AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #75a -- Washington, DC to Boston, Massachusetts
Part 8 - Providence to Boston
New London to Providence


413    PROVIDENCE station, 100 Gaspee Street.  Elevation approximately 13.  This station is located across the plaza from the State Capitol Building, and is a relatively new rebuilt AMTRAK station.  The station is also used by MBTA commuter trains from Boston.  Providence was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, the Puritan exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who fought for religious freedom.  Williams purchased the land from the Narragansett Indians, and chose the name in gratitude “for God’s merciful providence unto me in my distress.”  Various religious congregations were then free to build their own houses of worship here.  Williams himself established the first Baptist Church in the Colonies.  At the beginning of the American Revolution, Rhode Island was the first of the 13 colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, on May 4, 1776.  It was also the last of the 13 colonies to ratify the United States Constitution, on May 29, 1790, once assurances were made that a Bill of Rights would become part of the Constitution.

          In the early days, Providence was a shipbuilding and shipping town, and engaged in the slave, rum, and molasses trade between Africa, the West Indies, and the Colonies.  On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island officially declared its independence from Great Britain.

         After the American Revolution, Providence was the nation’s 9th largest city.  It was incorporated as a city in 1832, and the city’s economy shifted from maritime activities to manufacturing of machinery, tools, textiles, and silverware.  By the early 1900’s, Providence was one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.  Immigrant labor powered one of the nation's largest industrial manufacturing centers.

          Providence is the home of Brown University, the “Mile of History” along Benefit Street, showcasing numerous original Colonial homes, the first Baptist Church in America, the Roger Williams National Memorial, Roger Williams Park, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art, John Brown House and Museum, Providence Children’s Museum, and other attractions.  It was also the home of singer Nelson Eddy, NBC Announcer Don Pardo, and television personality Meredith Vieira.

          Adjacent to the station on the right (northbound) is the Providence River.

413.5 Pass beneath Interstate 95 again.

415    We are now entering the Narragansett Basin, underlain by the Pennsylvanian-aged Narragansett Bay Group, composed of sandstone and shale, and also containing numerous coal beds, several of which have collapsed in this area due to the overlying weight of modern urbanization.  Mining was done by the room-and-pillar method, in which the miners left behind numerous “pillars” of rock between the areas which were mined, in order to support the overlying sediments and ground structures.  Several of these mines were 500+ ft deep.

416-417 Pass through Pawtucket, named after an Algonquian Indian word for “river fall” in reference to the falls on the Blackstone River.  The first settler here was Joseph Jenckes, from Lynn, Massachusetts who established a sawmill here.  From 1675 to 1678, the King Philip’s War between the Native Americans and the early settlers resulted in much of the town being burned down.  Pawtucket was incorporated in 1828, and was an early center for the manufacture of textiles.  Pawtucket became a prosperous ill town during the 18th Century.

         Pawtucket is now the 4th largest city in Rhode Island, and is the headquarters for the Hasbro Corporation, as well as for Fox Point Pickles.

417-418 Pass through Central Falls.

418    Cross Blackstone River, which flows into Narragansett Bay a few miles south of the railroad.

418.5 Enter BRISTOL County, MASSACHUSETTS.  Bristol County was created by the Plymouth Colony on June 2, 1685, and named after its "shire town" (county seat), Bristol.  The Plymouth Colony, along with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Maine Colony and several other small settlements were rechartered in 1691, by King William, to become the Province of Massachusetts Bay.  The current county seat is Taunton; however, a second courthouse was constructed in New Bedford in 1828, and a third courthouse was constructed in Fall River in 1877.

          Pass through South Attleboro, a neighborhood of the Town of Attleboro (see MP 424 below).  This neighborhood is occasionally referenced in the animated series Family Guy, as being home of "Jack's Joke Shop." The real Jack's Joke Shop was located on 226 Tremont Street in Boston, MA, until it closed.

         We are passing through the outcrop area of the Pennsylvanian-aged Rhode Island Formation, which is correlative (?) with the Narragansett Bay Formation we saw in Rhode island.

421    Cross Tenmile River and pass through Hebronville.  The historic district is located on Knight Avenue and Phillip Street, and includes manufacturing buildings, worker housing, and a railroad bridge over the mill's tail race.  The Hebronville Mill Warehouse and Processing Company operated from the 1920’s into the early 1950’s. The main function of the mill was reprocessing of cotton waste material obtained from 20 other company mills located throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

422    Pass through East Junction.

422.5 Pass through Dodgeville, a neighborhood of Attleboro.

423.5 On the left (northbound), look through the trees for a glacially-polished outcrop of Rhode Island Formation, which includes vertical beds of sandstone and quartz veins.

424-425 Cross Tenmile River and pass through Attleboro, named after a city in Great Britain. English settlers first arrived here in 1634, and the town was known as Rehoboth.  In 1694, it was incorporated as the Town of Attleborough  In 1914, the town was reincorporated at the City of Attleboro.  In 1913, the City became the “jewelry capital of the World,” when the L.G. Balfour Co. started business here.  That company has now left the area; however, several other jewelry-making companies are still in business here.

          Attleboro is the home of the Attleboro Art Museum, the Capron Park Zoo, the Women at Work Museum, and Museum of the Mill.  It was also the home of musician Ray Conniff, and hymn composer Daniel Read.

428    Cross Wading River.

429    Pass through West Mansfield.

429-430 On the right (northbound) is the Great Woods Recreation Area.

430    Pass beneath Intestate 495.

431-432 Pass through Mansfield, named after William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, a pro-Colonial member of the British House of Lords.  The town was first settled in 1658, and incorporated in 1775.  Mansfield is the home of the Xfinity Theatre (formerly Great Woods, Tweeter Center, and Comcast Center), and is also the birthplace of Honey Dew Donuts.  The founder of Bates College, Benjamin E. Bates, was born here in 1808.

         Near Mansfield is a small coal field developed in the Permian-aged Rhode Island Formation of the Narragansett Basin.

432.5 Enter NORFOLK County, named after County Norfolk in England.  The county was created in 1793 by legislation signed by Governor John Hancock. Most of the towns within the county were originally part of Suffolk County.  The county seat is Dedham.  Norfolk County is the wealthiest county in Massachusetts, and is the 28th highest income county in the United States.  It was the birthplace of four Presidents of the United States, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush, and is therefore known as the “County of Presidents.”

434    Pass through East Foxboro.  We are now traveling through another section of the Avalon Terrane (see MP 308 above), composed here of granite and diorite of the Precambrian-aged Dedham Granite.  We are traveling through the Sharon Upland.

435    Barefoot Hill, on the left (northbound) is composed of Dedham Granite.

436.5 On the right (northbound) is the large Lake Massapoag, a large spring-fed lake, which was likely formed as a kettle lake during the Pleistocene Ice Age.  The name is an Algonquian Indian word meaning ”large water.”  During the 18th Century, the lake was used to extract bog iron for the smelting industry, then later it was used for an ice business.

437    Pass through Sharon Heights.

438-439 Pass through Sharon, which was first settled in 1637 as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  On August 23, 1775, it was first incorporated as the Town of Stoughtonham.  On February 25, 1783, it was renamed Sharon, after the Sharon Plain in Israel. During the American Revolution, the townspeople of Sharon made cannonballs and cannons for the Continental Army at a local foundry.

         Sharon was the home of Deborah Sampson Gannett, a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Revolution. In 1783, her gender was discovered by a physician, but she was granted an honorable discharge from the Army and a pension for her service.  Sharon s the home of the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, and was also the summer home of composer Leonard Bernstein.

440-442 Pass through Canton, which was incorporated on February 23, 1697.  It was named after Canton, China, which was believed to be the antipodal point (point on the exact opposite side of the earth) from this town, which is actually not true.  Canton was incorporated from the Town of Stoughton.  In 1801, Paul Revere built the nation’s first copper rolling mill here.  Canton is the headquarters city of Reebok and Dunkin’ Donuts.

441    Cross the Canton Viaduct, a blind arcade cavity wall railroad viaduct, built in 1834 and 1835 by the Boston & Providence Railroad (today owned by AMTRAK).  We are crossing the Canton River, which is the East Branch of the Neponset River.

444.5 WESTWOOD-ROUTE 128 station, 50 University Avenue, Westwood, MA.  Elevation approximately 49 ft.  The station is used by MBTA commuter trains as well as by AMTRAK.  University Avenue here is also U.S. 1 and Interstates 93 and 95.  This station is a suburban stop for Boston.  Westwood was first settled in 1641 and was originally part of the Town of Dedham  It was called West Dedham, then, when it was incorporated in 1897, it became Westwood.  It was supposed to have been named the Town of Nahatan, but that proposal was defeated by the State Senate.  In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Westwood 13th on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States.  Boston Magazine included Gay Street in Westwood on its list of the Best Streets in the Boston area.  It is the 15th wealthiest town in the state of Massachusetts.

445.5 The river alongside the railroad here on the right (northbound) is the Neponset River, which flows into Boston Harbor in the City of Boston.

446.5 Enter SUFFOLK County and the City of Boston.  Suffolk County was named after Suffolk, England.  The name means “southern folk.” The county was created by the Massachusetts General Court on May 10, 1643, when it was ordered "that the whole plantation within this jurisdiction be divided into four shires".  The county seat and largest city is Boston, which is also the State Capital.

448-448.5 Cross Mother Brook and pass through Hyde Park, the southernmost neighborhood in Boston.  Hyde Park was organized in 1856 by Alpheus Perley Blake of the Fairmount Land Company.  Earlier, retired businessman Henry Grew purchased several hundred acres here, in 1845.  Grew called his purchase “Grew’s Woods,” which is today the Stony Brook Reservation, part of the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston.  The Town of Hyde Park was incorporated on April 22, 1868 in Norfolk County from settled land in nearby Dorchester, Milton (Fairmount) and Dedham (Readville).  It remained a part of Norfolk County until 1912, when the town voted in favor of annexation to the City of Boston in Suffolk County.  In the 19th Century, the sisters  Sarah Moore Grimké and Angelina Emily Grimké played important public roles to end slavery and promote women's suffrage.

         Hyde Park has been an industrial community for many years, and was the headquarters of the Westinghouse Sturtevant Corporation, as well as the Stop & Shop Warehouse.

449    Hills on the left (northbound) are composed of Precambrian-aged Dedham Granite overlain by glacial deposits.

450-451 Pass through Roslindale, a residential neighborhood of Boston.  Roslindale was originally a part of the Town of Roxbury.  In 1873, the citizens voted to be annexed to the City of Boston.  The name Roslindale was suggested by John Pierce, a well-traveled member of the community, who told the citizens that the area reminded him of the historic town of Roslin, Scotland, outside Edinburgh.  Pierce thought the area was like a dale because of the hills surrounding it.

         On March 14, 1887, a Boston & Providence Railroad train consisting of a locomotive and nine passenger cars inbound from Dedham to Boston with over 200 passengers, was passing over a bridge at Bussey Street, in the current Arnold Arboretum, when the bridge collapsed causing the rear five cars to pile up on top of each other, killing 23 and injuring over 100.  This is considered one of the first major rail catastrophes in the country.

451    On top of Bussey Hill on the left (northbound) is the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.  The Arboretum was founded in 1872 by the President and Fellows of Harvard, who were trustees of part of the estate of James Arnold, a whaling merchant.  In 1842, wealthy Boston merchant Benjamin Bussey donated the land to Harvard "for instruction in agriculture, horticulture, and related subjects.”  16 years after Bussey's death, Arnold specified that a portion of his estate was to be used for "...the promotion of agricultural, or horticultural improvements.”

         As of 2011, the living collections include 14,980 individual plants representing 3,924 taxa, with particular emphasis on woody plants of North America and eastern Asia.  At the Arboretum, research on plant pathology and integrated pest management for maintenance of the living collections is constantly ongoing.  Herbarium-based research focuses on the systematics and biodiversity of both temperate and tropical Asian forests, as well as the ecology and potential for sustainable use of their resources.

452   Pass through the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, which was founded by Boston Puritans seeking farm land to the south. It was originally part of the Town of Roxbury.  One theory about the name of the neighborhood traces the origin to "Jamaica rum", a reference to Jamaican cane sugar's role in the “Triangle Trade” (the Colonies, the Caribbean, and Africa) of sugar, rum, and slaves. However, a more likely explanation is that "Jamaica" is an Anglicization of the name of Kuchamakin, who was regent for the young Chickatawbut, Chief of the Massachusett tribe of early Native Americans.

453    Pass through Roxbury, founded in 1630 as one of the first Towns founded by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It became a city in 1846, and a part of Boston on January 5, 1868. The city asserts that it "serves as the heart of Black culture in Boston."  Roxbury was the home of Malcolm X, as well as singer Donna Summer.

454    On the left (northbound) is Northeastern University, a private research university, established in 1898.  The university has 4 campuses in the Boston area, plus several campuses in other parts of the Nation, including a campus in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, opened in 2016.  The university's enrollment is approximately 18,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students.  Northeastern offers undergraduate majors in 65 departments. At the graduate level, there are more than 125 programs.  The university offers BA, BFA, BLA, BS, M.Arch., MA, M.Des., MFA, and MS degrees, plus a Graduate Certificate, plus more than 30 research centers.

          We now head underground for a few minutes for the next station stop.

455    BOSTON-BACK BAY station, 145 Dartmouth Street.  Elevation approximately 4 ft. The station was opened in 1987 and replaced an earlier station.  Boston’s main station, South Station, is only a mile or so north of here (see MP 456.5 below); however, this station, which also serves the MBTA commuter trains, serves areas on the south side of downtown.

          Back Bay was formerly a marshy tidal flat of the Charles River. Native Americans built fish weirs here more than 5000 years ago.  In 1814, the Boston and Roxbury Mill Corporation was chartered to construct a milldam; however, the project was an economic failure, and in 1857 a massive project was begun to "make land" by filling the area enclosed by the dam.  Most of the Back Bay was filled in by 1882.

         In 1990, a northbound commuter train running along the Providence/Stoughton MBTA line was involved in a collision with AMTRAK’s northboundNight Owl train.  The accident, which occurred to the west of the Back Bay station, injured 453 people, although there were no fatalities.

          Back Bay today, along with Beacon Hill, are Boston’s 2 most expensive neighborhoods.

456    Pass beneath U.S. 1

456.5 BOSTON-SOUTH STATION, 700 Atlantic Avenue.  Elevation approximately 29.  This is the primary AMTRAK terminal for Boston.  All AMTRAK trains which enter Boston, with the exception of the Downeaster, which is served by Boston’s North Station (see Route guide #85), either begin or end at South Station.  South Station’s full name is the Governor Michael S. Dukakis Transportation Center at South Station.  It was originally constructed in 1899. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County, and the Capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

         Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston.

          Boston was named after Boston in Lincolnshire, England.  In 1629, Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop signed the Cambridge Agreement, an agreement between the English citizens who intended to emigrate to the Colonies and those who did not.  The agreement led to the founding of Boston. Boston's harbor activity was significantly curtailed by the Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812.  Foreign trade returned after these hostilities.  Boston soon became an industrial and manufacturing hub, and was originally noted for its garment production and leather goods industries.  In its early days, Boston was also an important hub in the triangular Atlantic slave trade between the Colonies, the West Indies, and Africa.  Later it became a center for the abolitionist movement.  The City of Boston was incorporated on March 4, 1822.

          During the 1820’s, Boston’s population grew as more Europeans immigrated to Boston.  In the 1850’s, after the Irish Potato Famine, large groups of Irish immigrated to Boston. Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, large numbers of Catholics immigrated here, and the abundance of Catholics gave way to prominent families like the Kennedys, and Tip O’Neil.  Also during the 19th Century, large areas of Boston were filled in and much marshland was reclaimed.  On November 9, 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.  The fire began in the basement of a warehouse, and eventually claimed 65 acres and destroyed many buildings.  Toward the end of the 20th Century, many of the older factories fell into disrepair, and many businesses moved out of the area.  The Boston Redevelopment Agency was started in 1957 to demolish old buildings and improve the city.  By the 1970’s, the economy had returned somewhat, and many new businesses were formed, including several hospitals and health care centers.

          In recent years, Boston has become an intellectual, technological, and political center, with many new buildings and skyscrapers.  Some of the older run-down neighborhoods have been reclaimed and gentrified, and housing prices have increased sharply, as well as the costs of other activities and products. Boston is currently the 129th most expensive city in the World to live in, but has also recently ranked 36th in the worldwide quality of living.  However, on April 15, 2013, two Chechen Islamist brothers detonated a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring roughly 264.  In addition, In 2016, Boston briefly shouldered a bid as the U.S. applicant for the 2024 Summer Olympics; however, the bid was eventually dropped due to public opposition.

                                                                                               Boston, of course, contains many historic buildings, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Boston area is the home of Harvard University. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, Boston University, Brandeis University, and University of Massachusetts-Boston, plus many other institutions of higher learning.  Boston is also the home of the Boston Commons, the Nation’s oldest park, the Boston Children’s Museum, the Bunker Hill Monument, Beacon Hill, which was the inspiration for the popular television show “Cheers,” Faneuil Hall, the Franklin Park Zoo, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the New England Aquarium, Old North Church, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Paul Revere House, and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum, plus many other places of interest.