Friday, January 14, 2011

Railroad Timetables, 1956

New York, New Haven &
Hartford Railroad timetable,
cover, 1956
One ephemeral piece of history which is no longer with us is the railroad timetable.  Ever since the introduction of rail service to Middleborough in the mid-nineteenth century, railroad timetables had been a convenient way for travellers to be informed of the schedule of trains to and from town.  Originally timetables were printed as a single leaflet, but in time, as local railroads were consolidated into larger companies, more elaborate brochures which included timetables for lines throughout the region became common. 

The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, familiarly known as the New Haven, was the last company to run non-commuter passenger trains through Middleborough before finally discontinuing service in the late 1950s.  The New Haven's timetables during the period of its final years in Middleborough were multi-page brochures printed on inexpensive paper with a minimum of fuss.  Information for travellers was included in the front of the brochure, as was a map of the railroad's extensive lines throughout southern New England. The bulk of the brochure, however, was taken up by timetables for over thirty routes.  With the rapidly expanding inter-state highway system, and the prevalence of the automobile, railroad passenger service went into decline and was discontinued for Middleborough in 1959.  Railroad timetables were no longer needed.

By the time commuter rail service was reintroduced into Middleborough and Lakeville in the 1990s, most residents had forgotten (or had never known) how to read a railroad timetable, and the small new tables produced by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) had to be marked with the instruction "READ DOWN".  Though no less informative than their predecessors, these modern timetables, however, fail to call to mind the joy of rail travel evoked by the earlier timetables.

New York, New Haven & Hartford timetable, 1956
Shown are the railroad's informational page, the timetable
for Middleborough, and a portion of the map showing
the New Haven's extensive network in southern New


Anonymous said...

What a great post. I love old trains. Back in the day, you could get almost anywhere between trains or the trolley (on tracks) system. It's too bad those days are gone. I would love to be able to ride on an old train as is clacks its way along the tracks, the commuter rail just doesn't have the same romantic or nostalgic feel to it.

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