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Boston and Providence Railroad

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Boston and Providence Railroad
The Boston and Providence Railroad built the Canton Viaduct in 1835. Revere Copper Mill can be seen in the background
HeadquartersBoston, Massachusetts
LocaleBoston, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island
Dates of operation1834–1888
SuccessorOld Colony Railroad
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length41 miles (66 km)

The Boston and Providence Railroad was a railroad company in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island which connected its namesake cities. It opened in two sections in 1834 and 1835 - one of the first rail lines in the United States - with a more direct route into Providence built in 1847. Branches were built to Dedham in 1834, Stoughton in 1845, and North Attleboro in 1871. It was acquired by the Old Colony Railroad in 1888, which in turn was leased by the New Haven Railroad in 1893. The line became the New Haven's primary mainline to Boston; it was realigned in Boston in 1899 during the construction of South Station, and in Pawtucket and Central Falls in 1916 for grade crossing elimination.

The line became part of the Penn Central system in 1969; the section in Massachusetts was purchased by the state in 1973, while Amtrak acquired the Rhode Island section in 1976. The line was electrified in 2000; it is now the far northern leg of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, used by high-speed Acela Express service, intercity Northeast Regional service, and MBTA Commuter Rail Providence/Stoughton Line local service. The rapid transit MBTA Orange Line shares the right-of-way for several miles in the 1987-built Southwest Corridor section in Boston. The Stoughton Branch is also used for Providence/Stoughton Line service, and the northern section of the Dedham Branch is used by the Needham Line.


The Boston and Providence Railroad was incorporated June 21, 1831,[1] and chartered to build a railroad between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.[2][3][4]

Paper certificate documenting twenty shares of Boston and Providence Rail Road Corporation from 13. November 1835

Construction began in late 1832. The first section, from Boston to Canton with a branch to Dedham, opened in 1834, and the rest on July 28, 1835 with the completion of the Canton Viaduct. Stations in Jamaica Plain allowed the development of one of the first commuter suburbs in America.[5]

Boston & Providence depot, Boston, 19th century, designed by Peabody & Stearns
Boston & Providence depot, Boston, 19th century

The line was originally single track. A second track was extended from Boston to Roxbury in 1839 and to Readville in 1845. Double track was built between Sharon and Mansfield in 1846–47; it was extended north to Readville in 1860 and south to Providence in 1865.[6]: 31  In May 1869, the state legislature authorized the railroad to build a third track from Boston to Readville.[7] It was completed as far as Forest Hills in late 1871, allowing for an increase in service.[8][9] The section between Hyde Park and Readville was increased to four tracks in 1873; the third track was extended south from Forest Hills to Mount Hope later in the 1870s.[10][11] It was completed between Mount Hope and Hyde Park in 1882, finishing triple-tracking between Boston and Readville.[12]

In 1887, the railroad's Bussey Bridge collapsed while a morning commuter train was passing over it. The train was carrying about 300 passengers at the time, of which 24 died and 125 were seriously injured.[13] Henry Austin Whitney was the president of the railroad at the time.[14]

Until 1899, when South Station opened, the Boston terminal was at Park Square, with a crossing at grade of the Boston and Worcester Railroad at the current merge at Back Bay station (also opened in 1899, serving only the B&P). The original Providence terminal was at Fox Point, from which it ran east along the Seekonk River shore and over the river via the India Point Railroad Bridge into East Providence (then part of Seekonk, Massachusetts) before turning north towards Boston. A ferry across the Providence River connected Fox Point to the South Providence terminal of the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad (opened 1837). The former mainline became the primarily-freight East Junction Branch.[15]

In 1847, the Providence and Worcester Railroad opened between downtown Providence and Worcester, Massachusetts. At the same time, the B&P built a connection west from its main line in southern Attleboro to the P&W in Central Falls. The B&P and P&W jointly owned the line south of Central Falls into downtown Providence. (In 1848, the NYP&B connected its line south of downtown Providence to downtown, removing the gap through Providence.)

On April 1, 1888, the Old Colony Railroad leased the B&P for 99 years.[16][2] The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad leased the Old Colony on March 1, 1893, and assumed the lease.[2] The New Haven used the B&P as part of its main Boston - New York City Shore Line.

When Boston's South Station opened in 1899, a new line was built along the south side of the Boston and Albany Railroad to it, near the B&A's terminal. The old line to Park Square was abandoned.

The East Side Railroad Tunnel opened in 1908 between the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island and downtown Providence. This provided a second route into Providence, using the old alignment to East Providence and the Crook Point Bascule Bridge over the Seekonk River leading to the tunnel. The tunnel is no longer in use, having been disconnected on the downtown side, with its entrance underneath the What Cheer Building, owned by RISD.

In 1939, the railroad filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission for reorganization in the New Haven rail system or operation as an independent line.[17]

Current status

The Penn Central Transportation Company was created in 1968 through a merger that included the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The Penn Central bankruptcy in the early 1970s coincided with the creation of Amtrak. Penn Central merged the Boston and Providence Railroad into itself in 1972.

The New Haven's former B&P Boston-New York City main line was included with the former Pennsylvania Railroad's New York City-Washington, D.C. main line as a new high-speed passenger route for Amtrak, the Northeast Corridor. It hosts the Acela, the only high-speed rail service in North America.

In 1973, the MBTA purchased the portion of the B&P main line in Massachusetts, including the Stoughton Branch, forming what is now the Providence/Stoughton Line. The portion in Rhode Island was sold to Amtrak in 1976.



The first branch was the Dedham Branch to Dedham from Readville, opened in 1834 with the first section of the railroad. The Norfolk County Railroad opened in 1849, continuing from Dedham to the southwest. In 1850, a second branch to Dedham opened from Forest Hills, forming a loop. Another outlet for the Dedham Branch opened in 1906, with a connection west to the New England Railroad at Needham Junction. The Dedham Branch from Forest Hills to that connection is still in use as the Needham Branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail, but the rest of the Dedham loop has been abandoned.


The Stoughton Branch Railroad was incorporated April 16, 1844 as a branch of the B&P from Canton Junction to Stoughton. It opened in early 1845, and is still in use for passengers as a branch of the main line to Attleboro and Providence.


The Easton Branch Railroad was incorporated in 1854 and opened in 1855 as a continuation of the Stoughton Branch beyond Stoughton. In 1865, the Old Colony and Newport Railway bought the line and incorporated the majority of it into its main line.


The Taunton Branch Railroad was incorporated in 1835 to build a branch from the B&P in Mansfield to Taunton, opening in 1836. The branch was operated by the B&P until 1840, when the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad opened, continuing the line past Taunton.

In 1870, the Mansfield and Framingham Railroad opened, continuing the Taunton Branch northwest on the other side of the B&P. A connection between the Taunton Branch northwest of Taunton and the B&P in Attleboro opened in 1871, built by the Taunton Branch.


The Attleborough Branch Railroad opened in 1870, running from the B&P in Attleboro northwest to North Attleborough. It was leased to the B&P, and was connected to a branch of the Old Colony Railroad in 1890.

Moshassuck Valley

The Moshassuck Valley Railroad was chartered in 1874 and opened in 1876 as a branch from the joint B&P/P&W at Woodlawn, Rhode Island north to Saylesville. The company remained independent until 1981, when it was bought by the P&W.


The Seekonk Branch Railroad was a short spur on the east side of the Seekonk River, from the B&P south to a dock on the river. It was incorporated in 1836 and opened soon after, with the hope that it would run its own trains over the B&P, as with a highway. As a result of this, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a law that a railroad company could refuse any traffic on its road, and the company was a failure. The B&P bought it in 1839, and the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad built a line from it in 1855.

Warren, Bristol and Fall River

The Providence and Bristol Railroad was incorporated in 1850 and 1851, and reorganized in 1852 as the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad. It opened in 1855 from the old Seekonk Branch in East Providence southeast to Warren and south to Bristol. It was owned by the B&P through a majority of stock, and leased the Old Colony Railroad in 1891.

The Warren and Fall River Railroad was incorporated in Rhode Island in 1856, and the Fall River and Warren Railroad in Massachusetts in 1857. In 1860 the two were merged to form the Fall River, Warren and Providence Railroad, opening later in 1860 from Warren east to Somerset, across the Taunton River from Fall River. In 1875, the Boston and Providence Railroad Bridge opened, connecting to the Old Colony Railroad in Fall River. At that time, the company was leased by the Old Colony; before that it had been controlled by the B&P.

Station listing

Main line

This listing includes all stations that have existed along the post-1847 B&P alignment from Park Square, Boston to Providence. Mileage is from Park Square; distances to South Station are 0.8 miles longer. These mileages reflect the pre-realignment routings in Pawtucket and Providence. Some stations were not opened until after the B&P had merged into the Old Colony. Currently open stations are lightlighted.

State Milepost City Station Opening date Closing date Notes
MA 0.0 Boston Park Square (Boston) June 1834 1899 Abandoned when South Station replaced the separate southside railroad terminals
0.5 Disabled access Back Bay 1899 Built in 1899 during the realignment into South Station; rebuilt in 1928 and 1979–1987. The Boston and Albany Railroad mainline (now the Framingham/Worcester Line) crossed the B&P at this location.
1.1 Chickering c. 1890s Located at Gainsborough Street and Camden Street, this station was likely closed during the 1890s grade separation project. The modern Massachusetts Avenue Orange Line station is located one block away.
1.5 Disabled access Ruggles October 5, 1987 Opened in 1987 as part of Southwest Corridor reconstruction; no previous station had been located there. Orange Line began on May 4, 1987.
2.0 Roxbury June 1834 September 29, 1940 Rebuilt in 1897. Roxbury Crossing station on the Orange Line is located at the same site.
2.5 Heath Street June 1, 1897 September 29, 1940 Jackson Square station on the Orange Line is located at the same site.
3.1 Boylston Street June 1, 1897 September 29, 1940 Stony Brook station on the Orange Line is located at the same site.
3.6 Jamaica Plain 1841 September 29, 1940 Rebuilt in 1897. Green Street station on the Orange Line is located at the same site.
4.3 Forest Hills c. 1830s
June 1973
October 19, 1987
September 29, 1940
October 13, 1979
Rebuilt in 1897 and 1979–1987. Station is currently served only by Needham Line trains, which split onto the West Roxbury Branch at the station. The Orange Line served a nearby elevated station from 1909 to 1987, then moved to the modern station on May 4, 1987.
5.4 Mount Hope c. 1880s November 2, 1979 Located at Blakemore Street. Formerly known as Monterey.
6.4 Clarendon Hills Before 1964 Located at Metropolitan Avenue.
6.9 Hazelwood Before 1964 Located at Arlington Street.
7.5 Disabled access Hyde Park c. 1840s
October 5, 1987
November 2, 1979
Rebuilt in 1979–1987. Formerly known as Fairmount.
8.8 Disabled access Readville June 1834
October 5, 1987
November 2, 1979
Junction with the Midland Railroad and former Dedham Branch; has only served Fairmount Line and Franklin/Foxboro Line trains since the 1979–1987 closure, although mainline platforms are in place. Rebuilt c. 1900 and in 1992.
10.8 Dedham and Westwood Disabled access Route 128 c. 1860s
April 26, 1953
c. 1920s
Rebuilt in 1965 and 2000. Previous station was known as Green Lodge.
11.8 Canton Dedham Road Before 1964 Also known as Canton Road.
14.1 Disabled access Canton Junction June 1834 Split with Stoughton Branch. Rebuilt in 1892 and c. 2000.
17.3 Sharon Disabled access Sharon June 1835 Rebuilt c. 1870s and 1936.
18.6 Sharon Heights Before 1964 Junction with Lake Massapoag branch.
21.7 Foxborough East Foxboro November 1977 Located at Community Way.
24.0 Mansfield Disabled access Mansfield June 1835 Rebuilt in 1955 and 2004. Junction with Mansfield and Framingham Railroad (now Framingham Secondary) and former Taunton Branch Railroad.
26.7 West Mansfield Before 1964 Also known as Tobeys. Located at Balcom Street.
31.1 Attleboro Disabled access Attleboro June 1835 Junction with New Bedford and Taunton Railroad Attleborough Branch (now Middleboro Subdivision) and former B&P Attleborough Branch. Rebuilt in 1906.
32.8 Dodgeville Before 1964 Located off South Main Street.
33.5 East Junction c. 1847 Before 1964 Flag stop only.[18] Junction with former main line to East Providence.
34.4 Hebronville c. 1847 Before 1964 Located at Knight Avenue.
36.3 Disabled access South Attleboro June 20, 1990 February 26, 2021 (temporary) Opened as a replacement for Pawtucket-Central Falls; no previous station was located at the site.
RI 38.2 Central Falls Central Falls c. 1847 June 16, 1916 Located at Central Street. Providence and Worcester Railroad diverged slightly to the north at Boston Switch. Replaced by Pawtucket-Central Falls in 1916.
38.4 Pawtucket Pawtucket-Central Falls June 16, 1916 February 19, 1981 Replaced the separate Pawtucket and Central Falls stations during a realignment and grade separation project.
38.6 Pawtucket c. 1847 June 16, 1916 Replaced by Pawtucket-Central Falls in 1916. Located on the old alignment, slightly to the south of the current tracks.
38.9 Disabled access Pawtucket/Central Falls January 3, 2023
39.6 Woodlawn c. 1847 Before 1964 Junction with Moshassuck Valley Railroad. Located at Grotto Avenue.
43.0 Providence Disabled access Providence October 25, 1847 Rebuilt in 1898 as Union Station; replaced by the modern station on a new alignment in 1986. Junction with the former Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad.

Stoughton Branch

State Milepost City Station Opening date Closing date Notes
MA 0.0 Canton Disabled access Canton Junction June 1834 Split with B&P mainline. Rebuilt in 1892 and c. 2000.
0.6 Disabled access Canton Center c. 1845 Formerly South Canton.
1.7 Springdale c. 1845 1940 At Pine Street; also known as Spring Dale.
2.9 Stoughton West Stoughton c. 1845 Before 1964 At Central Street; also known as Birds.
3.9 Disabled access Stoughton 1845 Former Easton Branch (part of Dighton and Somerset Railroad after 1865) continued. Formerly Stoughton Central.


  1. ^ Commissioners, Massachusetts Board of Railroad (1913). Annual Report [including Railroad and Street Railway Returns] of the Board of Railroad Commissioners. State Printers. p. 141.
  2. ^ a b c Company, Massachusetts Joint Commission on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (1911). Report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners, the Tax Commissioner and the Bank Commissioner, Sitting as a Commission, Relative to the Assets and Liabilities of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company: Feb. 15, 1911. Wright & Potter Printing Company. p. 351.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Stimson, Alexander Lovett (1881). History of the Express Business: Including the Origin of the Railway System in America, and the Relation of Both to the Increase of New Settlements and the Prosperity of Cities in the United States. Baker & Godwin, printers. p. 22.
  4. ^ Commission, United States Interstate Commerce (1929). Interstate Commerce Commission Reports: Decisions of the Interstate Commerce Commission of the United States. Valuation reports. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 243.
  5. ^ Local Attachments : The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920 (Creating the North American Landscape), by Alexander von Hoffman, The Johns Hopkins University Press (1996), ISBN 0-8018-5393-1
  6. ^ Humphrey, Thomas J.; Clark, Norton D. (1985). Boston's Commuter Rail: The First 150 Years. Boston Street Railway Association.
  7. ^ "Chapter 320: An Act Authorizing the Boston and Providence Railroad Corporation to Construct an Additional Track from Boston to Readville in Hyde Park, and to Increase its Capital Stock". Acts and resolves passed by the General Court. Massachusetts General Court. 1869. p. 629.
  8. ^ "The Boston & Providence Railroad Company". Boston Evening Transcript. December 14, 1871. p. 4 – via
  9. ^ "The Boston & Providence Railroad Corporation". Boston Evening Transcript. November 8, 1871. p. 2 – via
  10. ^ "Southern Section of Hyde Park" (Map). Atlas of Norfolk County Mass.: from recent and actual surveys & records. 1:3,600. Comstock & Cline. 1876. pp. 34–35.
  11. ^ "Railroad Matters". Boston Evening Transcript. July 28, 1873. p. 1 – via
  12. ^ Report of the Board of Directors of the Boston and Providence Railroad Corporation for the Year Ending September 30, 1881. Boston and Providence Railroad. 1881. p. 8.
  13. ^ "Jamaica Plain Historical Society - 'Transportation' Editor - - Bussey Bridge Disaster: Feature News Account". 2 January 2005. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  14. ^ Whitney, Joseph Cutler (1891). "Henry Austin Whitney: A Memoir". publisher not identified. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  15. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (2017). The Rail Lines of Southern New England (2 ed.). Branch Line Press. pp. 182–183. ISBN 9780942147124.
  16. ^ "April 1888 Old Colony takes possession of Boston & Providence Railroad". Newport Mercury. 1888-04-14. p. 4. Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  17. ^ "TWO PLANS FILED BY NEW HAVEN UNIT; Boston & Providence Railroad Places Its Reorganization Proposals Before I.C.C. SEEKS $400,000 YEARLY Asks Sum if Merger Should Be Effected--Independent Scheme Also Listed (Published 1939)". The New York Times. 1939-08-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  18. ^ "Town of Attleboro". New Topographical Atlas of Surveys Bristol County Massachusetts. Everts & Richards. 1895 – via WardMaps.
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Boston and Providence Railroad
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