Construction on Route 1 in Thomaston has caused headaches for many residents and business owners, but at least some have found a reason to celebrate the disruption.

When construction contractors on the project first found 17-foot metal rails buried underneath the road, Selectman Pete Lammert had the misshapen hunks set aside at the town dump. Suspecting they were rails from the region’s old trolley system, he notified the Thomaston Historical Society about the find.

Susan Devlin, the society’s president, got in touch with local railroad aficionado Galo Hernandez, who confirmed that they could not have been full-size train tracks, but were likely relics from the region’s old Rockland, Thomaston & Camden Street Railway, a trolley system that started with a Rockland-Camden route and was extended to Mill Creek in Thomaston in 1893, and then on to Green Street in 1896.

Lammert suggested Thomaston Historical Society offer pieces of the cleaned-up rails for sale. Lane Construction, which is handling the work on Route 1, volunteered a forklift and flatbed truck to bring the rails to Rockport Steel, where they were sandblasted and cut into pieces free of charge, and now the society is selling them as historic mementos, complete with a certificate of authenticity featuring a history and photo of the trolley. Proceeds will go to the historical society’s general fund. Ideas for use include doorstops or bookends.

“I would be surprised if we didn’t sell out quickly,” Devlin said, adding that five people had already expressed interest in buying some of the roughly 100 rail pieces available. “I think of them as retired history that we’re recycling in a way that people can enjoy them,” said Devlin.

At its peak, the trolley could take passengers from Camden through Rockport, Rockland and Thomaston to Warren, running along or near Route 1 for most of the journey. Passengers could also take the trolley west from downtown Rockland through the present-day intersection of Maverick Street and Old County Road, or to Crescent Beach in Owls Head. Less-frequent freight cars carried mail, baggage and lime rock between the towns and linked up with the Maine Central Railroad, while snowplow cars kept the tracks cleared in winter.

Trolleys ran every half-hour from Camden to Thomaston and hourly from Thomaston to Warren. Stations and outdoor shelters were built for waiting passengers along the line in each of the towns served by the trolley, with 20-person capacity stations in Thomaston village and at the old Maine State Prison, now the Thomaston Green. Fares ranged from five cents at the line’s inception to 10 cents when the trolleys were decommissioned in 1931. Passengers could ride from Thomaston to Rockland, for example, in 23 minutes.

In 1925, the Warren line was discontinued and a bus service established to replace it, and the same fate befell the rest of the railway in 1931. According to “Shore Village Story,” a historical collection on the area and notable people published in 1989, the electric railway was a transportation necessity in the pre-automobile era, and historian Margaret McCrea wrote in the most recent Thomaston Historical Society newsletter that service was extended for a week past the scheduled termination date to meet the public’s transportation needs while an agreement for bus service was finalized.

Hernandez confirmed that the rails were an unusual find, given that disused train and trolley rails tended to be torn out of the ground and used as scrap. “The fact that they survived these scrap drives is amazing in itself,” he said. Devlin and Hernandez said the rails had been removed and likely used as some form of fill, or to cover an old sewer line.

Thomaston Historical Society is selling the rails at $25 for a pair or $15 for a single rail. For an extra $5, the historical society will add either a satin lacquer or stove black finish. Potential buyers can contact the Thomaston Historical Society at info@thomastonhistoricalsociety.com or visit the Farmhouse Museum at 80 Knox Street any Tuesday between 2 and 4 p.m.

Reporter Dan Otis Smith can be reached at 594-4401 x123 or by email at dsmith@villagesoup.com.