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To the management of West End Street Railway Company it seemed almost impossible that a small copper overhead wire could propel cars set on rails at such great speeds. The question arose - could all of the Union's cars be operated on the existing power system? One night after regular transit service had ceased, all twenty-two cars were put on the line and paraded through the streets of downtown Richmond. So impressed were the Boston visitors, that the decision was made to electrify all of the West End Street Railway routes. Thus, the Boston system was one of the pioneers in street railway total system electrification on a large scale metropolitan basis. Based on the success here in Boston, many of America's larger street railway systems converted to electrification. Boston had led the way for other cities to follow. The first electric streetcar line here in the "Hub" began operation on January 1, 1889 starting from the Allston Railroad Depot, up Harvard Avenue, left at Coolidge Corner to Boston's Park Square. The present MBTA's Green Line/Beacon Street was part of this first installation.
Oliver Wendell Holmes even got into the act when, in 1890, he published his delightful poem "The Return of the Witches" or "The Broomstick Train." By that time, the new small cars were everywhere; sparking and flashing all along historic Beacon Street at far greater than imagined speeds. Holmes gleefully reported that ``Since then on many a car you'll see a broomstick plain as plain can be; On every stick [trolley pole] there's a witch astride - The string [trolley pole] you see to her leg is tied. She will do mischief if she can.''
For a while, it seemed that everywhere you looked streetcar lines could not be built fast enough. Bankers and land speculators got into the act by extending new car lines into underdeveloped areas and watched suburbs or housing develop around this new form of convenient mass transportation running to and from the central city. At one time, Massachusetts had more street railway trackage per square mile than any other state in the Union. North and south of Boston various horsecar and streetcar lines had merged into one huge system (the Bay State Railway Company). By 1911, one could travel via their trolleys from Nashua, New Hampshire to Boston to Newport, Rhode Island.
The Bay State Street Railway went bankrupt in 1919, and out of its recognition came the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway, which offered trolley and eventually bus service in Massachusetts only. On March 30, 1968, the MBTA absorbed this very same Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway. North and west of Boston, the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway complex was formed, only to be taken over by the MBTA on July 1, 1972.
History: Table of Contents
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