The first locomotive to pass through Central Falls into Pawtucket was the "Lonsdale", a new Taunton built
4-4-0 of the Providence & Worcester which arrived pulling a gravel train on August 21, 1847. On October 25, 1847 passenger service began. The Boston & Providence had entered Providence twelve years earlier but its terminal was at India Point which was a good distance from the Union Station the Providence & Worcester and the New York, Providence & Boston were building in the center of Providence. The most feasible way of reaching the Union Station from the B&P's main line was through Central Falls, a route that was followed with some urgency when Pawtucket interests were discovered planning to build a connector themselves. On May 1, 1848 the Boston & Providence inaugarated passenger service over a 4.4 mile connection it built between a point between Attleboro and Hebronville named East Junction and a west junction with the Providence & Worcester in Central Falls at a point named Boston Switch. The first train was a boat train which carried passengers through the Union Station to the Stonington wharf for transfer to a steamboat to New York City. The five miles of track from Boston Switch to the Union Station was acquired by the B&P under joint ownership with the P&W.
1851 Wallin Map
Valley Falls became a town on the north side of the Blackstone River while all of the south side of the river became Central Falls. The purpose of the north leg of the wye at Boston Switch is unknown since it apparently was not needed as a route, i.e. Valley Falls - Attleboro, and was unlikely to have been used for turning locomotives or trains. Later maps show the leg as a stub industry siding.
THE RAILROADS The Boston & Providence was leased by the Old Colony in 1888 and the Providence & Worcester was leased by the New York, Providence & Boston in 1889. The New York, New Haven & Hartford (New Haven) leased the New York, Providence & Boston in 1892 and leased the Old Colony in 1893. The New Haven disappeared into the Penn Central at the end of 1968. At present Amtrak provides passenger service through Pawtucket and Central Falls and the reborn Providence & Worcester provides freight service.
The first Pawtucket depot is the low building to the left of the B&A boxcar. The freight station can be seen between the car and the passenger station. The building on the left is the second depot which appears to be still under constuction in this c.1872 photo. The road is Broad Street and the view is toward the northeast from Exchange Place.
The Pawtucket depot seen in the photo above and the map below
The Pawtucket Depot Area in 1870.
The first depot was still in use in 1870 but the map shows the land across the tracks that the railroads jointly purchased in 1867 for a new station. Note that a track ran through the freight house which enclosed three freight cars for loading or unloading. The B&P was double tracked to Boston at this time and the P&W was double tracked from Providence to Lonsdale.
The Pawtucket Depot
The Boston & Providence locomotive is a Griggs design characterized by inside cylinders, a forward steam dome and closely spaced pony wheels. Note that the train is westbound on the left-hand side of the double track. Until 1896 B&P trains operated contrary to normal practice in the United States which was that trains moved forward on the right side of double track.
The Pawtucket Station Of 1872
As late as the Civil War the railroad was cited for not properly maintaining cattle guards at the station to keep cattle from entering the right of way. Pawtucket's importance as an industrial center was growing and in 1867 the P&W and B&P purchased land on the northwest side of the tracks opposite the old depot for a new station which was started in 1871 and completed in 1872. It was a 94 feet long by 40 feet wide three story brick structure with a mansard roof. A shelter was built across the tracks on the downtown side of the site for westbound passengers. Freight business outgrew the freight house and team tracks along Montgomery Street and in 1882 a new freight house was constructed in an uncongested area about a third of a mile west of Broad Street. In 1888 a baggage and express building was errected opposite the passenger station on Exchange Place. Until 1862 the half of Pawtucket west of the Blackstone River was in Massachusetts and until 1874 the other half was in the town of North Providence. Pawtucket became a city in 1885.
AFTER THE FIRE
On November 21, 1903 the station caught fire. The two upper stories were nearly destroyed and the waiting rooms, ticket office, telegraph office and toilets were damaged by water. The third story mansard roof of the depot was replaced by the flat roof shown in the postcard. The Rhode Island Railroad Commissioner was not happy with the ageing, poorly located, crowded building and wrote "it would have been a blessing to the patrons of the railroad if the whole building had been destroyed".
A View Of The Shelter And Express Building On The Downtown Side Of The Tracks
The express building served as a station while the fire damage in the main building was repaired.
SIGNALS AND SAFETY MEASURES
The joint Providence & Worcester and Boston & Providence route between Boston Switch and Providence was operated as double track from the beginning. As early as 1873 the two railroads began widening the roadbed between Providence and Pawtucket for more tracks. By 1892 all grade crossings were eliminated and four tracks were in use between Providence and the new Pawtucket freight house. At the end of the freight yard the heavy traffic was funneled through the densely populated Pawtucket and Central Falls station area over only two tracks and five grade crossings until traffic diverged at Boston Switch. A 14 lever interlocking was installed at Dexter Street to control the west end of the bottleneck. After 1882, operations were also regulated by an electric signal system installed by the Union Switch & Signal Company. As part of the signal system, electric bells were located in watchmen's cabins or in hearing of pedestrians or wagons.
Passengers boarding or leaving trains at Pawtucket were protected by signals installed to prevent a second train from entering the station and striking passengers. Signal K was located just east of Dexter street and was moved to stop by westbound trains. Signal L was located about 500 feet north of the station and was tripped by eastbound trains at Dexter Street. Orders were also in force to require trains to proceed through the station prepared to stop even if Signals K and L were clear. Nevertheless, trains were frequent, road traffic heavy and accidents happened too often. The railroad commissioner complained that there is, "scarcely five minutes at a time in the day when trains are not passing". It was not an exageration, the employees timetable for 1896 showed 158 scheduled passenger and freight trains passed the station each day and the number did not include the many extra trains and switching movements.
NEW HAVEN C-15 CLASS 4-4-0 No.1506 PAUSES AT BROAD STREET
The photo gives an impression of the congestion and danger that led to a line relocation.
The locomotive was built by New Haven Shops in 1903.
EXCHANGE PLACE WITH THE TROLLEY BYPASS ON THE RIGHT
DETOUR The crossing between the horsecar railway and steam railway at Broad Street was considered particularly dangerous and many passengers on the horsecars walked across rather than risk being hit while inside the slow moving cars. The Pawucket Street Railway Company electrified its Broad Street line in 1892 but the electric cars continued to be pulled across the railroad track by horses because an electric wire across the tracks was considered too dangerous. In 1895, the street railway detoured its tracks around the the crossing by building a bridge over the tracks a few hundred feet north of the station. The double-tracked trolley line ramped up from exchage place on a curving trestle and rejoined Broad Street by using Humes Street.
THE TROLLEY BRIDGE BYPASSED THE DANGEROUS BROAD STREET CROSSING
This view shows the station area well after the line was relocated and the depot closed.
A large post office would be built approximately where the bridge crossed the tracks.
The bridge ends on the left at Humes Street.
The Bridge At Humes Street Avoided Having Electric Trolley Cars Cross The Railroad Tracks
Although the bridge photo is said to be the crossing in Pawtucket, the large truss bridge over the tracks seems too large for the crossing at the depot. In any case, if it is not the depot bridge, it is very similar and illustrates its appearance
The Pawtucket Depot With The Trolley Bridge Showing In The Rear
The crossing guard's hut is on the right.
Left side running ended on September 22, 1896 when the New Haven railroad was anxious to extend the Sykes block-signal system which protected its line from New York to Providence. Pictures of a flat station roof are post 1904 when the mansard roof was replaced because of fire damage.
The first Central Falls depot dates to the early days of the Providence & Worcester although it may have been called Boston Switch before Central Falls grew larger. By the Civil War the building was outdated and the railroad admitted that its accommodations were inadequate. Nevertheless, little was done until a substantial addition was completed in 1872. Finally, in 1882 a new depot was opened on a site at Central Street. The station was officially listed as being 0.45 miles from the Pawtucket Station.
The Central Falls Depot Opened In 1882
The building was razed to make way for the line relocation.
The Central Falls Depot Is On The Right In Front Of The Tall Building.
A footbridge replaced the crossing when the line was relocated.
When the railroad arrived, Central Falls was only a quasi-municipal entity in the town of Smithfield. It became a part of the town of Lincoln in 1871 and an independent city in 1895.
The Central Falls Station Is On The Left Edge Of The Postcard View Of The Central Street Crossing.
Railroad Street was later extended through the depot site and the tracks depressed.
The foreground building still exists
The Foundry Street Crossing And the U.S. Cotton Co. In Central Falls
U.S.Cotton Co. was one of many large textile mills in the area. The distant track is a mill siding but most of the large mills did not have sidings and depended on the freight house and team yard in Pawtucket. In the foreground the Providence & Worcester route can be seen as a tangent while the Boston & Providence route can be seen as switches turning to the right.