The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport will use a $1 million donation to replace its oldest trolley storage building.

The anonymous gift is the second largest in the museum’s history. The largest donation, announced earlier this year, will allow the museum to acquire and permanently display a large model railroad built by Harold and Helen Beal of Jonesport.

The Burton B. Shaw South Boston Car House, a covered storage area for trolley cars, is 66 years old and deteriorating. The building is now leaning and the only viable option is to replace it, according to the museum. The current structure houses six trolley cars, but the front of the building is wide open and exposes the first car on each track to weather damage.

In the days of streetcars, the depots where they were stored were known as car houses (or carhouses).

The reference to South Boston in the current building’s name refers to the track that feeds into it, which came from the North Point Carhouse in South Boston. After streetcar service to South Boston was abandoned in 1953, museum volunteers bought the nearly new track from the contractor demolishing North Point.

The track was reassembled at the museum in 1955. It will be preserved and used in the yard leading up to the new building.


The new building will fit nine full-size trolleys. Museum staff say it will primarily house the working fleet cars that are in use each day the museum is open. The new car house will have roll-up doors that will provide weather protection and be insulated to slow temperature and humidity changes – improvements to help preserve the trolleys.

The museum, which hopes to start construction in September, is working with Sheridan Construction of Fairfield, Sebago Technics and RW Gillespie on the project.

An overview of Harold and Helen Beal’s elaborate model railroad layout. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Preparations also are underway on the building that will house the model railroad from Jonesport, which will be taken apart and reconstructed so it can be permanently displayed. The museum hopes to break ground on that project by early summer, finish construction by the end of the year and open the exhibit to visitors by spring 2023.

The model railroad is believed to be one of the largest in Maine built in HO scale (which is 1:87, or 3.5 mm to 1 foot), but it has not been on public display for the last few years. It includes towns in Down East Maine, hundreds of buildings and more than 400 train cars and engines.

The Wyss Foundation, a private charitable foundation based in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to empowering communities and strengthening connections to the land, is giving the museum an estimated $2.6 million to pay for relocating and housing the model railroad and 10 years of operating costs.

Kennebunkport recently agreed to waive the permit fees for both of the museum’s construction projects, which likely would have been more than $40,000. In exchange, the museum for the next five years will allow tour buses visiting town to park on its property, alleviating congestion in Dock Square. The museum also will continue to host Kennebunkport Parks and Recreation and Kennebunkport Public Health groups for free and offer discounted admission for residents.

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