March 18, 2018

From Horse Cars to Buses - Salem, Massachusetts

Electric streetcar turns on to Essex Street from Washington Square East. 1930s.

Salem Street Railroad Company, the city’s first street railway, was incorporated in 1862. This horse car railway system or “horse railroad” continued to grow over the next decade. In 1863 the line connected to the surrounding towns of Peabody and Beverly. South Salem received its own branch in May 1864 and North Salem followed in June 1869.
In 1875, the system was reorganized as Naumkeag Street Railway Company, which made Salem Willows its first addition. This boosted tourism to the already popular waterfront park resulted in added attractions and restaurants in the coming years. During the summer, horse cars could transport as many as ten thousand visitors to and from Salem Willows.
In the 1880s, the railway continued to add lines, including those to Gloucester, Harmony Grove in Salem, Marblehead, North Beverly, Wenham, and Asbury Grove in Hamilton. The fare cost between 5 and 30 cents, depending on destination. A trip from Salem to Wenham took about an hour to complete. In these early days, horse car service was more individualized, allowing for passengers to wave down cars. Conductors often ran errands for residents, delivering groceries or transporting medicine to the sick. By 1887, the Naumkeag Street Railway Company had 105 cars, 390 horses, and 30 miles of track.

Electric Streetcar
Electric Streetcar on Beverly-Salem Bridge c. 1890-1910.
In the 1890s, Naumkeag Street Railway Company was acquired by Lynn & Boston Railroad Company, better connecting Salem to Boston through the Lynn line. At this time, electric street cars began to gradually replace the previous horse car system. This change required heavier tracks to be laid and electric cables to be hung over them. As cities were electrified, horses and horse cars were transferred to outlying areas that still used the old system, until they too were modified. In 1901 the Lynn & Boston Railroad Company reorganized as Boston & Northern Street Railway. Electric streetcar service in Salem continued to be consolidated and reorganized, in 1911 becoming Bay State Street Railway Company, and lastly, Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway in 1919.
Buses began to replace streetcar lines in Massachusetts as early as the 1920s, reaching Salem in 1931. Salem’s conversion to an all bus system was complete by 1937, with the last streetcar traveling to Beverly on March 1st of that year.


*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections. Images above are from their collections. 

No comments:

Post a Comment