Down East 2013 ©
Photograph courtesy of Dean Shalhoup
Stanley Cram expected a crowd aboard his York Utilities Company trolley when he headed down Washington Street in Sanford on a winter afternoon back in 1947. The four o’clock shift change at the Sanford Mills’ ivy-covered Number One Mill, at upper left, always filled Cram’s forty-person trolley to capacity. What the twenty-five-year-old motorman couldn’t have predicted was that his front axle would break as he approached the bridge over the Mousam River, sending Cram and his seventeen passengers, mostly millworkers and schoolchildren, careening toward Mill Pond.
According to an article that appeared in the Sanford Tribune and Advocate, the eighteen-ton trolley, one of the last still in operation in Maine, came to rest with a third of its weight suspended fifteen feet in the air. Jumping the track dislodged the chain-loaded Eclipse fender, at center, that was supposed to keep pedestrians out of the wheels, but otherwise the trolley was undamaged. Passengers were able to slip out the back, but Cram had to squeeze his way out the hinged front door, still partially open in this dramatic photograph by Tribune photographer Michael Shalhoup.
The precariousness of Cram’s predicament was demonstrated when he tried to step on the broken bridge railing and found himself swinging down into the riverbed. With scraped shins, but no more serious injuries, Cram, in the plaid jacket at lower right, waded through the two-foot-deep chilly water to a rocky outcropping, and Shalhoup captured him just as two Sanford firefighers, at left, were extending a ladder down to rescue him.
Although a crane lifted this trolley back onto the tracks early the next morning, this mishap signalled the dramatic end of trolley service in Sanford. The automobiles parked at upper right had largely supplanted the need for such transportation, and the mills that built the trolley line in 1893 closed just years after this photograph was taken.
Shalhoup, who only a year earlier had recorded war-torn scenes in Germany while serving with Patton’s Third Army, captured the drama of this accident and the community’s reaction to it — the wide-eyed expression on the youngster’s face at far left conveys the excitement of many, including the people balancing on the snowbank at far right — but he had no idea that he was also getting a glimpse of his future. Several years later he would learn that hidden somewhere among this crowd was his future wife, Barbara Boyd, one of the many Sanford residents who raced down to gawk at the River Street trolley that came very close to living up to its name.