In The Begining............
On January 3, 1844, a meeting was held in Providence,RI to discuss the construction of a line between Providence,RI and Worcester,Ma. A commitee was appointed to collect information on the route of the purposed railroad, and a survey team, headed by T. Willis Pratt, was commisioned to estimate the cost of building a railroad. Charters were obtained in Massachusetts and Rhode Island later that year.
In 1845, much of the Blackstone Canal and land immediately surronding it was sold to the railroad and the old tow path evolved into a railroad bed. On November 25, 1845, The Massachusetts and Rhode Island companies merged to become the Providence and Worcester Railroad Company.
As plans for the P&W unfolded, another railroad just tens years young, listened and watched with interest. The Boston & Providence RR (B&P) had opened its lines in 1835, as as intrastate RR, ending on the east side of Narragansett Bay in East Providence,RI, land then owned by the state of Massachusetts. The Boston & Providence viewed the coming P&W Railroad as an opportunity to get into Rhode Island by extending thier lines from Attleboro,Ma to Cumberland,RI and connecting into the P&W Railroad system.
Subsequently, it was agreed that the B&P would pay half the costs for all the work done from downtown Providence to Cumberland,RI (Later known as Boston Switch), including half the cost of building the Providence Passenger Station. In addition, while the B&P would pay all the costs from Attleboro to Cumberland, P&W was to do the construction.The completion of this line ultimately allowed the B&P Railroad to operate between Boston & Providence, now a segment of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
Progress was rapid after the first construction contracts were signed in March, 1846, and trains ran from Providence to Woonsocket,RI on Sept. 15, 1847. Two weeks later trains ran from Providence to Millville,Ma and on Oct. 20, 1847, the first train ran from Providence to Worcester. Given the still primitive means of construction, a huge engineering task had been accomplished in a relitively short period of time.Five Days later on Monday, October 25, 1847, a grand opening excurtion was held. Pulled by two locomotives and carrying 1,500 people, the train arrived in Worcester at 11 A.M. after 2 1/2 hour journey from Providence.
Those aboard were treated to a grand tour of Worcester, a dedication ceremony and a lavish banquet.The Massachusetts Governer, Levi Lincoln, brought smiles to the group when he toasted to "The two unions between Worcester and Providence- the first was weak as water and the last is strong as iron". The following year the railroad recieved its first government grant to carry mail between the two cities of Providence and Worcester twelve times a week and to service all the post offices within one mile of the railroad depots the same number of times each week. The railroad recieved a whopping fee of $1,850 per year for this service.
In May, 1848, one freight and two passenger trains ran between Worcester and Providence daily. Passengers rode for less than $.03 a mile. There were also two passenger trains daily between Uxbridge and Provdence and a mixed freight/passenger train between Uxbridge and Worcester.The railroad immediately proposed as additional industries sprang up throughout the valley.By 1852, the P&W determined that a second track running parallel to the existing line was necessary. This need was reinforced by a disastrous collision in Valley Falls,RI on August 12,1853 that killed 13 and injured many. In fact, the first photograph of a train wreck in the United States was taken at this Valley Falls collision. Newspaper accounts indicate that P&W again made history by being the first railroad in America to burn coal instead of wood in its steam locomotives. Except for minor financial reverses, the railroad continued to prosper over the next few years.
In 1853, P&W extended its lines to connect with the steamship docks in Providence. However, traffic problems in city streets made P&W determined to find an alternate route to the water's edge, and in 1874, P&W constructed a branch line from the main line at Valley Falls to East Providence where a new coal handling facility had been built. The area was named the Wilkesbarre Pier after the point of origin of the coal shipped by the Wilkesbarre Coal & Iron company of Pennsylvania.