine Point side of the tracks.(2) When the Pine Point station was discontinued, it was again moved to become part of the Thurston & Bayley plant. That portion of the building was destroyed by fire about 1998.(3) The Scarborough Beach station provided mail service and goods for the large tourist population that stayed at hotels and inns of Scarborough and Higgins Beach and Prouts Neck. It was destroyed by fire on 27 August 1908 and a temporary shed was used for the remainder of the tourist season. The station was later replaced with a new structure.(4)

The Portland, Saco & Portsmouth Railroad also had two stations, West Scarboro and Oak Hill. The West Scarboro station was located near the junction of Old Blue Point and Portland Street (Milliken Mills Road). It ceased operation in the 1920s and the building moved.(5) It was later burned down as a training exercise for firefighters. The Oak Hill station was built near the bottom of Oak Hill where 44-46 Black Point Road is today. During the Civil War, the Oak Hill station was a busy shipping point for horses and livestock for the Union Army.(6)

Scarboro Beach Railroad Station, 1909
Scarboro Beach Railroad Station, 1909

Item Contributed by
Scarborough Historical Society & Museum

Source Notes

1.Scarborough Historical Society Collection: Railroads
2.See note 1 above.
3.Author’s recollection
4.See note 1 above.
5.Frank Hodgdon, “The Way It Was,” American Journal, 8 November 1995.
6.Susan Dudley Gold, ed., Scarborough at 350: Linking the Past to the Present (Scarborough, ME: Friends of the Scarborough 350th, 2007), 98.