Edited by David F. Harling, Founding Member
(Originally published in RollSign, March/April 2009 Issue)
As one of the largest organizations of its kind, the Boston Street Railway Association has provided its members—who amounted to nearly 900 persons in 2009—with quality publications, top-notch entertainment programs, and fascinating fan trips, and has done so for fifty years. The Association wasn’t always a multi-faceted operation, however. In its earliest days, a group of ten young transit enthusiasts in the Boston area formed the BSRA with a relatively simple goal of preserving a streetcar—and saved it from the scrap heap.
For our fiftieth anniversary, four of the original ten members—Dave Harling, Charlie Reynolds, Paul Harling, and Paul Miglierina—have collaborated, with the agreement of the surviving members, to share their memories of the earliest days of the Association, telling the story of Type 5 streetcar No. 5706 and the founding of the Boston Street Railway Association…
Wheels in Motion
The BSRA’s foundations can be traced back to the Massachusetts Model Railroad Society (the “Mass Model”), originally located near Boston’s South Station. In the 1950’s, soon after Charlie Reynolds joined the club, Mass Model was forced to move, ending up on the second floor of 27 Prospect Street, near Central Square in Cambridge. It was there that construction began on an HO-scale layout, followed by an O-scale layout, and the addition of a lounge and meeting room, complete with a TV set—a luxury at the time!
Charlie soon introduced Bob McCarthy, his paper boy, to the Mass Model and he, too, became a member. Danny Dineen was also a member of the Mass Model, as was Marshall Simmons. Marshall, who was manager of Hobbytown, introduced Paul Miglierina, a frequent customer, to the Mass Model.
David Harling was invited to Mass Model by George Marshall, a model railroader who also happened to be an MTA motorman, working out of Bennett Street.
Roger Jenkins, who was already a member of the Mass Model, met Dave and his brother, Paul Harling (a UMass Amherst student), after “discovering” Paul’s model railroad layout at the Harlings’ home in Gloucester. Roger, residing on Hyde Park Avenue in Roslindale, was well-acquainted with the MTA and its streetcars, which ran past is home on one of the “Country” lines out of the Arborway.
Bernard Gould learned of the Mass Model Railroad Society from an employee of the Boston Model Railroad hobby shop near South Station and wished to join. His father subsequently brought him to a meeting in Cambridge, where he, because he was 13, was told to return when he turned 14 (the minimum age for a Junior Member), which he did.
Several members of the group occasionally visited the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine, and on one occasion decided to clean out a car as a volunteer project. During that visit the group saw people working on one of the Type Two cars, cleaning it in preparation for returning it to passenger car condition. One person identified himself as Paul Frazier, from Gloucester, which immediately brought a response from Paul Harling, also from Gloucester. Paul joined the nine as the tenth and final member of the group which was to become the BSRA. There were others from the Mass Model who mized with this little group, but never became part of the BSRA. They either drifted away or were not interested in buying a street car. (To be fair, many were railroad modelers or fans and not traction fans.)
Germination of the Idea
Saving a Streetcar
Paul Harling and Roger subsequently presented their thoughts to this informal railfan group, and as is customary when someone initiates a proposal, that person is assigned to do the footwork. Paul Harling wrote a letter to Mr. Edward Dana, General Manager of the MTA at that time, investigating the possibilities of preserving a Type Five car for charter service (by purchase, if necessary).
Paul Harling recalls:
On Paul Harling’s suggestion, and without any great fanfare, the group decided on the name Boston Street Railway Association. Appropriate papers were then drawn up. It should be clear that at this time the sole purpose of the Association was to maintain 5706 running in Boston.
At this time elections became necessary. Paul Harling retired as first President and became Clerk of the Corporation. Marshall Simmons was elected as our second President. The papers of incorporation had to be first approved by the municipality where the Clerk resided, thus the BSRA was acknowledged by the City Council of Gloucester.
Shake-Up at the MTA
Paul Harling recalls:
5706 Goes to Connecticut
Paul Harling explains:
Bill Grimes: The 11th Member
Ed Anderson, a long-time member, recalls Bill Grimes:
Bill’s many other accomplishments in life were impressive. He graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude with a degree in foreign languages and went on to a long career in translation services, working for the United States Patent Office, Harvard Medical School, and various translation agencies before establishing his own business partnership. Bill also led the transit advocacy group, Back on Track, for restoration of the Greenbush Commuter Rail line.
Bill returned to serve as our Publications Director in the mid-1970s, working in his role until illness in recent years prevented him from continuing. The BSRA Board of Directors named him President Emeritus in 2007, a distinction of which he was very proud. He passed away later that year—a great loss to the BSRA, and all the friends who knew him.
The Next Steps
Paul Miglierina recalls:
As the membership changed, so did the Association. Publications, events, membership dues and donations became central fund-raising motors of the BSRA, and ultimately, funding for the resumption of 5706 restoration was secured.
Recently, restoration work has advanced steadily, and our historic streetcar will be operating once again in the near future. It is our hope that, wherever 5706 ultimately resides, the operation of the classic streetcar around which the Association was founded fifty years ago will educate and entertain for generations to come!
Meet the Founding Members
These ten gentlemen founded the Boston Street Railway Association in 1959 to preserve a Type 5 streetcar. The surviving founders were honored at our 50th Anniversary Meeting in June, 2009 for their participation in the Association’s founding. We salute their vision and contributions!
Daniel Dineen — Deceased, bus driver, formerly of Boston, MA.
Paul W. Frazier — Currently living in Rockport, MA and retired from the MBTA after 32 years.
Bernard B. Gould, Jr. — Currently living in North Carolina and is the European Sales Manager for Gould and Goodrich, a leather company.
David F. Harling — Currently living in Rockport, MA and is employed by JEOL (USA) in Peabody as their Training Manager. He is also the BSRA’s current Director of Car Restoration.
Paul T. Harling — Currently living in Gloucester, MA after 33 years of teaching in the Gloucester school system. Now the owner curator of the Diving Locker museum on Gloucester’s waterfront.
Roger F. Jenkins — Deceased (2014), retired Brockton, MA firefighter. He also worked as an employee of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
D. Robert McCarthy — Currently living in Jamison, MA and is a retired RCA engineer where he worked for 34 years.
Paul L. Miglierina — Currently living in Marblehead, MA and is a retired automotive engineer.
Charles E. Reynolds, Jr. — Currently living in Melrose, MA and is a retired structural draftsman.
Marshall W. Simmons — Deceased, former owner and manager of Hobbytown in Park Square, Boston.