By John M. Holman, Contributing Writer
An historic era came to a close with the razing of the HAMPTON DINER in Hampton on October 13, 1966. The significant part of the story is the fact that the kitchen comprising the diner was Trolley Car #8, operated by the Exeter Street Railway beginning in 1897. Number 8 was built by the Briggs Carriage Company of Amesbury, MA in 1897 and was a 20-foot enclosed type car operating from Exeter to Hampton Beach and points between, during the trolley car era.
Laying of the first rail of the Exeter Street Railway took place on Winnacunnet Road across from what is now Odyssey House, on May 19, 1897, and continued on to completion on July 5th, from Exeter Depot to Hampton Center. On July 9 1897, the track was completed from Hampton Center to Hampton Beach. The construction crews used heavy "T" rail stock and hardwood ties being laid on a thick gravel base, taken from a gravel pit off Landing Road in Hampton.
The Carbarn and Power Plant were constructed on Exeter Road, halfway between Exeter and Hampton. The original trolley cars were purchased from the Briggs Carriage Company of Amesbury, MA, and consisted of five 10-bench single-truck open cars and five 20-foot single truck closed cars, for winter use. One of these 20 foot closed cars was 'Number 8'.
A wooden building, comprising the carbarn, was 200 feet long and 50 feet wide, and was just wide enough to encompass 4 tracks and room enough to house 20 single-truck trolley cars. At the far end of the carbarn, separated by a fireproof brick wall, was a well-equipped repair shop and stock room. Fire destroyed this wooden carbarn in March of 1907, along with six trolleys.
The power station, adjacent to the carbarn, was an 80 by 100 foot brick building, housing a boiler room, a pump and condenser room and a power room. This supplied the electrical power to run the line.
The first car, over the rails, came into Exeter from the carbarn on July 5, 1897. There were 3 fare zones from Exeter to Hampton Beach costing 5 cents per zone or a special round trip rate of 25 cents from Exeter to the Beach and return. In addition to the passenger trade, freight was also hauled on the line at reasonable rates, as well as the Railway Post Office.
In February 1899, the Exeter Street Railway became the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway Company. In the spring of that year, the EH&A constructed a two story building at the end of the trolley line at Hampton Beach, known as the Hampton Beach Casino.
The Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway operated between 1899 and May 29, 1926, a period of 27 years. Operations were discontinued in 1926 due to the increase of automobiles and better roads. The rails and overhead cables were dismantled and sold for scrap. During the last few years of the operation of the trolley line, very few cars were in operating condition and most were jacked up on barrels in the Hampton carbarn, on Exeter Road, with the wheels and other equipment removed.
Following the sale of other rolling stock and equipment in 1927, the closed car bodies in storage, in the carbarn, were sold to private citizens around Hampton. One such car, 'Number 8', was placed in service again; not as a means of transportation, but rather, as a kitchen of the Hampton Diner, which was located next to the Bib and Crib store on Lafayette Road.
Two of the owners of the Diner were Charles Kierstead ("Charlie's Lunch") and Leon Langlois ("Hampton Diner"), the latter, being the last owner.
The aging Hampton Diner, before it was demolished
Smashed to smithereens by a bulldozer, the remain of EH&A No. 8 are shown during the demolition of the Hampton Diner in 1966.
The ventilating window from Car #8 now hangs on the wall of Lynn A.Davis,
a Briggs Carriage Co. relative, in Patchogue, NY
The effects of time and aging had shown their mark on old #8, and it was finally decided to take the diner down along with the "trolley kitchen". On October 13, 1966, a local contractor and crew, razed the building and #8 to the ground and hauled it away to the Municipal Dump. Thereby bringing the golden age of the street-car in Hampton to a close.
However, there is still a lasting momento left in Hampton of the "good old" trolley days of the 1900's. The Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway was sold to the Town of Hampton on February 1, 1921, by a Town Meeting vote of 155-118 at a price tag of $80,000.
In O.R. Cummings "TROLLEYS TO THE CASINO", published in 1969 which gives in detail the history of the "Trolley Era of Hampton -- 1897 - 1926", Mr. Cummings had the following to say, "An interesting aftermath of the municipal operation of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury (Street Railway) occurred in March 1949 when the Hampton Town Hall was destroyed by fire. One item of property saved was an old wall clock, which formerly had hung in the office at the Hampton carhouse. When the barn was sold in 1927, the clock was installed in the Hampton town clerk's office, where it became known as the "$80,000" clock, symbolizing Hampton's loss in its ill-fated railway venture. Stored briefly after the fire, it later was returned to useful service in the [Selectmen's Meeting Room] in a new municipal office building." [In November 1999, the clock was relocated to the Selectmen's Meeting Room in the new Town Office Building at 100 Winnacunnet Road, Hampton.]
Post Script from Russ Merrill of Tobey & Merrill Insurance:
"The article in the September 1, 1996 Paradigm Times written by John M. Holman was interesting to Tobey & Merrill, Inc. because we purchased the Leasehold Interest on the land (owned by Myrtle Cogger) from Leon Langlois being "the building and all equipment including the right & title and interest in and unto the said 'Hampton Diner' This was done on December 8, 1965. This was done by Leon in lieu of the premiums due Tobey & Merrill.
"We had one or two people that were interested in obtaining the building (trolley) to take or give to the Trolley Museum in Maine. Upon looking at the building believed that it was too far gone and that it would not be worth the cost and effort to move the structure.
"We then hired Homer Johnson to tear the property down and remove the debris from the premises.
"Several items were removed from inside the building and a coffee maker and potato slicer were given to the local Masonic Lodge in Hampton. A grocery scale and Coke machine were also removed and these are in Russell Merrill's garage. The Coke machine is occasionally used for family parties.
"Tobey & Merrill Insurance office was located in the Odd Fellows Building on the southerly side of the Diner. It was always a good place to stop in for coffee and chat with whoever was around."
[See also, Historic Gift Given At Family Reunion -- Ventilating window from Car #8 given to Briggs family member.]