A model railroad built by Harold and Helen Beal in Jonesport will open at the Seashore Trolley Museum next year. A building to house what is believed to be the largest HO scale model railroad in Maine is under construction at the museum. Among the familiar locales featured is the candy striped West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. Seashore Trolley Museum photo

KENNEBUNKPORT — A new home for a real Maine model railroad is under construction. The Seashore Trolley Museum recently broke ground on a new building to house the Harold and Helen Beal HO-scale layout of the Maine Central Railroad, circa 1940s to 1960s.  

There is a lot of work ahead before the treasured Downeast-built model railroad will be operating and open to the public — the target date is May 2024 — but enthusiasm is high for the project. 

The building project, relocation and other costs were made possible through the generosity of the Wyss Medical Foundation, said Seashore Trolley Museum Director Katie Orlando. “The foundation originally committed more than $2 million to the project in 2021, but due to the rise of material costs, the foundation has increased their donation to $3.2 million,” she said. 

Loggers chip away at ice in this portion of a model railroad crafted by Harold and Helen Beal that depicts buildings and locations served by Maine Central Railroad. Folks will be able to see the model railroad next year at Seashore Trolley Museum. Seashore Trolley Museum photo

Harold “Buz” and Helen Beal spent years creating the model railroad in an outbuilding beside their home in the Washington County town of Jonesport. The layout depicts downtowns and log drives, the familiar candy-striped West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, and more. The couple opened their doors in the summertime for many years so people could see it. That is how the couple met Hansjorg Wyss, a rail enthusiast and philanthropist who happened on the model railway one summer and befriended the Beals. Harold Beal died in 2012 and Helen continued to open the doors to the model railroad for a few years, then began looking for a new home for the large layout. Wyss approached the Seashore Trolley Museum in 2020 on her behalf to ask if they might consider providing a home for the layout.  

Like the other groups approached, the museum did not have the space to display such a large model, but researched the layout for months to determine how it could be kept intact as much as possible and relocated to Kennebunkport, and what type of facility would be needed to house it, Orlando explained. 

A custom-building design was developed by museum volunteer and architect Herb Fremin, who also helped determine how best to adapt the model to meet Kennebunkport building codes and ADA compliance, particularly widening the aisles to modern standards. The Wyss Foundation approved the project. The donation is the largest gift in Seashore Trolley Museum’s 83-year history, said Orlando. 


The railroad layout was disassembled in Jonesport and relocated to climate-controlled storage units in Kennebunk by Stephan Lamb Associates, a professional model railroad layout moving company. After the building is complete, they will return to set  it up. Museum volunteers and a future Model Railroad Club for all ages — headquartered at the trolley museum — will refresh the layout and build the landscape and new buildings on the new sections, adding in trolley lines to better connect the layout to the museum’s overall mission. 

The layout will be 40 feet by 40 feet, said Orlando in an email, and there are other some other changes. “The Jonesport set-up of the model layout had aisles as narrow as 16 inches. “In order to meet code, we expanded all of the aisles to five feet or more,” said Orlando.  “To accommodate this, we had to cut and separate the existing layout.” She said that means new sections of rail, buildings, and other scenery will be built from scratch, so the layout maintains its continuity. 

Train cars parked on the tracks in this Maine made model railroad set-up by Harold and Helen Beal, destined to be permanently displayed at the Seashore Trolley Museum. Seashore Trolley Museum photo

The building will include an open space for the railroad layout, office space for volunteers and staff, a combined workshop and conference room; a retail location to bring in additional revenue through model sales; and a mezzanine viewing gallery that has potential for community programming and other activities, with elevator access. The building will be heated and cooled by geothermal energy.  

Orlando said the most exciting benefit to the trolley museum is that once the building is completed and the layout goes live, the museum will be open year-round for the first time in history. 

 “Seashore Trolley Museum would like to thank Helen Beal and the Beal family, the Wyss Medical Foundation, an anonymous donor who has provided funding to support initial operating expenses, and the stakeholders who have helped behind the scenes to make these donations possible,” said Orlando. 

In a January 2022 interview with Portland Press Herald reporter Gillian Graham, Beal said she would miss the model railroad that she and her husband built together but given her age — she is in her late 80s — it was time for someone else to be its caretaker.

“I’m hoping my God-loving husband will know what I did because it would make him very happy,” Beal told Graham. 

Orlando said Beal is excited about seeing the new building and the model layout when it is up and running at Seashore Trolley Museum. 

“It took years to find a group who would help keep her family’s legacy alive and with thanks to our generous donor, the Beal legacy will live on for generations,” Orlando concluded. 

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