October 7, 1826 — The first chartered railway in US began operations today. Called the Granite Railway, it was built to carry granite from Quincy, Massachusetts, to a dock on the Neponset River in Milton. From there boats carried the heavy stone to Charlestown for construction of the Bunker Hill Monument.
The railway ran three miles (4.8 km) from quarries to the Neponset River. Its wagons had wheels 6 ft (1.83 m) in diameter and were pulled by horses, although steam locomotives had been in operation in England for two decades. The wooden rails were plated with iron and were laid 5 ft (1,524 mm) apart, on stone crossties spaced at 8-foot intervals. By 1837 these wooden rails had been replaced by granite rails, once again capped with iron. Was it really the first railway?
Historians say yes, for it was the first railway to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. And credit for selecting the site goes to Solomon Willard (June 26, 1783 – February 27, 1861), a carver and builder in Massachusetts who is remembered primarily for designing and overseeing the Bunker Hill Monument, the first monumental obelisk erected in the United States. After an exhaustive search throughout New England, he selected the Quincy site as the source of stone for the Bunker Hill Monument. After many delays and much obstruction, the railway itself was granted a charter on March 4, 1826, with right of eminent domain to establish its right-of-way.
Businessman and state legislator Thomas Handasyd Perkins organized the financing of the new Granite Railway Company, owning a majority of its shares, and he was designated its president. The railroad was designed and built by railway pioneer Gridley Bryant and began operations on October 7, 1826. Bryant used developments that had already been in use on the railroads in England, but he modified his design to allow for heavier, more concentrated loads and a three-foot frost line.
The last active quarry closed in 1963; in 1985, the Metropolitan District Commission purchased 22 acres (8.9 ha), including Granite Railway Quarry, as the Quincy Quarries Reservation.
Words of Wisdom for October 7, 2016
“For an economy built to last we must invest in what will fuel us for generations to come. This is our history – from the Transcontinental Railroad to the Hoover Dam, to the dredging of our ports and building of our most historic bridges – our American ancestors prioritized growth and investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”
— Cory Booker, American politician and the junior United States Senator from New Jersey