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EAST PROVIDENCE SOUTH

INDIA POINT TO THE WILKESBARRE PIER
 
THE SITE OF RHODE ISLAND'S FIRST RAILROAD
 
     The original terminal of the pioneer Boston & Providence railroad was India Point.  At the time the early railroad was built in 1835, East Providence was still part of Massachusetts and for a time it appeared that the east bank of the Seekonk River would be the terminal since Rhode Island's lawmakers initially had doubts about allowing the railroad to cross the river into Providence.  However, by the time regular service began in July 1835, about a thousand feet of track had been built in Rhode Island to a steamboat dock at India Point. 
     East Providence on the eastern bank of the Seekonk River opposite India Point was the junction of several railroads.  It was the southern terminal of the Seekonk Branch Railroad, a Boston & Providence rival which failed to win a legal battle with the B&P and sold its East Providence property to the B&P in 1839.   The Providence, Warren & Bristol  built through East Providence in 1855 to reach India Point and Fox Point from the south and in 1874 the Providence & Worcester built a branch from the north to reach the Wilkesbarre Pier in East Providence. 
East Providence c. 1885
 The covered bridge which crossed the Seekonk River into Providence is old Washington bridge, once known as India Bridge.  It is now the site of Interstate 195.  The Boston & Providence railroad bridge to India Point is on the right and at the far end of the covered bridge the roundhouse can be seen.  The large dome is a gasometer, a container of manufactured gas.  A new modern swing bridge replaced the covered highway bridge in 1885 and the postcard view is probably from the new Washington bridge with one of its fenders showing on the left.
 
THE SEEKONK RIVER FROM FORT HILL, EAST PROVIDENCE
The Boston & Providence bridge from East Providence to India Point (left) stands in front of the Washington Bridge built in 1885 to replace the covered highway bridge.   The first railroad bridge was built in 1835 as a retractile bridge, i.e, it was moved back to clear the channel.   The first rotating bridge seems to have been built in 1858 and rebuilt  in 1868.  The bridge in the picture seems to be the swing bridge built of iron in 1882.  Note the curve in the channel which made passage difficult.  The original highway drawspan provided a channel of only 24 feet.  The railroad bridge in the picture provided a channel of about 38 feet.  The tracks in the foreground are those of the Providence Warren & Bristol and the Providence & Worcester.
 
THE OLD AND NEW INDIA POINT BRIDGES - 1902
The new swing span fills the part of the river previously crossed by the fixed covered spans shown in the picture above.  The old swing bridge was replaced  by fixed spans that were built around it.   All the old bridge spans were replaced while rail and water traffic continued to move.
 
     An electric train crosses the new India Point draw bridge which has a span of 160 feet leaving an 80 foot channel.  The New Haven electrified the PW&B line in 1900 and attempted to operate the new equipment over the parallel Washington Bridge but the wheel flanges of the large cars tended to derail on the rails of the street railroad.  East Providence is on the right.
 
 
In this view of the India Point bridge, the old draw span has been replaced by two fixed pony truss bridges.  It can be seen that the shipping channel has been improved by placing the new channel in line with that of the Washington Bridge but the curve in the channel could not be entirely removed.  In the background is the new railroad bridge to the tunnel to the Providence Union Station.  The wooden trestle work on the East Providence side of the river carries the two wye legs that provide entrance to the bridge. 
 
 On the west bank of the Seekonk River is India Point where the Boston & Providence terminated when service began in July 1835.  After the Union Station was opened in the center of Providence in 1848,  it became the Boston & Providence's main terminal and the facilities along the harbor were used thereafter mainly for freight
 
DIAGRAM OF THE INTERLOCKING ARRANGEMENT AT THE INDIA POINT BRIDGE
 
 TRAIN FROM INDIA POINT APPROACHING THE EAST BANK OF THE SEEKONK RIVER IN EAST PROVIDENCE

The early 20th century postcard shows a tug boat pushing a barge through the open India Point bridge.
The view is from the Washington highway bridge with Fort Hill, East Providence in the background.


 
PANORAMA -- INDIA POINT TO FOXPOINT
THE NEXT THREE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE A PANORAMA OF THE HARBOR FROM FORT HILL
 IN EAST PROVIDENCE IN 1914
 
 
The original Boston & Providence depot at the steamboat dock was located on the far bank about in the center of the photo.  The coal schooner being unloaded is docked at Bold Point where the Seekonk Branch Railroad had its southern terminal.  It fought a legal battle lost in 1838 to allow its trains to enter the Boston & Providence and use that road  to the Seekonk's  terminal in Boston.  It contended that the B&P should be like a public highway open to all trains and argued that use by others would neither be dangerous nor cause congestion.  The Seekonk Branch was most prophetic when it crafted its charter in 1836 to allow for the use of electric motive power mindful that Thomas Davenport had experimented with a small battery-powered locomotive in 1835.  The railroad said, "we can own and use a span or any other number of his thunder and lightnings for carrying purposes on these roads".  Indeed, 65 years latter the New Haven was operating electric trains over the old roadbed of the Seekonk Branch.  
The white steamer on the left is docked at Fox Point at the mouth of the Providence River which was reached by tracks of the Boston & Providence and Providence, Warren & Bristol.  The terminals of several shipping companies lined the harbor from India Point to Fox Point.  The tracks in the foreground hold coal cars going to or from the Wilkesbarre Pier just outside the left edge of the photo. 
 
 ON THE LEFT OF THIS VIEW IS A DRY DOCK
 
NEW HAVEN T-2-a CLASS 0-6-0 SWITCHER BUILT BY RHODE ISLAND IN 1904 WORKING ALONG THE HARBOR c. 1910 
 
 THE EAST PROVIDENCE ROUNDHOUSE  -  1929
THE INDIA POINT BRIDGE IS ABOVE  -  NORTH IS RIGHT
 
 
MAURAN AVENUE CROSSING c.1900
The roundhouse is right with the gasometer above it.
New Haven 365 was Providence & Worcester 7 built by Hinkley in 1889.  The 4-4-0 became Class D-8 Number 1847 in 1904 and was scrapped in 1913  
 
 New Haven 349 is at the Mauran Avenue crossing next to the roundhouse around 1900.  The 4-6-0 was built for the New York, Providence & Boston as 49 by Manchester in 1890 and after 1904 was G-2-c Class Number 972.  It was scrapped in 1926.
The East Providence Roundhouse is on the right with interlocking tower K 313 alongside.  The East Providence Station built in 1910 can be seen above the tower. 
 
 SHARPEST CURVE IN THE WORLD
 Providence, Warren & Bristol trains arriving from the south had to reach India Point and Fox Point by backing across the bridge because of its angle and the high bluff of Fort Hill.  To directly reach the bridge without tunneling Fort Hill, the PW&B built a very sharp curve which was labled "The sharpest railroad curve in the world"
 
The diagram shows that over 90 degrees of the curve was a radius of 211 feet which did not allow a 4-4-0 locomotive to pass through the curve without spreading the rails.  Generally a steam locomotive requires a curve of 20 degrees or a radius of 288 feet to move through a curve at a slow crawl.  The Baltimore & Ohio was known to have a 300 foot radius curve in its mainline around the time the PW&B curve was built but very tight curves were rare except in unusual circumstances. 
 
Providence, Warren & Bristol Number 7 "Pokanoket" was built by Mason in 1885 to negotiate the 211 foot radius curve at Fort Hill.  The locomotive was articulated; the driving wheels were mounted in a truck frame which pivoted at the cylinder block.  Converting the road to electricity in 1900 eliminated the need for the curve and "Pokanoket" was scrapped by 1906.

BARTLETT SCRAP IRON 
The Bartlett Scrap yard at Bold Point in the early 1950s.  The New Haven's India Point bridge is in the background.
Photograph by Leo King


 
WILKESBARRE PIER
From 1855 to 1874, the Providence & Worcester hauled coal from a wharf near Fox Point through South Water Street to its mainline at Union Station.  Moving coal cars through one of the busiest sections of Providence was undesirable and in 1872 an arrangement was made with the New Jersey Central Railroad and Pennsylvania Coal Companies to build wharves below India Point.  In 1874 the P&W completed a branch from Valley Falls to the Wilkesbarre Pier named after its first owner, the Lehigh & Wilkes Barre Coal Co.  Coal was shipped by water from various coal ports from New York to Virginia and distributed by rail.  Notice the engine house at the base of the pier.  A number of engines were needed to switch the fifty or more cars the pier loaded on average each day in July 1895.
 
 
 McMyler Machines replaced a Chace elevator after a fire in December 1900.  The four steam operated movable towers could handle 7,500 tons in 10 hours compared to only about 1,000 tons by the Chace elevator.
 
 The four McMyler machines were installed in 1901.  Twelve vessels, mainly barges, could be docked  at the pier but schooners like the one in the picture also carried coal.  Records show that pig iron, sand, loom, clay, brimstone and pipe were also unloaded here.  
 
 The McMyler bucket had 3,000 pound capacity.  The coal is being dumped in a storage bin which will load rail cars below. 
 
 
Subpages (1): EAST PROVIDENCE NORTH
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