Horse Railroad 1828


A Reminder of the Olden Time.

A Scheme for a Horse Railroad from Boston to Brattleboro Way Back in 1828.


The death this winter of Cyrus Felton, the antiquarian of Marlboro, Mass. brings to mind one of the choice bits of local history which he unearthed and announced in September, but which failed of the notice it deserved. It was no less than a project to build a horse-railroad from Boston to Brattleboro in 1828. The document Mr. Felton discovered, which gave him the story he prized so much, was simply a 10-inch flyer printed by John H. Eastburn of Boston, and headed--"Improvements in Massachusetts---To the Citizens in favor of a Railroad from Boston to Vermont". At the top is a little wood-cut of two four-wheeled cars, drawn by a single horse, driven by a man sitting on the forward car, and the two cars, which appear to be about the size of the ordinary one horse car, seem to be loaded with pumpkins. It must be remembered that at this time the chief freighting of this town was by boat from points in Connecticut. The circular proceeds then to sketch the proposed route as follows: "To commence at the empty basin and run parallel with the Western avenue through Brighton, thence upon the south side of the Charles river to cross said river between Bemis factory and Watertown bridge; thence between the road and river to the head of Waltham plain; thence across to the north side of the new road upon the survey made by James T. Baldwin in 1828; through Weston and Sudbury to White pond; through Stow, Bolton, Lancaster, Leominster to Fitchburg; thence by the survey of L. Baldwin in 1825, which follows up the middle branch of the Nashua river to Ashburnham, through Winchendon village to Athol, Royalston, Orange, Ewings Grant to Gunn's Bridge, where is found the most convenient line through Northfield to the ferry which is about eight miles north of Miller's river; thence across the Connecticut river to the west side through Vernon to Brattleboro. So far as the eye can discern, aided by the delighted and generous inhabitants in every town, it is a favorite route."


The document then states that the cost will be about $9000 a mile or about a million dollars for the whole. Books for subscriptions of stock at $188 a share, are to be opened in each town and in Boston and the paper closes grandiloquently like a boomer newspaper in the West in this way: "Shall Massachusetts look on and stand still while we view every other state in the Union marching on with their internal improvements? Not so long as there is one particle of Revolutionary spirit left." There is in the body of the circular much elaboration of a new scheme of side-tracks for passing of cars around each other in opposite transit, and frequent allusions re made to the South Carolina and Baltimore railroads "which are now (1828) in progress." The part of this circular which most interests our own townsmen is this sentence: "For a single set of tracks, with sideways at suitable distances, it will require a capital of a million dollars, which sum would be expended within the state, even to the bar iron which is manufactured near Brattleboro." Where were the smelting works which were to do this? They were located down by the river bank near where the depot is. Although the circular writer understood evidently that the iron was to be made here, it is the opinion of our older citizens, who can just remember the old foundry, that no ore was smelted here, but that the pigs of iron were brought up on the old river boats and here cast into various serviceable shapes is well known. The old foundry did lively business for many years and then relapsed, an early precursor of the fate of many since then throughout New England.


Vermont Phoenix, April 11, 1890.


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