[No, not that kind of pole -- this is the Brewer townline pole crossing the Penobscot River on US 1A.]
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Maine's Pole Highways and Auto Trails (1919-1925)

[Return to RoadsAroundME] In 1919, the Maine Automobile Association and the Maine State Highway Commission collaborated on marking through routes for interregional travel. As the chosen alignments were officially classified as state highway, these highways were truly official routings and not merely the 'unofficial' highways promulgated by booster organizations in other states lacking governmental backing (although some were also auto trails in that same vein).

These ancestors of the later numbered highways did not use route numbers themselves, instead using named trails on maps (distinct from the later named highways) matched with conspicuous colour markings on poles and other landmarks. The colour marks for particular highways were standardized and chosen by the AAA (MAA) and the SHC to keep them consistent throughout, although the colour convention used did not in general match the directional nature used in some surrounding states. Pole colours are given next to the trail name in the listing below, and appear on the route entries for their succeeding highway numbers. Colour order is significant!

For those trails within the state, the names were also chosen by the AAA and the SHC, but several of the trails were continuations of auto trails outside of Maine and maintained the same name for map continuity. It is unclear, but doubtful, that all the trails listed were simultaneously designated; however, it is nearly impossible from contemporary maps to assess which routes were in existence when. If you can contribute map-backed information, please contact me.

The status of the former lettered highway designations during the pole highways is similarly unclear, but it is certainly possible and even likely that the two systems existed in parallel.

The pole highways became defunct upon Maine's brief adoption of the New England Interstate system, but all of the pole highways assumed new numbers and were successfully assimiliated into the new system, and all of their basic routings live on today. Highways are presented in no particular order, except that "nameless ones" are ordered to the end. Pole colours and highway names come from the 1922 ALA trail book, the 1923 National Surveys map atlas and the 1923 and 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails Maps.

Atlantic Highway [ Blue ]

Routing
New Hampshire state line, Kittery, Wells, Kennebunk, Scarborough, Portland, Yarmouth, Brunswick, Bath, Wiscasset, Waldoboro, Rockland, Belfast, Searsport, Bangor, Ellsworth, Hancock, Millbridge, Jonesboro, Machias, Dennysville, Perry, Robbinston, Calais
Succeeded by
NEI 1 (now US 1 except Stockton Springs-Bangor-Ellsworth, which is US 1A and US 1AB).

Longfellow Highway [ Yellow ]

Routing
New Hampshire state line, Bethel, Bryant Pond, West Paris, South Paris, Norway, Poland, Gray, Portland
Succeeded by
NEI 15 (now US 2) to Bethel, then NEI/ME 26 to Portland.

Theodore Roosevelt International Highway [ White - "T.R." - White ]

Routing
New Hampshire state line, Fryeburg, Bridgton, Naples, Raymond, North Windham, Highland Lake, Portland
Succeeded by
NEI/ME 18 (now US 302)

Grafton Notch Highway [ White - Yellow ]

Routing
New Hampshire state line, Upton, Newry, Bethel
Succeeded by
NEI/ME 26 (also NEI 15 [now US 2] for the cosigned portion from Bethel to Newry)

The Grafton Notch was part of the larger interstate Dixville Notch Hwy routing, which is also now ME 26. It isn't clear if the entire Dixville Notch in Maine used these colours, or just this known section. The Grafton Notch was also referred to in some local maps as the Umbagog Trail.

International Trail [ Red ]

Routing
Brunswick, Gardiner, Augusta, Waterville, Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Anson, Solon, Caratunk Plt, Jackman Station, Canada (Québec)
Succeeded by
NEI 20 (now US 201, except Norridgewock-Solon which is now US 201A)

Aroostock Trail [ White - Blue ]

Routing
Fairfield, Clinton, Pittsfield, Newport, Bangor, Old Town, Lincoln. In 1923, this was further extended to Houlton, then Mars Hill, Presque Isle, Caribou, Van Buren, Madawaska and Canada (New Brunswick).
Succeeded by
ME 100 from Fairfield to Pittsfield, then NEI 15 as originally signed (now US 2 except Pittsfield-Newport, which is also ME 100, and Orono-Old Town, which is US 2A). The ME 100 sections are also now cosigned with ME 11. The extended routing was succeeded by NEI 15 from Orono to Houlton (now US 2), then NEI 24 (now largely US 1, except Mars Hill-Easton, which is now US 1A, and Easton-Presque Isle, which is now ME 10) to Madawaska.

Capital Way [ Blue - White ]

Routing
Portland, Lewiston, Augusta
Succeeded by
ME 100

Interestingly, the 1923 National Survey map says it was succeeded by NEI 1! It is unclear south of Gray what routing Capital Way took, but it was probably mostly NEI/ME 26.

Kennebec-Penobscot Trail [ Orange - White ]

Routing
Augusta, South China, Liberty, Searsmont, Belmont, Belfast
Succeeded by
ME 102 (now ME 3, except ME 9/US 202 in Augusta)

Mount Desert Trail [ Yellow - White ]

Routing
Ellsworth, Hulls Cove, Bar Harbor
Succeeded by
ME 183 (but now partially ME 3; see ME 183)

The exact routing given in the 1922 ALA trails manual describes turns impossible to make along modern ME 3. In particular, the right turn described at Hulls Cove means the routing must have run further south, consistent with the 1925 Maine official map for ME 183's original routing. This is not the same as ME 3 today.

Brunswick-Greenville Highway [ Green - White ]

Routing
Newport, Dexter, Dover, Guilford, Abbott, Monson, Greenville
Succeeded by
ME 104 (now ME 7 to Dover-Foxcroft and ME 15 to Greenville [also ME 16 from Abbot to Dover-Foxcroft, now ME 6/ME 15/ME 16])

The remainder of the Brunswick-Greenville south of Newport was apparently corouted with the Aroostock Trail to Fairfield, and then the International Trail to Brunswick. It is unclear if pole colours for the cosigned portions included the B-G Hwy. The colour choice seems appropriate. Some older local maps refer to the Newport-Greenville alignment as the Moosehead Trail (which later became a legislative highway, and is still signed).

Poland Springs-White Mountain Trail [ Green ]

Routing
Naples, Poland/Poland Spring
Succeeded by
ME 116 (now ME 11)

For some reason, this trail does not appear on all contemporary maps, notably the Rand McNally. However, it is documented in the ALA travelogues and the 1923 National Survey trail listing.



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