Central Massachusetts Railroad

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Central Massachusetts Railroad
Locale across central Massachusetts
Dates of operation 1881–1971
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
1888 map

The Central Massachusetts Railroad was a railroad running west from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, as a parallel competitor to the Boston and Albany Railroad and Fitchburg Railroad. It later became part of the Boston and Maine Railroad system, and now all but a few miles are abandoned.


Type Commuter rail
System MBTA Commuter Rail
Status Abandoned
Locale Eastern and East-Central Massachusetts
Termini South Sudbury
North Station
Stations 14
Opened 1881 (Central Massachusetts Railroad)
Closed 1971
Owner Boston and Maine Railroad
Operator(s) Boston and Maine Railroad
Character Surface-level
Rolling stock Budd RDCs
Line length 19.6 miles
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Route map
to Northampton
South Sudbury
East Sudbury
Tower Hill
Cherry Brook
Fitchburg Line
Waltham Highlands
Waltham North
to Somerville Junction
Fitchburg Line
Clematis Brook
Fitchburg Line only
Fitchburg Cutoff
Lexington Branch
Grand Junction Railroad
Boston Engine Terminal
(MBTA employees only)
Lowell, Haverhill, and
Newburyport/Rockport Lines
Charles River Bridge
North StationAmtrak MBTA.svg BSicon SUBWAY.svg

The Massachusetts Central Railroad was chartered May 10, 1869 and organized September 2, 1869 to build a line from Boston west to Northampton and possibly beyond to the Hudson River across the middle of the state.[1] (The Wayland and Sudbury Branch Railroad had been chartered in 1868 as a shorter version of the Central Mass, running only from the Fitchburg Railroad in eastern Weston into Sudbury. In 1872, the South Mountain and Boston Rail Road was chartered as an extension southwest via the planned Poughkeepsie Bridge to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.)

The first section, from the Boston and Lowell Railroad's Lexington and Arlington Branch at North Cambridge Junction west to Hudson, opened on October 1, 1881. A further extension to the Boston, Barre and Gardner Railroad in the Jefferson neighborhood of Holden opened in 1882, but the company failed, stopping all operations on May 4, 1883. On November 10, 1883 it was reorganized as the Central Massachusetts Railroad, and service began once again to Hudson on September 28, 1885, returning to Jefferson on December 14.

The stockholders voted on March 21, 1880 to lease the line to the Boston and Lowell Railroad, but this did not happen until December 7, 1886, after which it became part of the Boston and Maine Railroad system on April 7, 1887. The rest of the line opened on December 12, 1887 (with regular service beginning December 19), running west to the Connecticut River Railroad in Northampton (part of the B&M after 1893). In March 1901 the B&M acquired a majority of Central Mass stock.

Original plans called for the railroad to follow a more northerly course near its west end than was actually built. The line would have run through Hardwick and southern Dana, crossed the Springfield, Athol and North-eastern Railroad at Enfield, and crossed the Central Vermont Railroad just east of Amherst.[2] Some unused grading was built northwest from center Hardwick, now lying just east of the Quabbin Reservoir; this was never used by the railroad, as the alignment ultimately chosen to be built was further to the south.

In 1900 the B&M took over the Fitchburg Railroad, giving them a better route to the west. Prior to then, from 1890 to 1893, the Central Mass was part of the Poughkeepsie Bridge Route, a long-distance route via the Poughkeepsie Bridge.

The Wachusett Reservoir was built from 1897 to 1906, and flooded part of the Central Mass alignment in Boylston and West Boylston. A new alignment was built south of Clinton center, including a short tunnel. From Clinton to West Boylston, the new alignment used the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad, part of the B&M system, beginning in 1903.

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad gained control of the B&M from 1907 to 1914, again making the Central Mass part of a major through route. The Hampden Railroad was chartered in 1910 and leased to the B&M in 1911, as a route from the Central Mass east of Bondsville west-southwest to Springfield to connect to the NYNH&H's Hartford and Springfield Railroad. In 1914 the near-monopoly was broken up due to a legal campaign led by Louis D. Brandeis. The Hampden Railroad never opened, and was dismantled in 1921. Part of the right-of-way was later used for the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The New England Hurricane of 1938 destroyed part of the line at Barre Plains in Barre, and in 1939 the line was abandoned from Wheelwright in Hardwick (at the old Hardwick station) to Oakdale in West Boylston.

Passenger service was cut to one daily round trip in 1928, and only ran east of Clinton after 1932. In 1958, this was cut yet further to Hudson; by 1964 these trains used the Fitchburg Line east of a junction in eastern Waltham. When the MBTA started to subsidize commuter rail on January 18, 1965, the line was cut back to South Sudbury. The rest was discontinued November 26, 1971. The route from Waltham to Berlin was bought by the MBTA on December 27, 1976, but has not seen service restored.

A small part of the line in Palmer is now in use for freight by the Massachusetts Central Railroad, from the former Springfield, Athol and North-eastern Railroad at Forrest Lake Junction west to Bondsville. That company started operations in 1979.

Despite being unused for around three decades, the rails on the route between Waltham and Berlin are largely intact, and the line has never been formally abandoned. It has not been maintained, however, and in a number of places has been encroached upon by abutting properties.

Rail trail plan

A multi-use trail, the Mass Central Rail-Trail, has been proposed along the entire route west from Waltham; short sections in Waltham and Cambridge are currently in use (the latter as the Fitchburg Cutoff Path and part of the Cambridge Linear Park). The portion from Amherst to Northampton, including the bridge across the Connecticut River, currently is in use as the Norwottuck Branch Rail Trail.

Station listing

Milepost City Station Opening date Notes
Cambridge North Cambridge Junction splits from Boston and Lowell Railroad Lexington and Arlington Branch (B&M)
at-grade crossing of the original Lexington and Arlington Railroad (B&M)
Belmont Hills Crossing paralleling Fitchburg Line
Belmont Center paralleling Fitchburg Line; closed 1958
Waverley paralleling Fitchburg Line; closed 1958
8.30 [3] Clematis Brook track connection to the Fitchburg Line (B&M), moving to own right-of-way between this station and Linden St.
9.77 [3] Waltham Waltham North closed November 25, 1971
originally Waltham
10.35 [3] Waltham Highlands closed November 25, 1971
originally Hammond Street
Weston bridge over the Fitchburg Line
12.93 [3] Weston closed November 25, 1971
13.69 [3] Cherry Brook closed November 25, 1971
15.24 [3] Wayland Tower Hill closed November 25, 1971
16.50 [3] Wayland closed November 25, 1971
18.55 [3] Sudbury East Sudbury closed November 25, 1971
19.70 [3] South Sudbury closed November 25, 1971
junction with the Lowell and Framingham Railroad (NYNH&H)
Approx 21.96 Wayside Inn Flag stop.
Burned by vandals sometime in the 1940s. [4]
23.84 [3] Hudson Ordway closed January 17, 1965
25.35 [3] Gleasondale closed January 17, 1965
originally Rockbottom. Renamed April 2, 1900.[5]
26.09 [3] Gleason Junction not a station
bridge over and junction with the Lancaster and Sterling Railroad (B&M)
27.69 [3] Hudson closed January 17, 1965
at-grade crossing of the never-opened Lancaster Railroad (B&M)
Bolton South Bolton
31.42 [3] Berlin Berlin
West Berlin bridge over the Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad (NYNH&H)
35.34 [3] Clinton Reservoir Switch closed [?]
36.00 [3] East Switch closed [?]
36.50 [3] Clinton Junction Northern junction with the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad (B&M)
Boylston South Clinton closed ca. 1900
Boylston closed ca. 1900
West Boylston West Boylston closed ca. 1900
Oakdale junction with the Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad (B&M)
Holden Quinapoxet
Holden Junction not a station
junction with the Boston, Barre and Gardner Railroad (B&M)
Rutland Muschopauge
West Rutland
Oakham Coldbrook
Barre Barre track connection to the Ware River Railroad (B&A)
Barre Plains
Hardwick Hardwick
New Braintree New Braintree
Hardwick track connection to and at-grade crossing of the Ware River Railroad (B&A)
Ware Ware track connection to the Ware River Railroad (B&A)
Palmer junction with the never-opened Hampden Railroad (B&M/NYNH&H)
bridge under the never-opened Hampden Railroad (B&M/NYNH&H)
Belchertown bridge over the Springfield and North-Eastern Railroad (B&A)
Canal Junction not a station
track connection to the New London Northern Railroad (CN)
Belchertown at-grade crossing of and track connection to the New London Northern Railroad (CN)
track connection to the New London Northern Railroad (CN)
Amherst Amherst station and freight sheds now used by Amherst Farmer's Supply
Hadley Hadley Water tower remains, municipal water supply
Northampton Northampton junction with the Connecticut River Railroad (B&M)

See also


  1. See Boston & Maine Railroad Historical Society, "The Central Mass." (1975)(LOC 75-32208).
  2. "Plan of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut". County Atlas of Hampshire, Massachusetts. F.W. Beers & Co. 1873. Retrieved 18 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 B&M Employee Timetable 1957.
  4. A History of Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Brian E. Plumb.
  5. Errata and Addenda for The Central Mass. Published by the B&MRRHS.

External links