The Laconia Street Railway

In January, 1882, the Laconia and Lake Village Horse Railroad was formed to provide street rail service. Horse-drawn cars were ordered from the Abbot-Downing company in Concord, the maker of the famous Concord Coach. About 2 miles of narrow-gauge track was installed. Service began in August,1882, and was an immediate success. By 1883, there were 156,325 passengers that used the service. A fare was six cents or 5 tickets for 25 cents. In 1898, the company was sold to a new owner, the name was changed to the Laconia Street Railway, and service was converted to electric, with the first trial run of the electrified line occurring on September 3rd. The old horse-drawn cars were converted to electric trolleys by the Laconia Car Company. The conversion from horse to electric power was long overdue. Laconia’s system was the last horse railroad to make the conversion in NH.

In early 1899, the track was extended to Weirs Beach, making 8.87 miles of track in total. The first trolley arrived in Weirs Beach on May 29, 1899. Tracks were converted to a wider gauge in 1903. As automobiles became more affordable and popular, the trolley service gradually declined, until ending in bankruptcy on August 9, 1925.

In 1928, a new company of the same name started up local bus service, with frequent trips between downtown Laconia and Lakeport. But the company only offered three trips a day to Weirs Beach, versus the nearly 40 trips a day to Weirs Beach that were the norm with the electric trolley service. The bus service lasted until 1960.

An ad for the Horse Railroad. From the 1890 NHVA reunion program. The railroad only ran between downtown Laconia and Lakeport (Lake Village), so boat transport was required from Lakeport to get to the Weirs.

Laconia Street Railway Trolley No. 20. Note the Weirs destination sign on top of the car. The trolley is passing through Lakeport Square on its way to Laconia. The stoop of the Mount Belknap House can be seen on the right. The driver stands at the front of the car, while the conductor is hanging off the rear.

The trolley on Lakeside Ave, arriving at Weirs Beach. The direction of travel can be discerned from the trolley pole. The pole always leans in the opposite direction of travel, as if the wind was pushing it. The line in Weirs Beach ended at a dead end rather than a loop. Trolley cars were double-ended, so they could travel in either direction. The trolley pole was reversed at the end of the line. Later trolley cars had two trolley poles, one for each direction. The trolley pole not in use would lie flat on top of the trolley car until needed.

Trolley No. 14, parked in Weirs Beach
The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport has a similar trolley in its collection.

Trolley No. 20 at Weirs Beach, ready to head to Court Street in Laconia. No passengers have boarded yet. Perhaps the photographer wanted to focus on the driver and conductor. A sign advertises a concert on Sunday.

A veteran’s gathering aboard Trolley No.18 at Weirs Beach, celebrating a patriotic occasion. The driver stands at the front of the trolley; the conductor is standing outside on the ground near the rear of the car, while a veteran officer seems to be inspecting the troops.

Another photo of the veterans gathering shows a wider view of the Avenue. There were several trolley cars full of veterans.

Trolley No. 18 at Weirs Beach, ready to head to Court Street in Laconia. A few passengers have already boarded. The driver is at the front of the trolley and the conductor is standing just outside the front. A sign advertises a Sunday concert.

Trolley No. 12 passing through Lakeport Square.

Trolley No. 19, named Aquedoctan, was an enclosed trolley, used for winter transportation. This trolley car had two trolley poles. The one not in use lies flat on the trolley roof on the left. Note the destination sign indicating Lakeport and Weirs. However, the service extended only as far as Lakeport during the winter months. The Weirs was cut from the schedule beginning with the first snowfall. 

The summer timetable for the Laconia Street Railway. From the 1907 NHVA reunion program.

A freight trolley ran every other day to the Weirs during the summer months, leaving Laconia at 1pm and returning from the Weirs at 2pm.

A Weirs trolley, filled mostly with women and children, on July 23, 1908.

A trolley marked “Weirs” on its front and “South Main Street” on its side. The poster on the front of the Trolley says “Homan’s Musical Revue”, at the Colonial Theatre. The Colonial Theatre opened in 1914, and the trolleys were removed in 1925, dating this photo between 1914 and 1925. Note all the seats faced forward, except the seat directly behind the driver’s seat faced backward. This trolley car clearly had two trolley poles. The one not in use lies flat over the head of the driver, who stands at the front of the trolley. The conductor is standing on the side rail, about halfway back.