This Day in Norwood History-May 21, 1972-Norwood Was Once The Hub Of Three Trolley Lines

OLD-TIME TROLLEYS — These pictures of old-time trolley cars will bring back memories for many local residents who once relied on this type of transportation before the advent of the automobile. Top left photo: This 12-bench double truck of the Norfolk & Bristol – Walpole line was able to seat six persons across on a seat instead of five on other type cars, increasing the seating capacity from 60 to 72 persons, plus standees. The conductor with his hand on the bell cord is William Chism, who at 95 was recently awarded the Boston Post cane as the oldest resident of Foxboro. Sitting on the seat in back of him is Mrs. Chism. John Kirby, deceased, was the motorman. Top right photo: In the early 1900’s this four-wheel open car was one of a type that provided summer passenger service all the way from East Walpole through Norwood, Islington, Dedham and Forest Hills Square to the Dudley Street Elevated Terminal of the Boston Elevated Railway. The Forest Hills Terminal was not opened until November, 1909. Eli Ogilvie was the motorman and John Connors the conductor. Passengers on the car were Judge James A. Halloran, Dr. Richard Winslow, and James E. Pendergast, Norwood Town Clerk. Bottom left photo: This nine-window, 26-ft. double truck closed electric trolley car was used on the East Walpole through Norwood to Dudley Street run, and later the Forest Hills Terminal. Bottom right photo: This 12-bench type double truck open car would seat 60 passengers. It was used on the East Walpole through Norwood to Dudley Street line in early 1900’s.—All photos from Carl L. Smith Collection

Electric Cars Appeared First In Dedham In 1894


(This is the third in a series on the history of transportation in the area being published in connection with Norwood’s 100th Anniversary observance.)

The rapid and successful development of the electric street railway in the era of steam railroads overshadowed the slower development of the gasoline and steam-propelled private automobile.

It has been said, and perhaps quite truly, that if the private auto had been successfully built and developed first in the 1890s and early 1900s we probably would never have had electric trolley cars operating in the streets of our cities and towns across the nation.

Although Dedham was In the first town in the area to have electric cars, operating from Dedham Square through Hyde Park to Mattapan Square, Norwood had to wait a little over two years Indore the ‘‘electrics.’ as they were called, got out this far.

But, by 1896 the Norfolk Central Street Railway tracks ran through Washington Street to Walnut Avenue where they stopped in front of the new Norwood Press.

This line along with the Norfolk Suburban to Mattapan and the West Roxbury and Roslindale and Needham and Boston Street Railway later became known as the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway.

Up to this time Washington Street had crossed the railroad at the foot of Chapel Street, where there was a small station called Winslow’s. This dangerous grade crossing was eliminated in 1895 – 1896 with the building of Norwood’s “Subway,” the present underpass at this location.

The car line was extended on this new route, continuing on Washington Street up to East Walpole by 1897.

A similar crossing was eliminated about this time with the construction of Guild Street underpass near Norwood Central. Five years later another trolley line made use of this underpass when the Blue Hill and Norwood, Canton & Sharon Street Railway opened their line from Canton to Norwood. (See history of the Blue Hill Street Railway published in 1957.)

The construction work involving the elimination of both the Guild Street and Winslow’s Crossing was a tremendous job to be undertaken at the time with hardly any machinery used except for a steam shovel, and many workmen employed with picks and shovels and horses and dump carts. The Winslow’s crossing job was the larger of the two and required a good part of a year and possibly longer.

The McCarthy Construction Company of Walpole was the firm that did most of this work in this area and surrounding towns.

With the rapid influx of new industry into the town during this expansion period, more jobs were created and employment was on the rise. The establishment of the two large hook manufacturing plants in Norwood during the 1880’s was largely responsible for attracting more people to seek employment here.

The Norwood Press plant of J.S. Cushing & Co.’s composing room amid the Berwick & Smith section, which printed the books, was opened in 1894. The Bindery building of C.B. Fleming & Co. was opened in 1896. The Plimpton Press was opened in 1897. So now, with the tanneries, the car shops, the two large bookmaking plants, Morrill’s Ink Works, and Bird & Son paper mill, the area gave employment to many hundreds of people.

Many of the workers commuted into Norwood every day on the varied and excellent rail service provided by steam railroad and electric cars.

OPEN AIR MODEL—This ten-bench open car ran from Norwood, comer of Day and Washington streets, down Day to Broadway, under the Guild street railroad bridge to Lenox street to Cross street, up a short way on Pleasant street and right on East Cross street, then on to Neponset street to Canton, past the Canton Junction Railroad Station to Sherman and Washington streets at the Town Hall and Public Library. (Photo from Carl L. Smith collections)


The Walpole Street car INC. known first as the Norfolk Southern Street Railway, and later as the Norfolk & Bristol Street Railway, made its appearance in Norwood from Walpole in 1898. This trolley provided connection far into the Blackstone Valley area.

There was no physical connection with the Norfolk Central, as arrangements had not been worked out for this connection. The cars stopped at the junction of Walpole. Washington and Guild Streets and this location became known as Guild Square.

It wasn’t until 1907 that final arrangements were made when the Norfolk & Bristol Street Railway cars were able run over the Bay State Street Railway tracks to Railroad Avenue and Washington Street where a large turn-out was const meted. The Norfolk & Bristol Street Railway went out of business in August, 1910.

The Norwood to Canton line was owned by two companies. The Blue Hill Street Railway, built in front of Canton Junction, where their car barn was located, to the Neponset River Bridge and connected thcir track with Norwood, Canton & Sharon Street Railway into Norwood coming up to the corner of Day Street and Washington Street.

From the Nononset River Bridge in the meadows they followed by the sale of the road on Neponset Street to East Cross Street, a short stretch on Pleasant Street, then along Cross and Lenox Street turning at the Flircpton Press under the then New Haven Railroad tracks along Broadway and up Day Street to Washington Street which was the terminal of the line.

This line was opened in 1901. The motorman and conductor were Blue Hill men and received half their pay from each road. A physical connection with the Bay State Street Railway was made shortly after the road opened so that the Canton cars could travel up Washington Street to Railroad Avenue. It was planned to have this location made a trolley terminal at the Waiting Room and car station.

The Canton line had hoped to extend their line up Railroad Avenue and through Prospect Street and up Nahatan Street to Westwood Center. Although Norwood approved this plan, they were not able to get approval from Westwood officials, .so the line was never built The cars never used the Bay State tracks and always stopped at Day Street.

The Norwood – Canton through service stopped in March 1918 as it was never a paying proposition from the start. (For further details see the history of the Blue Hill Street Railway, published in 1957.)


The “Gay Nineties’’ was full of activity and excitement with business booming and expanding rapidly, so much so that people who could afford it turned to furnishing their own transportation by purchasing I self – propelled vehicles.

Some of the autos were: ¡small onc-seators and sonic were larger with room to seat five to seven persons. The: large autos had an entrance on the side for the front seat but one would have to climb a few steps and enter a rear door on the back of the vehicle to ride in the back seal.

The smaller cars would only have a one cylinder gasoline engine and the larger ones would have a two or four-cylinder engine connected by a chain drive to the rear wheels. This was long before Mr. Ford began making his auto jokingly referred to as the “Tin Lizzie.”

Some of the first ones to own autos in Norwood were: Fred Colburn, noted plumber and the town’s first plumbing inspector. The Morrill family had several cars. Mr. Colburn s registration plate number was 321 and the Morrill’s were 355 and consecutively in this series.

Then there were the Stanley Steamer autos made in Newton, Massachusetts, and there were several of these in town. Mr. Bartlett and Mr. Hanscom of Bird & Son operated these for a while in the early 1900’s.

Then there was introduced a little later the Franklin air-cooled automobile, and a small electrically operated auto which derived its power front; a set of storage batteries under the seat of the car. There were the “Detroit” Electric and the “Baker” Electric which appealed to the leading women of the community.

The only trouble was that after driving about the town the batteries would have to be recharged for several hours before the car could be driven again.


As long as there are people living in a community and the population continues to increase there will always be a constant need for all types of transportation.

In the early 1900’s, we had three established electric ¡trolley lines carrying hundreds of people throughout the length and breadth of the town, with frequent service from early morning to around midnight every day in the1 week. The steam railroad also gave more train service. According to a 1912 timetable, there were nearly 30 trains each way between NorwoodCentral and Boston on weekdays and 10 each way on Sundays.

In 1911 trolley lines as far north as Nashua. New Hampshire, Lowell. Lawrence and Haverhill, Massachusett were merged with all lines, south of Boston as far as Newport and Providence, Rhode Island. This merger was called the Bay State Street Railway. This was then the largest electric street railway operating in the eastern part of the country, with over 1,000 miles of track!

The frequency of service was every half hour, except that the Canton line gave only hourly service at certain times during the day. There was some 15 minutes service on Washington Street line afternoons until early evening.


In addition to those who had to use the trolleys every day in traveling to work, to school, or to shopping into Boston or just visiting friends in the; surrounding towns, there were many who rode in search of: entertainment.

Places of amusement and recreation spots such as Westwood Park in Islington, a trip over through Canton to the Blue Hills, or a nice scenic ride through the country, towns of Walpole, Foxboro and Wrentham to beautiful Lake Pearl Park for boating, bathing or a picnic attracted many Sunday scho0l gr0ups during the summer months.

The greatest patronage of this type was created by Westwood Park, in Islington. Thousands of people would ride in from up to ten miles around to see the shows presented every afternoon and evening in a large rustic open-air theatre with a capacity of over 2,000.

At first, when the Park opened in June, 1898, there were high-class vaudeville acts. Motion pictures were added later On Sundays, there were sacred band concerts by various local bands including the Norwood Band. Later a stock company presented plays until 1916 or 1917.

Grounds were pleasantly laid out with beautiful flowers displayed and well kept with green grass along the paths. Owned and operated by the Old Colony – Bay State Street Railway the park also contained a zoo, a merry-go-round, and an ice cream parlor and sandwich bar as well as other items of amusement for young and old.

The company put on many extra open cars every evening in addition to the regular schedule of service, giving employment to many people of the area.

From 1910 on, during the “teen” years, the business district from Railroad Avenue to Guild and Walpole Streets saw many changes taking place along its busy Washington Street through the center of the town. The street was beginning to see more auto traffic as well as more trolley car lines.

As Washington Street was only a gravel-dirt road it became very muddy after a rain storm, often submerging the lightweight car tracks. After almost 15 years of hard use, the town and the trolley car company agreed to repair the road and lay new heavier girder rail replacing the old worn out single track from Railroad Avenue to Guild Street through the center of town.

In 1910 the Old Colony – Bay State Street Railway put on new heavier and faster cars of the semi-convertible type and gave more frequent service from East Walpole right through to Forest Hills without changing cars. The new service called for a car every twenty minutes from first trip in the morning till the last trip after midnight instead of the half-hour schedule as formerly given.

With the new semi-convertibles now running In both summer and winter months, this did away with the need for using the open cars in the summer months.

As time went on it again became necessary to do some more work on Washington Street in the center of the town. This time the street was widened to 60 feet, all the trees were cut down and a double track laid in the center of the street with granite block paving.

All electric and telephone wires were put underground. This was a tremendous project done in 1916 and Norwood’s business center took on the appearance of a big city street. This modernization, however, destroyed the last vestiges of the quiet country village.

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