Union Station, White River Junction, Vermont

The railroad station at White River Junction, around 1900. Image from The Gateway of Vermont: Hartford and its Villages (1903).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, the village of White River Junction is situated at the confluence of the White River and Connecticut River, on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. Once sparsely-settled farmland within the town of Hartford, this area became an important railroad crossroads in the late 1840s, as new rail lines began spreading across northern New England.

By 1850, there were four different railroads that met here in White River Junction: the Vermont Central Railway from the northwest, the Connecticut River Railroad from the south, the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad from the north, and the Northern New Hampshire Railroad from the east. A fifth line, the Woodstock Railroad, was built in 1875, connecting White River Junction to the town of Woodstock, located 14 miles west of here.

The arrival of the railroads led to a small but thriving village, which was centered around the depot here, where the rail lines met. The first passenger station opened here on this spot in 1849. It was a union station, meaning that it was used by all of the railroads. This original depot burned in 1861, in a large fire that began in a nearby factory. The flames quickly spread, destroying a number of industrial buildings and warehouses, along with both the passenger and freight depots. It was one of many fires that hit White River Junction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was the first of three stations here that would be destroyed by fires.

The replacement station was completed here in 1862, but it burned within a couple decades, and around 1880 it was replaced by a third station, which is shown here in the first photo. It was from this station that, in the early morning hours of February 5, 1887, a northbound Central Vermont passenger train departed, heading for Montreal. However, just ten minutes later, at a bridge less than five miles northwest of here, the last four cars of the train derailed and fell onto the frozen White River. The cars caught fire with many passengers and crew trapped inside, and an estimated 37 people were killed, making it the deadliest rail accident in Vermont history.

The first photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, showing the view of the station from the northwest. By this point, the various rail lines here at White River Junction had been consolidated into the Boston & Maine Railroad and the Central Vermont Railway. The Boston & Maine owned two-thirds of the station, with the Central Vermont owning the remaining third. These two companies controlled a significant portion of the rail traffic in northern New England, and White River Junction remained an important hub within their networks. In addition, the station housed a restaurant and the local telegraph office, which served as a major relay point for communications between Boston and Montreal.

Like its two predecessors, this station was also destroyed by a fire, which started on the morning of November 28, 1911. It evidently began as a result of faulty wiring in the telegraph office, and it soon consumed the entire building. The station was a total loss, but valuables such as the mail, baggage, and the contents of the ticket office were safely removed, and firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings.

A day after the fire, the Barre Daily Times expressed optimism that the fire would lead to a new, improved station here, noting:

Now is the time for the Central Vermont and Boston & Maine railroads to get together and build a union station at White River Junction that will be just right. With the old station in ruins, they will have to start over again, and the new project ought to be accomplished with the added features, such as subways to the business streets of the village.

Evidently not everyone shared this hope for the future, though, because a few days later the Times quoted the Springfield Republican of Massachusetts, which had written “Travelers will find waiting at White River Junction, Vt., drearier than ever now that the railroad station has been burned.” To this, the Times added “Nevertheless, they ought to be able to find amusement in delving in the mysteries of antiquity, meaning the ruins of the old station.”

As it turned out, the Republican‘s assessment of the situation proved particularly accurate. For more than 25 years after the fire, passengers had to use a converted freight house as a temporary station, as the two railroads squabbled over the construction of its replacement. The new station, shown here in the present-day photo, was finally completed in 1937. It featured a Colonial Revival exterior that was designed by Jens Fredrick Larson, a noted architect and World War I flying ace who designed much of the campus at nearby Dartmouth College.

Today, more than 80 years after the station opened, the two railroad companies that built it are now long gone, and White River Junction is no longer the major passenger rail hub that it once was. The station is still here, and it remains in active use, although its passenger service is limited to just two daily trains on Amtrak’s Vermonter route, a significant drop from a village that, at its peak, saw up to 50 passenger trains stop here every day.

However, there are remnants of the past here in the present-day scene, including Boston & Maine engine #494, which is visible under the pavilion in front of the station. It was built in 1892 by the Manchester Locomotive Works in New Hampshire, and it remained in use until 1938. A year later it was an exhibit the 1939 World’s Fair, and in 1957 it was donated to the town of Hartford, which eventually restored it and put it on display here. In the 2018 photo, it contrasts with the modern diesel locomotive on the far right, which is operated by the New England Central Railroad, the successor to the Central Vermont.

Union Station, Springfield, Mass (2)

The old Union Station in Springfield, seen from near the corner of Lyman and Chestnut Streets around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows Union Station as it appeared about 10 to 20 years after its completion, as seen looking west from near Chestnut Street. The photo in a previous post shows the south side of the station from Lyman Street, but this view provides a more elevated look at the station, showing both the north and south sides, along with the platforms in between. Further in the distance, beyond the station on Main Street, are two of the city’s leading hotels: the Massasoit House on the far left at the end of Lyman Street, and Cooley’s Hotel, which can be seen in the center of the photo.

This area has been the site of Springfield’s primary railroad station since 1839, when the Western Railroad arrived, linking Springfield with Worcester and Boston. The original station, which was located on the west side of Main Street, burned in 1851, and the following year it was replaced by a brick and iron, shed-like station on the same spot. This station served for most of the second half of the 19th century, but it began to cause problems as the city grew in population and as rail traffic increased. Because the station was located at street level, trains had to cross directly over Main Street, leading to significant delays for traffic on the street. The station itself was also becoming insufficient for the number of trains that passed through here, and by the late 1860s there were already calls for a new station and elevated tracks through downtown Springfield.

In 1869, the state legislature authorized such a project, but it would take another 20 years before it was actually finished, thanks to an impasse between the city government and the Boston & Albany Railroad, which was the successor to the old Western Railroad. This dispute centered around which side was responsible for paying to raise the tracks and lower the grade of Main Street, and it ultimately did not get resolved until 1888, when the railroad agreed to spend around $200,000 to raise the tracks, while the city would spend about $84,000 to lower Main Street by four feet.

This compromise enabled the station project to move forward, and the old station was demolished in the spring of 1889. The new one was completed in July, and it was located on the east side of Main Street, which provided more room for the station. It featured a Romanesque Revival-style design, and the original plans had been the work of noted architect Henry H. Richardson, who designed many of the stations along the Boston & Albany Railroad. He died in 1886, though, and his successor firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge subsequently modified the plans for the Springfield station.

One of these changes proved to be a serious design flaw. Richardson had intended for a single station building, located on the south side, with a large train shed over the tracks. However, the Connecticut River Railroad, which would share the union station with the Boston & Albany and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads, objected to this plan, wanting a separate building on the north side. As a result, the finished station consisted of two buildings, each with its own ticket offices and waiting rooms, and four tracks in between them. The smaller northern building, on the right side of this scene, served northbound and westbound travelers, while the larger building on the south side was for those heading southbound and eastbound.

Within less than 20 years, this design was already causing problems as Springfield continued to grow. Having two different station buildings was an inefficient use of space, since it meant redundant facilities such as the waiting rooms. This was also a source of confusion for passengers, who would sometimes find themselves at the wrong ticket office or platform. In addition, the two buildings prevented the railroads from adding new tracks, since the space in between was already filled with four tracks and three platforms.

Aside from practical considerations, the architecture of the building was also obsolete by the early 20th century. Romanesque Revival had been widely popular during the last two decades of the 19th century, particularly for public buildings, and railroad stations were seen as important architectural showcases. They were usually the first thing that a traveler saw in a particular city, so any self-respecting city need a monumental station, in order to give a good first impression to visitors. This may have been the case for Union Station in the 1890s, but Romanesque Revival had fallen out of favor by the next decade, and the new generation of iconic railroad stations – such as Grand Central and Penn Station – began to feature classically-inspired Beaux-Arts designs.

As early as 1906, it was evident that the station was inadequate. That year, the Springfield Republican published an article on the city’s numerous railroad-related problems, observing that “[t]he most important problem as far as the safety and convenience of the public is concerned is the rebuilding of the union station.” In 1921, the newspaper was even more explicit, remarking on how “there seems to be, in fact, a nearly unanimous demand that the structure be cast to the scrapheap,” and four years later it declared that the station was “long execrated for its combination of discomfort, dinginess and danger.”

The station’s demise was hastened by a November 1922 fire that caused about $25,000 in damage to the north building. The fire was considered to be suspicious, but its origins were unclear, with the railroad superintendent simply telling the Republican, “your guess is as good as mine.” The city’s fire chief declared that he found no evidence of arson, although he did not actually inspect the cellar beneath the waiting room, where the fire had apparently started. There were no injuries, and most of the valuables, including mail, packages, and cash, were safely removed by railroad employees and by an off-duty police officer.

Within less than a month of the fire, the railroad had approved the plans for a new station. This replacement would be in approximately the same location, but the entire station would be located on the north side of the tracks. It would be connected to Lyman Street on the south side by way of a tunnel beneath the tracks, and this tunnel would also provide access to the platforms, avoiding the dangers of passengers crossing directly over the busy tracks. Perhaps most significantly, the number of tracks would be increased from four to 11, reducing congestion and delays on the railroad.

Demolition on the old station began in 1925, just 36 years after it was built, and the new Union Station opened the following year. It would remain in use for the next few decades, but passenger rail began to experience a significant decline throughout the country during the post-World War II era. With passenger trains becoming unprofitable for railroads to operate, Amtrak ultimately took control of the country’s passenger rail services in 1971. Two years later, most of Union Station was closed except for the Lyman Street entrance, and a small Amtrak station was built on the south side of the tracks.

Union Station sat empty for many years, and only one of the old station platforms was used for passenger service. However, the building underwent a major restoration in the 2010s, reopening in 2017. It now features a ticket office, waiting area, and retail space in the concourse, along with office space on the upper levels, including the offices of the Peter Pan Bus Lines. Union Station is also the terminus for most of the city’s PVTA bus lines, with 18 bus berths just to the west of the station. In addition to this, the rail traffic here at the station has also increased. Along with a number of daily Amtrak trains, Union Station is also served by the Hartford Line, which opened in 2018 with commuter trains running from Springfield south to New Haven.

The 2018 photo shows this scene about a year after the station reopened. An Amtrak train is visible in the distant center of the photo, consisting of two passenger cars pulled by a P42DC diesel engine. This is the typical setup for most of the Springfield to New Haven Amtrak trains, and the rear car is a converted Metroliner cab car, which allows the train to be operated in either direction without turning the locomotive. Just to the right of the train is Platform C, which was the last part of the station’s renovation project. It was still unfinished when the first photo was taken, but this project – which upgraded the platform to modern accessibility requirements – was finished in January 2020, marking the end of Union Station’s restoration.

Canal Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking southwest on Canal Street, toward the corner of Lyman Street in Holyoke, in 1936. Image taken by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U. S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was taken by the prominent photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine, who is best known for his early 20th century work with the National Child Labor Committee. However, later in life he also documented life across the country during the Great Depression, including a visit to Holyoke in 1936. At the time, the city was a leading producer of paper and textiles, and most of his photos focus on Holyoke’s industry. This photo shows the scene along Canal Street, with the Second Level Canal on the right. The Boston and Maine Railroad crosses through the middle of the photo, and in the background is the Whiting Paper Company, which was located in a building that had previously been occupied by the Lyman Mills. Hine’s original caption provides a short description of the photo:

Mt. Holyoke [sic]Massachusetts – Scenes. An old mill of absentee ownership, liquidated and sold at a great bargain to a new owner, who would not sell or rent, uses only a small part; railway transportation; electric power transmission. Lyman Mills (Now Whiting Company), 1936

The Lyman Mills company was incorporated in 1854, in the early years of Holyoke’s industrial development. It was located in the area between the First and Second Level Canals, on the south side of Lyman Street, and over the years its facility grew to include a number of mill buildings. The earliest of these, not visible from this angle, were built in 1849-1850, and were originally used by the Hadley Falls Company before being acquired by Lyman Mills. Other buildings, including the large one in the distance on the right side of the scene, were added later in the 19th century, and the company became a major producer of textiles. It also employed a significant number Holyoke residents, including many of the city’s French Canadian immigrants, and by the turn of the century it had a workforce of over 1,300 people.

However, as Hine’s caption indicates, the Lyman Mills corporation was liquidated in 1927. Although still profitable despite increased competition from southern manufacturers, the shareholders were evidently more interested in selling the company’s assets instead of continuing to operate it as a textile mill. Over a thousand employees were put out of work on the eve of the Great Depression, and the property was sold to the Whiting Paper Company, whose original mill was located directly adjacent to the Lyman Mills complex.

Founded in 1865 by William Whiting, this company went on to become one of the largest paper manufacturers in the country, and Whiting enjoyed a successful political career as mayor of Holyoke and as a U. S. Congressman. After his death in 1911, his son, William F. Whiting, took over the company and oversaw the expansion into the former Lyman Mills buildings in the late 1920s. The younger Whiting was a longtime friend of Calvin Coolidge, and in August 1928 Coolidge appointed him as the U. S. Secretary of Commerce, replacing Herbert Hoover, who would be elected president a few months later. Whiting served in this role for the remainder of Coolidge’s presidency, until Hoover’s inauguration on March 4, 1929.

The conversion of the Lyman Mills into paper production, along with Whiting’s brief tenure as Secretary of Commerce, occurred just a short time before the stock market crash of October 1929. By the time the first photo was taken seven years later, the country was still in the midst of the Great Depression. Like the rest of the country, Holyoke was hit hard by the Depression, but the Whiting Paper Company managed to survive and remain in business for several more decades. However, Holyoke continued to see economic decline throughout the mid-20th century, with most of its major manufacturers closing or relocating, and the Whiting Paper Company finally closed in 1967, just over a century after it had been established.

Today, however, this scene has hardly changed in more than 80 years since Lewis Hine took the first photo. Although no longer used to produce textiles or paper, the Lyman/Whiting complex is still standing in the distance, and has been converted into a mixed-use property known as Open Square. Closer to the foreground, the same railroad bridges still carry the tracks over Canal Street and the Second Level Canal, and even the transmission towers are still standing, although they do not carry any electrical wires anymore.

Railroad Station, Salem, Mass

The railroad station at the corner of Washington and Norman Streets in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

Salem was a prosperous seaport throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, with a fleet of sailing ships that brought goods to the city from around the world. Given its location on the north shore of Massachusetts, it was heavily dependent on the sea for its commerce, but in 1838 the first railroad line was opened to Salem, connecting the city to East Boston by way of the 13-mile-long Eastern Railroad. The line initially ended here in Salem, at an earlier station on this site, but in 1839 it was extended north to Ipswich, and then to the New Hampshire state line the following year.

The 1838 railroad station was built at the southern end of downtown Salem, meaning that the extension of the line would have to pass directly through the center of the city. In order to accomplish this, the railroad dug a 718-foot tunnel directly underneath Washington Street, allowing trains to pass through without disrupting downtown Salem. The incline for the tunnel began immediately north of the station, just out of view to the left of this scene, and it re-emerged just north of present-day Federal Street. The 1917 book The Essex Railroad, by Francis B. C. Bradlee, provides a description of the 1839 construction of the tunnel:

In order to build it the old Court House, together with stores and other buildings standing south of Essex street, were demolished. Washington street was laid open throughout its entire length and a wide ditch was dug, much trouble being experienced from the sandy nature of the soil. Residents on the side of the street boarded up their house fronts and moved away for some weeks. The sidewalks were piled with gravel. A stone arch was built in the open ditch, and when this was finished the gravel was back-filled as far as possible and the surface restored. Three air holes surrounded with iron railings came up from the tunnel through the street for ventilation, but when the locomotives began to burn coal they were done away with. All this work was done on the most elaborate plans and models, it being considered one of the largest pieces of granite work ever undertaken up to that time in New England.

The original railroad station was used until 1847, when it was replaced by the one in the 1910 photo. It was designed by prominent architect Gridley J. F. Bryant, with a castle-like appearance that included two large crenellated towers on the north side of the building, as seen here. Trains passed directly through the building, and under a granite arch between the towers that resembled a medieval city gate. The interior originally included three tracks, and the upper level of the station housed the offices for the Eastern Railroad, including those of the president and the superintendent.

The station was badly damaged by an April 7, 1882 fire that started when a can of flares exploded in one of the baggage rooms. The wooded portions of the building were destroyed, but the granite exterior survived, and the rest of the station was soon rebuilt around it. Then, in 1884, the Eastern Railroad was acquired by its competitor, the Boston and Maine Railroad, and the station became part of a large railroad network that extended across northern New England. The first photo, taken around 1910, shows the a side view of the front of the building, with the original granite towers dominating the scene. In the lower left, a locomotive emerges from the station, while railroad flagmen – barely visible in front of the train – warn pedestrians and vehicles on the street.

In 1914, much of the area immediately to the south of the station was destroyed in a catastrophic fire that burned over a thousand buildings. The station itself survived, though, and remained in use for more than a century after its completion. However, it was demolished in 1954 in order to extend the tunnel south to its current entrance at Mill Street. By this point, intercity passenger rail was in a serious decline, due to competition from automobiles and commercial airlines, and the replacement station was a much smaller building on Margin Street, just south of the new tunnel entrance.

The 1950s station was used until 1987, when the present-day station was opened at the northern end of the tunnel, at the corner of Washington and Bridge Streets. Salem is no longer served by long-distance passenger trains, but it is now located on the MBTA Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail line, and trains still pass through the tunnel that runs underneath Washington Street. On the surface, though, there are no recognizable landmarks from the first photo, and today the scene is a busy intersection at the corner of Washington and Norman Streets. The former site of the historic station is now Riley Plaza, a small park that was dedicated in 1959 and named in honor of John P. Riley (1877-1950), a Salem resident who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Spanish-American War.

Lyman Street Bridge, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north toward the Lyman Street bridge over the Second Level Canal in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke was developed in the mid-19th century as one of the first planned industrial cities in the country, and was powered by a network of canals that were constructed starting in 1847. The Second Level Canal, seen here, runs parallel to the city’s street grid, and it is crossed by six of the major streets in downtown Holyoke. The northernmost of these is Lyman Street, which crosses the canal here, and the first photo shows a low, two-span bridge that was probably constructed of iron. The railroad bridge just beyond it was also iron, and carried the Connecticut River Railroad through Holyoke, passing diagonally across both the canal and the intersection of Lyman and Canal Streets on the right side of the photo. This lattice truss bridge was built in 1887, and later became part of the Boston and Maine Railroad after the company acquired the rail line in 1893, soon after the first photo was taken.

Today, this scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo, although both of the 19th century bridges are gone. The old railroad bridge was replaced in 1928 by a steel Warren truss bridge, which is still in use today, and the current Lyman Street bridge was built in 2011. Further in the distance, several of the 19th century mill buildings are still standing on Gatehouse Road. The long building on the left side of the photo, once the home of the Whiting Paper Company, is still there. It was heavily altered at some point after the first photo was taken, and the right side of the building collapsed during a severe thunderstorm in 2011. However, the left side is still standing, along with the small, two-story brick building on the far left side of both photos.

Mosher Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking east on Moster Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The railroad bridge in the foreground is located just south of Holyoke’s historic railroad station, and carries the Connecticut River Railroad over Mosher Street. This railroad line, which was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad soon after the first photo was taken, is the primary north-south railroad route through western Massachusetts, linking the major cities and towns of the Connecticut River Valley with Vermont to the north and Connecticut to the south.

Several blocks away in the distance of the first photo is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was built in 1887 at the northeast corner of Mosher and West Streets. It was one of many Catholic churches built in Holyoke during this time, and both the church and its parish school served the large numbers of Catholic immigrants who came to Holyoke as mill workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first pastor of the church, Michael J. Howard, died in 1888, only a year after the church building was completed, and he was succeeded by Thomas D. Beaven, who served the parish until 1892, when he became bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.

Today, only the railroad itself still exists from the first photo. The church was demolished in 1976, and the rest of the buildings between the railroad and the church are also gone. A large apartment building now dominates the left side of the 2017 photo, and the surrounding streets now consist primarily of modern duplexes, interspersed by occasional historic buildings. The old railroad station, just out of view to the left, is still standing, although it has been vacant for many years. Passenger rail was recently restored to Holyoke, with Amtrak’s Vermonter now running through the city, although it currently uses a small platform located a block south of here at Dwight Street, instead of the abandoned 19th century station.