Boston and Providence Railroad

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Boston and Providence Railroad
Canton Viaduct.jpg
The Boston and Providence Railroad built the Canton Viaduct in 1835. Revere Copper Mill can be seen in the background
Locale Boston, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island
Dates of operation 1834–1888
Track gauge Standard
Length 41 Miles
Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston and Providence Railroad was an early US Railroad in New England, connecting Boston and Providence and is now part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.


The Boston and Providence Railroad was incorporated June 21, 1831, and chartered the next day to build a railroad between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

Corporate Seal from an 1849 Bearer bond reads:
Boston & Providence Rail Road Corporation July 22, 1831.
share of Boston and Providence Rail Road Corporation from 13. November 1835

Construction began in late 1832. The first section, from Boston to Canton with a branch to Dedham, opened in 1834, and the rest on July 28, 1835 with the completion of the Canton Viaduct. Stations in Jamaica Plain allowed the development of one of the first commuter suburbs in America.[1]

Boston & Providence depot, Boston, 19th century
Boston & Providence depot, Boston, 19th century

Until 1899, when South Station opened, the Boston terminal was at Park Square, with a crossing at grade of the Boston and Worcester Railroad at the current merge at Back Bay station (also opened in 1899, serving only the B&P). The original Providence terminal was at Fox Point, from which it ran east along the Seekonk River shore and over the river via the India Point Railroad Bridge into East Providence (then part of Seekonk, Massachusetts) before turning north towards Boston. A ferry across the Providence River connected Fox Point to the South Providence terminal of the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad (opened 1837).

In 1847, the Providence and Worcester Railroad opened between downtown Providence and Worcester, Massachusetts. At the same time, the B&P built a connection west from its main line in southern Attleboro to the P&W in Central Falls. The B&P and P&W jointly owned the line south of Central Falls into downtown Providence. (In 1848, the NYP&B connected its line south of downtown Providence to downtown, removing the gap through Providence.)

On April 1, 1888, the Old Colony Railroad leased the B&P for 99 years. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad leased the Old Colony on March 1, 1893, and assumed the lease. The New Haven used the B&P as part of its main Boston - New York City Shore Line.

When Boston's South Station opened in 1899, a new line was built along the south side of the Boston and Albany Railroad to it, near the B&A's terminal. The old line to Park Square was abandoned.

The East Side Railroad Tunnel opened in 1908 between East Providence and downtown Providence. This provided a second route into Providence, using the old alignment to East Providence and through the tunnel. The tunnel is no longer in use, having been disconnected on the downtown side, with its entrance underneath the What Cheer Building, owned by RISD.

Current status[edit]

The Penn Central Transportation Company was created in 1968 through a merger that included the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The Penn Central bankruptcy in the early 1970s coincided with the creation of Amtrak. Penn Central merged the Boston and Providence Railroad into itself in 1972.

The New Haven's former B&P Boston-New York City main line was included with the former Pennsylvania Railroad's New York City-Washington, D.C. main line as a new high-speed passenger route for Amtrak, the Northeast Corridor. It hosts the Acela Express, the only high-speed rail service in North America.

In 1973, the MBTA purchased the portion of the B&P main line in Massachusetts, including the Stoughton Branch, forming what is now the Providence/Stoughton Line. The portion in Rhode Island was sold to Amtrak in 1976.



The first branch was the Dedham Branch to Dedham from Readville, opened in 1834 with the first section of the railroad. The Norfolk County Railroad opened in 1849, continuing from Dedham to the southwest. In 1850, a second branch to Dedham opened from Forest Hills, forming a loop. Another outlet for the Dedham Branch opened in 1906, with a connection west to the New England Railroad at Needham Junction. The Dedham Branch from Forest Hills to that connection is still in use as the Needham Branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail, but the rest of the Dedham loop has been abandoned.


The Stoughton Branch Railroad was incorporated April 16, 1844 as a branch of the B&P from Canton Junction to Stoughton. It opened in early 1845, and is still in use for passengers as a branch of the main line to Attleboro and Providence.


The Easton Branch Railroad was incorporated in 1854 and opened in 1855 as a continuation of the Stoughton Branch beyond Stoughton. In 1865, the Old Colony and Newport Railway bought the line and incorporated the majority of it into its main line.


The Taunton Branch Railroad was incorporated in 1835 to build a branch from the B&P in Mansfield to Taunton, opening in 1836. The branch was operated by the B&P until 1840, when the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad opened, continuing the line past Taunton.

In 1870, the Mansfield and Framingham Railroad opened, continuing the Taunton Branch northwest on the other side of the B&P. A connection between the Taunton Branch northwest of Taunton and the B&P in Attleboro opened in 1871, built by the Taunton Branch.


The Attleborough Branch Railroad opened in 1870, running from the B&P in Attleboro northwest to North Attleborough. It was leased to the B&P, and was connected to a branch of the Old Colony Railroad in 1890.

Moshassuck Valley

The Moshassuck Valley Railroad was chartered in 1874 and opened in 1876 as a branch from the joint B&P/P&W at Woodlawn, Rhode Island north to Saylesville. The company remained independent until 1981, when it was bought by the P&W.


The Seekonk Branch Railroad was a short spur on the east side of the Seekonk River, from the B&P south to a dock on the river. It was incorporated in 1836 and opened soon after, with the hope that it would run its own trains over the B&P, as with a highway. As a result of this, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a law that a railroad company could refuse any traffic on its road, and the company was a failure. The B&P bought it in 1839, and the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad built a line from it in 1855.

Warren, Bristol and Fall River

The Providence and Bristol Railroad was incorporated in 1850 and 1851, and reorganized in 1852 as the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad. It opened in 1855 from the old Seekonk Branch in East Providence southeast to Warren and south to Bristol. It was owned by the B&P through a majority of stock, and leased the Old Colony Railroad in 1891.

The Warren and Fall River Railroad was incorporated in Rhode Island in 1856, and the Fall River and Warren Railroad in Massachusetts in 1857. In 1860 the two were merged to form the Fall River, Warren and Providence Railroad, opening later in 1860 from Warren east to Somerset, across the Taunton River from Fall River. In 1875, the Boston and Providence Railroad Bridge opened, connecting to the Old Colony Railroad in Fall River. At that time, the company was leased by the Old Colony; before that it had been controlled by the B&P.

Station listing[edit]

State Milepost City Station Opening date Connections and notes
MA Boston Handicapped/disabled access South Station 1899 Red Line and all south side Commuter Rail lines
Amtrak Acela Express, Regional and Lake Shore Limited
227.8 Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay 1899 splits from Framingham/Worcester Line
Amtrak Acela Express, Regional and Lake Shore Limited
original line continued northeast from here to a terminal at Park Square
227.1 Chickering closed, was located at Gainsborough Street and Camden Street (one block south of Massachusetts Avenue Station)
226.7 Handicapped/disabled access Ruggles October 5, 1987 Orange Line
226.3 Roxbury Crossing closed 1940
225.6 Heath Street closed 1940
225.0 Boylston Street closed 1940
224.5 Jamaica Plain closed 1940
223.9 Forest Hills closed 1940; reopened 1973 (only served by Needham Line trains)
Orange Line
Needham Line (old Dedham Branch) splits
222.8 Mount Hope closed November 2, 1979
221.8 Clarendon Hills closed
221.2 Hazelwood closed
220.7 Handicapped/disabled access Hyde Park October 5, 1987 temporarily closed November 2, 1979
219.4 Readville only served by trains using the Fairmount and Franklin Lines
Franklin Line splits and Fairmount Line joins (both part of the Midland Railroad (NYNH&H))
split with Dedham Branch
217.4 Dedham Handicapped/disabled access Route 128 Amtrak Acela Express and Regional
originally Green Lodge
Canton Dedham Road closed
214.1 Handicapped/disabled access Canton Junction split with Stoughton Branch
211.0 Sharon Sharon
206.4 Foxborough East Foxboro closed November 1977
204.2 Mansfield Handicapped/disabled access Mansfield junction with Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad (NYNH&H), now the line to Foxboro (special events)
197.1 Attleboro Handicapped/disabled access Attleboro junction with Attleborough Branch and Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad Attleborough Branch (NYNH&H)
East Junction not a station
split with old main line to East Providence
193.9 Hebronville closed
191.9 Handicapped/disabled access South Attleboro June 20, 1990
RI 190.9 Central Falls Boston Switch not a station
merge with Providence and Worcester Railroad
188.5 Pawtucket Pawtucket-Central Falls closed February 19, 1981
187.3 Woodlawn not a station
junction with Moshassuck Valley Railroad
186.4 Providence Handicapped/disabled access Providence February 1, 1988 Amtrak Acela Express and Regional
temporarily closed February 19, 1981 (but still served by Amtrak)

South of Providence, T. F. Green Airport (Warwick, RI) and Wickford Junction (North Kingstown, RI) are on the old New York, Providence and Boston Railroad alignment.

Stoughton Branch[edit]

State Milepost City Station Opening date Connections and notes
MA 0.0 Canton Handicapped/disabled access Canton Junction splits from main line to Attleboro
0.6 Handicapped/disabled access Canton Center
18.3 (~4) Stoughton Handicapped/disabled access Stoughton continued as Easton Branch


  1. ^ Local Attachments : The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920 (Creating the North American Landscape), by Alexander von Hoffman, The Johns Hopkins University Press (1996), ISBN 0-8018-5393-1

External links[edit]