Boston Street Railway Association

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The Boston Street Railway Association (BSRA) is a non-profit organization in Boston, Massachusetts whose central objective is preserving transportation history in Boston and throughout New England. They host monthly membership meetings, publish a bimonthly transit news magazine, and are restoring an ex-Boston Type 5 streetcar. They also regularly publish their own books and materials, as well as organize fan trips on Boston's MBTA and to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. Funding for the organization is provided primarily through tax-deductible member and individual donations, as well as through grants and donations from other organizations and groups.

The BSRA maintains a website at The site displays upcoming monthly meeting topics, information about the Association, and a mail-order and online bookstore.


The BSRA was founded in 1959, centered on the preservation of Type 5 streetcar #5706, which had been obtained by the founding members. The organization has since become known for its publications, which have covered various aspects of public transportation history in New England and the Boston area, its occasional fan trips on the Boston MBTA's system and other places, as well as for its bimonthly magazine, Roll Sign.

Membership in the BSRA is available to anyone around the world, and rates are dependent on age and desired status. Four levels of membership are offered: Intermediate (under 18), Regular (over 18), Associate (over 18 with limited benefits), and Subscriber (Roll Sign subscription only). All Intermediate and Regular members receive all BSRA publications as well as Roll Sign by mail at no additional cost. Associate members receive Roll Sign plus a 40% discount on BSRA publications, and Subscribers receive Roll Sign only.

Monthly meetings[edit]

Monthly membership meetings are held at the Midtown Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. These are open to all members, as well as the general public, and typically consist of a shorter business meeting followed by a longer entertainment presentation. Entertainment at the meetings typically consists of photo slides and videos on various topics in public transit, modern and historical, and often covers systems around the country and around the world. Any member or officer is allowed to make a presentation of their materials, provided it is scheduled in advance with the Entertainment Chairman.


The BSRA publishes Roll Sign bimonthly, and it is mailed to all members in good standing. It generally covers New England transportation news and events in articles and photos, submitted by Roll Sign staff and BSRA members. Recently,[when?] the magazine has adopted full color printing for most of its issues, after remaining black and white for most of its existence.

The BSRA produces other publications, or "Bulletins", on a regular basis. These range in size from smaller booklets to full-size hardcover books. Topics generally include historical aspects of Boston's public transit, as well as transit in other New England cities like Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, and Fitchburg, Massachusetts. An example Bulletin, No. 24, is Boston Transit Equipment: 1979-2009, written by Michael R. Prescott and published in October 2009.

Streetcar restoration[edit]

The BSRA owns a Type 5 streetcar, #5706, which formerly ran in Boston.[when?] It is currently[when?] undergoing extensive restoration and reconstruction in Guilford, Connecticut. The end goal is to own a fully operational and "like new" Type 5 streetcar, a rarity today. The restoration should be completed in the next few years.

Fan trips[edit]

The BSRA charters occasional fan trips on Boston's transportation system and other railroad and transit-related locations. For example, a fan trip occurred on June 14, 2009, when the BSRA chartered a bus to visit their streetcar (#5706), and the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut.

Officers and directors[edit]

BSRA Officers and Directors as of 2014
Bradley H. Clarke President
Thomas Athearn Vice President & Clerk
Tadd Anderson Secretary
Charles Bahne, Jr. Treasurer
Nicholas Tomkavage Rollsign Director & Editor
Michael R. Prescott Publications Director
David F. Harling Director of Car Restoration
Lucius Chiaraviglio Entertainment Chairman
Daniel Cohen
Jonathan Belcher
Directors at Large

In 2006, the BSRA board of directors elected William Grimes, former Publications Director and long-time contributor, President Emeritus of the organization. Mr. Grimes died in November, 2007.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]