AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE FACILITIES WHICH SERVICED LOCOMOTIVES IN THE CITY OF PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
Class R-1 4-8-2 3309 stands before the Charles Street Coaling Tower prepared to take a freight from Northup Ave.to Cedar Hill.
My lifelong fascination with locomotives, particularly steam locomotives, had roots in childhood visits to the New Haven railroad's Charles Street Roundhouse which is now buried under Route 146 close to where it joins I 95. Charles Street was not far from home and there was much to see there despite its decline as I was growing up. Fond memories inspired this website which is intended to show what could once be seen at Charles Street and to record some of the history of the many enginehouses that once stood in Providence.
Edward J. Ozog
A CHARLES STREET HOSTLER AND FAIRBANKS-MORSE CPA24-5 IN 1958
PHOTO BY EDWARD J. OZOG
Locomotive servicing facilities provided a place to fuel, water, sand, lubricate, wash and turn locomotives. Steam engines also required a place to dump ashes and clean fires. During the steam era, routine repairs and general maintenance were usually handled in buildings which contained tracks which radiated off the turntable used to turn locomotives. Such buildings were either completely round or semi-circulor and therefore called roundhouses. The term roundhouse was often used to refer to the entire servicing facility and consequently a name such as the Charles Street roundhouse usually referred to the area that included a coaling tower, water tank, ash pits, etc. Diesel-electric locomotives had distinctive but similar requirements and facilities designed for steam engines were often adapted to service diesels.
New Haven Mogul said to be 886 built by the Rhode Island Locomotive Works in 1904 and renumbered 353 and classified K-1-b. It is standing at the Charles Street Roundhouse seen on the left. The truss bridge was built in 1892 to eliminate a grade crossing by carrying Charles Street over a busy four track mainline.
An Overview Of The Roundhouses
In 1892 the New York, New Haven & Hartford began to acquire control of the several railroads which served Providence, a process that was accomplished in only a few years. Each of these railroads had engine servicing facilities on the east and west side of the Union Station in downtown Providence. Two of the facilities were very new and for this reason the New Haven never had to build a new facility although over the years the existing facilities were improved as needs arose. Plans had been drawn in the 1920's for a new engine terminal at the Northup Avenue yard when it was expanded into a hump yard but the New Haven's fortunes deteriorated and it was not constructed. However, when Route 146 obliterated the Charles Street facility in the 1970's, it was replaced by a small scale facility at the Northup Avenue Yard shop area near Branch Avenue to service PennCentral and MBTA power and later Conrail.
I-4 Class 4-6-2 No. 1353 on a ready track off the Charles Street turntable.
The Boston & Providence and New York, Providence & Boston entered Providence in the mid-1830's but I have no knowledge of their engine facilities which I assume were very simple. When the Providence & Worcester entered Providence in 1847 a Union Station was built on the Cove adjoining what is now Exchange Place. The NYP&B built a completely enclosed roundhouse just west of the station and the B&P and P&W built engine facilities to the east of the depot about where the Amtrak station is located. Later, the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill entered Providence and built a facility across the tracks from the NYP&B roundhouse. The Providence & Springfield built next to the HP&F and both roads eventually became the New York & New England.
Current map of Providence showing locations of the following roundhouses: (1) NYP&B, HP&F(NY&NE) and P&S, (2) P&W and B&P, (3) NYP&B, (4) Oregon Street and Charles Street
The first Union Station on the Cove was an architectural gem but it was not suitable for the growth of traffic through Providence and a new union station was under discussion in the 1870's although decades passed before the city and the railroads could reach agreement over how to replace the old depot. By the 1880's it was becoming clear that the new station would result in a major relocation of railroad facilities. Against this background, the NYP&B replaced its antiquated roundhouse in 1886 with the Acorn Street Roundhouse less than a mile west of the old station. In 1888 the P&W enginehouse, was replaced by the Charles Street Roundhouse which was located about one mile from the old depot. In 1892 the enginehouse of the B&P, now part of the Old Colony, was relocated at Oregon Street separated from the Charles Street Roundhouse by a large passenger car yard which would service the new Union Station opened in 1896.
Recently Delivered by the Rhode Island Locomotive Works, 551 was photographed on the Charles Street turntable.
The Mogul was built in 1902 and in 1904 renumbered 300 and classified K-1-c.
NAVIGATION - Scroll down or go to the site map and click the symbol box with the horizontal lines.
For additional information on the railroads of Rhode Island go to:
J-1 Class 2-8-2 No.3010 on a ready track at the Charles Street turntable.
Site constructed by EDWARD J. OZOG