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Shannon Bryan

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Posted: June 2, 2015

Take a trolley ride to hike the trails: Seashore Trolley Museum & Smith Preserve, Kennebunkport

It’s a novel way for hikers to trek into the woods and, between you and me, I think the trolley cars love the chance to once again do the work they were made to do: take us places.

Written by: Shannon Bryan
The Trolley Trail and it's winding wooden bridges. Shannon Bryan photo

The Trolley Trail and it’s winding wooden bridges. Shannon Bryan photo

In their heyday, streetcars took locals all sorts of places: to work, to school, to the shops and to scenic, well-landscaped parks where hard-working people could enjoy some respite and a picnic on a Sunday afternoon.

And while we’d be hard-pressed to get a reliable trolley ride to work these days, we can still ride a trolley into the Maine woods for a scenic day hike on a sunny afternoon.

The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport has been restoring vintage trolley cars from around the world since a small group of local railfans purchased their first trolley – from the Biddeford and Saco Railroad – in 1939.

And many of us have visited the museum to take a ride down memory lane (even if we’re technically too young to remember) during a 30-minute trolley ride on the museum’s demonstration tracks. It’s a fine jaunt down the line to the small Talbott Park, where the trolley loops around to return back to the museum. Until a couple years ago, the trip was mostly for show.

Now, visitors can disembark at Talbott Park and head into nearby Smith Preserve to hike or mountain bike on 10 miles of trails.

It’s a novel way for hikers to trek into the woods and, between you and me, I think the trolley cars love the chance to once again do the work they were made to do: take us places. That demonstration track is now a legit route, too. Everyone’s happy.

After getting off the trolley at Talbott Park, there are signs to guide visitors to the trail that connects the museum grounds with Smith Preserve. This trail was once the Atlantic Shore Line Railway right-of-way (the museum has preserved four miles of this historic railway – the demonstration track uses two miles of it). The trolley tracks have been removed beyond Talbott Park, leaving a straight, flat dirt/sand trail, which eventually connects to the well-marked Trolley Trail at Smith Preserve. From there, venture on to miles of scenic trails that feature cool wooden bridges, small brooks and wildlife.

The 1.7-mile Brook Loop is short and hilly and includes waterfall views along Round Swamps Brook. The longer Trolley Loop is mostly flat and boasts winding wooden bridges through forests of ferns. Bobcat Loop is 7.5 miles and includes crossings over the Batson River and along Bobcat Ridge’s scenic ledges.

The point: There’s no wrong turn in Smith Preserve and the trails are accessible for kids and novice hikers. The trails are also very well marked throughout.

After an afternoon of trail exploration, head back along the Trolley Trail to meet up with the connecting trail back to Talbott Park. Trolleys depart every 45 minutes or so, so if you time it just right you can catch a trolley with little wait. Or hang out in Talbott Park until the next trolley comes to take you back to the museum.

And before your afternoon adventure comes to an end, take some time to check out the collection of vintage trolleys on display in the exhibit barns to properly cap off a unique trolley-meets-trail trip.

And while we can always drive our cars straight to Smith Preserve to enjoy a day of hiking or mountain biking (or snowshoeing in the winter), it’s great to know that every now and then we can say, “Today I took a trolley into the woods.”

Trolley & hike!

WHERE: Seashore Trolley Museum, 195 Log Cabin Rd, Kennebunkport, 207-967-2712
WHEN: Open daily through Columbus Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The last trolley departs at 4:15 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $10 adults, $7.50 children ages 6 to 16, free for children 5 and under, $8 seniors. No extra fee to hike Smith Preserve.

Helpful tips

– Dogs are welcome at Seashore Trolley Museum and at Smith Preserve, so bring the pooch along.
Saturday is Seashore Trolley Dog Day at the museum and a variety of dog-related businesses and organizations will offer information and demonstrations.

– Mountain bikes can also be transported via trolley.

– Be sure to tell let the staff person at the ticket window know that you’ll be going to Smith Preserve – they’ll have you sign in on another sheet that’ll make sure everyone knows where you are.

– Trolleys depart every 45 minutes or so, so you can plan your return accordingly or hang out at Talbott Park until the next trolley comes by.

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