Through the first half of the 20th century, trolleys had taken over in most major cities across the country. Boston, Springfield, Providence, and Hartford were among the major cities in New England that boasted large-scale systems. In addition to these systems, a growing network of smaller, but in some cases more expansive, trolley lines began to spread through the suburbs.
Trolleys at Whalom Park, Lunenburg (New Whalom Park)
Between Fitchburg and Boston, the Boston Elevated Railway, Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway, Middlesex & Boston Street Railway, and the Concord, Maynard & Hudson Street Railway all operated in their respective regions, and in many cases, connecting with one another at the edges of their service areas. In central Massachusetts, the Worcester Street Railway connected the area surrounding that city to its business and residential centers, and Fitchburg was home to the Fitchburg and Leominster Street Railway Company.
The Fitchburg Street Railway was incorporated in 1886, originally constructing a three-and-one-half mile horse car line, running from Goodrich and Summer Streets in downtown Fitchburg to Sanborn and Westminster Streets in West Fitchburg. The Fitchburg Street Railway grew quickly, buying the Leominster Street Railway in 1892 to become the Fitchburg and Leominster Street Railway Company. Of significance was the fact that regular transportation was now available between the two cities, with the first streetcar running such a route in 1892, which was also the first electric streetcar to run on the system. Whalom Park was soon purchased by the Fitchburg & Leominster, and streetcars began to run to the amusement park in 1893.
By 1912, the Fitchburg & Leominster Street Railway was operating on over 30 miles of track in Fitchburg, Leominster, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Shirley, Harvard, and Ayer, some of which under a subsidiary, the Leominster, Shirley & Ayer Street Railway. There were several other companies also operating within the Fitchburg & Leominster's service area, most notably the Gardner, Westminster & Fitchburg, the Leominster & Clinton, and the Fitchburg & Suburban Street Railway Companies. These companies accented the services offered by the Fitchburg & Leominster, and while they were competitors, all worked together in terms of the creation of a network of public transit lines covering north central Massachusetts.
As the 1920's arrived, the age of the automobile had begun, and a reduction in dependence on public transit took its toll on the lines in greater Fitchburg. In addition to automobile competition, rising operating costs and maintenance requirements were eating away at the Fitchburg & Leominster's funds. By 1930, only six streetcar lines remained, with three additional routes being run by buses, and the footprint of the Fitchburg & Leominster had been greatly reduced. In 1931, the company had even considered selling off its signature property, Whalom Park. Such an idea was considered catastrophic to the company, so they soon made the decision to terminate operation of electric streetcars, replacing them with an economical, relatively new, but well-tested, form of public transportation.
NEXT: Going Trackless
Trackless Trolleys of the Fitchburg & Leominster Street Railway Co., Clarke (BSRA)
Streetcar Lines of the Hub: The 1940s, Clarke (BSRA)
Trackless Trolleys of Rhode Island, Clarke (BSRA)
Rhode Island Transit Album, Molloy (BSRA)
Concord, Maynard & Hudson Street Railway, Cummings (NRHS)
Worcester Trolleys Remembered, Carlson and Harding (WRTA)