Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad

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Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad
BRB&L herald.gif
Pleasant Street station postcard.jpg
A BRB&L train at Pleasant Street station
Locale North Shore, Massachusetts
Dates of operation 1875–1940
Track gauge 3 ft (914 mm)

The Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge passenger-carrying short line railroad between East Boston and Lynn, Massachusetts from 1875 to 1940.

History[edit]

Crescent Beach station around 1910

The railroad was chartered May 5, 1874 and opened July 29, 1875. A ferry connection from its southern terminus at East Boston connected to Rowes Wharf in the city of Boston proper, with a connection to the Atlantic Avenue Elevated (from 1901 to 1938). The railroad followed the coastline north-eastward through the resort of Revere Beach to the far terminus at Lynn. A branch split at Orient Heights to a loop through Winthrop.

The rail laid was light, 30-pound per yard (15 kg/m) rail being installed at first, increased to 50 lb/yd (25 kg/m) in 1885 and 60 lb/yd (30 kg/m) in 1904. It was, however, laid from the beginning on standard gauge-sized ties. Given the lightweight rail, the locomotives were small and of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge dimensions. The vast majority of them were Mason Bogies, 11 from the Mason Machine Works and a further 21 from other builders after Mason closed. Cars were of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge dimensions, seating four across.

Between 1896 and 1900, the section from Revere Beach to Point of Pines, formerly running along the beach, was relocated inland to lie next to the Eastern Railroad's abandoned Chelsea Beach Branch.[1] The stations were moved and a new one (Bath House) was built. Revere Beach Boulevard was built later along the former route.

The railroad was highly successful, carrying commuters into Boston and the Boston urban population to the seaside resorts. By 1914 over seven million passengers were carried annually, making it one of the most heavily traveled stretches of railroad in North America. With such a traffic density, the expense of electrification could be easily recouped. By 1928, all existing cars were fitted with electric motors, trolley poles, and control stands and the steam locomotives were disposed of. However, the Great Depression and increased use of the automobile ultimately caused ridership to decline.

After attempts to find a buyer fell through, the BRB&L filed for bankruptcy in 1937. Further losses of ridership followed, and in 1939 the management petitioned for abandonment. This was granted, and the railroad ceased operations on January 27, 1940.

The right-of-way from East Boston to Revere, a length of 4.3 miles, was used in 1952–1954 to build part of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Blue Line rapid transit line. The remainder of the right-of-way is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and may be used for further expansion of the Blue Line. South of the Blue Line's section, the line passed through where Logan Airport is now and a now-abandoned tunnel under a hill.

A number of the passenger cars were purchased by the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania, where two or three survive. The line's Orient Heights Car shop also survives, having been converted to a casket factory after the closure of the line.

Winthrop sections[edit]

On July 1, 1891, the BRB&L merged with the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Boston, Winthrop and Shore Railroad. The BW&S was itself a consolidation on December 11, 1883 of the Boston, Winthrop and Point Shirley Railroad and Eastern Junction, Broad Sound Pier and Point Shirley Railroad.

Boston, Winthrop and Point Shirley Railroad[edit]

The BW&PS was organized in 1874 and opened a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line on June 7, 1877. This line split from the BRB&L at Winthrop Junction and headed east and south for 2.55 miles (4.10 km) to Winthrop Center. In 1881, the part heading south was closed and a new line was built east to Ocean Spray and south to Point Shirley

Eastern Junction, Broad Sound Pier and Point Shirley Railroad[edit]

The EJBSP&PS was chartered 1880 and built a standard gauge railway line from the Eastern Railroad near Crescent Beach southeast via Beachmont and Winthrop Beach to Point Shirley. South of Ocean Spray, this was just east of the BW&PS. Much of this shared section of right-of-way used a three-rail, dual gauge track. A branch of the EJBSP&PS was also constructed in Revere, from the junction with the Eastern Railroad north to Point of Pines, parallel with the Eastern's Chelsea Beach line. The EJBSP&PS was not operated until 1884, by which time it had been absorbed into the Boston, Winthrop & Shore RR. It operated for only two summers before being abandoned due to damage from storms.

Post-merger[edit]

The BW&PS and the EJBSP&PS, along with the Boston & Winthrop (a "paper railroad" proposed but never built) were merged late in 1883 and operated thereafter as the Boston, Winthrop & Shore RR. In 1885, after a storm, sections of line were abandoned, and the management of the BRB&L stepped in. A circuit or loop line was constructed in 1888 and existed until the 1940 demise of the BRB&L. It used parts of the original alignment of the BW&PS. Most of the line, however, was built brand new, serving Winthrop Highlands, Winthrop Center and Winthrop Beach. The loop was double-tracked in 1903.

Point Shirley Street Railway[edit]

Ceremonial driving of the first spike on the line in August 1910

The Point Shirley Street Railway was built from Winthrop Beach station to Point Shirley beginning in August 1910 and opened later that year.[2] The 1.2-mile (1.9 km) single-track line ran along Shirley Street and Tafts Avenue.[3][4] The BRB&L acquired the entire line with legislative approval in October 1912.[5] By 1914, the line operated 30,594 car miles (an average of 35 daily round trips), carried 165,037 passengers (an average of 452 daily), and employed seven people.[4]

Unusually, the Point Shirley Street Railway did not operate with electric power from overhead lines.[2] It first used a gasoline-powered electric streetcar, then a battery-powered streetcar owned by the BRB&L, but these did not prove adequate for reliable service and by early 1919 buses were used instead. This prompted a public outcry with demands for conventional overhead-powered cars; instead, the BRB&L introduced two lighter battery-powered streetcars with better performance to the line in May 1919.[5]

Even the 1919-built cars proved to be too expensive to operate on a marginal low-traffic line. In 1928, they were permanently replaced by buses.[2]

After closure[edit]

The former Harbor View station, now a private residence, in 2012

Worth $2 million immediately after electrification, the railroad was sold to a scrap dealer for $118,756. The tracks were removed and the catenary structures cut down for scrap value. The passenger cars failed to be sold at auction and were burnt in mid-1940to retrieve their metal components. The motorized trucks were sold to the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway.[6]

Most former stations were demolished shortly after abandonment or during rapid transit conversion. Only Harbor View, closed earlier than the rest of the line and moved slightly from its original location, remains as a private residence.[7]

Blue Line[edit]

A Blue Line train on the former BRB&L right of way at Suffolk Downs in 1967

In 1941, the Boston Elevated Railway bought the BRB&L right of way from Day Square to Revere Beach for use as a high-speed trolley line similar to the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line; these plans were delayed by the onset of World War II.[7] However, the 1926 Report on Improved Transportation Facilities and 1945–47 Coolidge Commission Report recommended that the East Boston Tunnel line, which had been converted to rapid transit from streetcars in 1924, be extended to Lynn via the BBRB&L route rather than using it for a trolley line.[8][9]

In 1947, the newly formed Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A.) decided to build to Lynn as a rapid transit line, and construction began in October 1948.[7] The first part of the Revere Extension opened to Orient Heights on January 5, 1952, with intermediate stations at Airport Station and Day Square, and to Suffolk Downs on April 21, 1952.[10] The second phase (cut short due to limited funds, and possibly due to the Eastern Massachusetts wielding its influence to protect its business in Lynn) opened to Wonderland on January 19, 1954 with intermediate stations at Beachmont and Revere Beach.[7][10][11]:118 All stations from Orient Heights to Wonderland were located at the sites of former BRB&L stations. The line was renamed as the Blue Line in 1965.[10]

Although recommended and studied several times since, further Blue Line extension to Lynn has not moved past the proposal stage. The former right of way from Revere Street to Point of Pines is owned by the Massachusetts Electric Company, a National Grid subsidiary, and used as a utility corridor. Most of its length is covered in brush or wetlands, although several residential buildings and parking areas incur on the utility-owned right of way in Point of Pines.[12] The Alternatives Analysis / Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released in 2011, considered two potential routes: one following the Narrow Gauge right of way through Point of Pines, and one sharing the Newburyport/Rockport Line right of way.[13]

Winthrop[edit]

Remaining section of BRB&L track at Hagman Road in Winthrop.
A route 712 bus in Winthrop in July 2015

The Winthrop Loop was not preserved for transit use; some stations were destroyed within weeks. Much of the right of way is owned by the town, including the sections used for Veterans Road and Walden Street as well as a baseball field near Fort Banks and the embankment through Crystal Cove. Other sections were reused for housing and commercial developments; a short section near Argyle Street is a walking trail.[12] A short section of track remains in Winthrop Center, and portions of the Crystal Cove embankment are still extant.

Unlike the main line, the Winthrop Loop was not paralleled by mainline railroads or Boston Elevated Railway (BERy) trolleybus lines. The town of Winthrop rejected plans for BERy to provide bus service.[14] Instead, Saugus Transit began operating Winthrop Beach - Maverick bus service as soon as the BRB&L was abandoned. When its 60-day contract expired on March 26, Rapid Transit, Inc. took over service.[6]:117 The two routes split at Winthrop Beach and roughly paralleled the two halves of the Loop; some service also operated through to Point Shirley.[10]

The inbound terminus was changed to Orient Heights when the first phase of the Revere Extension opened in 1952. The MBTA, formed in 1964 to subsidize suburban commuter rail operations, began funding bus services including the Winthop service in 1968.[10]

In July 1991, Winthrop bus operations were transferred to Paul Revere Transportation. In September 1999, the two halves of the loop service were designated as 712 Winthrop - Orient Heights via Highlands and 713 Winthrop - Orient Heights via Center and added to MBTA maps and signage.[10] Outbound route 712 trips are through-routed to inbound route 713 trips and vice versa; some service continues to operate to Point Shirley.

Other sections[edit]

The former Orient Heights carhouse, now a casket factory

The Orient Heights carhouse remains extant, in use as a casket factory.[6] The right of way from Byron Street to Tomahawk Drive was acquired by the Massachusetts Port Authority for the expansion of Logan Airport. The right of way through Jeffries Point is privately owned; the tunnels are intact though their north ends are buried.[6][15]

General Electric acquired most of the right of way through Lynn for expansion of the River Works plant during World War II, likely as settlement for debt still owed on the electrification project.[16] GE later sold off its sections: one piece to a private developer in 1989, the piece near Commercial Street to the MBTA in 1991 (part of which was later sold to the same developer), and the western section to a different developer in 2014.[17][18] New England Power Company (also a National Grid subsidiary) maintains an easement through the western section for electrical transmission lines.[19]

In January 1941, the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway bought the Lynn terminal and a section of right of way for use as a busway.[11]:118 After the Eastern Mass relocated its bus terminal to Central Square, the company no longer needed the land and it was fragmented into commercial properties.[12][10]

Station listing[edit]

1939 map of the BRB&L

Winthrop Loop[edit]

A 1903 map of Winthrop from Floyd and Tucker showing the route of the Winthrop Loop and station locations of the Boston Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad

This is going clockwise around the loop. The loop tracks split from the main line just north of Orient Heights, turned east and then split with one direction heading east and the other south. Much of the rail's path was converted to roads when the line was removed, but you can still see some of the existing railbed that curved out into Crystal Cove at Winthrop Beach Station, and the remnants of the rail bridges as it crossed Belle Isle March to connect at Orient Heights. Today, one can drive along Veteran's Road (current path of the old line) to experience the course of the commuter train as it ran parallel to Shirley Street. The location of the various railway stations in Winthrop had a tremendous influence on the pattern of Winthrop's suburban growth; business and commerce grew up naturally around these stations and ultimately into what would become today's neighborhoods.

Station Notes
Pleasant Street This station was located at the very north end of Pleasant Street as it meets Belle Isle Terrace, on the site of what is now part of a boat storage yard.
Battery Station, originally Cherry St. Station, was located at the intersection of Banks Street and Wilshire Street, on the site of what is now a gravel parking lot for a warehouse.
Winthrop Highlands Station was located at the current location of Crest Avenue Playground; the depot was approximately where the jungle gym is today.
Ocean Spray Was located on the corner of Shirley St. and what is today Veteran's Road, approximately on the site of the used car dealership.
Playstead Station existed off of Shirley street across from its intersection with Pearl St.
Winthrop Beach Station existed at the corner of Shirley and what is now Washington St., approximately where DiParma's restaurant currently is.
Thornton Station existed at the very southern end of Winthrop Street on the beach side of Pleasant, all the way down the hill, just past and to the right of the road. If you walk down into the brush there, you can see remnants of the rail bed next to the waters edge, heading towards Crystal Cove.
Winthrop Center Station was approximately where the Winthrop Center circle is today. A 12-foot portion of the old track was inexplicably left behind here, and can be seen preserved and embedded in the asphalt of Hagman Road (which follows the track line today). In addition, one of the steel electric power supports remains as well; it can be located protruding from the sidewalk at the corner near the track remnant. An historical marker mounted next to the steel support provides some information about Winthrop's train history.
Ingalls This station was located on the south corner of Walden street at Short Street. The line at this point ran alongside Walden Street on the west side of the road.

Equipment[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

Pegasus at Winthrop Center in 1888
Jupiter at Lynn in 1876
2-4-4 Mason Bogie locomotive #6 as built in 1886
#18, #8, and #20 at Orient Heights car barn
Number Name Builder Type Date Works number Notes[11]:111–112
1st # 1 Orion Mason Machine Works 0-4-4T 1873 508 Built as North and South of Georgia - Sold to Nantucket Railroad #1 Sconset 1888
2nd # 1 Hinkley Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1879 Sold to Nantucket Railroad #1 1901
3rd # 1 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1903 27801 Scrapped 1929
1st # 2 Pegasus Mason Machine Works 0-4-6T 1875 549 Burned at Winthrop Junction (Orient Heights) and scrapped 1896
2nd # 2 Manchester Locomotive Works 2-4-4T 1899 1707 Scrapped 1929
1st # 3 Jupiter Mason Machine Works 0-4-4T 18975 550 Leased to the Boston, Winthrop & Point Shirley Railroad in 1883, burned at Winthrop Junction (Orient Heights) and scrapped 1896
2nd # 3 Manchester Locomotive Works 2-4-4T 1899 1708 Scrapped 1929
1st # 4 Mercury Porter Bell & Company 2-4-0 1876 Leased to the Boston, Winthrop & Shirley Railroad in 1878, burned at Winthrop Junction (Orient Heights) and scrapped 1896
2nd # 4 Mason Machine Works 2-4-6T 1882 683 Burned at Winthrop Junction (Orient Heights) 1896 and scrapped 1904
3rd # 4 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1904 30125 Scrapped 1929
1st # 5 Leo Hinkley Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1876 1240 Sold to Brown Company of Florida
2nd # 5 Mason Machine Works 2-4-4T 1885 720 Rebuilt 1917 - Scrapped 1929
1st # 6 Draco Mason Machine Works 0-4-4T 1876 559 Scrapped 1885
2nd # 6 Mason Machine Works 2-4-4T 1886 727 Rebuilt in ALCO Manchester shops 1920 - scrapped 1929
7 Mason Machine Works 2-4-6T 1882 684 Rebuilt in ALCO Manchester shops 1920 - scrapped 1929
1st # 8 Mason Machine Works 2-4-4T 1883 692 Scrapped 1900
2nd # 8 Manchester Locomotive Works 2-4-4T 1900 1741 Scrapped 1929
9 Mason Machine Works 2-4-4T 1887 740 Scrapped 1929
10 Mason Machine Works 2-4-4T 1887 741 Scrapped 1929
11 Taunton Locomotive Manufacturing Company 2-4-4T 1890 981 Rebuilt 1917 - Scrapped 1929
12 Taunton Locomotive Manufacturing Company 2-4-4T 1890 982 Rebuilt in ALCO Manchester shops 1920 - scrapped 1929
13 Manchester Locomotive Works 2-4-4T 1900 1742 Scrapped 1929
14 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1902 25872 Scrapped 1940
15 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1903 27802 Scrapped 1929
16 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1905 Scrapped 1929
17 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1906 39054 Scrapped 1929
18 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1907 42268 Ran through the East Boston bumper block into Boston Harbor and scrapped 1928
19 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1907 42741 Rebuilt 1917 - Scrapped 1929
20 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1907 42742 Scrapped 1929
21 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1907 42743 Scrapped 1929
22 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1912 50830 Scrapped 1929
23 ALCO Manchester 2-4-4T 1912 50831 Scrapped 1929
24 ALCO Schenectady 2-4-4T 1914 54590 Scrapped 1929
25 ALCO Schenectady 2-4-4T 1914 54591 Scrapped 1929
26 ALCO Schenectady 2-4-4T 1914 54592 Scrapped 1929

Ferryboats[edit]

The Newtown, c. 1908-1915
Name Date Origin Disposal[11]:113
Union 1875 purchased from New Bedford-Taunton Railroad Scrapped 1889
Oriole 1876 purchased from Providence, Warren & Fall River Railroad Sold to Washington Railroad of Lunder, North Carolina 1878
City of Lynn 1878 Built by Bath Iron Works Converted to a sand barge in 1918
Swampscott 1882 Built by D. D. Kelly & Son of Boston Sold for Portland to Peaks Island ferry service in Casco Bay 1908
Dartmouth 1889 Built in East Boston Retired 1939
Ashburnham 1905 Built in Boston Sold 1940
Brewster 1906 Built in Boston Sold 1940
Newtown 1908 Built in Boston Towed to Portland, Maine in 1940

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Walker Lithograph & Publishing Co. (1891). "Boston & Hull & Nahant & Revere & Swampscott & Winthrop 1891 Plate 05". WardMaps LLC. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Desaulniers, George; Simonini, Donald (2002). Images of America: Winthrop. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 41–45. ISBN 9780738509525. 
  3. ^ Whitman & Howard (1913). "Map of Winthrop" – via WardMaps. 
  4. ^ a b Public Service Commission (1915). Second Annual Report of the Public Service Commission. 2. Wright and Potter Printing Company. pp. 871–875 – via Google Books. 
  5. ^ a b Public Service Commission (1920). Annual Report of the Public Service Commission. 1. Wright and Potter Printing Company. p. 129 – via Google Books. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kyper, Frank (2010). Narrow Gauge to Boston: A Nostalgic Window on the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad. South Platte Press, Bruggeggenjohann/Reese, and Outer Station Project. p. 99. ISBN 9780942035872. 
  7. ^ a b c d Cheney, Frank (2003). Boston's Blue Line. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 8, 64, 83. ISBN 9780738535760. 
  8. ^ Central Transportation Planning Staff (15 November 1993). "The Transportation Plan for the Boston Region - Volume 2". National Transportation Library. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Boston Elevated Railway and Boston Department of Public Utilities (1945), Boston Rapid Transit System & Proposed Extensions 1945 - Metropolitan Transit Recess Commission Air View 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Belcher, Jonathan (27 June 2015). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2015" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d Stanley, Robert C. (1980). Narrow Gauge - The Story of the Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad. Boston Street Railway Association. 
  12. ^ a b c "OLIVER: MassGIS's Online Mapping Tool". Massachusetts Office of Geographic Information. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  13. ^ "Blue Line Extension to Lynn: P3 Project Suitability Assessment Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 11 September 2013. 
  14. ^ Annual Report of the Board of Public Trustees of the Boston Elevated Railway Company for the Year Ended December 31, 1939. Boston Elevated Railway. 1940. p. 13 – via Internet Archive. 
  15. ^ "Boston Tax Parcel Viewer". City of Boston. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  16. ^ Liljestrand, Robert A.; Sweetland, David R. (2002). Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn Railroad. Ansonia, Connecticut: Bob's Photo. p. 32. ISBN 0934088411. LCCN 2002117786. 
  17. ^ "Salem Deeds Online: Search". Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "City of Lynn, Massachusetts: Property Assessment Data". Patriot Properties. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  19. ^ CAI Technologies (January 2015). "City of Lynn Assessor's Map: 17" (PDF). City of Lynn. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]

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