Agricultural Branch Railroad

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Bridge carrying the Agricultural Branch over Foss Reservoir in Framingham

The Agricultural Branch Railroad was a railroad in Massachusetts. It was incorporated by the Legislature of Massachusetts on April 26, 1847 to provide a rail connection between Framingham and Northborough through the town of Southborough and a small portion of the city of Marlborough.[1] Service began on December 1, 1855.[2]

A 1.5-mile branch off the 13.2-mile main line from Marlborough Junction into Marlborough was added in June 1855. In July 1866, the railroad opened a 14-mile extension from Northborough to the Fitchburg and Worcester Railroad at Pratts Junction in Sterling via the towns of Berlin, Boylston, Lancaster, and Clinton, bringing the entire line up to 28.7 miles of track and establishing connections to Fitchburg and the growing railroad hub of Worcester. On May 20, 1867, the name of the railroad was changed to the Boston, Clinton and Fitchburg Railroad,[3]:425 and in 1869, it merged with the Fitchburg and Worcester Railroad.[3]:426

On April 1, 1872, the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad signed a twenty-year lease of the nearby Framingham and Lowell Railroad, which connected with the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad in Framingham and provided a connection to the major mill city of Lowell.[3]:431

On January 1, 1873, the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad signed a fifty-year lease of the Mansfield and Framingham Railroad, providing a connection to the Boston and Providence Railroad and the Taunton Branch Railroad in Mansfield.[3]:426–427 On July 1, 1873 the Taunton Branch Railroad merged with the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad and the Middleborough and Taunton Railroad to form the New Bedford Railroad. Less than a year later, on February 2, 1874, the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad entered into a fifty-year lease agreement with the New Bedford Railroad, which provided access to the deep water whaling port at New Bedford.[3]:427–428 On June 1, 1875, the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad consolidated with the Mansfield and Framingham Railroad,[3]:426–427 and exactly one year later, on June 1, 1876, the Boston, Clinton, and Fitchburg Railroad merged with the New Bedford Railroad to form the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad.[3]:424, 427–428 In 1879, the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad was leased to the Old Colony Railroad for 999 years,[3]:424 but on October 1 of that same year nonetheless extended its lease of the Framingham and Lowell Railroad to 998 years.[3]:431 On September 10, 1881, the Framingham and Lowell Railroad was deeded on execution sale to the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg, and New Bedford Railroad, forming the railroad's largest network with 126.2 miles of track system-wide.[3]:427, 431

On March 5, 1883, the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad was outright consolidated into the Old Colony network.[3]:424 In 1893, the Old Colony Railroad was leased to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H).[3] The NYNH&H discontinued passenger service into Marlborough in 1937 and abandoned the spur altogether in 1966.[4] By the 1960s, the NYNH&H, like many railroads, was struggling to stay solvent in the face of increased competition from alternate modes of transportation, and so in 1961 it petitioned to be included in the newly formed Penn Central Transportation Company. On December 31, 1968 all of its properties were purchased by Penn Central.[5] Penn Central, however, soon went bankrupt, and on April 1, 1976 it was taken over by Conrail. On August 22, 1998, the Surface Transportation Board approved the buyout of Conrail by CSX and Norfolk Southern, with the former assuming control of the former Agricultural Branch Railroad line.[6]

Today, the line is still in use by CSX, though portions have been abandoned. Starting in 1898, the tracks of the former Fitchburg and Worcester Railroad between Pratt's Junction and Sterling Junction primarily served a cider mill in the center of Sterling; however, trains only accessed the mill from Pratt's Junction and thus the tracks from Sterling Center to Sterling Junction were torn up. Today, this section of track bed forms a portion of the Central Mass Rail Trail despite not being a part of the former Central Massachusetts Railroad, which composes much of the rest of this rail trail network. The tracks from Sterling Center to Pratt's Junction remained in use until the cider mill ceased operation in the late 1970s, at which point they too were torn up and the tracks between Pratt's Junction and Fitchburg essentially became another extension of the former Agricultural Branch Railroad line.[7] Other abandoned sections include the track from Leominster through Fitchburg and the branch from Marlborough Junction into Marlborough. Currently, the line is primarily used to haul lumber, corn syrup, scrap metal, and plastic pellets.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gregg, Washington Parker; Pond, Benjamin, eds. (1851). The railroad laws and charters of the United States, now for the first time collated, arranged in chronological order, and published with a synopsis and explanatory remarks. 2. Boston, Mass.: C.C. Little and J. Brown. pp. 511–513. LCCN 24029932. OCLC 10741560. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  2. ^ Agricultural Branch Railroad, ed. (1857). Report of the Agricultural Branch Railroad. Framingham, Mass.: Agricultural Branch Railroad. pp. 1–4. OCLC 70930226. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Massachusetts. Joint Commission on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company, ed. (1911). Report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners, the Tax Commissioner and the Bank Commissioner, sitting as a commission, relative to the assets and liabilities of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company, Feb. 15, 1911. Boston, Mass.: Wright & Potter Printing Co. pp. 326; 420–427. LCCN 12033447. OCLC 20532802. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  4. ^ The Central Mass (2nd ed.). Brimfield, MA: Marker Press/The Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society. 2008. pp. 129–130. 
  5. ^ Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 222–229, 248. ISBN 0-89024-072-8
  6. ^ "A Brief History of Conrail". Consolidated Rail Corporation. 2003. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 192–193, 284–286. ISBN 0942147022.