The Providence & Worcester railroad was under construction in the year W.F.Sayles purchased his first mill.  The P&W followed the Moshassuck River out of Providence and the original survey contemplated continuing along the same alignment eventually used by the Moshassuck Valley railroad.  However, it was decided to curve the P&W eastward at Woodlawn to reach the populace and mills of Pawtucket, Central Falls and Valley Falls .  Passenger service began on October 25, 1847.
     The Boston & Providence railroad reached Providence in 1835 but its terminal was at India Point away from the city center.  To join the P&W and the New York, Providence & Boston at a new union depot in the center of Providence, the B&P built a short connector in 1848 from near Attleboro to a junction with the P&W in Central Falls named Boston Switch.  From there to Providence the P&W and B&P operated the five mile section through joint ownership.  The Sayles mills were about two miles from the freight house the two railroads operated in the center of Pawtucket.
     The Sayles Bleachery finished about forty tons of goods a day in the 1870's and the distance from the mills to the P&W and B&P had become a handicap which the Sayles brothers decided to end with their own railroad.  On June 11, 1874, the Moshassuck Valley Railroad Company was incorporated and organized with William as President and Frederick as Treasurer, each owning 244 shares of the 500 shares issued.  The economy was depressed during the years 1874-75 and the brothers delayed construction.  L.L. Minot, a Boston civil engineer, was chosen to lead the construction.  In a letter dated May 12, 1876 he presented an estimate of $39,200 for a length of mainline of 1 and 6/10 miles.  Major expenses were $15,000 for 100,000 cubic yards of grading,  $5,500 for bridges and culverts, and $14,000 for track and switches.  Four contractors from the Boston area bid for the project, the award going to Ezra G. Perkins of Hyde Park.
     Minot completed surveys and locations in June and grading and masonary work proceeded in July and August.  In September a 2-4-2 type tank locomotive was ordered from the Rhode Island Locomotive Works in Providence and a order for rail was placed with the Pennsylvania Steel Company.  In October, 803 rails of 56 pounds per yard and mainly 30 feet in length were shipped.  Construction was mainly finished before winter and Perkins received a final payment on December 28.  The road was officially opened on January 5, 1877.  
                                                                                           MAP OF THE MVRR IN 1916 
     The Sayles mills were the reason for building the MVRR and its major customer for most of its existence.  Textiles to and from the Sayles Bleacheries, Lorraine Manufacturing Co. and Glenlyon Dye Works were a major source of traffic but there was also large amounts of coal for the mills and a variety of related products.  For example, the mill box shop in Saylesville used 10 million feet of lumber in 1946 to produce packing cases for finished merchandise and there was a soap shop in need of chemicals to produce soap and fabric softeners.  
     In March 1877, the second full month of operation, the new railroad handled 1,529 tons; 1,064 tons received and 465 tons forwarded.  About half the freight received was from Providence, presumably much from the docks, and about 80 percent of the freight forwarded went to Providence.  Large amounts were received from Boston and Ogdensburg and significant amounts from Manchester, Wooonsocket, Putnam, Millville and Whitins.   Freight was also forwarded to Boston, New Bedford and Pawtucket.
     In May of 1901, the MVRR moved 592 loaded cars to the mills, excluding coal. Inward cars mainly contained cloth and lumber while outward  cars contained mainly cases of cloth.  The most cars handled on a single day that month was 32; 14 cars in and 18 out.  The  MVRR also moved in 95 cars of coal that month, including two days on which 19 coal cars were moved.  In addition to the loads pulled from and to the interchange at Woodlawn, the MVRR moved 56 cars to and from the mill storehouses.
 MVRR box car 2511 at an unidentified freight platform.
    The mills often received and delivered  from and to customers in quantities that did not fill a box car and consequently the mills were a major user of LCL, less than carload shipment services.  Boxcars would be loaded with packages for customers in various locations and the cars would be delivered to transfer points where the packages would be sorted into other cars with packages for similar destinations.  In late 1947, for example, the MVRR sent each day three cars to Spencer Transfer in North Carolina which was the closest transfer point for the Sayles mills at Biltmore, North Carolina.  In addition , each day there was at least two cars to Philadelphia, two to Utica and one to Providence.  Only one LCL car was scheduled to arrive in Saylesville; it came three days a week from the Providence transfer.
     The MVRR also served other customers.  Farmers received feed and supplies when the area was still rural.  L.B. Darling Fertilizer Co. was once served by a siding behind Lorraine Mill.  Off that siding there was also a coal trestle for Lorraine Mill. For many years Gorman's Bakery in Central Falls received bulk flour on the MVRR.  Stacks of hay came from the nearby Lincoln Downs race track and were stored in a long row along a MVRR siding until there was enough to fill several gondolas which transported the used bedding hay to New Jersey where it was used to grow mushrooms for Cambell Soup. 
     The textile industry in Rhode Island  declined in the 1920's and 30's due to lower costs in the south and in 1960 Sayles operations ended.  The family sold the MVRR to Standard Transportation in December 1967 and traffic remained relatively good as various light industries replaced the textile mills.  The Watt Terminal operation was a major customer with a complex of buildings near the MVRR enginehouse and several boxcars were often at the site.  A terminal company provides a warehousing and distribution service for manufacturing clients.  Among other significant customers in later years were Collyer Wire, Durastone cement products, and a Quick Crete concrete plant.  The last important customer was Barker Steel which supplied rebar for reinforcing concrete.
Passenger Service
                                                                                                               (click the image below for a full screen view) 
     Passenger service made the Sayles mills more accessible, particularly since Woodlawn was on a major trunk line which allowed for convenient travel to Providence, Pawtucket and distant cities such as Boston and New York.  H.G. Bradley of Osgood Bradley Car Manufacturers, wrote W.F. Sayles when the MVRR was under construction, "My foreman, Mr. Childs told me that you called here last week in regard to the car about which we had some conversation last spring.  If you have not contracted for this car I should be glad to build you one and will do so on as reasonable terms as any other parties.  Have no plans of cars but can send you a photograph of one should you desire".
    The MVRR probably did buy a small coach from Osgood Bradley's Worcester plant because the new tank engine was pictured with one and for many years the road reported it owned two passenger cars.  From 1896 until 1916 passenger service was provided by a Baldwin steamcar painted a highly varnished red and named "Saylesville".  It was purchased from the Brooklyn City Transit Co. when it was about 18 years old and seated only about two dozen since its front was occupied by a steam boiler.  Pulling a trailer it had a capacity of about sixty passengers.  Baldwin steamcars were built to replace horsecars on city streets, had the appearance of streetcars and were virtually free of smoke and noise.  Because of their silence they were called "dummies".
    There were a dozen trains in each direction at the turn of the century, each making the run between Saylesville and Woodlawn in 8 to 11 minutes.  After leaving Woodlawn the train stopped a half mile later at Lorraine Mill (Mineral Spring Avenue), a quarter  mile later at Lock Bridge (Weeden Street) and then Crefeld (Bagley Street) which was about a quarter mile from the Saylesville depot.  Saylesville had a station building which lasted as a mill gatehouse.  Other stops may have had shelters since at one time the line reported three station buildings.  The Woodlawn depot was not owned by the MVRR and stood across the mainline tracks.  Passengers appeared to have peaked in 1902 when almost 42,000 were carried.  The steady decline in passengers thereafter reflected the construction of electric streetcar lines and the increase in automobile ownership.  Passenger service ended in the early 1920's.
     The MVRR's charter specified that the railroad could be built to the limestone quarries at Limerock and Frederick Sayles talked of building to Worcester to reach the Boston & Albany railroad but the expansion plan that nearly came to fruition was the extension to the Pawtucket River.  The Boston & Providence was leased by the Old Colony in 1888 and in the same year the Providence & Worcester was leased by the New York, Providence & Boston.  In 1892 the New York, New Haven & Hartford leased the NYP&B and in the next year it leased the Old Colony.  Before the 19th century ended the New Haven controlled all the trunk lines in Rhode Island and most of southern New England.  The New Haven then expanded into control of trolley lines and steamships placing shippers at the mercy of a monopoly.
       Frank A. Sayles was now the owner of the MVRR.  He inherited half the shares of stock outstanding when his father William died in 1894 and in 1896 he purchased nearly all the remaining shares from his uncle Frederick.   Questions about rates appear to have been dealt with more satisfactorily when the P&W and B&P were independent.  In a letter to William Sayles dated November 9, 1876, from Henry A. Whitney, President of the B&P, the railroad that interchanged with the MVRR along with the P&W, Whitney wrote, ". . . . I should request that instead of asking us to bid against the Providence & Worcester, you would ascertain what was a fair rate, then allow the two roads to divide any small returns, some one road assuming the administration for efficiency's sake".
      Frank Sayles decided that extending the MVRR by about 2 1/2 miles to the Pawtucket River would counter the New Haven's power.  The river is a navigable extension of Narragansett Bay and an outlet to the ocean.  The MVRR was granted a charter in 1904 to extend the road and errect wharves, coal pockets and freight depots on the river.  Steam power was not permitted so the line was to be electrified.  The MVRR filed a location plan with the Superior Court which was approved in 1907.  The entire route would be in Pawtucket and require only two grade crossings.  It crossed the New Haven about 3/4 of a mile south of the Woodlawn station, and curved broadly east to follow Pidge Avenue before curving north to reach the river on the north boundary of Riverside Cemetary.
      A financial panic delayed the project and the New Haven would not allow the MVRR to cross land that it needed to expand the Northup Avenue yard.  Nevertheless, by 1910 the extension was under construction with the intention to cross under the New Haven.   The New Haven did not tolerate competition  and presumably reached an agreement with Frank Sayles which ended the plan to reach the Pawtucket River.  Nevertheless, the construction resulted in a modified interchange.  Originally the MVRR made a half circle at Woodlawn to turn north to reach the depot and create an interchange along Dix Avenue.  The new route branched off the start of the Woodlawn curve and proceeded south parallel to the New Haven and created a new interchange track.  Connecting the two curves also produced a wye.  
      At around this time the Southern New England also had plans to build a route that would challenge the New Haven.  The line was a creation of the Grand Trunk railroad of Canada and would have created a new railroad from its Central Vermont subsidiary at Palmer to the port of Providence.  The line would have crossed the MVRR near Weeden Street.  When the  plan was aborted much  grading had proceeded in Lonsdale and Pawtucket near the MVRR.  When construction was suspended at the end of 1915, the MVRR purchased an almost new Baldwin 0-6-0 type locomotive from the GT's contractor, the John Marsch Constuction Company.
     The original enginehouse was located at the end of Bagley Street but a larger structure was built where Higginson Avenue would cross at grade.  The new building was a long wooden complex which had two tracks for engines, a repair shop, freight facilities, and office space.  Adjoining the building were sidings on both sides and two tracks for sorting cars in addition to the mainline. The MVRR had no need for a turntable.  Steam engines were coaled by a small conveyer.  There was a small standpipe for water but no water tank is known to have been available.
                                                                                     The Drawing Is Not To Scale
     Cars were sorted by "kicking" them from about Higginson Avenue and letting them roll into the intended track.  Switches were at both ends of the tracks to allow an engine to run around a car but a "flying switch" was often used to place a car on the other end of the engine.  The engine would move forward with a car behind it but the car would be uncoupled while moving which allowed the engine to run ahead and allowed the brakeman to throw a switch after the engine passed which would take the car rollling more slowly behind on to the desired track from where the engine could now reach it on the opposite end. 
     The MVRR had only a few freight cars at its peak and none in later years.  The eighteen cars owned in 1911 were probably the maximum.  Owned cars were apparently used for moving goods between various buildings on the Sayles property and it seems they did not meet standards for interchange with other railroads except possibly when they were new.
     The New York, New Haven & Hartford became part of the Penn Central railroad in 1969.  In 1973 the Providence & Worcester's independence was restored and it resumed providing freight service to the area.  The section of the railroad from Boston Switch to Providence was acquired by Amtrak for passenger service.  In 1981 the MVRR was absorbed by the P&W.
Subpages (1): LOCOMOTIVES