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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:724 1844-1937

Old Colony Railroad Company records

Records of the Old Colony Railroad Company and companies acquired by merger, dating from the 1844 to 1893, and documenting the operation of a substantial railroad network in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and a steamship line between Fall River, MA to New York City.


  • 1844-1937

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. Contact for more information.


39 linear feet (2 boxes, 6 cartons, 329 volumes)

Records of Old Colony and consolidated companies. Includes correspondence, general accounting records, time books, freight records and other papers. Includes records of the Old Colony Railroad Corporation, the Fall River Railroad Company., the Fall River Steamboat Company, the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Company, the Narragansett Steamship Company, the Old Colony and Newport Railroad Company, and the Old Colony Steamboat Company; and petitions, South Shore and Boston & Worcester Railroad vs. Old Colony (1848-1859).

Among the letters is one from Daniel Webster to Isaac L. Hedge (1851).

Biographical / Historical

The Old Colony Railroad Company managed a major railroad system covering southeasetern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island, operating from 1845 to 1893. The Old Colony Railroad Corporation formed on March 16, 1844 to provide a rail connection between Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the line opening to passenger servive on November 10, 1845.

Old Colony merged with Fall River Railroad on June 24, 1854 forming the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Company, creating two spurs of service from Boston to Plymoth and Boston to Fall River, with a split at South Braintree. The acquistion included luxury boat/train service allowing passengers to travel from Boston to Fall River by rail, and then to New York City by steamboat. The Old Colony Steamboat Express train would become one of Old Colony's most notable services.

In July 1863, Old Colony and Fall River Railroad merged with Newport and Fall River Railroad to create the Old Colony and Newport Company, extending service into Rhode Island. Another merger on May 1, 1872 consolidated the Old Colony and Newport Company with the Cape Cod Railroad under the name Old Colony Railroad Company. The newly acquired lines became known as the Cape Cod Division. The system now had three main branches: Boston to Plymouth, South Braintree to Fall River and Newport, and a split from the Newport branch at Middleborough to Hyannis. During the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s, Old Colony acquired numerous other rail roads and branch lines, greatly exanding its presence in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H) leased the entire Old Colony system for 99 years begining March 1, 1893, which gave the NYNH&H a monopoly on passenger rail throughout southern New England. The NYNH&H attempted to default on its lease in 1935 and return ownership to Old Colony stockholders, but this forced Old Colony into bankruptcy in one day, and the New Haven had to resume running trains by court order. Surviving Old Colony railroad lines continue in use today by Amtrak for intercity passenger service, CSX for freight service, and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority for commuter rail.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Old Colony Railroad Company records were received by Baker Library Special Collections as a donation from New England Steamship Companyin 1938 with additions from other sources, 1940-1977.

Processing Information

Processed: January 2019 By: Baker Library Staff
Old Colony Railroad Company . Old Colony Railroad Company records, 1844-1937: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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