• Did the NH want the Boston Elevated?

  • Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
Discussion relating to the NH and its subsidiaries (NYW&B, Union Freight Railroad, Connecticut Company, steamship lines, etc.). up until its 1969 inclusion into the Penn Central merger. This forum is also for the discussion of efforts to preserve former New Haven equipment, artifacts and its history. You may also wish to visit www.nhrhta.org for more information.
  by 3rdrail
Hi guys. I thought that I would pose this question on this forum as I know that many here have read a considerable amount and have even worked for the New Haven Railroad. I have a theory, which I feel is fairly well substantiated, that the NH wanted to take over rapid transit operations in metropolitan Boston. I also believe that this plan may have been clandestine with many "secret" approaches, which is why, in my opinion, that very little documentation exists. So, to you NY,NH,&H RR connoisseurs out there, have you ever heard about or read such a plan ?
  by Noel Weaver
If you read through the history of the last 10 or 12 years of the New Haven Railroad you will determine, I think, that they were cutting back their passenger operations in the Boston area and I can't imagine that they would have ever had any interest in expanding them by dealing with issues regarding rapid transit in this area.
Even back in the 40's the NHRR was losing a fortune in their Massachusetts passenger operations.
Noel Weaver
  by 3rdrail
I'm not saying that this was the case during the New Haven's entire ninety-six year history, Noel. I'm focusing on the 1893-1901 period. This is where the evidence lays. Post-Depression era conditions were far different than they were pre-Depression. I'm not sure if they wanted Boston's rapid transit system prior to the Boston Transit Commission's or the Boston Elevated Railway Company's Incorporation (1894), but there is no doubt in my mind that they wanted it by the time of construction of South "Union" and Back Bay Stations (1899). The installation of electric suburban subterrainean platforms in both of these stations, the New Haven's widening of the Main Line to four tracks (two for commuting, two for high-speed express), their electric (via third rail) South Shore service to Nantasket using trolleys that had rapid transit dimensions, and their propensity to take over street railway companies in New England leaves me little doubt. Additionally, there may have been resentment which stymied later-generation MTA system expansion around 1945.
  by Allen Hazen
I'm sorry, but I have no evidence to contribute. The New Haven's "propensity to take over street railway companies," though, makes it seem not improbably: I'd like to see more discussion of (and evidence concerning, if anyone can contribute) this topic!
The "propensity to take over street railway companies" was only part of it. The New Haven also tried (was used by Mellen and associates as a corporate vehicle for trying?) to take over shipping lines: not just, I think, the traditionally rail-connected Long island steamship lines, but deepwater as well. The New Haven(*) seems to have wanted to become a "transportation trust," a monopolist in the transportation industry for the Northeastern U.S.

Hmm... Look at the other end of the Shore Line: the New York, Westchester and Boston (did they ever really expect it to go to Boston in competition with the Shore Line) may have been built, physically, to mainline heavy electric standards, but it functioned as a commuter and mass transit operation. (A bit of its right-of-way has been incorporated into the New York subway system: surely an indication of its most likely economic role, and maybe of the intention behind it!) And, of course, the PRR went into something very close to mass transit operation by developing the Hudson & Manhattan (alias PATH: essentially a subway connecting New York and a couple of west-of-Hudson terminals). It would be surprising if the New Haven's management didn't at least consider emulating the PRR's.


(*) "New Haven" for short. Mellen/Morgan interests.
  by Leo Sullivan
Speaking only of the pre 1913 period, I believe the New Haven felt that the politics and
financial structure of the Boston Elevated precluded an easy takeover. Also, from the
New Haven point of view, the traffic advantages were limited. The real prize that
they coveted was the Bay State, the strongest competitor, over the widest area,
remaining after the takeover of the major Connecticut and Rhode Island lines.
The closely held and ambitious Bay State (formerly the Boston & Northern and
Old Colony St. Rys.) held out until the New Haven's ambition was quelled by financial reverse.
Meanwhile, the Bay State had captured most of the short haul freight and passenger
traffic in the Old Colony area. The "Bay State" line of steamboats to New York was
also a Bay State affiliate with direct express trolley connection from Park Sq.
Boston. The New Haven's goals were set out in publicly available pamphlets, speeches
and news releases, defining the advantages and extent of their goals. There are books on the
subject. Fortunes were made on both sides of the controversy but,not by the New Haven stockholders.
In hindsight defense, it can be said that no one else knew the future either.
  by Allen Hazen
Thanks, Leo! Some FACTS to go with our SPECULATIONS -- that's the sort of response that makes these forums fun.

"Bay State had captured most of the short haul freight and passenger
traffic in the Old Colony area"
At the beginning of the 20th C, street railways seem to have been better at short-haul stuff than the mainline steam railroads. At times, I think, one of the motives the mainline companies might have had to promote street railways would have been to let them hive-off this business so they could concentrate on the longer-haul stuff that they were better at. I would SPECULATE that the New Haven's management would have liked it if the street railways in Eastern Massachusetts could have taken over enough local business to let them discontinue local trains on the East end of the Shore Line, thereby freeing up track capacity for their higher-speed through trains. Which would have given them an excellent motive for WANTING to take over the Bay State company.

"the politics and
financial structure of the Boston Elevated precluded an easy takeover"
!!!! Politics? Are you suggesting that Boston politics is something rational people might not want to get into? (Grin!)
  by Leo Sullivan
I suspect that before 1913, the New Haven (not alone) was still learning
about the disadvantages of short haul railroad traffic. They just saw
the trolleys as interlopers skimming the traffic that they had invested in.
After 1913, the learning curve steepened and, even the Bay State found
out that short haul had (financially fatal) disadvantages. By 1920, probably
the NH would have agreed that someone else should do the local stuff.
By then the Bay State had reorganized as the Eastern Mass, was under public
trusteeship and, no one had money for anything but curtailment.
That (pre 1913) was also before the really colorful political characters.
The Elevated was closely held by politically influential "old money"
as was the Bay State, so much so that no takeover tries, of either
are known. This may have settled privately.
  by 3rdrail
1899 is a key year regarding this question. I believe that when you look at all of the anecdotal evidence, that you come away with a clear impression that the New Haven Railroad envisioned, at the very least, a South Shore and Metro-West (today's parlance) electric rapid transit system and domination. 1899 was the year that construction began on BERY's Main Line Elevated which would extend southerly in Boston in a very similiar route as the New Haven's inherited Boston-Providence Main Line, going as far as Roxbury, and then practically using the same alignment from then on to Roslindale. 1899 was also the year that an enclosed subterrainean loop was included into the construction at South Station. Legend has it that engineers attempted to use this loop with steam equipment, realizing that the contained fumes made it impossible to do so. When you look at the other structures and facilities designed by the New Haven, do you see indications of similiar poor decisions ? Coincidentally, a subterrainean two track platform-fed installation was included into the construction at their Back Bay Station. This one specifically was labelled on diagrams for the building as "suburban (electric)" tracks which had an island platform, which like the South Stations "loop", were never used. The stated reason for this failure was that the Back Bay Suburban Electric tracks had difficult access by passengers at the upstairs waiting room. The New Haven went on to widen the Main Line, equipping it as a four-track mainline. It publicly announced plans to run commuter trains on the outer tracks with high-speed trains on the inner ones. Fences would divide the two modes. Rapid Transit scaled trolleys were installed on the Pemberton-Nantasket Branch, utilizing an experimental third-rail system in 1895. As has been suggested, I believe that this attempt to dominate was done privately and behind closed doors. Probably a few green backs may possibly have been involved in a commute of their own from one pocket to another. I believe that this is why that one-hundred years later, that there is no official record of the movements made to this end. Also as has been suggested, I believe that forces in Boston told the New Haven that they were not welcome (in so many words) to overtake BERy. It is this reason, I believe, that find that the New Haven to Boston leg of the Main Line was not electrified under NH. Either the NH didn't feel that the cost of electrifying this segment wasn't worth the expense without the increased revenue that additional suburban service would afford or they just plain were snubbing Greater Boston for it's refusal to submit as so many other areas had. The necessity of maintaining dual equipment and continually having to break through trains at New Haven, Ct., must have surpassed the cost of electrifying this segment. While researching the New Haven's founder J.P.Morgan, I found this interesting sideline regarding J.P. (he preferred to be called "Piepont") Morgan from Wikipedia - "Morgan suffered a rare business defeat in 1902 when he attempted to enter the London Underground field. The notorious transit magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes thwarted Morgan's effort to obtain parliamentary authority to build an underground road that would have competed with "Tube" lines controlled by Yerkes. Morgan called Yerkes' coup "the greatest rascality and conspiracy I ever heard of.""
I think that perhaps you can make an argument that any one or even two of these irregularities may be a coincidence, but I think when looked at as a whole, that there can be little doubt.
  by fm
There is no evidence that the New Haven Railroad intended to acquire the Boston Elevated Railway. What they did intend to do was implement an electric powered suburban service in the Boston area, and possibly elsewhere, using short equipment similar to the electric trains tested on the Nantasket Beach Branch during the late 1890s. The underground loop track built under South Station was intended for this purpose. It was never used because the electric-powered suburban service failed to materialize. By the time the Nantasket Beach Branch experiments were considered complete the railroad was entering into financial difficulty. The main line electrification program, which was supposed to extend all the way to Boston, was halted at New Haven. The suburban electrification project was never implemented.