South Reading Branch Railroad

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South Reading Branch Railroad
Lynnfield station postcard.jpg
Lynnfield station on the South Reading Branch
Other name(s)Wakefield Branch
TypeHeavy rail
Operator(s)South Reading Branch Railroad (1850-1851)
Eastern Railroad (1851-1884)
Boston and Maine Railroad (1884-1925)
Line length8 mi (13 km)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
South Reading Branch Railroad
to Salem
from North Andover
0.0 Peabody
Bay State Street Railway (Center Street)
Industrial spur
1.5 Hunt-Rankin Co.
1.8 South Peabody
Industrial park
3.9 Lynnfield
6.0 Montrose Avenue
to Newburyport
Bay State Street Railway (Water Street)
7.5 Wakefield Center
Bay State Street Railway (North Avenue)
to Wilmington Junction
8.0 Wakefield Junction
to Boston

The South Reading Branch Railroad or just South Reading Railroad (later Wakefield Branch) was a short line railroad that ran from Wakefield, Massachusetts to Peabody, Massachusetts and was named for the town of South Reading, which changed its name to Wakefield in 1868.


In 1848, a group of investors from Salem and Danvers were granted a charter to build a railroad line from South Reading to South Danvers. The line took two years to build and opened for business in 1850 and opened up another Boston to Salem route as it was given trackage rights to Salem on the Essex Railroad.

The Boston to Salem route had long been monopolized by the Eastern Railroad and when the South Reading line was opened, it took quite a bit of the business away with lower fares and the fact that passengers had a direct link to downtown Boston via the Boston and Maine Railroad, the Eastern's most heated rival. Whereas the Eastern had to ferry their passengers from East Boston across the harbor to get to and from Boston, many passengers preferred to take the B&M to Wakefield and go to Salem via the South Reading.

In 1851, the Eastern Railroad, fearing that the B&M would take over the South Reading, in self-defense took over the line at steep cost. The Massachusetts State Legislature for years forced the Eastern to keep the Boston-to-Salem route open via the South Reading even after the Eastern had leased the Grand Junction Railroad in order to provide service directly into downtown Boston.

In 1868, when South Reading became Wakefield and South Danvers changed to Peabody, and the line was renamed the Wakefield Branch, but the old name stuck with passengers and rail fans today.

When the B&M took over the Eastern RR in December 1884, the South Reading line became obsolete as the B&M had other lines that went to Salem via the Newburyport Branch and the former Boston and Lowell Railroad branch line, the Salem and Lowell Railroad.

In 1925, the B&M received permission to abandon the line and the tracks were removed from Wakefield Center (where the line split from the Newburyport Branch) to Peabody.

Current status[edit]

In the 1950s, the abandoned right-of-way became part of Massachusetts Route 128/Interstate 95 in the Montrose section of Wakefield. In 1965, the first two miles of the line were rebuilt between Peabody and South Peabody to service a new industrial park and freight service is now operated on this line by Pan Am Railways. Portions of the right-of-way in Lynnfield and Wakefield are still traceable.


  • Karr, Ronald D. (1994). Lost Railroads New England. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-04-9.
  • Karr, Ronald D. (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England - A Handbook of Railroad History. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-02-2.

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata