Trolleys to the Casino: System Expansion

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Chapter 3


Promoter Lovell was an ambitious man with grandiose ideas and late in 1900, he proposed to expand the EH&A-A&H system by constructing lines from Exeter to Stratham, Greenland and Portsmouth; from Stratham to Newfields and Newmarket; from Portsmouth to Dover via Newington, Durham and Madbury, and from Hampton to Greenland via North Hampton, as well as from Haverhill to Seabrook and Hampton Beaches via Plaistow, Newton, Amesbury, Smithtown and South Seabrook.

Strong opposition by the Boston & Maine Railroad resulted in the shelving of the projected Stratham- Newmarket and Portsmouth-Dover routes and the proposed line between Hampton and Greenland appears to have been temporarily forgotten. But the Exeter- Portsmouth and Haverhill and Hampton Beach routes had the green light and early in 1901, Lovell and several associates applied to the New Hampshire Legislature for special charters for the Portsmouth & Exeter, Seabrook & Hampton Beach and the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton Street Railways.

The Portsmouth & Exeter, chartered on March 7, was to build from a connection with the EH&A on High Street, Exeter, through Stratham and Greenland to a junction with the Portsmouth Electric Railway at Portsmouth Plains; the Seabrook & Hampton Beach, chartered March 23, was to build from Smithtown Square, on the EH&A, through South Seabrook to Seabrook and Hampton Beaches, while the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton, chartered on March 26, was to extend from the Massachusetts boundary at Haverhill, through Plaistow, Newton and a corner of South Hampton to the Bay State boundary at Amesbury, there to connect with a proposed extension of the Amesbury & Hampton. A franchise to extend the A&H from Market Square to the New Hampshire state line at Newton to connect with the HP&N was granted by the town of Amesbury on March 2, 1901.

Lovell planned to run his cars from Plaistow to downtown Haverhill and evidence is that he intended to arrange for an extension of the Lowell, Lawrence & Haverhill Street Railway's existing Main Street line in that city to the New Hampshire boundary at Plaistow to connect with the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton. But his negotiations with the LL&H and its successor the Boston & Northern Street Railway, bore no fruit and on June 5, 1901, the Haverhill & Plaistow Street Railway was chartered in Massachusetts to build the Haverhill-Plaistow link. This company was organized by five Haverhill men but Lovell was in control from the beginning.

The Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton, the Portsmouth & Exeter and the Seabrook & Hampton Beach Street Railways all were leased to the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury for 99 years effective July 1, 1901, the Haverhill & Plaistow being leased to the EH&A for a similar period on July 1, 1902.

Two other companies organized by Lovell were the Rockingham County Light & Power Company, incorporated in New Hampshire on October 30, 1900, and the Granite State Land Company, chartered on December 5, 1900. The former was to supply the electrical energy for the operation of the expanded street railway system while the latter's primary purpose was to build a bridge, over which the Seabrook & Hampton Beach Street Railway was to operate, across the Hampton River between Seabrook and Hampton Beaches.

Contracts for the building of the four new street railways and the Amesbury & Hampton extension were, of course, awarded to the Massachusetts Construction Company, which engaged sub-contractors to handle the actual work. Soule & Dillingham Inc. of Boston was to build the Haverhill-Hampton Beach route while H. Gore & Company, also of Boston, was to construct the Portsmouth & Exeter.

Lovell's expansion program was financed by the New York Security & Trust Company, later the New York Trust Company, of New York City and this institution supplied the funds used to purchase the Portsmouth Gas, Electric Light & Power Corporation on December 5, 1900 and to erect a new, modern $300,000 generating station off Daniels Street, on the shore of the Piscataqua River, near the present Memorial Bridge, in Portsmouth. From this plant, which was to be owned by the Rockingham County Light & Power Company, alternating current was to be transmitted at high voltage to rotary substations at Stratham, Hampton, Amesbury and Plaistow, where it was to be changed to 600 volt direct current for the trolley overhead. The substations at Stratham and Plaistow were to be integral parts of new carhouse buildings in those towns; a substation annex was to be provided at the Amesbury carhouse, and at Hampton, a substation addition was to be constructed at the EH&A's power plant.

The firm of Sanderson & Porter, electric railway engineers, of New York City, was retained to design the Portsmouth station, the construction of which began during the early summer of 1901, while Cowles & Childs of Boston was given the contract for building the Hampton River bridge, which was to be a pile structure 4,623 feet long and approximately 30 feet wide. There was to be a reserved section about 10 feet wide for the Seabrook & Hampton Beach tracks and a draw span of the lift type over the main channel of the Hampton River.

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Work on the Amesbury & Hampton extension started on May 21, 1901 when grading crews began work on Friend Street, Amesbury, and on November 14, the Railroad Commissioners granted a certificate of safety for the 4.01 miles of track between the corner of Main and Friend Streets, Amesbury, and the New Hampshire state line. About four months later, on March 3, 1902, the A&H was permitted to effect a physical connection with the Citizens' Electric at Main and Friend Street and to construct a long turnout in front of Merchants' Row in Market Square.

The Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton had no difficulties obtaining locations in Plaistow, Newton and South Hampton, all of which were granted in June 1901. During that same month, the Seabrook & Hampton Beach received its franchise in Seabrook and the proposed locations in Portsmouth, Greenland and Stratham were approved. In Haverhill, the Haverhill & Plaistow received its franchise on October 29 but it was not until February 6, 1902 that the Portsmouth & Exeter was granted locations in Exeter, action having been delayed by a dispute over whether the P&E should run along the east or west side of Portsmouth Avenue between the Stratham boundary and the connection with the EH&A on High Street, at a point afterwards known as Exeter junction.

Construction of the Seabrook & Hampton Beach began in July and on October 2, a Wednesday, the first car ran from Smithtown Square through South Seabrook to Seabrook Beach and the south bank of the Hampton River, a distance of 4.5 miles. A four-wheel closed car of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury was used to provide hourly service until mid or late November. Operation was resumed on March 11, 1902 and about a month later, on April 13, the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway completed the electrification of its old steam dummy line along Salisbury Beach to the New Hampshire state line and a connection with the Seabrook & Hampton Beach at Salisbury junction, so-called.

The first trial trip over the Amesbury & Hampton extension and the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton and the Haverhill & Plaistow Street Railways was made on Tuesday, May 6, 1902, and two days later, direct service was inaugurated between Haverhill and Hampton Beach, with cars running between Amesbury and the resort via Smithtown, Hampton Falls and Hampton Village. Dedication services for the Hampton River bridge were held Wednesday, May 14, and on the following day, Haverhill-Hampton Beach through cars began running over the Seabrook & Hampton Beach Street Railway.

(While the bridge was under construction, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury rebuilt and relocated its track southerly from the Hampton Beach Casino to the Hampton River to connect with the Seabrook & Hampton Beach at the north end of the span. It will be recalled that the trackage laid from the casino to the river in 1899 was only of a temporary nature.)

Because of the delay in obtaining its Exeter franchise and other factors, work on the Portsmouth & Exeter did not start until April 16, 1902 and the road did not open until Thursday, September 11, the first trial trip having been made the previous day.

More than 33 miles of new railway track, including sidings and turnouts, were built during the 1901-02 period and when the construction was completed, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury and its leased connecting lines had 57.413 route miles and 59.629 track miles.

Route Miles Sidings & Turnouts Total
Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury 20.721 .885 21.606
Amesbury & Hampton   8.342 .409   8.751
Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton   8.155 .319   8.474
Haverhill & Plaistow   2.682 .076   2.758
Portsmouth & Exeter 11.980 .256 12.236
Seabrook & Hampton Beach   5.533 .271   5.804
-------- ------ --------
Totals 57.413 2.216 59.629

Most of the new trackage was constructed with 60 or 70 pound T rail, girder rail being installed in paved streets. The rails were spiked to chestnut ties, laid on two-foot centers and thickly ballasted with gravel, and many curves were banked to permit relatively high speed operation. Chestnut poles were used to support the overhead, which was mostly of side bracket suspension. Direct current feeders were of No. 0000 wire and No. 00 copper was used for the trolley. Between Haverhill and Amesbury, there were 3.81 miles of private way but the greater part of the new lines ran in or parallel to existing streets, roads and highways. The telephone network of the EH&A-A&H system was expanded to serve the new routes and extensive use was made of United States electric signals, showing white for a clear line and red for an occupied block.

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Coincident with the building of the new railway lines, the Massachusetts Construction Company placed a series of orders for new passenger equipment with the Laconia Car Company of Laconia, N. H. and among the cars purchased for the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton and the Portsmouth & Exeter Street Railways were eleven 25-foot double truck closed and 10 of the 14 bench double truck open type. Later, eight more Laconia 14 bench opens were purchased for the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton. Two double truck snow plows were purchased from the Taunton Locomotive Works and with the arrival of all the new equipment, passenger rolling stock of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury and the connecting lines leased thereto consisted of seven single truck and 11 double truck closed cars, one Duplex convertible, and 13 ten bench and 28 fourteen bench open cars. Other equipment included one mail car, eight work cars and six snow plows, six of the work units being four-wheel side dump cars which had been used during construction days. Incidentally, no cars were owned by either the Haverhill & Plaistow or the Seabrook& Hampton Beach Street Railways, which were to be operated with the equipment of the other companies.

Also purchased from Laconia was a double truck box freight car, EH&A No. 400, which was to be fitted out as a portable substation.

To accommodate all this new rolling stock, the Massachusetts Construction Company, in addition to erecting the new carhouses at Stratham and Plaistow also had built a new car barn on Exetcr Road, Hampton, opposite the existing frame carhouse of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury. For some reason not now apparent, this new building became the property of the Portsmouth & Exeter Street Railway.

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According to a balance sheet compiled in 1903, the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury, Amesbury & Hampton, Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton, Haverhill & Plaistow, Portsmouth & Exeter and Seabrook & Hampton Beach Street Railways represented a total permanent investment of some $1,730,445. The capital stock of the six companies was $785,000 while the combined bonded debt was $690,000, the bonds all carrying an interest rate of 5 per cent. There were no changes in the bonded debt through 1905 but the par value of the capital stock was increased to $1,135,000.

Also leased to the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury as of July 1, 1901 was the Dover, Somersworth & Rochester Street Railway, another Lovell property, which had been created through the merger of the Union Electric Railway, operating between Dover and Somersworth, and the Rochester Street Railroad. As of 1903, this company had $300,000 in capital stock and a like amount in mortgage bonds. The former was increased to $375,000 prior to 1905. Except as necessary, the DS&R will not be mentioned again.

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