Mt. Washington Cog Railway

The Mt. Washington Cog Railway, near the summit, probably in the early 1870s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The scene in 2013:

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The first photo was probably taken within a few years of the opening of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway.  By the mid 19th century, the White Mountains had become a popular summer destination, and Mount Washington in particular became a favorite destination.  The only problem was getting to the top; this was first solved by the Mount Washington Carriage Road (today the Auto Road), but even before the road opened, another man had an even more ambitious idea – to build a railroad to the top.

Railroads were still in their infancy in America in 1852, and many major cities still did not have rail connections, but Sylvester Marsh had a plan to build a cog railway to the top, something that had never been done up the side of a mountain before.  The New Hampshire legislature gave him a charter in 1858, with one legislator reportedly remarking that they should give him a charter to make a railway to the moon, indicating how impossible it seemed to build a railroad to the top of the tallest peak in the Northeast.

The railroad was completed to the summit in July 1869, only a couple months after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.  It is about 3 miles long, with an average grade of about 25%, and it set the stage for future mountain-climbing railroads such as the one up Pikes Peak.  The locomotives in the first photo indicate that it is an early photo of the railroad; they appear to be the George Stephenson and the Hercules, which entered service in 1869 and were replaced in 1878 and 1874, respectively.

The present-day scene here is remarkably similar; the trains are still operating (most of the locomotives are modern biodiesel ones, but several date back to the 1870s), and there seems to be as many people riding in the 2013 photo as there were nearly 150 years earlier, although clothing styles have changed a bit.  It’s not visible from here, but the road to the top is also still there, although it is no longer the Carriage Road but the Auto Road.  There are a lot more buildings at the top than there were in the 1870s, although the Tip Top House is still there; it is older than either the Auto Road or the railroad.

Brattleboro, Vermont (4)

Looking toward the Connecticut River from the corner of Main & Canal Streets in Brattleboro, Vermont, around 1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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The scene in 2014:

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On the right-hand side is Brattleboro’s Union Station, which was brand new when the first photo was taken; it opened in 1915. It was built along the Central Vermont Railway, which provided service north through Vermont to Montreal and south through Massachusetts and Connecticut to New London. Today the tracks through Brattleboro are operated by the New England Central Railroad, with Amtrak providing passenger service on their Vermonter route. In the distance in the 1917 photo is the 1878 railroad arch over the Whetstone Brook. It isn’t visible in the 2014 photo, but it is still there, and still carries the railroad over the brook.

The top photo is part of a panoramic view; the other parts can be viewed here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

South Station, Boston

South Station around the time that it opened in 1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view around 1905, after the construction of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Transportation

South Station in 1956, during construction of the Dewey Square Tunnel. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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South Station in 2014:

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These four photos reveal the changes that have taken place here at South Station over the past 115 years.  While the building itself (or at least most of it) has remained essentially the same, its surroundings have continually changed.

Before 1899, four different railroads had terminals in the general vicinity of the present-day station.  To make things simpler, South Station was built, and all four lines were rerouted to it.  A few years later, in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated was built, as seen in the second photo.  The rapid transit line included a station at South Station, which can be seen on the far right of the 1905 photo.

The third photo shows the result of changes in the way people travel; the Atlantic Avenue Elevated closed in 1938, and was demolished four years later.  Even South Station was seeing a severe drop in passengers in postwar America, as cars became the primary method of travel.  However, Boston’s colonial-era street network was not particularly accommodating to large number of cars, so the Central Artery was built in the 1950s.  Most of the Central Artery was elevated, but it was put underground for a few blocks near South Station, and was known as the Dewey Square Tunnel.

The Dewey Square Tunnel, which is seen under construction in the 1956 photo, turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come; part of Boston’s infamous Big Dig involved putting the entire Central Artery underground.  Today, the tunnel is still there, directly underneath where I was standing when I took the photo.  It is the only existing part of the Central Artery; the remainder of the 1950s-era expressway was demolished upon completion of the Big Dig.

Today, South Station has been trimmed a bit – notice that the facade on both sides is shorter than in the first two photos.  This was a result of demolition in the 1960s, at a time when many railroads were cutting back or eliminating passenger service.  However, today South Station is a busy transportation center again – it is the busiest railroad station in New England and the sixth busiest in the country, and it is the northern terminus of the Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail line in the country.

Subway Station 23rd Street & Lexington Ave, New York City

The entrance to the 23rd Street subway station on Lexington Avenue, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The station entrance in 2014:

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The subway station is still there, but the elaborate entrance and exit kiosks are long gone.  The 23rd Street station was opened in 1904, along the Lexington Avenue Line, the first subway line in New York.  In the intervening years, this intersection has remained remarkably unchanged, even down to the “East 23rd Street” lettering on the corner of the building above the station entrance.

Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Grand Central Terminal, between when it opened in 1913 and around 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Grand Central Terminal in New York City was built in 1913 on the site of a previous station, and although it is no longer the inter-city rail hub that it used to be, it is still a major part of rail transit in New York City, as seen in the 2014 rush hour photo of the concourse.  The concourse has undergone renovations and restorations along the way, which included building a staircase on the opposite end – using stone from the same quarry as the original structure – but it retains a very similar appearance, even down to the constellations on the ceiling, which can be seen in both photos.  The first photo is dated by the Library of Congress as being between 1910 and 1920, but it was likely taken around the time that it opened, to show the world for the first time what this station would look like.

Union Station, Springfield, Mass

Union Station in Springfield, Mass, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Prior to 1890, trains passing through Springfield on the Boston & Albany Railroad had to cross Main Street at street level; this resulted in significant traffic issues as the city grew, so in 1890 a stone arch was built over Main Street, and an elevated stone viaduct carried the railroad through downtown.  As part of this, the old Union Station was opened in 1889.  Designed by Shelby, Rutan and Coolidge in the style of Henry Hobson Richardson, the station consisted of buildings on both the north and south sides of the tracks (as seen in this photo, taken around the same time).  The 1905 photo shown above shows the south side, looking east along Lyman Street.  This station was demolished in 1925 and replaced with the present-day Union Station.  This station, located on the other side of the tracks, has been closed since 1974, but is in the process of being renovated.  In the meantime, rail travelers today use the Lyman Street entrance to access the modern Amtrak station, which is a far cry from Richardson’s original design.