West Springfield, Massachusetts - History - Railroads and Industrialization

Railroads and Industrialization

Light manufacturing began to grow in the 19th century, including tanned hides, horse carriages, gunpowder, ceramics, industrial pipes, hats, and boats.

When the Industrial Revolution reached Western Massachusetts in the 19th century, the region's many fast-moving rivers resulted in a mill town boom. Early textile and paper mills were staffed by Irish famine immigrants who nearly doubled their population in the town between 1840 and 1860. Paper manufacturing became a major regional industry, including within the town limits included (mostly clustered on the Agawam River) the Southworth Paper Company (1839), the Agawam Paper Company (1859), the Agawam Canal Company, the Springfield Glazed Paper Company (1882), the Worthy Paper Company (1892), the Mittineague Paper Company (1892, later known as the Strathmore Paper Company and acquired by International Paper)

The Western Railroad opened for freight and passenger service in 1841, connecting West Springfield to Worcester, Boston, the Berkshires, and upstate New York. It would become the Boston and Albany Railroad in 1870. Travel time from Boston to Albany was considerably reduced from the over 40 hours it took by stagecoach in the 1820s. The covered wooden railroad bridge across the Connecticut which opened in 1841, was replaced by the current double-track steel truss railroad bridge in 1874.

West Springfield became a major transportation hub, and the railroad became one of the largest employers in the town for many decades. Repair shops were also built in West Springfield in 1896, and at the peak of operations, there were two major rail yards - one in Mittineague, and one near the present-day Memorial Avenue.

The original horsecar trolley, operated by the Springfield Street Railway, opened in 1877 from Main Street in Springfield to Elm and Park Streets, via Main Street and the old toll bridge at Bridge Street. It was later extended via Westfield Street to (Upper) Church Street. Electrification was completed in 1892-3, and the river crossing was moved to the original North End Bridge. Over the years, extensions were made to the Holyoke Street Railway (via Riverdale Road, 1895), Tatham (1896) the Woronoco Street Railway (in Westfield, 1899), the Connecticut border via Riverside Park (now Six Flags New England) in Agawam (1900), Feeding Hills (1902), and eventually the Suffield Street Railway in Connecticut (making the Hartford-West Side Line possible, 1905).

The destruction of the old North End Bridge in 1923 saw relocation of the trolley crossing to the modern Memorial Bridge. But trolley passenger service was cut starting in 1924 and by 1936, completely eliminated. Present-day local and intercity mass transit is provided by Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus routes, Amtrak, and private bus carriers. Peter Pan Bus Lines is headquartered in Springfield.

Conversion from steam to diesel locomotives shut down the West Springfield repair shop in 1956. With the rise of the automobile, the West Springfield (Mittineague) passenger railroad station closed in 1957. Amtrak service is still available to Springfield, and the central rail yard is still in active use for freight by CSX, the present-day successor of this part of the Boston & Albany.

Rural Free Delivery started delivering postal mail to residents' homes in the late 19th or early 20th century.

A major power plant for the Western Massachusetts Electric Company (now a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities) went online in West Springfield in 1949.

Read more about this topic:  West Springfield, Massachusetts, History

Other articles related to "railroads, railroad":

Shortline Railroad - See Also
... Class I railroads List of U.S ... Class II railroads Timeline of Class I railroads 1910-1929, 1930-1976, 1977-present Rail transport in the United States Rail transport in Canada ...
Shortline Railroad - Background
... Initially Class I railroads were defined as railroads with annual operating revenue of at least $1 million, while Class III railroads had less than $100,000 ... (If a railroad slipped below the threshold for a period, it wouldn't necessarily be immediately demoted.) In 1925 the ICC showed 174 Class I, 282 Class II and 348 Class III railroads ... Transportation Board is responsible for defining the bounds of each railroad class ...
Shortline Railroad - Classes - Class III
... A Class III railroad, or a shortline railroad, is a rail company with an annual operating revenue of less than $20 million (1991 dollars) ... Class III railroads are typically local short line railroads, either serving a small number of towns and industries or haul cars for a larger railroad or few ... The majority of Class III railroads are owned by railroad holding companies, such as Genesee Wyoming and the former company RailAmerica ...
List Of Railroads Of The Confederate States Of America
... This is a list of Confederate Railroads in operation or used by the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War ... See also Confederate railroads in the American Civil War ... the war, the Confederacy possessed the third largest set of railroads of any nation in the world, with about 9,000 miles of railroad track ...

Famous quotes containing the word railroads:

    We noticed several other sandy tracts in our voyage; and the course of the Merrimack can be traced from the nearest mountain by its yellow sand-banks, though the river itself is for the most part invisible. Lawsuits, as we hear, have in some cases grown out of these causes. Railroads have been made through certain irritable districts, breaking their sod, and so have set the sand to blowing, till it has converted fertile farms into deserts, and the company has had to pay the damages.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)