By John M. Holman, Contributing Writer
(Photo courtesy O. R. Cummings)
HAMPTON ..... Once upon a time, there was a "side of the road" trolley line called the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway and many people rode on it for one reason or another from 1897 to 1926, when it was disbanded. In those few short years, the electric car saw the development of the Beaches: North Hampton, Rye, Seabrook, Salisbury and particularly Hampton Beach.
If it were not for the fast, economical transportation of the trolley, Hampton Beach would not have come into prominence as rapidly as it did, around the turn of the century. The railroad also contributed to the growth of the Beaches.
In addition to carrying passengers, the E.H. & A., as it was affectionately referred to, also carried freight, mail and baggage. At first, under the name of the EXETER STREET RAILWAY, using Car #12 (later renumbered #2 in 1902 and used as a line car until 1926), and then in 1900, a new mail car was purchased from the Newburyport Car Company.
In the July 2, 1900 edition of the Exeter News Letter, according to O. R. Cummings' book, "TROLLEYS TO THE CASINO", the following account of the newly purchased Mail Car was given in considerable detail: "The new combination mail and baggage car, No. 18, built by Newburyport (Car Company) for the E.H.&A. in 1900, also was 20 feet long, had a simple arch roof and rode on a Dupont C truck. The new mail and baggage car of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury (Street Railway) is now in service. It is vestibuled and the exterior is painted in a creamy tint, with trimmings of carmine and gold. On either side, at the top, is "EXETER, HAMPTON & AMESBURY ST. RY. CO." in gilt, and below "UNITED STATES R.M.S." (Railway Mail Service) and "BAGGAGE" in red gilt.
"The interior space is equally divided between the mail and baggage compartments. The mail room is entered from the vestibule through a massive door and is equipped with ample pouch racks of steel, work bench and sorting compartments. A door leads into the baggage room, which has a sliding door at either side and an entrance from the vestibule. Each room has two windows on either side. The interior is painted white."
Mr. Cummings continues, "Later, the car was re-lettered "UNITED STATES MAIL AND EXPRESS" and after the R.P.O. (Railway Post Office) service was discontinued in 1910, No. 18 was used for a time as a freight car and then as a general utility and salt car. As of December 1, 1911, it had two motors of the Steel 34 type. The Dupont C truck was retained."
A window from No. 18 is on display in the Tuck Memorial Museum at 40 Park Avenue, in Hampton. Check local newspapers for days and times when the Museum will be open.