Trolleys to the Casino: Introduction and Acknowledgments

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by O. R. Cummings

Manchester, N.H.: New England Electric Railway Historical Society, Inc., 1969


A typical New England side-of-the-road country trolley line connecting the small towns of Exeter, Hampton, Hampton Falls, and Seabrook in the southeastern region of New Hampshire's Rockingham County; serving the popular summer resort, Hampton Beach, and extending via leased trackage into northeastern Massachusetts for a time, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway has been only a memory for more than four decades.

Formed during the spring of 1899 as a consolidation of the Exeter Street Railway, the Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway and the Rockingham Electric Company, all three of which had been produced and were controlled by the same interests, the EH&A had a colorful history, beginning with the incorporation of its earliest predecessor in 1889 and continuing through a period of enthusiastic promotion, extensions and consolidations to 20 years of financial difficulties - receivership, reorganization and a hand-to-mouth struggle for existence being followed by municipal ownership and finally motorization and abandonment. The last trolleys ran in January 1926 and after a brief period of bus operation, the end came in May of that same year.

A subsidiary of the New Hampshire Traction Company and its successor, the New Hampshire Electric Railways, from late 1901 until May 1906, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury served as the nucleus around which were built several of the lines consolidated into the Massachusetts Northeastern Street Railway in 1913. As a matter of fact, the histories of the EH&A and the Northeastern are closely interwoven and "Trolleys to the Casino" has been prepared as a logical sequel to the five-volume series on the MNE system published by the New England Electric Railway Historical Society, Inc. since 1964.

In addition to playing an important role in the development of the Massachusetts Northeastern, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury also was the parent of the present day Exeter & Hampton Electric Company, which took over the railway's commercial light and power business in Hampton and Exeter in 1908 and now serves 13 Rockingham County towns, these, in addition to Hampton and Exeter, being Stratham, Hampton Falls, Seabrook, Kensington, South Hampton, East Kingston, Kingston, Newton, Danville, Plaistow and Atkinson.

Why was the title "Trolleys to the Casino" chosen for this history of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury? The reason is that all trolleys running to Hampton Beach from such points as Exeter, Portsmouth and Haverhill, Mass., discharged their passengers directly in front of the EH&A-owned casino, erected in 1899 to stimulate riding to the resort and enlarged in 1900 and 1901 to provide more attractions and to accommodate steadily increasing patronage. This casino still stands and continues to function as one of the principal recreation centers at the beach.

"Trolleys to the Casino" has been divided into eight chapters, the first covering the development of the EH&A system from 1889 through 1900. The second deals with the passenger, freight and mail service offered from 1897 through 1901, while the third chapter describes the expansion program of 1901 and 1902. Chapter 4, "The Traction Company Era," covers the period during which the EH&A was a subsidiary of the New Hampshire Traction Company and its successor, the New Hampshire Electric Railways, while descriptions of the carhouses and power supply are offered in Chapter 5. The EH&A system from 1907 to 1921 is covered in Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 covers the period of municipal operation. Chapter 8 is concerned with the rolling stock from 1897 through 1926.


When a brief 20-page history of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury, written by your present author, was published by Connecticut Valley Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, in 1951, it was stated in the foreword that all official records of the EH&A had long since been destroyed. That appeared to be the situation at the time.

However, since then, some records have been located, mainly in the files of the Massachusetts Northeastern Street Railway and in the vaults of the Exeter & Hampton Electric Company. The EH&-A receivership papers were hunted up at the Rockingham County Superior Court at Exeter. The town clerk's safe at Hampton contained material dealing with the period of municipal operation of the railway and a wealth of information was found in the archives of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission at Concord. Files of the long-defunct Exeter Gazette at the New Hampshire State Library were given a thorough perusing as also were bound volumes of the still-thriving weekly, Exeter News Letter, at the Exeter Public Library, and various issues of the Hampton Union at the State Library.

Many individuals also provided important information which, when added to the material garnered from official documents, made it possible to produce a 146-page manuscript, supplemented by maps and rosters of equipment.

Among those providing personal assistance were Albert McReel, formerly of Exeter, grandson of Albert E. McReel, general manager and superintendent of the EH&A and its predecessors from March 1898 until March 1902; George Fieldsend of Exeter, a former EH&A motorman; the late L. Frank Stevens of Hampton, superintendent of the EH&A during the period of municipal operation; Dean B. Merrill of Hampton, assistant treasurer and a director of the EH&A during that same period; Joseph E. McLaughlin of Portsmouth, a former EH&A barnman; Harold E. Cox of Forty Fort, Pa.; officials of the Exeter & Hampton Electric Company; Arthur L. Ford of Middleboro, Mass.; Edward D. Brown of Amesbury, Mass., and others.

Photographs have come from many sources. contributors including Richard B. Sanborn of Epping; Arthur L. Ford; the Colt News Service and the late Kirby Higgins of Hampton; Ralph E. Gasner of Salisbury, Conn.; the Phillips-Exeter Academy; the Exeter & Hampton Electric Company; Edward B. Watson of Brooklyn, N. Y.; John M. Holman of Hampton; Roger Borrup of Warehouse Point, Conn., and Charles A. Duncan of Danvers, Mass. Other views are from the collection of the author. The maps were drawn by Philip C. Becker of Worcester, Mass.

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