Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blue Hill Street Railway

Blue Hill Street Railway
This is a very early and previously unpublished snapshot of a trolley car in Canton. A really superb glimpse at local travel at the turn of the Century. It all started in 1899 with the construction of a new power plant near the Bolivar Street Bridge. The Blue Hill Street Railway Company (BHSRC) which provided so many people with access to jobs and diversions would last less than 20 years and ultimately would fail as a result of the harsh New England winters and the advance of the automobile.

Vestiges of the Railway are all around us. The small pizza place at Canton Junction was once the waiting room and if memory serves me it was moved to the present location and was small gas station for many years. I remember the building as an antique shop and over the years it has been saved for many uses.

The original power plant is still standing and if you drive down the road just before Bolivar Tire you will see the power plant. This is the very same building that would later become the "chicken factory". More than 4000 chickens a day were handled at this location and sold locally before large conglomerates moved in to destroy this local industry. The firm of Furman-Meyers was well known for fresh slaughtered chickens and employed many Canton residents. Many local folks still remember the chicken factory and even to this day the power plant is a well known landmark.

Right down at the Viaduct is the Kessler Machine Shop, and if you look behind the front of the building you will see the original power plant that also supplied power to the BHSRC. This small brick building in the shadow of the Viaduct will deserve additional discussion in a later posting.

The designer of the BHSRC was Webster - of Stone & Webster, one of the nation's first electrical consulting companies. The ten year old company was one of the finest electrical design consultants, but overhead power for trolley service had distinct limitations in New Engalnd, and snowstorms would bring winds that would frequently damage the service that so many would rely upon. The Winter storm of 1920 was particularly unkind and dealt the death knell for the trolley system. Three cars were disabled by the storm and a shortage of coal and a cracked generator crippled the system. By April, 1920 the stock in the BHSRC was liquidated and the company ceased to exist.

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