• Trolley's of the Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, MA

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This forum is for discussion of "Fallen Flag" roads not otherwise provided with a specific forum. Fallen Flags are roads that no longer operate, went bankrupt, or were acquired or merged out of existence.

Moderator: Nicolai3985

  by b&m 1566
I just found out that the Lowell trolleys have been held off on the 2004 operating season because the transformer that powers the trolleys has FRIED. It is going to take 6 to 8 weeks to fix. The Trolleys should be up and running sometime in May. Normally the Trolleys operate March - November. The trolleys never made it out of the barn in March because of it. (the Boott Cotton Mills, is where the trolleys are stored for the night and winter.) I found this out after one of the trolley drivers told me, as she was cleaning the salt, sand, dirt and leaves out from the tracks before grass starts to grow, along the Eastern Canal (right in front of the Boott Cotton Mills).[/quote]
Last edited by b&m 1566 on Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by b&m 1566
well i have been told that the trolleys should be up in running by Memorial Day weekend if all goes well. It is still not 100% that they well be up and running but that's what they are pushing for. The coast to fix the transformer is $25,000

  by b&m 1566
Well its Memorial Day weekend and the trolleys were not running. I guess they never got the transformer fixed in time. I have know idea when they will be up and running again. The only good news is, is that they took down the sign saying that "the trolleys last day was Sunday November 30th and will be of line for the winter we look forward to serving you again in the spring" so that means they are close to getting them up and running again.

  by b&m 1566
well the transformer is in and they will be powering up the lines again this week coming up (June 7th via the 10th). If everything is normal then the trolleys could start running again as soon as this week coming up (June 7th via the 10th) no schedule has been posted yet at the trolley station(s)

  by b&m 1566
The trolleys have resumed operations. The trolleys started running again yesterday (June 16,2004). *4 months after its original starting time*
  by wolfmom69
:P Rode the Trolleys last Saturday as a field trip,as part of a history course I am taking. Another good tour is the boat tour of the Pawtucket Canal & locks;good underneath view of rail bridges. What amazed me most,were the tight radius of the still existant spurs that served the mills. Good article in a B&M Bulletin about the mills,and the small steam switchers,owned by B&M and based at Middlesex Engine Facility that served the mills The Lowell history tour and restored facilities,is not only a National Park,its a National Treasure!! Bud

  by Ken W2KB
Out of curiosity, about how long is the trolley line?

  by b&m 1566
good question........... i dont know the exact miles the trolleys operate on but i would have to say its about 2 to 3 miles of track. See the trolleys operate on an old railroad spur that was built by the Boston & Lowell RR in the 1830s. The spur was later owned by the Boston and Maine RR where it was just recently sold to the National Park on the week of July 4th via the 10th of 2004. The Spur that the trolleys operate on was and still is the maine spur that leads into the city of Lowell to feed all the mill in the city. There were a lot of little spurs that came from it but through the years as the mills closed the spurs were removed. I believe the national park started to operate the trolleys in 1984 while the main spur was still being used by the Boston & Maine RR (later owned by Guilford Rail Systems in 1983). It wasn't until i believe 1988 when the last fraight train pulled out of the spur. So both the trolleys and regular trains were operating on the same track for a few years. The Trolleys that operate on the line today are replicas of the trolley that use to operate in the city back in the late 1800s and early 1900s (i believe it was in 1932 when the last real trolley operated in Lowell, MA). Because all the rails for the trolleys were removed at the beginning of WWII (they needed the iron for the war), the national park worked out a contract with the Boston & Maine RR to operate on the tracks. The national park did add a spur off of the main spur that was there own. The spur does not follow any of the old ROW spurs at all and is only about a half mile long or so. There is plains to expand the trolleys to make it a lowell transit type of thing and form what I have been told the funding for this 5 year project as been approved. I was also told that with the recent sale of the spur to the national park, they have to keep it open for future RR use tho the spur as been disconnected from the main line since 1994. Currently there are 4 trolleys that operate on the tracks from mid-March via the end of November. 3 of the trolleys are replicas and one is a trolley that operated in the *Big Easy* back in the early 1900s.

  by Ken W2KB
Thanks for the info. In cities, passengers often only rode a couple of miles before getting off so that's long enough to be realistic. I'll have to go see it next time I'm in the area (from NJ). Probably the weekend of the bi-annual Boxboro New England Division amatuer radio convention in August.

  by b&m 1566
For all those wondering what some of the trolley's look like, i found a website that has some pictures of the trolleys operating on the former B&M RR spur leading into the city of Lowell, MA
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/existLowell.htm (this pic was taken at the Boott Cotton Mills Trolley stop)
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/Lowell03.jpg (this pic was taken at the Y where the Spur came into the city off of the main line. Notice in the pic the bridge in the far left, behind the Trolley... the tracks leading off to the right is not part of the trolley system... that section of the Y leading to the main line is all thats left of the Y. Just on the other side of the Street (cars in the back ground) is the Main line which sees Trains everyday. Most of the Y the tracks have been removed over the past 20 years or so.)
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/L ... ffolk2.jpg
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/L ... ffolk1.jpg
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/L ... ffolk3.jpg
note the next to pics after (below) are pics were taken at the tale end of the operating season (around Thanksgiving time)
http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/L ... isting.jpg
Note these next pictures where taken in 1993
http://www.railwaypreservation.com/vint ... owell1.jpg
http://www.railwaypreservation.com/vint ... owell4.jpg
http://www.railwaypreservation.com/vint ... owell2.jpg

  by b&m 1566
Early City Transport

Like other urban areas in early 19th-century America, Lowell was a "walking city." Residents used their feet for all inner-city travel. Beginning in the 1840s, omnibuses appeared in larger cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, but Lowell remained a walking city. Rapid growth in the decades before the Civil War, however, prompted Lowell's landowners and real estate3 speculators to build houses in new neighborhoods away from the downtown. While many working-class residents remained in or near the congested city center, which contained factories and boarding houses, the burgeoning middle class and wealthier citizens settled in outlying neighborhoods.

To link the city center with Lowell's growing neighborhoods, the Lowell Horse Railroad Company established the city's first horse-powered streetcar. Completed in 1864, the company's line extended from Belvidere, on the east side of Lowell, into the downtown, then westward to Pawtucket Falls. This venture proved quite profitable. The continued growth of Lowell and its environs in the decades following the Civil War fostered the development of Lowell's early suburbs. Real estate boomed in Lowell and in other American cities, aided by a proliferation of streetcar lines. By the late 1880s, many transport companies began investing in the latest technology, the electric streetcar.

The Trolleys of Lowell

Lowell's first electric streetcar began operation in 1889. Owned by the Lowell & Dracut Street Railway Company, the line ran from downtown across the Merrimack River into Dracut. Over the next decade, additional electric lines extended through the downtown and into suburban neighborhoods. The Lowell & Suburban Street Railway Company carried out much of this expansion after it merged the old Horse Railroad Company with the Lowell & Dracut line in 1891.

At the turn of the century, Lowell's downtown bustled with activity. Horses, wagons, and pedestrians shared city streets with electrically powered trolleys. A maze of overhead wires extended above the steel rails of the trolley tracks that were built in the middle of stone-paved streets.

Despite resistance from their employers, Lowell's streetcar workers pushed for higher wages and better working conditions. in 1903 they joined with the Amalgamated Association of Streetcar Employees to form a trade union. The streetcar workforce and the union were composed entirely of men, many of whom were Irish.

In the summertime, they ran open-air trolleys that transported people out of the city and into the countryside. One popular destination, Canobie Lake in Southern New Hampshire, was built by streetcar company interests, which profited from the resort and the fares collected.

Accompanying the growth of inner-city trolley lines were interurban street railways that ran from city to city. Many transport companies, however, lacked sufficient capital to operate and maintain their lines. Large firms frequently absorbed smaller companies, discontinuing service to some areas, while expanding it in others. To maintain profits, streetcar managers cut labor as well as operating costs. Strikes by trolley workers, as well as public dissatisfaction with streetcar companies, intensified in the early 1900s.

Reflecting the "merger-mania" in the transport industry, Lowell's streetcar lines were acquired in 1901 by the Lynn & Boston Railroad Company, which was reorganized as the Boston & Northern Street Railway Company. This firm, headed by Patrick F. Sullivan of Lowell, was the largest transport company north of Boston. A second and even larger merger under the aegis of the Bay State Street Railway Company failed to improve the region's streetcar system. The Bay State firm declared bankruptcy in 1918.

The decade of the 1920s marked the decline of New England's street railways. By 1935 electric trolleys made their last run in Lowell--that is until the National Park brought them back in 1984.

The Trolleys of Lowell National Historical Park

As part of the development of Lowell National Historical Park, trolley service was reestablished in 1984 in Lowell's downtown to transport park visitors in the city. The Park acquired one closed and two open trolleys which are replicas of trolleys built by the J. G. Brill Company and operated by the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway Company, successor to the Bay State Street Railway Company. These were the first accurate replica trolleys built in the United States.

All Aboard!

Nearly 100 years after their heyday, trolleys are beginning to appear on the urban landscape once again. A number of cities in the United States are finding this older form of transportation an economically effective and environmentally sound alternative to cars and buses. In Lowell planning has begun to expand trolley service into other parts of the downtown. For now, visitors can enjoy riding the trolleys on the nearly two miles of track operated by the National Park Service. The trolleys typically run from March through November. Visitors of all ages can ride the trolleys free of charge


  by StevieC48
The 3 cars owned by the Lowell Parks Depy ( 2 opens and 1 cloesd) are Built by Gomaco Car Co. The 4th car 966 from New Orelans LA is NOT a replica but on loan from Seashore Trolley Museum ran by Museum Operators. I was qualified last year ran for one day and did not care for it so I go to Maine and operate up there. PS We are looking for operators specificly for Lowell for next year. If intrested let me know and ill point you in the right. Thanks Stevie Seashore Trolley Museum Instructor 2123.

  by b&m 1566
Yeah I know all about the relationship between the Seashore Trolley Museum and Lowell National Park. Just the other day one of the persons operating the 966 said that Lowell is a bad word for the Seashore Trolley Museum. Lets get one thing straight for everyone to understand. The Lowell trolleys operate for transfering park visitor's throughtout the cities national park area. Seashore Trolley Museum operates trolleys just for the fun of it. The trolley's in Lowell have a job to perform between the hours of 1000 hours and 1730 hours. They don't just run throught the city for fun. Well one of ther 966 operators complained about that the other day, saying that the Seashore Trolley Museum doesn't like operating that way. The Seashore Trolley Museum can complain all they want because the NPS isnt going to care, to them its free because the 966 operates throught volunteers where the NPS trolleys (the trolley operators) get paid to operate the Trolleys. *note all trolley rides are free between 1000 hours and 1730 hours. Trolleys can and have operated up to 2100 hours for special (via companies like Gillete for an example) but those companies have to pay for the service past 1730 hours. As of the 2004 operating season, I myself have not seen the Trolleys out any later than 1800 hours.
  by b&m 1566
Well the trolleys started off on a good note this year (unlike last year). I haven't been in the area in a while to talk with any of the trolley drivers. Does anyone have any information on the expansion of the trolleys? Last I heard was they had the funding for it, but were working out the environmental permits and so forth.