Rails to Resorts

Even before our university archivist posted a 1914 Boston & Maine Railroad map of the “Summer Resorts of the Coast, Lake and Mountain Regions” along its routes (and despite this past week’s terrible train derailments in Quebec and Paris) I had been planning a vaguely conceived “summer railroads” post. I know all the wealthy people who lived on my street a century ago who summered (or “rusticated”) in Maine took the train, and since we’re going camping (!!!!!!!) in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in a few weeks, I had the romantic notion of throwing all our stuff in the cargo car and making our connection to the Bar Harbor Express.  The train does indeed run through Salem, but no place in the U.S. is as connected by rail as it was a century ago, and the Bar Harbor Express no longer runs (we’ll need the car anyway, so I can sleep in it).

Mapping Vacation 1914

Mapping Vacation 1882p

Two Railroad Advertising Maps:  Boston & Maine “Summer Resorts”  1914 map, Salem State University Archives; an earlier (1882) version for New York’s train tourists, New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

These maps were just part of the railroads’ multi-faceted print advertising campaigns, which must have been extremely effective during hot summers like this one, when people were eager to leave the sweltering cities for cooler spots at the coast and mountains. In conjunction with its maps, the Boston & Maine railroad, which dominated the New England market until the 1960s, issued a series of stunning posters by Charles W. Holmes in the 1920s which focused on the appeal of summer resorts near (there’s even one for Revere Beach) and far. They really capture that air of interwar elegance, and represent the increasing accessibility of New England’s “vacationlands”.

Mapping Vacation 1925 Charles Holmes BPL

Mapping Vacation Old Orchard BPL

Mapping Vacation Holmes Win BPL

And for later in the year, the Snow Train………………..

Mapping Vacation Snow Train

Travel posters by Charles W. Holmes for Boston and Maine Railraod, 1920s, Boston Public Library travel poster collection.


11 responses to “Rails to Resorts

  • MainerChick

    This is a great post. I can remember my grandparents telling me about taking the train or trolly to various resorts when they were younger. Apparently Winthrop was a lot more touristy when they were young, with Island park, the beaches, and hotels/B&B/etc. The history facinates me. Thanks for sharing.

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  • daseger

    Well I should have taken your name a little more seriously–my grandparents were actually from Winthrop, MASS. But I myself am from Maine–though from much to the south–York. The trolly lines are fascinating too–everything was so connected by rail before the coming of the car.

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  • cecilia

    In England they still take the train for a day at the seaside.. I did this myself once and was fascinated.. I love trains and hope one day (soon) to take a train trip to New York. You see the backyards of the country on a train and also the Grand Central Stations are always very GRAND! Unlike airports that are deeply boring! c

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  • downeastdilettante

    Oh, the glamorous Bar Harbor express! Ending at Mt. Desert Ferry on Hancock Point, where one would then catch a steamer across the Bay to Bar Harbor. The merely rich in Pullman cars, the private cars of the really rich hooked up to the rear. Evalyn Walsh McLean would come up in her private car with two Pinkerton detectives trailing behind, to protect the children—her daughter, her sons, and her Hope Diamond, which she wore even at the Swimming Club in the mornings (History does not record if she actually went swimming—the Swimming Club was never really about swimming, but rather being seen…). Very different now. Instead one sees private jets stacked up a dozen or more at a time at the Bar Harbor airport, and the car traffic of the rest of clogged along rte. 3 from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor.

    Give a shout if you’d like any advice about must-see sites in the area.. There are some subtle beauties to be seen.

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  • tchistorygal

    Great post! Didn’t all the posters in those days look like life was just grand? All fun and no worries! 🙂

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  • Hal Beck

    My parents met on the “Boat Train,” a classic WWII couple. He was from Pasadena, CA and she from Melrose, MA. We celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena in 1992. Thanks for the poster.

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