Fairhaven Branch Railroad

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The Fairhaven Branch Railroad was a short-line railroad in Massachusetts. It ran from West Wareham on the Cape Cod main line of the Old Colony Railroad, southwest to Fairhaven, a town across the Acushnet River from New Bedford.

History[edit]

The Fairhaven Branch Railroad (FBR) was incorporated in 1849, chartered in 1851, and built from 1852 to 1854. The New Bedford and Taunton Railroad bought the line in 1861, including its ferry terminals at New Bedford and Fairhaven, which afforded connections to Woods Hole and Marthas Vineyard. The railroad was merged into the Old Colony Railroad in 1883, four years after the Old Colony leased the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad, the successor to the New Bedford and Taunton.

On March 1, 1893 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (better known as the "New Haven") leased the massive Old Colony system, which by then included the Boston and Providence Railroad and everything substantially east of it, as well as long branches northwest to Fitchburg and Lowell. Along with the lease of the New England Railroad in 1898, this gave the New Haven a virtual monopoly on rail transport in New England south of the Boston and Albany Railroad.

Beginning in the 1920s, automobiles and improved highways began to provide major competition to the New Haven. The company began cutback on operations of many branch lines. The New Haven's freight operations declined on the Fairhaven Branch. The railroad tried a couple of times in the 1940s to end service and abandon the Fairhaven Branch, but vocal shipper protested. Finally, in 1953, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) formally granted the abandonment.

A small portion of the line, from Tremont Jct. to a Sand Pit in Marion was used until 1976. The tracks on that portion of line remain intact.

Part of the old right-of-way is in use as the Phoenix Bike Trail.[1]

For more details on this topic, see New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The Line[edit]

The Fairhaven Branch Railroad, about 15 miles long from Fairhaven to Wareham, ran through the center of Fairhaven, past the Atlas Tack Company, through East Fairhaven into Mattapoisett, where the tracks turned North, across the present day U.S. Route 6 and East again, parallel and just North of the current Interstate 195 (Rhode Island–Massachusetts). Part of the old rail bridge crossing the Sippican River can be seen from Interstate 195. The tracks ran through Marion and connected with the main line to Cape Cod at West Wareham.

Henry Huttleston Rogers[edit]

Notable among the early employees of the FBR was Henry Huttleston Rogers. Born in 1840, he was the son of a former ship's captain and grocer in Fairhaven. After graduating from high school in 1857, "Hen" Rogers hired on with the Fairhaven Branch Railroad as an expressman and brakeman. He worked for three or four years, carefully saving what he could from his meager earnings.

In 1861, he pooled $600 in savings with a partner's $600, borrowed another $600, and they used their stake to build a small oil refinery near Oil City in the newly discovered oil fields of western Pennsylvania. Eventually, Henry Rogers rose within the growing petroleum industry to become one of the three key men in John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil trust. One of the wealthiest persons in the United States, he had active interests in petroleum, natural gas, copper, and coal enterprises.

Rogers was also involved in many railroads as a director and investor. He was a director of the Sante Fe, St. Paul, Erie, Lackawanna, Union Pacific, and several other large railroads. He also involved himself in at least three West Virginia short-line railroad projects, one of which would grow much larger than he probably anticipated.

Rogers and West Virginia coal developer and manager William Nelson Page planned and built the 450-mile (720 km) long Virginian Railway (VGN), which was financed at a cost estimated at $40 million almost entirely from his personal fortune. In April 1909, he traveled with his close friend, Mark Twain, to Norfolk, Virginia for a completion celebration and banquet. The next day, they began a tour of the new route, with major stops in Virginia at Victoria and Roanoke, and at Princeton, West Virginia. The following month, Rogers suffered a massive stroke and died in New York City at age 69. His body was transported by railroad back home to Fairhaven for interment in the family mausoleum in Riverside Cemetery.[2] The mausoleum is patterned after the Temple of Minerva in Athens, Greece. His first wife, Abbie, and several family members are also interred there.

In Fairhaven, the Rogers family's gifts are located throughout the town. These include Rogers School, Town Hall, Millicent Library, Unitarian Memorial Church and Fairhaven High School. An inscribed granite column on the High School lawn is dedicated to Rogers.

For more details on this topic, see Henry H. Rogers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]