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Once upon a time there was a Boston & Maine Railroad.

Boston & Maine diesel survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad
This early diesel survives at the Conway Scenic Railroad

Welcome to our Boston & Maine Railroad WebSite

Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:

Our feature article: Once Upon a Time There was a Boston & Maine Railroad

Boston & Maine Railroad Resources

Boston & Maine Reference Material

Boston & Maine Map

Contributions from our readers

Rutland to Troy

New England Gateway: the New Alphabet Route

B&M Shops at Billerica, Massachusetts Today

Boston and Maine to Saratoga

New York Central Interchange with the B&M

Once upon a time there was a Boston & Maine Railroad.

Into the 1980's, it was over 1400 miles long and operated in six states. Its main line went from South Portland, Maine, through the famous Hoosac Tunnel, to Rotterdam Junction, New York. Secondary lines stretched out from Boston throughout eastern Massachusetts and into New Hampshire. An important branch ran 123 miles up the Connecticut River valley from Springfield, Mass. to White River Junction, Vermont. Important interchange points along the main line were at East Deerfield, MA and Mechanicville, NY. In the modern era, the road was operationally divided between the Boston (eastern) and Fitchburg (western) divisions.

The B&M got off to an early start: The Boston & Lowell opened 25 miles of track in 1835. About the same time, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts corporations were formed, then united by 1843 as the Boston & Maine, to build a link between Maine and Wilmington, Mass. Two years later an extension went into Boston. An early competitor was the Eastern Railroad which built its own Boston-Portland link via Salem, Mass. The rivalry ended in 1884, when the 207-mile B&M would lease the Eastern. The B&M would grow to 2285 miles by 1900.

The Boston & Maine and the Boston & Lowell were brought together in 1887. This added numerous branches in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire to the system. The Connecticut River Railroad was leased in 1893; the Concord & Montreal in 1895; and the Fitchburg in 1900. This round of expansion left the B&M as the major northern New England road.

1907 to 1913 saw the New York, New Haven & Hartford controlling the B&M. The New Haven went bankrupt in 1913 because of overexpansion. This same problem then hit the B&M in 1916. By 1919, a simplified structure let the B&M emerge from bankruptcy. The B&M was hit early by highway competition. It formed a bus a truck subsidiary in 1924. Economic development in northern New England peaked well before the depression. The highest volume of freight was 30 million tons in 1918. Almost 40 million passengers in 1901 had halved by 1937 and down to commuter-only by 1967.

The 1920's saw an upgrading of track and installation of CTC; but it also brought early branch line sales and abandonments. The B&M survived the Depression, made money in World War II, and held out until 1956 when Patrick B. McGinnis moved in to the presidency, fresh from the New Haven. He introduced several innovations, including the TALGO train which didn't exactly work out,

There was a lot of deferred maintenance in the 1960's. This resulted in many slow orders which contributed to further loss of business. Many branch lines were cut in this period. One example was the 1973 sale of the Worcester to Gardner, Massachusetts line to the newly re-incorporated Providence & Worcester. There were 1531 miles of track in 1969. About two-thirds of all revenue came from the main line and the Connecticut River line.

There were several attempts at merger. The Boston & Maine almost joined the D&H and the Lackawanna in the Norfolk & Western. Later, the B&M decided not to join CONRAIL; instead following its own reorganization plan.

The B&M became insolvent in 1970. The economy of the northeast was worse than the rest of the nation ever since textile mills moved south. The B&M was a bridge line. It not only competed against the D&H, New York Central, and the CN-CV; but it also depended upon them for its connections.

The B&M participated in the revival of passenger service in the greater Boston area. It operated the country's largest fleet of Budd RDC's. The D&H Alco PA diesels worked this service about a year. Later, rebuilt GM&O F3's (renamed FP10's) were used. In 1965, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) made its first assistance payment to the B&M for operating commuter trains. In 1975, the MBTA purchased the B&M's locomotives, cars and physical plant used for commuter service. The B&M continued to operate the system and later took over the service that was formerly operated by the New York Central and the New Haven. Outside of Boston, Amtrak's "Montrealer" ran on the Connecticut River line.

Most B&M tonnage was received from connecting lines and terminated on the B&M. Therefore, a lot of effort was spent moving empties off the property. The B&M made a lot of headway reducing high per-diem charges by good car utilization.

Right into the modern era, ball signals protected diamond crossing at some B&M locations. At White River Junction, one ball allowed the Central Vermont (Northern Division) to cross. Two balls allowed trains from the B&M Concord line while three balls gave the go ahead to B&M trains from Berlin. Four balls was for the Central Vermont (Southern Division). Another ball signal was with the Rutland in Bellows Falls. Rules stipulated that trains stop 1000 feet from the crossing then proceed at yard speed. Vermont inflicted a $100 penalty on the engineman for each violation.

Because the B&M was built early on in an older section of the country, there were numerous public grade crossings. Many of these were not automatic and required a crossing watchman. If a train crossed outside of the scheduled hours of protection, a "traveling crossing watchman" was required. Other crossing gates (for instance, the branch to Marblehead) were operated by the train crew.

The 4.7 mile Hoosac tunnel had many special and some unusual rules. Passenger trains could not follow or be followed. Telephones were located in manholes. The manholes were indicated by boards about four feet above the rail with figures burned in showing distance in feet from East Portal. Trains running through the tunnel had to display night signals. Traffic in the tunnel was controlled by North Adams Tower. Inflammables could be handled, but only when tunnel workers were properly notified. Explosives could only be handled when for the U.S. government.

There was a special set of rules to handle the joint (with D&H) track between Mechanicville and Crescent. Other interchanges with the D&H were at Troy and Scotia. When Mechanicville was still active for both the B&M and D&H, there were numerous special rules for operation of that yard.

The history of what had been traditionally known as the Boston & Maine ended in 1981 when Timothy Mellon purchased the road and created a more unified "New England" system by combining it with the Maine Central and D&H. In addition, he purchased several old New Haven branch lines in Connecticut - a state the B&M had never operated in.

It was a low-density line which was sold to a short line operator in the 1940's. The Saratoga & Schuylerville Railroad operated for years as a branch of the Boston & Maine Fitchburg Division. The line ran between the two towns, with an arm running down to Mechanicville where it connected with the main line. This branch was built in 1882-1883 as part of the Boston, Hoosic Tunnel & Western RR. It later became part of the Fitchburg RR, then the Boston & Maine and was operated as a Boston & Maine branch until 1945, when it was sold to Samuel M. Pinsly of Boston, MA. Pinsly incorporated the S&S and ran it with two 45-ton GE diesels. As an independent operation, the line was a marginal operation and petitioned for abandonment in 1954. This was granted by the ICC, and service ended in 1956. The tracks still remained, though dormant, into the '60s. The S&S did not connect with the D&H main line at Saratoga. It came into the city from the east end and had a station and a freight yard (some of the buildings are still standing), and while it came to within a mile of the D&H, the two didn't meet. The S&S crossed the northern part of Saratoga Lake on a trestle. This is the branch which went to Mechanicville. The Schylerville branch diverged from the main line at a place called Dyer Switch. This is in close proximity to a place called Staffords Bridge. They have built a nature trail on the old roadbed running from the switch point back toward Saratoga and route 29.

The D&H was also in Saratoga Springs but interchange was at Mechanicville. Rotterdam Junction interchange was the New York Central. Only the line to Rotterdam Junction remains. The Rotterdam Junction line of the B&M was the first to be fully dieselized. Mostly F units in maroon with yellow striping. Passenger service went to Troy until 1958, then cut back to Williamstown, Mass. The last years were Budd RDC-1's mainly(the B&M had the world's largest RDC fleet). Primarily a freight line, it carried many long freights to Mechanicville for re-classification to D&H and NYC. Before the disaster of Guilford, there were 4-5 thru freights, each way, between Mechanicville and Portland, Lawrence, MA, Lowell, MA, Concord, NH and East Deerfield. Later power was almost always three or four GP40-2/GP38-2 "bluebird" units. Line was also all CTC.

Troy passenger service went in the late 1950's with freight soon after. The Rotterdam Junction NYC/B&M connection is on the former West Shore side of the railroad, at the old RJ tower interlocking. It is where the Hoffmans Branch also connects with the West Shore, since called the Selkirk Branch by Conrail. The Chicago Line, or the former NYC main line, is on the opposite (East) side of the Mohawk River/Barge Canal, and connects to the West Shore via the Hoffmans Branch. The Troy branch was abandoned for freight service in the summer of 1971. There were actually two separate lines. The Troy and Boston RR was built first in 1851-52 to Bennington and to the Hoosic tunnel site. After the tunnel was opened in the 1870's, another line, the Boston, Hoosic Tunnel and Western RR was built from the Vermont-Massachusetts line west to Rotterdam Junction, partly on the grade on the long gone Albany & Vermont RR. The BHT&W line from Vermont to Johnsonville was abandoned over a half-century ago, and only the Troy and Boston one was left. In Troy was the Troy Union RR, which owned the passenger station and the tracks connecting the B&M with the New York Central and the D&H. It was abandoned in 1963, leaving the B&M with no connections in Troy. Its yard was just north of Hoosic Street in Troy. After the Rutland RR abandoned its line from Bennington to Chatham in 1952 they ran their trains from Bennington via Eagle Bridge and the B&M through Troy to connect with the New York Central.

Adjacent to the Thruway, Conrail/CSX continues to South Amsterdam on the stub of the old New York Central West Shore and serves a large quarry and several other industries. This line now ends a few short miles from Rotterdam Junction, but you can see where the tracks went (old trestles, etc) all the way to Herkimer. Until a few years ago, this line went to Fort Plain. In the early 1970's, the line had been cut between Fort Plain and Ilion (by Penn Central). The remainder was torn up by Conrail when the Beech-Nut business in Canajoharie dried up. As late as 1965 there was an east-bound and a west-bound freight every day except Sunday between Rotterdam Junction (Tower "RJ": mile marker 159.6; open day and night in 1961 but closed by 1965) and Harbor (mile marker 226.2; connection to NYC mainline near Utica). Canajoharie (mile marker 190.3) was the only station open on the line. From Harbor, this line continued through Clark Mills, Vernon, Canastota (interchange with the Lehigh Valley) to Kirkville Junction (Syracuse Division). The line between South Utica and Vernon was cut between 1961 and 1965. Before 1961, the line between Canastota and Kirkville Junction was abandoned and connection to the main line was at Canastota. Additionally, the Lehigh Valley branch to that point was abandoned. The line through South Utica to a junction with the NYC mainline at Harbor was cut after 1965. Near this point, industrial trackage which served the old textile mills in New York Mills left the West Shore. In 1949, this line was double tracked and had a 35 MPH speed limit. By 1961, it was single tracked and had a 15 MPH speed limit. Now it is gone. The line from RJ to Canajoharie was substantially upgraded by NYSDOT after the formation of Conrail. Later DOT and CR became engaged in a dispute over operation of the line and for a while there was strong indication that the B&M was going to become operator. CR blocked this effectively by not permitting trackage or operating rights (or charging extortionary rates for privilege of doing so) for B&M to crossover and reach the WS. Net result: line abandoned. The West Shore was one of the first railroads in the US to use an automatic block system, with semaphore signals spaced every 3 miles or so. The connection to the NYC main at Hoffmans, as well as the reconfiguring and separation of grades between there and Fullers, were part of the Selkirk/Castleton bypass project -- altogether a huge investment for the prosperous NYC of that era.

By Ken Kinlock at
B&M 1111

B&M 1111

While staying with my maternal grandparents in Manchester, NH, came to love the B&M found out my GF’s brother, my Uncle Joe, was a lifetime B&M man, a suit actually, working at 150 Causeway at the B&M hqs.

I have always had a soft spot for Edward S. French who kept the B&M going through the depression, the War years and the promising post war 40s but the fifties brought out the difficult times again and that awful stockbroker, Pat McGuinnis, to the helm of the B&M with his artistic wife Lucile. My Uncle Joe was lucky enough to die in harness in Feb 1957 so never saw the worst of it.

As well as this picture, Dwyer Wedvick has provided us with a wealth of rare information: All about Baldwin RS12s and commuting on the NY Central West Shore; a great picture of his Canadian Pacific Railway model; Pictures of the old Haworth, NJ station ( Front and Back).

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Troy Union Railroad

Hoosac Tunnel to Troy

Penney Vanderbilt developed the map of Troy, including the Troy Union Railroad, when she was writing a blog about the Boston & Maine going through the Hoosac Tunnel to serve Troy. It shows important points like Troy Union Station, the Adams Street Freight House and the Green Island Bridge. Other blogs you might like include the Troy Union Railroad Towers; abandonment of train service to Troy; and last but not least, the Troy Union Railroad.

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Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
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Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

Boston & Maine Resources

Boston & Maine Forum at Railroad.Net
Boston & Maine Historical Society
Boston & Maine archives at the University of Massachusetts
Railroad adventures

Rutland to Troy

Did Rutland had trackage rights on the B&M to Troy?

No, the Rutland didn't have trackage rights over the B&M until the Chatham Subdivision was abandoned and they started running via B&M Troy NYC Rensselaer B&A Chatham. That agreement was between the Rutland Railroad and the B&M (and NYC), and it died with the Rutland.

Before that, the only Rutland operation to Troy was their passenger service, but they were actually B&M trains operated with Rutland crews and equipment as soon as they crossed the state line (and property line) at White Creek, NY. The B&M collected the revenue for that part of the trip between White Creek and Troy.

That was an interline agreement, and technically not trackage rights. The operating expenses for the Rutland (and equalization of crew miles under the union agreements) were made up with B&M operating Rutland trains between

When the Rutland ceased operation, the State of Vermont purchased most of its track in Vermont (Burlington and south) and leased it to the Vermont Railway and the Green Mountain Railway. Those railroads started from scratch with what they had in 1964. They didn't inherit any business arrangements or obligations from the Rutland except for the equipment they purchased and any former employees they hired, who started from scratch, also.

Boston & Maine in the Albany area in 2010

The Boston & Maine Railroad, now under Guilford, continues to maintain a presence in the Capital District. The B&M mainline -- what is left of it -- crosses the Hudson River at Mechanicville, turns south and joins with the former D&H Colonie Main (now CP) at the former XO tower, which was the eastern approach to the now-abandoned Mechanicville yard. Joint track begins here and continues westward to Crescent Junction, where the B&M diverges from the D&H and continues westward to its interchange with CSXT at Rotterdam Junction (where CSXT interchanges a unit coal train).
Railroad Station at Troy, New York

Railroad Station at Troy, New York

The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy. See Penney's blog for more information (and a great movie from the 1950's).

B&M Budd car approaches station. The station consisted of 6 thru tracks and towers at each end.

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The Saratoga and Schuylerville (S&S) went from Saratoga Springs, New York, to Schuylerville, Schuyler Junction to Stillwater Junction/Mechanicville. It was chartered in 1833 and acquired by the Fitchburg Railroad (later absorbed by the B&M) in 1875 as part of their Boston-Buffalo 'grand plan'. It connected with the Greenwich and Johnsonville (D&H) as well as the B&M. It did not connect with the D&H at Saratoga. It carried passengers, small freight and sand until all dried up. It was sold (1946) to Sameul Pinsley who ran it a few years before pulling up the tracks.
There was a B&M rail branch out of Mechanicville to Stillwater. It was built by the Boston Hoosac Tunnel & Western, predecessor to the Fitchburg RR in this territory. BHT&W's eastern end was North Adams, Mass., I think, and it ran roughly parallel to the Troy & Boston as far west as Johnsonville, N.Y., where the two lines left each other (T&B to Troy; BTH&W to Mechanicville & Rotterdam). So the branch to Stillwater was, I believe, built contemporaneously to the BTH&W's main line. Fitchburg bought both BTH&W and T&B; then B&M took over the Fitchburg. This all happened in the 19th Century. B&M operated the Stillwater branch right up into the 70s.

There was also the branch to Saratoga Springs and Schuylerville; the Stillwater branch was a remaining stub of that. B&M spun off the former lines to a short line called Saratoga & Schuylerville.

See a history of the Saratoga & Schuylerville Railroad from Gino's Rail Pages
Fallen Flags Photos


List of New York Railroads
List of Massachusetts Railroads
Boston & Maine Steam Locomotives
Minute Man's Boston & Maine Rail Yard
Bedford Depot
The Boston and Maine Railroad, The Route Of The Minute Man
1923 list Officers, Agents and Stations of the Boston and Maine Railroad
Phil Dalton & Dale Pierce Train Blogs about various subjects
Our favorite Short Lines
Interesting Railway Stations
Map of the Boston & Maine Railroad
Map of the Boston & Maine Railroad
Click here or on map above to enlarge
Guilford Harry Truman

Several Presidents of the United States have traveled over the Boston & Maine Railroad. Here is Harry Truman in 1948.

Head End
Railway Express and Railway Post Office
Reefer on the New Haven
On passenger trains, railroads operated lots of equipment other than sleepers, coaches, dining cars, etc. This equipment was generally called 'head-end' equipment, these 'freight' cars were at one time plentiful and highly profitable for the railroads. In the heyday of passenger service, these industries were a big part of the railroad's operations, and got serious attention.
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Traditionally, NYC had two interchange points with the B&M in the Capital District - Rotterdam Jct (RJ) and Troy. The B&M at those locations had once been two separate railroads - The Boston, Hoosac Tunnel and Western at RJ, and the Troy and Boston at Troy. BHT&W had set up freight and passenger routes with the West Shore at RJ before the West Shore was acquired by the NYC. T&B had the interchange at Troy, and some small amount of traffic still came to Troy over the NYC Troy and Schenectady Branch even into 1960.

During the 1940's, NYC and B&M moved much of the Troy interchange traffic to RJ, and set up some run-through operations with joint crew assignments and mileage equalization agreements. Traffic to and from the west moved between Dewitt and Mechanicville via RJ on BY-2 and BY-4 eastbound, and YB-1 and YB-3 westbound. Those trains used NYC crews and power through RJ into and out of Mechanicville. I'm pretty sure that the B in the symbol was Buffalo, and the Y was a NYC designation for Yankee, meaning New England, much like the Y designation in front of New Haven train numbers on the Electric Division.

B&M ran a crew from Mechanicville to Selkirk and back at least once daily, via RJ where they ran around their train. The mileage equalization was worked out between the YB crews on NYC and that B&M local.
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Amtrak's Secret Business
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milk train
Once upon a time, milk trains were important
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Creamery in South Columbia, New York
There were two basic types of milk trains – the very slow all-stops local that picked up milk cans from rural platforms and delivered them to a local creamery, and those that moved consolidated carloads from these creameries to big city bottling plants. Individual cars sometimes moved on lesser trains. These were dedicated trains of purpose-built cars carrying milk. Early on, all milk was shipped in cans, which lead to specialized "can cars" with larger side doors to facilitate loading and unloading (some roads just used baggage cars). In later years, bulk carriers with glass-lined tanks were used. Speed was the key to preventing spoilage, so milk cars were set up for high speed service, featuring the same types of trucks, brakes, communication & steam lines as found on passenger cars.
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Troy Station

Boston & Maine in Troy, New York 1911 from one of our old post cards. This station was in downtown Troy and had numerous street crossings. Passenger service lasted until 1958. The station was also served by the Delaware & Hudson and the New York Central. The terminal itself was owned by the Troy Union Railroad.

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George Alpert. Last President of the New Haven Railroad. Talking with Albert Einstein at Brandeis University Signal Stations of the
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Signal Stations of the New Haven Railroad
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