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Minuteman Railroad: B&M Lexington Branch

DEC 2, 2023 — Based on his new book, Bill Deen’s program traces the long and colorful history of the B&M’s Lexington Branch. Operating northwest of Boston from 1846 to 1981, it began as a country short line, evolved into a doubletrack railroad with dozens of daily passenger trains, and reverted eventually to a quiet existence in which the crews knew the remaining passengers by name. Although built mainly to ease travel to Boston from Lexington and West Cambridge, its roots can be traced to the export of natural ice from Boston to tropical ports as distant as Calcutta. In the late 1800s, it was a source of contention between powerful rivals, the Boston & Lowell and Fitchburg Railroads. In 1877–78, it shared facilities with the Billerica & Bedford, America’s first two-foot gauge common carrier. At its peak in 1900, it provided 60 steam trains daily to Arlington, 44 to Lexington, and 28 to Bedford. Stiff competition arrived that year in the form of the parallel Lexington & Boston Street Railway. The Branch outlasted the trolleys by decades, but the automobile eventually was its undoing. Its right-of-way from West Cambridge to Bedford is used now by the popular Minuteman Bikeway.


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FEATURED PHOTO: MBTA Trackless Trolley No. 4110 lays over at Waverley Square in Belmont, MA on its final night of service, March 12, 2022; RTS No. 0309 makes a cameo appearance in the background. Photo © Mike Prescott.