Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby bbffrrpp » Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:45 am

Hello. I've lived in Billerica for 40 years, and I've had an interest in "Iron Horse Park" since the 1980's. Every once in a while I try to find information on that property, and the Repair Shops and Roundhouse which sit inside it. I took up the challenge again yesterday, and - just - found out about this Message Board yesterday. I signed up, so this is my first posting.

My main question is: Does anyone know if there is a report, an article, a booklet, etc., which tells of the history of "Iron Horse Park" - which is known as being in North Billerica. But, all of Billerica is - just one town.

What I can say is what I already know. I was informed yesterday that the Repair Shops and Roundhouse were built ~1911. That was surprising to me as I thought they would have been needed during the 1800's. I had read that both the Boston & Lowell Railroad and the Boston & Maine Railroad started up in 1835. I also read that the other, important Repair Shops were in Concord, NH. I believe there is information in reports or in books about those Repair Shops. I have not yet investigated that.

Both ~5 yrs. ago, and this weekend I wrote to the B&M Railroad Historical Society. I asked if there was ever an article written about "Iron Horse Park" - or the Repair Shops in Billerica. Both times the answer was No.

Over the weekend, I posted a lot of genealogy queries about this, and received some information in return. I found out there is a "New England Railroad Club" which is based in Lowell, and I e-mailed them. And, there is another club based in Derry, NH, which I don't know about. And, I e-mailed the Boston Public Library and the MA Historical Society. I hope they'll respond during the coming week or so. And, I'll write to the Billerica Historical Society this week.

IF no one has ever written an article about "Iron Horse Park," I can volunteer to write one. And, since the Repair Shops (buildings) and the Roundhouse will soon be 100 years old, I could write an "100th anniversary-type article." But, I would need a lot of information and resources to base such an article on.

I think my first drive around Iron Horse Park was in the 1980's, and I was shocked at what the condition of it was. It was a scary place, and almost seemed "haunted." It might have been a Sunday as I was able to drive in almost every part of the Park which I could drive into. But, there were many parts, especially the rear of the Park which I didn't want my car to be near ! I found the Roundhouse and drove behind it. I was again shocked to see that it was a "graveyard" for dead train cars and locomotives. I wrote many "letters to the Editors" about it. At some point later the trains had gone away. But they were replaced by dead MBTA buses.

When I drove around within the past month or so, I found out that many of the old, abandoned buildings were now being restored and used. Many companies were now there. But, the old, hisoric, brick buildings seemed to be still abandoned. And I noticed that some of the old, abandoned, steel "stuff / junk" which had sat at the rear of the property had been taken away or be made neater. So, "someone" had taken an interest in Iron Horse Park.

What has perturbed me for a long time is that the "main offices" for Pan Am / Guilford are right there - right in the middle of "Iron Horse Park" and they have not outwardly shown any interest in the "look" or "condition" of Iron Horse Park.

I can also mention that I am fully aware that in the 1980's, both "Iron Horse Park" and the adjoining, former "Billerica Dump" were made a "Federal Superfund Site." In the 1980's, in my mind, there were two "Billerica dumps" - right beside each other - both major "eyesores" for the town. In the end, three companies / businesses were made financially responsible for the "clean-up" of the "Federal Superfund Site." But, I looked at the web site for the EPA and I don't think, to this day, the "Site" has been 100% cleaned up.

On on-line genealogy I sign off as:

Betty (near Lowell, MA)


P.S. I did take a quick look for Billerica information in the archives of this Board, and found someone had posted a video of what Iron Horse Park looked like in the past. It must have been taken before 1980, or even before 1970.

Oh, I did read someplace that someone had found an old locomotive in the "graveyard" in Iron Horse Park. They took it out, restored it, and it is now sitting on tracks in Lowell, MA - part of the "Lowell National Historical Park" (and "Lowell Heritage State Park").

And I read that members of the "B&M RR Historical Society" will be present at the annual Lowell Folk Festival in July. They will be displaying antique Telegraph equipment.



OOPS .. I just noticed the heading at the top of the page. I meant to post this as a "new" message. Should I repost it separately?
bbffrrpp
 

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby thebigham » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:25 am

This thread has a bunch of info on the Billerica shops:

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26223&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=billerica
thebigham
 
Posts: 3547
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:27 pm
Location: Arcade, NY

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby bmcdr » Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:32 pm

I have in my posession two photo albums that were original constuction photos of Billerica Shops, they show construction from the original groundbreaking up until completion, these albums are dated 1913. There never was a roundhouse at Billerica Shops, just shop and office buildings.
David Hutchinson
User avatar
bmcdr
 
Posts: 670
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2006 11:12 pm
Location: East Hampstead,N.H.

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby NellsChoo » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:22 am

I also wonder why railroads allow such useful buildings to decay and fall down. Sure, there is expense. But think of the commercial potential of restoring those buildings and then leasing the space! They may be too far gone by now... and I just love old brick buildings... so maybe I am off target here. But look at Rigby Yard... same thing! At least their "office" building seems intact. The complex could be worth more if cleaned up and restored.

I seem to remember reading that Iron Horse Park is a Superfund site. I would be suprised if it isn't. Perhaps this is a reason no upkeep is done. They would have to dispose of contaminated soil, etc.

Another bit of history destined to fall apart, I guess... :(

JD
It is still GUILFORD to me... http://www.newenglanddepot.net
User avatar
NellsChoo
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 3:52 pm
Location: Middlesex County, MA

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby jaymac » Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:37 pm

Whether they're counting beans or counting bricks, railroad managers tend not to be particularly sentimental about the property under their control.
One of the legends about Billerica, since it was constructed in NH-controlled days, was that there would be electrified commuter runs out of Causeway Street and that Billerica was built on such a scale for servicing electrical equipment and would also be a principal generating location. I don't know if this is strictly sandhouse or if there is documentation to back it up. Maybe all industrial buildings of the same period have the same look, but Billerica and Readville sure looked like they came from the same gene pool.
As far as Super Fund goes, think of all the asbestos, cutting oil, lube oil, solvents, paint, and paint thinner that got into the soil.
On a non-Super-Fund type of pollution, in your wanderings, if you should come across some strands of black and white hair coming out of the ground, control your curiosity. At the other end of those hairs, there's probably an incompletely buried skunk. Such burials are not uncommon near ROWs.
"A white SUV with a roof antenna just might not be a company van."
jaymac
 
Posts: 3588
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 1:08 pm

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby NellsChoo » Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:24 pm

jaymac wrote:On a non-Super-Fund type of pollution, in your wanderings, if you should come across some strands of black and white hair coming out of the ground, control your curiosity. At the other end of those hairs, there's probably an incompletely buried skunk. Such burials are not uncommon near ROWs.


THANKS for the tip!!!! (peeew!)
It is still GUILFORD to me... http://www.newenglanddepot.net
User avatar
NellsChoo
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 3:52 pm
Location: Middlesex County, MA

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby atsf sp » Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:32 pm

bbffrrpp wrote:Oh, I did read someplace that someone had found an old locomotive in the "graveyard" in Iron Horse Park. They took it out, restored it, and it is now sitting on tracks in Lowell, MA - part of the "Lowell National Historical Park" (and "Lowell Heritage State Park").
B&M 410 0-6-0
"Why would you take a train to go see another train?"
Some people just don't understand.
My Photos
atsf sp
 
Posts: 2178
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:00 pm

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby eddiebehr » Mon Sep 28, 2009 7:17 am

The Billerica Shop complex was constructed by the Boston & Maine about 1912-1913 to consolidate shop facilities of all the various companies that it had leased or acquired starting in the mid-1880s; Eastern, Boston & Lowell, WN & P, Sullivan County, Vermont Valley, Connecticut River, Concord & Montreal, Fitchburg and others. Each had its own shop or repair facility. Billerica was a modern facility with state of the art machinery for its time. Some of the other shops were retained for specific purposes; Concord, NH (freight & passenger car shop), Keene,NH (work equipment) and others.

By the 1940s the B & M did not need anywhere near the facility it had in Billerica. Although it carried record tonnages in World War II it was doing it with far fewer units of motive power and rolling stock than it had used only a few decades before. So, B & M began selling or leasing structures in the complex. One of the earliest buyers was Johns-Manville, the asbestos outfit.

There was both a railroad dump and commercial dump way out back. The railroad dump had unsalvageable stuff from train wrecks.

I worked there from 1983 to 1986 after the B & M offices moved out of Boston. The property was conveyed to the MBTA in 1976 along with most of B & M's Eastern Massachusetts rail lines. B & M (PanAm) can occupy any space not used by the MBTA as long as it pays for the current maintenance and utilities. If MBTA ever decides it needs the space if has to provide comparable space some other place for the B & M as a replacement. I think most of whatever B & M (PanAm) does in the way of shopwork is done in Waterville, ME right now. I don't think MBTA wants a full-time shop complex. Its heavy shopwork is farmed out.

In the 1970s and 1980s B & M worked closely with M. I. T. and students and they came up from time to time to watch shop operations including the travelling crane that spanned the width and ran the length of the locomotive shop. Several M. I. T. students eventually went to work on the B & M.
eddiebehr
 
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:54 pm

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby Engineer Spike » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:16 pm

Billerica closed under Guilford. Befor the merger, MEC shops were in Waterville, B&M in Billerica, and D&H in Colonie. They decided to make Waterville the one system heavy locomotive repair shop.
Engineer Spike
 
Posts: 1755
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:24 pm

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby JCitron » Sun Oct 11, 2009 1:32 pm

atsf sp wrote:
bbffrrpp wrote:Oh, I did read someplace that someone had found an old locomotive in the "graveyard" in Iron Horse Park. They took it out, restored it, and it is now sitting on tracks in Lowell, MA - part of the "Lowell National Historical Park" (and "Lowell Heritage State Park").
B&M 410 0-6-0


I recently met a locomotive engineer that drove that locomotive. He's a piano student of mine and lives in Bedford. He has some pictures of before and after and the transformation is amazing.

John
JCitron
 
Posts: 125
Joined: Sat Feb 24, 2007 11:54 pm
Location: Haverhill, MA

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby RedLantern » Sun Oct 11, 2009 2:19 pm

JCitron wrote:
atsf sp wrote:
bbffrrpp wrote:Oh, I did read someplace that someone had found an old locomotive in the "graveyard" in Iron Horse Park. They took it out, restored it, and it is now sitting on tracks in Lowell, MA - part of the "Lowell National Historical Park" (and "Lowell Heritage State Park").
B&M 410 0-6-0


I recently met a locomotive engineer that drove that locomotive. He's a piano student of mine and lives in Bedford. He has some pictures of before and after and the transformation is amazing.

John


I know that locomotive spent a decent amount of it's life switching flat cars of granite blocks around the Fletcher Granite Quarry in Westford MA. Apparently it had a sister that also worked the quarry, not sure on it's number or current status. A GE centercab does that chore now. The B&M must have leased the locomotives to them (or bought them from them) since the quarry has it's own rail network which is off B&M property. As a side note, the quarry has a B&M wooden caboose (on cinder blocks, without trucks) which it uses as a crew office, and most of it's flat cars are still steam-era cars still in use.

But back to Iron Horse Park, if you look at a satellite view of the property, you'll notice that the layout of the facility is set up between the New Hampshire Main (MBTA Lowell Line) and the old Billerica & Bedford route. Since the B&B is long gone after the Route 3A crossing and the NH Main doesn't see much freight anymore it wouldn't make sense to keep the yard in operation there since it would only be able to serve the locals which are already run from Lowell just fine. Because of it's layout and location (completely off the PanAM freight main) it was doomed to fail, and keeping it in good condition would simply be a financial burden on the railroad. The property is now owned by the MBTA (hence the busses) and since the MBTA already has a far more modern rail maintenance facility closer to their operations, it doesn't make sense to use Iron Horse Park for much other than storage.

As far as PanAM (Guilford) is concerned, Billerica is a nice central location on their railroad to control it from and since they're already set up there, it wouldn't make sense to move.

Does anybody know however, does PanAm own the building they're headquartered in, or do they lease it from the MBTA?
Trains aren't dangerous, it's lack of common sense that's dangerous.
User avatar
RedLantern
 
Posts: 407
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 5:52 pm
Location: Westford, MA

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby eddiebehr » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:21 pm

The entire Billerica complex that was owned by the B & M on Dec. 29, 1976 was conveyed to the MBTA as part of a large sale of railroad property in Eastern Massachusetts. The B & M had sold off parcels of the Billerica Shop facilities over the years starting about the end of World War II. The B & M is free to occupy any facilities purchased by the MBTA as long as the MBTA does not assert its right to exclusively occupy any of those facilities for its own purposes. Should that happen the MBTA would (or will) have to either provide comparable replacement facilities to the B & M at some other location. That has happened at least once. When the MBTA decided to utilize part of the Hill Crossing Freight Cutoff for the Red Line Extension to Alewife, it arranged to have the Lowell Line clearances improved to accomodate loads that could not be handled on the Fitchburg Line through some of those tight spots between Union Square and Park St. in Somerville.
The MBTA owned properties occupied exclusively by the B & M (PanAm) cost nothing except ongoing maintenance, utilities, etc. Since the properties are owned by a public authority, there are no real estate taxes.
eddiebehr
 
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:54 pm

Re: Looking for history of Iron Horse Park (Billerica, MA)

Postby TomNelligan » Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:06 pm

RedLantern wrote: I know that locomotive spent a decent amount of it's life switching flat cars of granite blocks around the Fletcher Granite Quarry in Westford MA. Apparently it had a sister that also worked the quarry, not sure on it's number or current status.


The other B&M 0-6-0 at Fletcher was #444, which is now preserved and on display in Dunkirk, NY.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3239
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts


Return to Boston & Maine/Maine Central

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests