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October 9, 2017

Gone But Not Forgotten:
Railroading on Cape Cod - part 2 of 3

By Alan Petrulis


Postcard

Buzzards Bay station on Main Street was built as Cohasset Narrows in 1848 for the Cape Cod Branch Railroad. The name was changed to Buzzards Bay in 1879, and rebuilt by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1912. The nearby entrance to the Cape Cod Canal was then the Monument River, which took great effort to bridge. Buzzards Bay was the portal for all railroads that came to serve Cape Cod. The station remained a stop for the excursion trains of the Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad, and Amtrak trains until 1996. Today the structure holds office space and a visitor’s center.

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The building of the Cape Cod Canal may have improved marine travel, but at the same time it created a new obstacle for the railroad. This made necessary the building of a drawbridge at Buzzards Bay in 1912 to carry the line across the waterway. Meanwhile the Canal was not fulfilling its great promise because it was simply too narrow for most merchant ships. When plans were made to dredge it wider, this required the construction of a new railroad bridge. The Public Works Administration began construction on the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge in 1933. When the first train between Boston and Hyannis ran over this 540-foot span two years later, it was the largest single-track vertical lift bridge in the world. Careful coordination was needed between the bridge operators and the Canal’s marine traffic controller for there was no more than a seven-foot clearance under the span when lowered for a train. The lift span was normally positioned high above the canal and only lowered when needed. Since ships take some time to slow, let alone stop, they were warned of train traffic well in advance of their approach. During World War Two when canal traffic increased dramatically to avoid German U-boat activity, it was the trains that often had to wait for an opportunity to cross. Despite the reduction in train traffic, the bridge is still used by some seasonal trains.

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The original West Sandwich station on Freight House Road was in use from the mid-19th century until 1911 when it was replaced by a brick structure and renamed Sagamore. This station was shut down in 1937 as part of cost cutting measures, and was subsequently demolished. Remnants of its foundation still exist.

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From his humble beginnings as a blacksmith, Isaac Keith began to grow a business in 1829 that eventually produced all sorts of wagons and carriages, including the famous prairie schooners that carried settlers out west. When the railroad was built through West Sandwich, Isaac Keith & Sons built a spur line to directly connect it to their factory. From 1870 on, their main business became the production of railway cars. There relationship with the Old Colony Railroad grew so great that the firm had an office placed in the new Sagamore train station built when in 1884. By 1907 the firm was purchased by Standard Steel Car Company and its name changed to Keith Car & Manufacturing Company. Most postcards depicting the mile long plant stretching along the Cape Cod Canal were made around this time. Business boomed through World War One when they received a large contract to produce rolling stock destined for France. Afterwards they were slowly reduced to little more than a repair facility for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The factory finally closed for good in 1928 after being bought by the Pullman Company. When the Cape Cod Canal was widened in the 1930’s, the last of this great factory was demolished.

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When the original Sandwich station was built in 1848, it was the end of the Line for the Cape Cod Railroad. This required other facilities like a roundhouse to be constructed nearby. Just one year after opening, Henry David Thoreau arrived here from Boston to begin his first saunter across Cape Cod. As the railroad grew beyond this point in 1878, the old wooden structure was replaced with one of brick. While the station was closed in 1959 when passenger service on the line was discontinued, sporadic service was reinstated over the years. Between 1961 and 1964 the New Haven Railroad stopped here on summer weekends. The Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad also ran summer trains here between 1984 and 1988. In 1986, Sandwich became a stop on Amtrak’s Cape Codder service, but this was discontinued in 1996. Today it is the terminus for Cape Cod Central’s excursion train run out of Hyannis.

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The original West Barnstable station was built in 1854, and then rebuilt in 1911. Extensive siding track was also laid here alongside a freight house. The station was closed after passenger service was discontinued on the line in 1964. Service was revived between 1986 and 1996 for Amtrak’s Cape Codder. The station building now serves as a museum for the National Railway Historical Society.

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The original Barnstable station on Railroad Avenue was built in 1854 and rebuilt in 1889. The station was closed after passenger service was discontinued on the line in 1964.

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The Cape Cod Railroad had originally built a station in Yarmouthport, but after it burnt down in 1878 they built a new station further to the east on Railroad Avenue in Yarmouth. This became the junction between trains headed toward Hyannis or Provincetown. This station also burnt down in 1941, but it was replaced with a new brick structure. The station closed once passenger service ended in 1964, and it was then torn down in 1975 and replaced with a commercial warehouse.

Real Photo Postcard

Methodist camp grounds began to be built throughout New England during the 19th century, as places were sermons could be heard while getting some relief from the stifling heat endemic to cities. When the Millennium Grove in Eastham proved too inconvenient to get to, a new plot of land was purchased in Yarmouth that could be more easily accessed by rail. Camp Station, located between Yarmouth and Hyannis on Willow Street was built in 1863. It was a scheduled stop in August, but a flag stop off-season. Attendance at the camp eventually grew so large that a shuttle service was established between Yarmouthport and Hyannis to make better connections with steamers. By the turn of the 20th century, interest in camp life began to dwindle, and Camp Station was reduced to a year-round flag stop. In 1925 the station house was sold off and carted away to Harwich to be used as a bungalow. Although the last camp meeting was held in 1939, a number of cottages remain.

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When Hyannis station on Main Street was built in 1854, it marked the completion of an important rail line that connected the shipping interests in Nantucket with Boston. It was a large depot that could accommodate separate waiting rooms for men and women. Extensive facilities were also added like a railroad yard and a round house. Depot Square, where the station stood, was the commercial and social center of Hyannis, which insured the station would be the subject of many view-cards.

Real Photo Postcard

After many years in service, the New Haven Railroad closed the Hyannis station in 1954 when they converted their warehouse on Yarmouth Road into a new station house. When passenger service on the line ended in 1964, this new station was closed, then sold and turned into a restaurant. The Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad reopened the old station in 1984 to serve their excursion line. At the same time it began to be used by Amtrak as the terminus for the Cape Codder. Although the Cape Cod & Hyannis Railroad closed in 1988, Amtrak kept the station open until 1996 when it discontinued service to the Cape. In 1999, the Cape Cod Central railroad reinstated excursion service from this Station to Sandwich. When the line past Yarmouth was closed down during the 1930Ős, the New Haven Railroad instituted bus service that ran out to Chatham and Provincetown. Independent bus lines now run out of the new Hyannis Transportation Center that was built next to the old Hyannis railroad station.

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When built in 1854, Hyannisport station was the true terminus of the Cape Cod Railroad. While Hyannis station served the town, Hyannisport station sat on a long wharf where connections were made with the ferries of the Nantucket Steamship Company. After the major ferry lines moved to Woods Hole in 1872, this station was only used to move freight. By the time the station was abandoned in 1937, there was barely any traffic left. The granite blocks that made up the wharf were then reused to construct the breakwater at the entrance to Hyannis Harbor. The old right of way now served as Old Colony Boulevard, which runs toward the remains of the wharf.

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In 1890, President Grover Cleveland bought a fishing lodge known as Tudor Haven in Bourne, which he renovated and renamed Grey Gables. It was used as his summer White House between 1893 and 1896. A small station by the same name was built on Monument Neck Road to exclusively serve it. This was the first stop on the line running down to Woods Hole. From this station there was a direct telegraph line stretching to Washington, DC. After his daughter Ruth died in 1904, he parted from Grey Gables for good, but his family’s presence there had helped make Cape Cod a fashionable place to summer. When the home was later sold for use as a hotel, the station house became a summer cottage and later served as a real estate office until moved to the grounds of the Bourne Historical Society in 1976.

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The original Monument Beach station on Shore Road was built for summer service in 1875. It was eventually replaced by a larger depot, but this structure burnt down during the devastating fire of May 1906 that destroyed so much of the village. The station that appears on the card above is its replacement. After the station closed in the 1950’s, it was turned into a private residence.

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When the original Pocasset station dating from 1872 was closed in 1906, the Wenaumet station on Barlows Landing Road was renamed Pocasset Station. This station burnt down in 1914, but was replaced the following year. As passenger service on the Cape dwindled, the station was closed and demolished in 1960. Only remnants of the foundation remain.

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Cataumet station on Post Office Square was built in 1890 to replace service at the original Pocasset station just to the north. After being destroyed by fire in 1925, the wooden structure was replaced by a brick station. After service ended for good in 1988, the structure was taken over by a civic association.

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The original North Falmouth station on Depot Road was built in 1872, but it was replaced with a larger depot in 1905. The station closed once passenger service was discontinued in 1964, and it burnt down in 1969. While the right of way to Woods Hole from this site has been turned into the Shining Sea Bikeway, the tracks to the north of it are still used to haul trash.

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When existing facilities for the National Guard in Massachusetts grew inadequate, a new facility, Camp Edwards was constructed in the rural landscape of western Barnstable in 1938. A spur line from North Falmouth was then built, which terminated at the Camp Edwards Station on Weaver Street. As the United States began to mobilize its armed forces in 1940, the Army began leasing the base as a training camp and the railroad saw increased use. By the end of the Korean War, the camp was deactivated and the station was then demolished. Although most activity was shifted to the neighboring Otis Air Force Base, freight trains still use the line within the military reservation as part of the Massachusetts Coastal Railroad.

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The original West Falmouth station on Old Dock Road was built in 1872. It was demolished sometime after passenger service was discontinued in 1964. The Shining Sea Bikeway now runs trough here.

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The Original Falmouth station on Depot Avenue was built in 1872. After being sold to the Swift family in 1912, the structure was moved to the other side of the tracks and a new brick station was constructed on its former site. Although the station was closed when passenger service ended in 1989, many plans persisted in reopening it as part of a new commuter rail service. These proposals never went anywhere, and the former station is now used as a bus terminal.

Real Photo Postcard

Woods Hole served as the railroad terminus for the Woods Hole branch where ferry service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard were available. The original station, built in 1872, was located by the docks where easy connections could be made with steamers. This wooden structure was replaced with a new brick station in 1899. Once passenger service was discontinued in 1963, the station was closed and demolished in 1970. The site is now the southern terminus of the Shining Sea Bikeway. The once extensive waterfront rail yard, which was the subject of many postcards is now used as a parking lot by the steamship authority.

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The introduction of train service to the Cape dramatically decreased travel time, but time is relative and never goes by fast enough for some. In 1884, the 72-mile train ride from Boston to Woods Hole took two hours and fifty minutes, which was much too slow for the growing number of wealthy businessmen who had summer homes on Buzzards Bay. They came to make an arrangement with the railroad in which they would charter a train between June and October exclusively for their use. It would achieve greater speed by only stopping where required by its select passengers. An aura of exclusivity built up around the Dude Train or Flying Dude as it was sometimes called, and it was singled out as a subject for postcards. This private service was suspended in 1917 when America’s entry into World War One led to the nationalization of all railroads. The service failed to be revived in the postwar years due to rising operational costs and declining interest.


This article consist of three parts; click on the links below to continue reading.

Railroading on Cape Cod part 1
Railroading on Cape Cod part 3



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