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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Boston in Suffolk County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
 

Power System of Boston’s Rapid Transit, 1889

IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing

 
 
Power System of Boston’s Rapid Transit Marker image. Click for full size.
By Roger W. Sinnott, November 19, 2011
1. Power System of Boston’s Rapid Transit Marker
Inscription.  Boston was the first city to build electric traction for a large-scale rapid transit system. The engineering challenge to design and construct safe, economically viable, and reliable electric power for Boston’s rapid transit was met by the West End Street Railway Company, beginning in 1889. The company’s pioneering efforts provided an important impetus to the adoption of mass transit systems nationwide.
 
Erected 2004 by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the IEEE Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing series list.
 
Location. 42° 21.388′ N, 71° 3.748′ W. Marker is in Boston, Massachusetts, in Suffolk County. Marker is at the intersection of Tremont Street and Park Street, on the right when traveling south on Tremont Street. Marker is at the northeastern corner of Boston Common, at one entrance to the Park Street subway station. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Boston MA 02108, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other
Right Entrance to the Park Street Station image. Click for full size.
By Roger W. Sinnott, November 19, 2011
2. Right Entrance to the Park Street Station
The marker is mounted on the nearest corner of this entrance.
markers are within walking distance of this marker. Boston Common (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Boston Common (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Boston Common (a few steps from this marker); Park Street Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Tragic Events (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Lafayette Mall (about 300 feet away); James Otis (about 300 feet away); Huguenots, Women, and Tories (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Boston.
 
Regarding Power System of Boston’s Rapid Transit, 1889. Richmond, Virginia, is also credited with the world’s first successful electric railway (see first link, below), designed by Frank Julian Sprague in 1888. That same year, executives of Boston’s West End Street Railway went to Richmond, saw a demonstration, and placed an order with Sprague for a similar but larger system in Boston.

By 1889 Bostonians were riding their own electric streetcars, which proved far more efficient than the horse-drawn trolleys then in use. In his 2010 book, A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis, Boston 1850–1900, Stephen Puleo notes that Boston’s horse population plummeted from 7,700 to 857 in just six years, and the number of electric trolleys soared to 1,714.

Concurrently,
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traffic congestion grew and gave the stimulus for Boston to build America’s first subway system during 1895–97. West End Railway built the subway’s power system, too. So it is no coincidence to find the IEEE marker mounted on one of the main entrances to the Park Street Station.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 23, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This page has been viewed 505 times since then and 2 times this year. Last updated on August 8, 2020, by Craig Baker of Sylmar, California. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 23, 2011, by Roger W. Sinnott of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.
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Feb. 25, 2021