Cambridge Railroad Opens (1856)

"We present our readers on this page with an accurate view from the pencil of Mr. Hill, taken in Bowdoin Square, in front of the Revere House, depicting that admirable hotel, with some of the adjacent buildings and stores, and exhibiting prominently, in the foreground, the cars of the Cambridge Horse Railroad, just at present an interesting locomotive novelty. 

The tracks are now laid as far as Mount Auburn, between four and five miles from this city, with a branch extending to Porter's Hotel in Old Cambridge, and over these fifteen cars, drawn each by two horses, make their regular trips during the day and evening. The receipts of each car are stated to be about forty dollars a day.

Mr. Stiles, the superintendent, has proved himself an admirable manager, being always on hand and personally attending to the comfort of passengers and the interest of the road. The road cost, we are informed, about three hundred thousand dollars, and is built in a substantial manner. The establishment of this road [March 26, 1856] is another proof of the progressive spirit of the day.

Only a few years ago, there was no regular public communication between the city proper and its suburbs. If a man wished to go to Roxbury, for instance, he had either to hire a private vehicle at a heavy expense, or to perform the journey—for it is quite a journey—on foot.

Then came the Roxbury Hourly [omnibus stage coach]—an insane scheme, the old fogies deemed it. These worthy and venerable gentlemen shook their sage heads, and predicted all sorts of uncomfortable consequences from the lightning speed of the rising generation. But the speculation succeeded; the coaches were multiplied; patronage poured in, and Roxbury began to fill up with people, who felt crowded in our little city, and desired elbow room and air for their residences.

Now all the suburbs are connected with the city, either by railroad, by steam cars, or by omnibuses. The whole aspect of our surroundings is changed. In the place of barren and unproductive hills, covered with rocks and pines, we have beautiful tracts of cultivated land, parceled out into gardens and lawns, and beautified with tasteful and neat residences, from the costly villa of the semi-millionaire, to the snug little cottage of the mechanic or laboring man. This change has been the result of improved means of intercommunication between the city and the environs.

Omnibus life is quite a feature in our social system. The omnibuses are commodious and elegant, with fine horses, and driven by accomplished "whips." They radiate in all directions. Horse railroads are an advance on omnibuses. For some years they have been in successful operation in New York City, and also in Brooklyn and Williamsburg, where the generous width of the streets permits their employment without detriment to any interest. They can never be introduced to a similar extent in Boston, because the founders of this village, never dreaming of its possible magnitude, were excessively economical in laying out the town thoroughfares.

Our widest avenue within the limits of the city proper is too contracted for the vehicular tide which flows through it already. Washington Street must be relieved of the pressure on it, and before long, Tremont Street will suffer from the crowd. Still, there is no reason why several of the surrounding towns should not be connected with the city by horse railroads.

There can be no doubt that they would do a lucrative business. The success of the Cambridge road may be considered as a fixed fact. Besides those whose business compels them to ride in them to and fro, thousands of citizens weekly will avail themselves of this cheap and comfortable means of transport, to go forth and breathe the fresh air, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the environs. Mount Auburn itself, with its quiet shades and soothing influences, is an attraction; while beyond it and around it are scenes of exquisite rural beauty, which amply repay an occasional visit."

— Ballou's Pictorial, June 7, 1856


Cambridge Horse Railroad, Bowdoin Square


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