Trolleys to the Casino: Passenger Service
As in previous years, the EH&A carried its greatest volume of traffic in summer, particularly during July and August when there was heavy riding to and from Hampton Beach. The casino continued to be the major attraction at the beach and there were regular band concerts and frequent dances. But the vaudeville and variety shows formerly offered in the "Opera House" gave way to motion pictures, which were less expensive to present and seemed to be as well received by the public as live entertainment. Bountiful shore dinners still were served in the casino dining room and light snacks were available at several refreshment stands in the building.
(From 1907 through 1920, the casino, Ocean House and other EH&A properties at Hampton Beach were leased to and operated by the firm of Graves & Ramsdell, later the Graves & Ramsdell Company).
Summer through service between Salisbury and Hampton Beaches over the so-called Shore Line was restored in 1909 by the New Hampshire Electric Railways, after it gained control of the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway, and through the summer of 1911, half-hourly service was given on all lines to and from Hampton Beach, with cars leaving the casino for Haverhill and Portsmouth at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour and for Exeter and Salisbury Beach on the hour and half hour.
Construction of the present Ocean Boulevard along the shore through Rye, North Hampton, Hampton and Seabrook Beaches was undertaken by the State of New Hampshire during the 1905-10 period but the opening of. the scenic highway over its entire length appears to have had no immediate adverse effect on the trolley traffic to and from Hampton Beach in summer. More and more automobiles were seen at the resort on weekends but these largely were owned by the more affluent, who normally did not patronize the plebeian trolleys anyway. As a matter of fact, summer revenues of the EH&A for the months of June, July and August, showed a steady gain from 1910 through 1913.
However, the motor vehicles parked in front of the casino on Saturday and Sunday afternoons were harbingers of things to come and as early as 1913, the year that Henry Ford introduced his inexpensive Model T, railway officials were voicing concern over the increasing number of private automobiles on the roads. That their apprehension was justified is attested by the fact that during the summer of 1914, revenues were some $3,400 less than those of the previous season and there were further decreases in 1915 and 1916. The trolleys still were well patronized but where in previous years some weekend trips had been operated in sections of two or more cars to handle the heavy riding, a single car was now sufficient because of the reduced traffic.
Another drop was reported during the summer of 1917 but this was not unexpected because the United States then was embroiled in the "War To End All Wars." The young men were being drafted into the Army or enlisting in the other armed forces and the folks remaining at home were traveling less. However, there was gratifying gain during the summer of 1918, revenues during June, July and August being $4,093 above those for the corresponding months in the previous year.
Much of the increase in the summer of 1918 was due to the large number of soldiers and sailors stationed at various military installations around Portsmouth. Hampton Beach was their favorite recreation area during their off duty hours and they flocked to and from the resort. In addition, many Hampton and Exeter men were employed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard and used the trolleys to travel to and from work.
During the summer of 1918, hourly service was given between Exeter and Hampton Beach, with some additional trips being provided between Hampton Village and the casino. Hourly service also was given between Hampton Beach and Portsmouth and between Hampton Village and Smithtown. On the Massachusetts Northeastern, schedules on the Shore Line between Salisbury and Hampton Beaches called for hourly service until the early afternoon and then a 30-minute headway until the last trip at night. Between Haverhill and Hampton Beach over the old Eastern Division route, the basic headway was hourly, with 30-minute time on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Hourly service was given between Newburyport and Smithtown on both weekdays and weekends.
The summer of 1918, incidentally, was the last for through service between Haverhill and Hampton Beach via Plaistow, Newton, Amesbury and Smithtown for during the 1919 season, the line was split at Amesbury, with cars running between Haverhill and Amesbury and between Amesbury and Salisbury junction, connections being made at the junction with trips on the Shore Line. As earlier noted, the tracks between Smithtown Square and Salisbury junction were abandoned in 1920.
EH&A weekday schedules for the summer of 1920 called for an hourly headway between Exeter and Hampton Beach, with cars running every 30 minutes between the beach and Hampton Village. Hourly service was given between Whittier's and Smithtown and on the Portsmouth-Hampton Beach run, hourly service was given in the early forenoon and late evening and a 30-minute headway was maintained at other times. Sunday schedules were similar except that a 30-minute headway was maintained between Portsmouth and Hampton Beach throughout the day. Additional cars left the beach on Wednesday and Saturday nights, when regular dances were held at the casino, at 10:45 for Portsmouth junction and Portsmouth; at 11 for Exeter and at midnight for Hampton Village and the car barn. During the same summer, the Northeastern gave 30-minute service on the Shore Line between Salisbury and Hampton Beaches, connections for Haverhill being made at Salisbury Beach.
The hourly service between Exeter and Smithtown during the fall, winter and spring appears to have been maintained through the fall of 1917, as also was the hourly headway between Hampton Village and Portsmouth junction. The distance between the Exeter depot and Smithtown Square was approximately 12 miles and the scheduled running time was one hour, two cars being required to maintain the base service.
Only one car was used on the Hampton Village-Portsmouth junction run, this, as before, running first to the casino (or to Jenkin's Cafe, about one-fifth mile north of the casino) and then up to Portsmouth junction to connect with the Portsmouth Electric. The round trip distance (with the car stopping at Jenkin's) was about l1/2 miles and the running time was 40 minutes. Efforts were made in late 1914 to force the EH&A to run all the cars to the casino but the Public Service Commission declined to order the company to do so and the complainants had to settle for every other trip.
Every evidence is that the Hampton Village-Portsmouth junction run was operated at a substantial loss, the service being continued only because of the importance of the connection with the Portsmouth Electric. The bulk of the riding appears to have been concentrated between Whittier's and the East End school house and between the school house and Portsmouth junction, the two-man crew on the car frequently outnumbered the passengers. Suggestions were made in 1912 that a wye be constructed at the junction of Winnacunnet Road and Ocean Boulevard so that one of the three changing ends operations could be eliminated but the proposal was not adopted.
Also operated at a heavy loss was the five miles of track between Whittier's and Smithtown. This line paralleled the present U. S. Route 1 for its entire length and stiff competition was offered by the Eastern Division of the Boston & Maine. While the service on the railroad was not so frequent as that afforded by the trolleys, the trains were much faster and many Newburyport and Salisbury residents traveling to and from Exeter found it more convenient and quicker - and less expensive after both the EH&A and Northeastern increased their fares - to ride on the B&M to Hampton and board the trolleys there than to make the entire trip by electric car. A transfer at Smithtown was necessary the year round and in summer, it was necessary to transfer again at Whittier's. Local riding on the line was of little significance because of the sparse and scattered population of Seabrook and Hampton Falls.
As early as 1912, the Northeastern lengthened its summer headway between Amesbury and Smithtown from half hourly to hourly on weekdays, 30-minute service being given on Saturdays and Sundays, and during the summer of 1915, the headway on the Newburyport-Smithtown line also became hourly. Indications are that the EH&A, however, continued the 30-minute service between Whittier's and Smithtown through the summer of 1916 and then, until late 1917, hourly time was maintained on the route in all seasons.
Drastic curtailments in service were effected late in 1917 and as of January 2, 1918, cars ran every two hours, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., between Exeter and Smithtown, and on a similar headway, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., between Exeter and Hampton Beach. For a time, only two trips daily, at 8:50 a. m. and 2:50 p. m., were operated to Portsmouth junction but it was not long until additional runs were provided to accommodate Exeter and Hampton residents employed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. Additional trips were made from Exeter to Smithtown at 6:50 and 8 a.m., largely for the benefit of Hampton Falls and Seabrook townspeople working in Newburyport and Amesbury factories,
One reason for these curtailments was a shortage of power due to difficulties at the Rockingham County right & Power Company plant in Portsmouth. Coal was scarce and poor in quality; there were occasional generating equipment breakdowns, and it was difficult to obtain and retain qualified employes, both because of Selective Service and because of higher wages paid elsewhere, such as at the navy yard. Because of the power situation, service on the EH&A was erratic and undependable during much of 1918, cars being subjected to frequent and lengthy delays. Patrons complained often and bitterly but there was little the railway could do to remedy the situation. There was no other convenient source from which to purchase power and the EH&A was unable to generate its own direct current to run the cars. Severe winter weather in early 1918 did not help matters, the EH&A being forced to suspend service for several days at different times because of deep drifts blocking its tracks.
Riding on the Whittier's-Smithtown line increased appreciably during the late spring of 1918 while the Northeastern's Hampton River bridge was being rebuilt after having been partially destroyed in an ice jam on January 12. During the month of June, the revenues on this route were more than double those for the same month in 1917 because of the line's handling all Hampton Beach traffic. The bridge was reopened on June 30 and Smithtown-Hampton Village riding returned to normal.
Effective Monday, October 14, 1918, the Northeastern instituted two hour headways on its Newburyport-Smithtown and Amesbury-Smithtown routes except on Saturday afternoons and evenings when hourly service was given. About three weeks later, on Sunday, November 4, the Portsmouth Electric drastically cut its service to and from Portsmouth junction. Connections at both Smithtown and Portsmouth junction became erratic and undependable and once again complaints were numerous and vociferous. The EH&A was the victim of a situation not of its own making but bore the brunt of the criticism. One reason the railway could not alter its schedule to correspond with the changes effected by the Northeastern and the Portsmouth Electric was the importance of making connections with B&M trains at the Hampton and Exeter depots.
Conditions improved somewhat in 1919 but 1920 was only a little more than a month old when a severe storm, sweeping up the eastern seaboard, paralyzed public transportation facilities in much of New England. The EH&A was shut down completely from Friday, February 6, until Tuesday, March 23, more than six weeks, because of the blizzard, torrential rains and then a sudden deep freeze. Both the Northeastern and the Portsmouth Electric also were kayoed by the weather and clearing the lines of all three companies was a pick and shovel job because of thick ice covering the tracks. The EH&A almost gave up the ghost then and there but officials decided to keep going in the hope that the negotiations with Hampton would jell before the next winter season. But, because of the loss of traffic due to the enforced shutdowns and a big jump in operating expenses due to the costs of snow and ice removal, the railway posted a record deficit of $15,539 for the 1920 fiscal year.
The last timetable posted by the EH&A before it became a municipal property called for 10 through round trips daily between Exeter and Smithtown, five of these connecting at Whittier's for Hampton Beach. There also were three round trips daily between Exeter and Hampton Beach and the schedule listed eight daily round trips between Hampton Beach and Portsmouth junction. Some additional trips out of Exeter on Saturday and Sunday nights ran only to the car barn, while others continued on to Whittier's.