Whitman Steam Locomotive Terminal

Whitman, Massachusetts
The Whitman Steam Locomotive Terminal is an abandoned train terminal in Whitman, Massachusetts that features an old turntable and tracks.
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About This Location

The Whitman Steam Locomotive Terminal is an abandoned train terminal in Whitman, Massachusetts that currently features an old turntable and some tracks. The Whitman Steam Locomotive Terminal was built by the Old Colony Railroad Company around 1880. It was established to service engines at the junction of rail lines to Plymouth and East Bridgewater.

On March 16, 1844, the Old Colony Railroad, named for the territory occupied by Plymouth’s first settlers, received a charter to build a 38-mile railroad linking Boston and Plymouth. After opening in 1845, the “Old Colony,” as it was known, grew rapidly, developing branch lines like the 1847 line from Whitman, then South Abington, to East Bridgewater. The Old Colony dramatically influenced the settlement and economic development of Plymouth Country. It carried freight and passengers between Boston, Plymouth, Fall River, Cape Cod, and other area destinations. Faster, cheap rail service opened up new markets for regional agriculture and industry which fostered population grown and economic prosperity.

Whitman’s 19th century industries were clustered around the railroad depot and South Avenue, where spur tracks spread out to the factories. These industries included the manufacture of footwear and associated products such as tacks, leather, shoe parts, and boxes. After the Civil War, tack and nail production emerged as Whitman’s major industry. By 1875, Whitman was home to three major tack and nail factories. By World War 1, Dunbar, Hobart, and Whidden, had become one of the largest tack and nail manufacturers in the United States.

During the 1860s, Whitman experienced population growth due to the speed and convenience of railroad travel. The railroad travel encouraged daily commuting between Boston and South Shore communities. Whitman’s proximity to Boston and central location between the South Shore and Cape Cod seashore resorts made it an attractive place for wealthy citizens to reside. Seasonal rail traffic through Whitman also increased significantly. The Old Colony Railroad promoted the growth of the tourism industry in southeastern Massachusetts. By the 1880s, it was the leading summer carrier in New England.

On March 1, 1893, the Old Colony was leased to the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, which held a virtual monopoly on transportation in southern New England. New Haven’s fortunes rose and fell with economic cycles and world wars during the first half of the 20th century. In 1912, Whitman had two railroad depots, one at South Avenue serving the Plymouth Branch, and one at Washington Street on the East Bridgewater Branch. There were 14 round-trip local trains to Boston each day and one express train. By 1937, however, the East Bridgewater branch line was closed, and the track was removed by 1940. The Roundhouse was destroyed in the great New England hurricane of September 21, 1938.

During World War 2, New Haven passenger traffic tripled and freight tonnage doubled. More reliable diesel locomotives replaced steam engines. These diesel locomotives utilized centralized maintenance facilities. During the 1950s, competition from automobiles and airlines sent passenger rail service into decline. In an attempt to avoid financial losses, New Haven suspended all Old Colony passenger service. The last passenger train ran through Whitman on June 30, 1959. The New Haven declared bankruptcy in 1961. The circa 1881 Whitman Station depot burned down on November 23, 1972. The rail line through Whitman carried limited freight service until 1997 when it was restored for commuter rail service by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

In 1990, the MBTA discovered the remains of the Whitman Stream Locomotive Terminal during archaeological investigations associated with the restoration of commuter rail service on the Plymouth line of the Old Colony Railroad. In 1998, the MBTA completely excavated the site and developed it as a passive archaeological interpretive park.

Location

Address: 383 South Avenue, Whitman, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.081639, -70.922806
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.081639, -70.922806
Parking Notes: The old turntable and station is located right next to the present-day Whitman MBTA Station. Visitors can park in the lot located right off South Avenue. The turntable and tracks can be seen from this parking lot.

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