Stunning Historical Photos of Street Railroads in Boston, Massachusetts from the early 20th Century

In 1830, Massachusetts chartered and began construction on three railroads. Boston and Lowell, Boston and Providence, and Boston and Worcester railroads connected the metropolis to towns up to 70 kilometers (45 miles) away. By 1835, when all the trains were running, Boston became the first rail hub globally. Like Europe, Boston had created a North Union Station and a South Station and an elevated railway linking them by rapid transit by the end of the Century. The most significant contribution Boston made to the development of railroads was in finance rather than technology. Merchants interested in expanding the city’s trade to the inland had invested heavily in the 1830s, and by the 1840s, they had connected all of New England to their port; however, New York state severely limited their ability to extend their influence.

Railroading began to change economically in the early 20th Century. Internal combustion engines gradually led to the decline of trains as a transport option. Automobiles and trucks became more popular as highways improved, taking ridership and freight off railroads. As a result of the Interstate Highway System, the balance of economic power tipped, as factories and offices were able to be located further from the fixed routes of the railroads. Both passenger and freight traffic declined when the B&M, like most other railroads, had just switched over to diesel locomotives, putting them in a debt-ridden position. A combination of debts and high infrastructure costs associated with operating a disparate passenger and freight network in the face of declining traffic forced B&M to cut costs.

Below are some rare historical photos of Street-Railroads in Boston, Massachusetts, in the early 20th Century.

#1 A vintage 1922 orange trolley car, filled with more than 100 transit fans, rides to Park St. Station from the Watertown car barn in Boston.

#2 Trolley cars near Boston Commons, Boston, Massachusetts, 1897

#3 As the sun sets in Boston, railroad tracks reflect the fading light and lead the eye along to the John Hancock building, which dominates the skyline in skyscraper scarce hub city.

#5 Old wooden bridge over boston & maine railroad tracks in scarborough. black point road

#6 A portion of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated structure is pictured in March 1942 shortly before its demolition in Boston.

#7 The remnants of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated structure toward Commercial Street.

#8 Railroad tracks and row of houses, Boston, Massachusettes, 1933.

#9 A view of a railroad bridge after a flood swept the area in Springfield, Vt. on Nov. 21, 1927.

#10 Sullivan Square Terminal, one end of the line of the Boston Elevated Railway, Boston, 1913.

#11 Sullivan Square Terminal, one end of the line of the Boston Elevated Railway, Boston, 1913

#12 Great Northern Railway 4-2-2 steam locomotive No 665 leaving Boston station with a passenger train, Lincolnshire, 1910

#13 An exterior photograph taken from an elevation of South Station, it was built in 1899 to replace several railroad terminals.

#14 Rail Yards and Tracks, South Terminal Station, Boston, Massachusetts, 1904

#15 Street Scene with Subway Descent, Boston Public Gardens, Boston, 1904

#17 Bunter and car at Charles River Bridge draw, 1912.

#23 Charlestown street car, Medford & Boston Line, 1910.

#24 Corner of Tremont & Park Streets (Park Street Church), 1897.

#25 Boston Elevated Railway. Mystic River draw. 1915.

#38 Trial run of car at the Public Garden entrance to the subway, 1897

#40 Charles River Dam and Boston Elevated viaduct, 1912.

#42 Boylston Street, from Clarendon Street, about 1890.

#43 Scollay Square, looking west. Scollay Building in centre.

#46 Massachusetts and Westland Avenue, Boston showing corners of Symphony Hall and the storage warehouse, 1916.

#47 South west corner of Public Garden, Boston, 1915.

#49 Boston elevated station, City Square, Charlestown, 1930.

#50 Atlantic Ave. showing elevated station at Rowe’s Wharf, from U.S. Custom Appraisers’ stores, 1932.

#51 New Old South Church Tower under construction, 1937.

#53 Trolley stuck in snow, Uphams Corner, Dorchester, 1930.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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