Hoyoke Railroad Heritage
Journeys into Holyoke
As factories and abundant jobs became a magnet, rail links proved vital and were provided by two companies: the Connecticut River Railroad (CNRR) and the Holyoke and Westfield Railroad.
The former was created in 1845 through the merger of two lines intended to run along the river between Springfield and Greenfield. In 1845 the portion linking Springfield and Northampton opened, and in late 1846 it reached its original terminus. The CNRR was extended further north into Vermont three years later and remained independent until 1893 when it was leased to the Boston and Maine Railroad. Subsequently, it served as an important path for traffic between Montreal and New York City. The Holyoke and Westfield Railroad was created by the city in the 1860s to provide a competitor to the CNRR and connected Holyoke with Westfield to the southwest. From there, goods could connect to the New Haven and Boston & Albany railroads.
In 1885, the CNRR opened a new $100,000 depot in Holyoke at the intersection of Lyman and Canal Streets. It replaced an earlier wooden structure built two blocks to the south in the late 1840s after the railroad first built through the area. The original depot, which featured board and batten walls and a simple gabled roof, accommodated both passenger and freight functions. Nearby was the Holyoke House, which opened in 1850 and became one of the city’s premier hostelries; a portion of the building still stands.
The new depot was designed by the famed Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who had shot to national prominence in 1877 upon the consecration of Trinity Church on Boston’s Copley Square. The ecclesiastical building displayed many hallmarks of the architect’s personal design aesthetic, which was characterized by squat, compact buildings usually constructed with unfinished stone in dark red, tan, brown and gray hues. The asymmetrical compositions were often pierced by deep-set, round arches reminiscent of Medieval Romanesque structures found in Europe; polychrome decoration was also a common feature.
Passenger rail service by the Boston & Maine Railroad to Holyoke ended in early 1967,. At that time station was altered to serve as a commercial space
In 2015, passenger rail service returned to Holyoke. Amtrak's Vermonter stops at the Holyoke station once a day in each direction.
In town, the Holyoke Street Railway (HSR) was an interurban streetcar and bus system operating in Holyoke, Massachusetts as well as surrounding communities with connections in Amherst, Belchertown, Chicopee, Easthampton, Granby, Northampton, Pelham, South Hadley, Sunderland, Westfield, and West Springfield.In the history of American railroad engineering, the system was the first in the United States to make use of exothermic welding, better known as thermite welding, to lay track for regular use.
Service remained in some form well into the 1970's. These days several buse lines from the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority also operate in the city.
And each year, the annual Nostalgic Autumn Train Ride on the Pioneer Valley Railroad Lines will takes participants on a journey in 1930's era restored coaches for an hour-long trip along Holyoke's longest running rail line.