Sunday, August 8, 2021

Boston & Maine Railroad 99-Car Freight at Waltham MA 5/30/1928

I recently treated myself to an Ebay item... an original glass negative of a freight in Waltham Massachusetts.  The caption reads "3009  B&M  May 30, 1928  99 CARS   Waltham Mass".  

I wondered why a photographer would make a special note of the "99 cars", and tried finding newspaper accounts via the Boston Public Library e-resources.  

On May 19th a special train for then president Calvin Coolidge was run on the B&M to Andover MA.  The president spoke at Phillips Academy for their 150th anniversary.  But that event was 11 days before the "99 car train" ran.

On June 5th the B&M had a celebration to open the new hump yards at Somerville, complete with a "parade of boxcars" to demonstrate the system to over 1,000 guests.  Were those 99 cars "props" en route for that event?  

Was 99 even a lot of fright cars on one train for that era?

AND did railroads close down for Memorial Day Weekend in the 1920s?  Was this train run to get freight moved before the holiday?  

Well, in 1928, Memorial Day was also called Decoration Day, and it was celebrated on May 30th, not the last Monday in May like today.  That means the train in the photo ran ON Memorial Day!  Perhaps the photographer just plain had a day off from work and went trackside?

Unless the train was mentioned in an employee magazine, we may never know just what caused the photographer to document that particular train.  

Now, what about the location of the photo?  It seems to me if the train is on the Fitchburg mainline, then  the old Central Massachusetts line is at right.  That means the train is somewhere west of Waverley in the Clematis Brook area and traveling "eastbound" toward Boston.  

There also appears to be an overhead road bridge in the background, with some semaphore signals just visible.  That could be the Linden Street bridge BUT it should be off to the right of the Fitchburg main, so that may possibly just be a signal bridge.

A period track chart would come in useful... 

The easiest info to find is the locomotive type:  2-10-2 "Santa Fe" Alco S1-a, built in 1920.

Am I delving too much into this photograph?  YOU BET!  But HEY, it keeps me off the mean streets!