Seashore Trolley Museum’s Model Railroad Building Construction Underway
Seashore Trolley Museum recently broke ground on what now will be a $3.2M construction project to exhibit one of Maine’s largest HO-scale railroad layouts. The model railroad depicts the Maine Central Railroad in the 1940s-60s and is being relocated from Jonesport, Maine thanks to a very generous donation from the Wyss Medical Foundation.
The foundation originally committed $2M+ in 2021 but due to the rise of material costs, the foundation has increased their donation to $3.2M. The building will include an open space for the layout, office space for volunteers and staff, a combined workshop/conference room; a retail location so the museum can bring in additional revenue through model sales; and a mezzanine viewing gallery that has potential for community programming and other activities with elevator access. The building will be heated and cooled by geothermal energy.
The public can watch the site prep and building construction through the museum’s live feed camera, available for free at www.trolleymuseum.org/livefeed. The museum is also constructing another building, a new carhouse for nine trolleys in its collection and a second camera available at that website is capturing this construction project in the distance, with an estimated completion date of February 2023.
The beautifully crafted model railroad layout that will be exhibited in the Model Railroad Building was built by Helen and Harold “Buz” Beal. For decades, the couple opened their home to guests from all over the world to view one of Maine’s largest layouts in HO-scale. From Quoddy Lighthouse to the mountains of Maine, to the paper mills and Dragon Cement, street blocks representing the communities the Maine Central Model Railroad operated through and several roundhouses, tunnels, rivers and the ocean, the layout has it all. Best-selling author Stephen King even provided the designs of his Victorian home in Bangor to the Beals, and they replicated it expertly.
Upon Buz’s passing in 2013, Helen continued to curate the layout while looking for another model club or nonprofit to resume ownership. Because of the layout’s impressive size, no one could accept the donation without taking the model apart and making the layout much smaller.
Hansjoerg Wyss, a friend of the Beals and a rail enthusiast and philanthropist, approached Seashore Trolley Museum in 2020 to ask if they might consider providing a home for the layout. Like the other groups approached, the museum did not have the space to display such a large model. The museum researched the layout for months to determine how the layout could be kept as intact as possible and relocated to Kennebunkport, and what type of facility would be needed to house such an artifact.
A custom-building design was developed by Museum volunteer and architect Herb Fremin. Fremin also helped the museum determine how best to adapt the model to meet Kennebunkport building codes and ADA compliance, in particular widening all the aisles to modern standards. The Wyss Foundation approved the project and their donation is the largest gift in Seashore Trolley Museum’s 83-year history.
Sheridan Construction of Fairfield, Maine is the builder for this project. Sebago Technics (South Portland) is providing the site and civil engineering for the building. RW Gillespie (Biddeford) is providing geotechnical services. Colex (Gloucester) is completing the site work needed. Construction of the building will begin in April and site and foundation work will proceed until the weather gets too cold to continue in January.
In April 2022, the layout was disassembled in Jonesport and relocated to climate controlled storage units in Kennebunk by Stephan Lamb Associates, a professional model railroad layout moving company. After the building is complete, this company will return to set up the layout in its new home and add the new sections needed. Museum volunteers and a future Model Railroad Club for all ages housed at the museum will help refresh the layout and build the landscape and new buildings on the new sections, adding in trolley lines to even better connect the layout to the museum’s overall mission.
The most exciting benefit to the museum of all is that after serving the community and the world for 83 years, once the building is completed and the layout is live, the museum will be open year-round for all to enjoy for the first time in history!
Seashore Trolley Museum would like to thank Helen Beal and the Beal Family, the Wyss Medical Foundation, an anonymous donor who has provided funding to support initial operating expenses, and the stakeholders who have helped behind the scenes to make these donations possible.
Located at 195 Log Cabin Road in Kennebunkport, the Seashore Trolley Museum is the world’s first and largest electric railway and transit museum. The museum will open for its 84th season on May 6, 2023. To learn more about Seashore Trolley Museum, please visit www.trolleymuseum.org