The first electric streetcar line in Lowell, Massachusetts was established in 1889, as part of the Lowell & Dracut Street Railway Company. The streetcar tracks extended from Downtown Lowell, over the Merrimack River, and into the town of Dracut. Because of the large workforce in Downtown Lowell coupled with the lack of housing in the area, the streetcar lines extended outwards and ran into the suburban neighborhoods of Lowell.
In 1891, the Lowell & Dracut Street Railway Company and Horse Railroad Company merged to become the Lowell & Suburban Street Railway Company, which was the impetus for the growth of the railway system in Lowell. At one point, the streetcar system in Lowell was one of the most popular modes of transportation due to its ease, efficiency and cost. Streetcars were popular in Lowell until the 1920s, and the system shut down in 1935.
In 1984, with the government working on the revitalization plan for Lowell, MA, the Seashore Trolley Museum successfully settled the Lowell National Streetcar Museum as a satellite museum. The Seashore Trolley Museum, established in 1939, is the world’s largest, and oldest museum dedicated to mass transit, and it maintains its primary museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. The National Streetcar Museum in Lowell is a project of both the National Building Museum and the Seashore Trolley Museum.
The primary focus of the Lowell National Streetcar Museum is to present an exhibit that explains the significance of public transit and its evolution over the years. By providing examples using historical objects as well as a running streetcar, the Museum hopes to educate the community on the social and political perspectives of transportation’s development.
Aside from the main exhibits, the other significant feature of the Museum is the streetcar, Desire, which runs May through October, and is available for visitors of all ages to ride. In 1984, the electric streetcar lines were restored as part of the Museum’s project for its own streetcar rides. In doing so, both the Museum and the Lowell National Historical Park collaborated to acquire one open and two closed streetcars.
The effects of this project have been noted by many cities, and several have restored the use of streetcars, either through downtown urban areas with traffic or through historic districts. Not only are streetcars attractive alternatives to buses, they are also more energy efficient, and more fun, both for transport and scenic reasons.
Lowell National Streetcar Museum Address
Lowell National Streetcar Museum
25 Shattuck St.
Lowell, MA 01852
Phone: (978) 275-1821