Copps Hill Wharf

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Copps Hill Wharf

Postby 3rdrail » Sun Sep 16, 2012 10:04 pm

Thought that I would show you some neat photos of the infamous Copps Hill Wharf, which was an important freight station for trolley freight in Boston. Freight motors from the Bay State Street Railway Company and the Boston and Worcester Street Railway Company would use the station regularly in their business. Both street railway companies were given the right to do so under a cooperative agreement at the time and operated on Boston Elevated Railway Company track. Usually, BERy installed dedicated track for the sole purpose of the freight business, as was the case here and other places such as the Fish Pier. The wharf was at 529 Commercial Street in the North End, and of course, has the dubious distinction of being the location of Purity Distilling Company's huge molasses tank which exploded in 1919 killing many persons. You have probably heard it before, I don't know if it is true, but it is claimed by some that you can still smell the odor of molasses on a hot, humid day in the area.

We see a couple of carpenters working on some sort of iron reinforced wooden structure with a two-man ban saw. Anybody have a guess what the structure is that they're working on ? In the rear are a few freight motors lined up.
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Freight motors lined up for loading. Probably an early morning shot.
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A different angle of freight operations taking place with motors about to be loaded.
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Now, we're on the El iron on the Atlantic Avenue Division and there sitting ominously over on the left is the mollasses tank which took so many lives on that day in 1919. Note the old semaphor signal.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Leo Sullivan » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:56 pm

The first two pictures are after the explosion and the other two before.
The first picture shows two freight cars in the first section to be reactivated
which, looking into the lot, was at the extreme right. The second picture shows the
base of the tank after cleanup and repair of the freight sheds. Note in the second picture,
one Bay State and one B&W car.
LS
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Elcamo » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:13 pm

did these run on the el? If so, do you have pics of el freight operations?
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby jrc520 » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:23 pm

No, these never ran on the EL. They were exclusively on street railways.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:40 pm

Jumping on any street railway rail was much like us getting on any public way. It connected the motors to locations quite a distance away. The B&W was bringing freight from Copps Hill Wharf to Worcester. BSStRy was bringing it down to Rhode Island and Cape Cod. The street railway companies all had gentlemanly rivalries, but it appears as if they all shared a fraternal cooperation with one another, particularly in allowing other companies to use their track. There were exceptions however. One famous one which legacy can still be seen, is the refusal by BERy to allow the Eastern Mass to run their little Bernie Safety Cars down to Forest Hills in through service with BERy motormen and no conductor. (It was Eastern Mass track !) The Eastern Mass didn't budge and soon after initiated bus service on the line from East Walpole to the Hills... with one bus driver. That service remains the same today, now with MBTA buses.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Ron Newman » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:44 am

When did freight service on trolley lines end?
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Leo Sullivan » Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:16 am

The last trolley freight on the Eastern Mass was in 1920. On the lines to the west,
the end came in 1927. 1927 was the year of abandonment of the Worcester-Springfield
line so reducing the possible run below practical limits. That coincidentally was the peak year for
trolley freight on the CERA lines. Peak year for trolley freight in Massachusetts was 1917.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf and the Fish Pier

Postby 3rdrail » Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:34 pm

I added "and the Fish Pier" onto the title here, as it also was an interesting Boston Harbor freight operation.
After the cooperative agreement was authorized for B&W and BS to engage in trolley freight in Boston, the electric companies very much wanted to get to the Fish Pier, up to that point which had been a New Haven Railroad and truckers fish transport business only. It was petitioned, and BERy complied and laid a section of trackwork that ran off the BERy rail on Summer St. This rail was dedicated to only the freight motors and no passenger cars used it. From Summer St., it went down the Commonwealth Viaduct (the elevated viaduct which entered Commonwealth Pier), turned right onto the Ramp, running down grade to the bottom by D St., opposite to where there was a fish pier station. Here, the street railway track also connected with the New Haven RR iron, presumably so fish and perhaps other freight might be interchanged. It was the only street railway track to exist in that long expanse of New Haven RR turf north of Summer Street before Atlantic Ave. around Congress St. or Northern Ave. Unfortunately, I guess because it was a relatively exclusive and short lasting operation, few photographs exist of this operation. If anyone has one, please post it. :-)
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby 3rdrail » Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:06 am

Here is a very rare and interesting photo of the El opposite Copps Hill Wharf at 529 Commercial St. not long after the Purity Distillery molassis tank explosion. As you can see, the bents to the El are twisted and torn with the El structure dangling at about a thirty degree angle. You realize just how much that El motorman saved the day by averting tragedy by throwing his train into emergency, coming to a stop before the train came to this destroyed section.I would be willing to bet that that's a section of the infamous tank right there on the ground on the right. You can see that the metal has ripped along a seam apparently as it yielded to terrific pressures inside. Note also the thick, dark, sticky molassis everywhere which must have been terrible for rescue/recovery workers to have to deal with.

Image
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Gerry6309 » Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:38 pm

Paul:

It looks like the shots from above and below were taken from near the same spot. Amazingly the truss work above seems to have held together pretty well despite the damage to the bent. The cribbing seems to be going up to support the spans and jack them level so that the bent can be cut out and replaced. Quite a testimony to the strength of the Warren Truss and to the design of the El in general. The early track maps do not show the triple track here so that may have been added in the 1912 era revisions.
Gerry. STM/BSRA

The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby 3rdrail » Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:11 pm

Gerry6309 wrote:Paul:

It looks like the shots from above and below were taken from near the same spot. Amazingly the truss work above seems to have held together pretty well despite the damage to the bent. The cribbing seems to be going up to support the spans and jack them level so that the bent can be cut out and replaced. Quite a testimony to the strength of the Warren Truss and to the design of the El in general. The early track maps do not show the triple track here so that may have been added in the 1912 era revisions.

I'm sure that anyone like ourselves who are old enough to remember the El will appreciate in awe that hydraulic force that the mollases had in order to be able to twist those robust steel forms like that. I have seen large trucks hit those at speed, demolishing the truck, not putting a scratch on the girder. They were made exceedingly well and would have lasted well throughout the 21st Century. I too was surprised at that third set of tracks over there at this particular location, but there it is ! I wonder if that motorman who went into emergency was ever officially proclaimed a hero ? When you look at this, there is little doubt that his train would have taken the swan dive into Commercial Street had he made it to this location. I've noticed that back in the day, the City and the El seemed to be very nonchalant regarding really heroic acts performed by officials. Such was the case with my buddy, Sergeant Donovan at Forest Hills, and it seems like the same nonchalance may have beset the motorman at Copps Hill Wharf as well.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby Gerry6309 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:48 pm

They would have noticed if he hadn't stopped. If he survived, he would have been fired. Funny how that works...
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Copps Hill Wharf

Postby 3rdrail » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:50 pm

I thought that I was in that fortunate train that day right after I pressed "Submit" for that post above when the earthquakes effects rattled my home ! :-) Amazing ! What power ! Speaking of power, here's an example of the power of that mollasses. This accident in 1965 in Egleston Square had this full sized car smack this El upright solidly. Look at the car and then look at the upright ! They were built solidly !
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