The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Boston and Maine Railroad

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BOSTON AND MAINE RAILROAD. The Boston and Maine system, as it stands to-day, is one of the most remarkable examples of railroad evolution and consolidation to be found in the world. Including the constituent roads owned, leased, controlled and operated, it represents fully 125 distinct units, ranging from a four or five-mile line, like the Troy & Bennington, to a great 400-mile “system,” like the Fitchburg division. Some of its branches were incorporated as far back as the early thirties, while others are creations of the last 15 or 20 years.

To bring together all of these different and sometimes conflicting transportation units under a single management represents a feat of financiering probably unique on this continent. Of the 2,302 miles now operated by the Boston & Maine Railroad no less than 1,544 miles represent roads leased by the parent company. One of these, the Troy & Bennington, is leased in perpetuity, and the lease having the longest term to run is that of the Vermont & Massachusetts road, which expires in 2873. The Massawippi Valley road lease expires in 2869, the Fitchburg road lease in 1999, and the one to first expire was that of the Suncook Valley road, 1 Jan. 1916.

To give a clearer idea of the full extent of the Boston & Maine Railroad system the following table, showing the leased roads, with the dates of their incorporation, the beginning and expiration of leases, and mileage has been prepared under the direction of Vice-President William J. Hobbs:

Name of Road Date of
Date of Lease Date of
 Miles of 

Lowell & Andover
Kennebunk & Kennebunkport 
Manchester & Lawrence
Boston & Lowell
Nashua & Lowell
Stony Brook
Connecticut & Passumpsic
Massawippi Valley
Connecticut River,
Northampton & Springfield
Greenfield & Northampton
Concord & Montreal,
Concord railroad
Boston, Concord & Montreal 
Concord & Portsmouth
Suncook Valley
Pemigewasset Valley
New Boston
Franklin & Tilton
Vermon & Massachusetts
Troy & Bennington
 Feb. 5,  1873
 Aug. 16,  1882
 June 30,  1847
 June 8,  1830
 April 16,  1836
 March  26,  1845
 Dec. 28,  1844
 July 7,  1866
 Dec. 27,  1844
 Nov. 10,  1835
 March 1,  1842
 Jan. 25,  1845
 June 27,  1835
 Dec. 27,  1844
 July 1,  1863
 July 9,  1874
 Feb. 19,  1891
 Aug. 4,  1887
 March 3,  1842
 March 15,  1844
 March 27,  1851
 Oct. 18,  1875 
 June 18,  1883 
 June 1,  1887 
 June 22,  1887 
 Nov. 10,  1880 
 Sept. 30,  1884 
 Feb. 1,  1884 
 April 1,  1893 
 Dec. 30,  1889 
 June 1,  1887 
 Dec. 27,  1871 
 Jan. 1,  1893 
 June 29,  1895 
 May 26,  1862 
 March  11,  1870 
 March 31,  1883 
 June 21,  1893 
 Oct. 8,  1895 
 June 30,  1900 
 Jan. 1,  1874 
 Oct. 12,  1872 
 Dec. 1,  1973 
 May 15,  1982 
 Sept. 1,  1937 
 April 1,  1986 
 Oct. 1,  1979 
 Jan. 1,  1989 
 Oct. 1,  1982 
 April 1,  1986 
 Jan. 1,  1989 
 Jan. 1,  1986 
 July 1,  2869 
 Jan. 1,  1992 
 April 1,  1986 
 Jan. 1,  1961 
 Jan. 1,  1916 
 Feb. 1,  1982 
 June 19,  1992 
 April 1,  1986 
 July 1,  1999 
 Jan. 1,  2873 

Total mileage ............... ............... ............... 1487.69

While it is impossible to give anything like a complete history of such a complicated system as that of the Boston & Maine Railroad in such a brief sketch as this must be, it is important to note some of the events in its history which stand out most conspicuously. For example, it is certainly worthy of record that the original railroad — the acorn from which the present great Boston & Maine system has sprung — was first conceived in the brain of its founder, Hobart Clark, of Andover, Mass., in the fall of 1832.

Mr. Clark, after traveling over the Albany & Schenectady Railroad, then the only line west of the Hudson River, saw the utility of a branch railroad to Andover, tapping the Boston & Lowell road (then under construction) at Wilmington.

The road was, in 1833, granted a charter under the name of the Andover & Wilmington Railroad, the first directors being Hobart Clark, Abraham Marland, Amos Abbott, John Smith and Merrill Pettingill, all residents of Andover. The capital stock was $100,000.

Hobart Clark was elected president, and the road was surveyed under the direction of Col. Loammi Baldwin, of Charlestown, Mass., the well-known civil engineer.

Work was commenced in the spring of 1835, and the first section of the road was opened to Andover 6 Aug. 1836. By the fall of 1837 it had been opened to the Merrimac River, at Bradford; by 1840 to Exeter; by 1841 to Dover and by 1843 to South Berwick Junction.

In 1835, a second charter had been obtained allowing the extension of the road to Haverhill, and the name was changed to the Andover & Haverhill Railroad; and a little later in the same year a charter was obtained from the New Hampshire legislature for a road from the Massachusetts line through New Hampshire to the Maine State line, under the name of the Boston & Maine Railroad.

In the following year the Maine legislature granted a charter extending the line to Portland, and thus was finally organized the original Boston & Maine Railroad, which to-day serves a very large section, annually transports over 43,000,000 passengers and nearly 23,000,000 tons of freight, earns $46,405,035 a year, owns 23,900 freight cars and 1,953 passenger cars, carries a veritable army upon its payrolls, and operates in five States and one Canadian province.

The system had its beginning in the day of small things, and to-day it exists in an era of great ones, as far as railroad policies are concerned.

The slow but certain process of amalgamation which has resulted in the present vast transportation system under one management has been an exceedingly interesting one, but its history would require too much space to be given even in outline here.

It has been attended by many exciting episodes, legislative and financial, particularly with reference to the leasing of the Connecticut River road in 1893, the Concord & Montreal in 1895 and the Fitchburg in 1900. These leases were hotly contested by minority stockholders or opposing interests, but most of the leased lines were absorbed without much show of opposition. It has for some time been the policy of the company to purchase outright its leased lines, whenever that has been practicable. In view of the present highly-organized condition of railroad operation it is noteworthy that when the original Boston & Maine road was first built and operated the telegraph had not been invented and double tracks were essential for the safe operation of trains.

Moreover, civil engineering was then in its infancy and surveying instruments were clumsy and primitive, the transit not even having been produced at that time.

Few of those who were engaged in building the road had ever had any experience in such work, for railroads themselves were very new then, and there is a tradition that fully 75 per cent of the surveying for the line was done without instruments and by purely visual work. There were no time fuses to aid in blasting, and not even friction matches had come into existence.

Aside from the relocation of a part of the Central Massachusetts division, made necessary by the construction of the great Wachusett reservoir, the only considerable piece of railroad in the territory now controlled by the Boston & Maine which has ever been actually abandoned was part of the original Portsmouth & Concord road. This line once ran between Suncook and Candia, and that portion of it was afterward given up for a more favorable location.

According to the financial report issued by the company for the year ending 30 June 1910 the total earnings of the road during the previous 12 months were $43,357,175. Deducting operating expenses, $31,336,324, left the net earnings $12,020,851, an amount that was further increased to $12,809,863, by the addition of $789,012, which represented the road's income from other sources.

The report for the year ending 30 June 1915 showed a total operating revenue of $48,430,485 against total operating expenses $37,270,726, leaving net earnings of $11,159,759. Other expenses and deductions, however, revealed a net loss of $476,440. This, nevertheless, improved on the year preceding, 1914, when the net loss revealed was $2,169,554. A new board of trustees appointed 17 Oct. 1914, after a study of the situation, found that the trouble was fundamental and suggested its correction by slight increases in freight and passenger rates and by a financial reorganization, which would keep the system intact as a whole and restore its credit.