Railroad Depot, Plymouth NH

The Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad station at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company.

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The same location in 2019:

This railroad station in Plymouth would have been a busy place at the turn of the last century.  Aside from local residents, passengers would have included students at the Plymouth Normal School, as well as travelers to the White Mountains.  Located at the southern end of the White Mountains, any visitor from the south would have passed through here, and many stayed at the Pemigewasset House, the large building in the center of the photo.  The hotel was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, with the depot conveniently built into the basement.  The daily northbound and southbound trains that passed through here around noon would stop for a half hour so passengers could enjoy a lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, which was also owned by the railroad.

The Pemigewasset House burned in 1909, taking the old railroad depot with it.  The hotel was rebuilt, but further up the hill and away from the tracks.  The depot was rebuilt here as a stand-alone building, and it survives to this day, in the center of the photo partially hidden by trees.  In the first photo, the railroad was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, but was operated by the Boston & Maine Railroad, who leased the BC & M from 1895 until merging with it in 1919.  Two Boston & Maine passenger cars can be seen to the left, with a number of other rail cars in the distance beyond the station.

Passenger rail service to Plymouth was eliminated in the mid 20th century, and today the old railroad station is a senior center.  The only passenger trains that run now are scenic trains, including a fall foliage train that, like its predecessors, stops in Plymouth for lunch.  The Boston & Maine Railroad hasn’t existed as an independent railroad since 1983, but in the 2019 photo an old B&M boxcar sits on a side track, contrasting with the B&M coaches in the first photo.  Most of it has been repainted, but the old railroad’s light blue colors can still be seen amid the rust on the back of the boxcar.

Railroad Station, Chatham Mass (2)

Another view of the railroad station in Chatham, probably taken around the 1940s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The station in 2015:

These two photos show the opposite side of the station from the ones in this post, and as mentioned there, this is the only original train station remaining on Cape Cod.  The station was built in 1887 for the Chatham Railroad Company, which was later acquired by the Old Colony Railroad, which was in turn purchased by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.  The branch line to Chatham closed in 1937, and the station was abandoned for several decades, as seen in the first photo.  However, it was later restored and converted into the Chatham Railroad Museum, and a historic 1910 caboose now sits on the spot where trains once stopped to pick up passengers coming to and from Chatham.

Railroad Station, East Longmeadow Mass

The railroad station near the center of East Longmeadow in 1910. Photo courtesy of the East Longmeadow Historical Commission.

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The station in 2015:


The station in 2023:

Today, East Longmeadow doesn’t have any active rail lines, but a century ago the Armory Branch of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad passed through the town.  The line connected East Hartford and Springfield, and passed by the Watershops of the Springfield Armory, which gave the branch its name.  In East Longmeadow, it provided a way for the many quarries in town to ship their stone, and it also provided a method of transportation in the days before automobiles.  However, the branch was never a major route, and was abandoned by the 1980s.  Today, most of the line is still abandoned, but a 1.6 mile section in East Longmeadow is now the Redstone Rail Trail, named for the quarries that once used the line.  The station, which opened in 1876, is located at the northern terminus of the trail, and although it has clearly seen better days, it is still instantly recognizable from the 1910 photo.

2023 Update: As shown in the third photo, station has since been restored, and it reopened in 2021 as an ice cream shop.

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

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


The scene in 2013:


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.


The scene in 2014:


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.


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


South Station in 2014:

These three 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 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.