The trolley era in Hopedale lasted a short time, less than 40 years. However, it did mirror the
story of trolley car activity in the United States.
The size of Hopedale in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries was such that it wasn't large
enough to support a street railway. But, it did have something that made a trolley system viable -
the Draper Works. As Draper grew in size it required more and more workers. At first this
demand could be satisfied by those living in Hopedale and adjoining Milford. It did require that
the workers walk to the works and back home.
As more people were needed it became necessary to draw workers from further away. It was no
longer feasible to walk to and from work. The trolley car made it possible to reach work and
return home in a reasonable amount of time.
At this point in time the trolley served a very useful purpose. This changed in the 1920s as
paved roads and the private automobile gave people a mobility they had not had before. This
led to the downfall of the trolley, not only in Hopedale, but the rest of the country as well.
There were basically four distinct trolley systems that served Hopedale and the surrounding
area. We will cover each briefly.
Milford and Hopedale Street Railway Co.
This line received a franchise in Milford on June 19, 1890 to operate a storage battery system.
The line would run out W. Main Street entering Hopedale on Mendon Street to Hopedale Street
and ending at the intersection of Hopedale and Freedom streets. This would provide service to
the Draper plant. Six single truck storage battery passenger cars were ordered from the Ellis Car
Co., Amesbury, MA.
The company began service on the 6 ½ mile long line on April 13, 1891. On April 28, 1893 the
company constructed a building in Milford for the manufacture of storage batteries. This
ultimately led to the end of operations. Another storage battery manufacturer brought suit
against the railway for patent infringement. The resulting litigation resulted in the line ceasing
operation on October 1, 1893. In the early days of trolleys the battery car was considered a very
reliable method of transport. That was primarily due to the fact that the overhead wire collection
systems were anything but reliable. Once they had worked out those problems, battery cars fell
by the wayside due to the limited run time before needing a recharge.
Milford, Holliston and Framingham St. Rwy. Milford and Uxbridge St. Rwy.
The MH&FstRwy. was incorporated on October 21, 1895. The first passenger run from Milford to
Framingham took place on July 1, 1896. Service was extended to Hopedale on September 1,
1896. Additional lines were built from Milford to Medway in 1897 and Milford to Hopkinton in 1901.
During 1901 the Milford and Uxbridge began construction of a line through Hopedale. The
existing line, which ended at Hopedale and Freedom, was extended across Hopedale Pond, onto
Soward Street and then on a private right-of-way to North Avenue, Mendon. The first passenger
cars were run from Milford to Uxbridge on December 20, 1901. In July 1902 the MH&FStRwy. and
the M&UStRwy. were consolidated under the Milford and Uxbridge name.
On March 23, 1902, Nipmuc Park, on Lake Nipmuc was opened by the trolley company. This
was common across the country. Trolley companies built recreational parks along their lines as a
method of promoting riding. The park remained under trolley ownership until sometime in the
Also in 1902, the Grafton and Upton Railroad was electrified for passenger service from
Hopedale to North Grafton. While the railroad continued to operate freight service, the Milford
and Uxbridge contracted to operate the passenger service. This service began on June 23,
1902. (See Grafton and Upton, below, for more details.)
The 1920s brought paved roads and more and more private automobiles. This gradually cut into
the trolley passenger business until it was all gone by the end of 1928. Milford and Uxbridge
passenger trolleys stopped running and buses replaced them.
Milford, Attleboro and Woonsocket St. Rwy.
This line connected Milford, Hopedale, Mendon, Bellingham, Medway, Franklin, Wrentham and
Woonsocket. First passenger service from Milford began May 25, 1900. It left Milford on South
Main Street and then south on the present Route 140 in Hopedale, through Mendon to
Bellingham Center and beyond. Service ended on October 4, 1924.
Grafton and Upton Railroad
The Grafton Center Railroad began in 1873 as a narrow gauge steam railroad running from the
Boston and Albany in North Grafton, to Grafton. In 1887 it was reorganized and changed to
standard gauge. The name was also changed to the Grafton and Upton. By May 1890 the line
had been extended to Milford, via Hopedale.
In 1902 the line was electrified from Hopedale to North Grafton. Passenger service was provided
from Milford to North Grafton by the Milford and Uxbridge St. Rwy. Freight service continued to
be provided by steam engines. They were operated at night so as not to interfere with
The remainder of the line from Hopedale to Milford was electrified in 1919, and on April 22, 1919,
freight service was changed to electric. Two new General Electric steeple cab locomotives were
purchased for this service. Control of the railroad had long been in the hands of Draper, which
was the largest customer on the line.
On July 11, 1946, electric freight service ended and was replaced by diesel-electric locomotives.
While much of the line is now inactive, the railroad is still considered as an operating line.
Clark, Norton D., Grafton and Upton Railroad, Traction & Models, 7/71.
__________Grafton and Upton Railroad, source unknown, March 31, 1941
__________Grafton and Upton Railroad, source unknown, March 1941 to April 1951
__________Grafton and Upton Railroad - Uses Steam and Electricity. Unknown newspaper
clipping, probably 1907.
Hopper, Gordon, various articles published in the Milford Daily News
__________Massachusetts 1891 Atlas. Geo H. Walker co., Boston
__________Mendon, Town of, Annual Reports, Year ending 12/31/23
__________Milford Journal, Dec. 20, 1901, Milford & Uxbridge Cars Now Running
__________Milford Massachusetts, 1880 - 1930. Program Committee - Sesquicentennial 1930
Palmer, A.P., Bellingham's First Trolley Run. Sept. 6, 1900. Source unknown. 1969.
Partridge, George F., History of the Town of Bellingham, 1919
Sprague, Beatrice Putnam. Uxbridge Year by Year 1727 - 1927. 1927
__________Transportation in Hopedale in the Early 1900s. Source unknown
Items listed as "source unknown" were found as clippings in the Mendon Library.
More Trolley Photos from Bob Heglund Grafton and Upton Railroad Menu
Business Menu HOME
Old postcard view of Hopedale and Freedom streets with Draper plant in
the background. Trolleys appear to be waiting for employees at the end of
the work day. Thanks to Robert Heglund for the pictures and captions.
Old postcard view of the Draper plant and track on
Hopedale Street. The track curining in the foreground
leads to the bridge across Hopedale Pond.
bench, single truck open car. It was built in 1898 and photo
was taken at the Milford car-barn. This line was a
predecessor of the Milford and Uxbridge Street Railway.
Double truck passenger car in East Holliston.
Single truck repair car at Milford carbarn. One
of the primary purposes of this car was repair
and maintenance of the overhead trolley wires.
Lightweight passenger car #83 in Framingham. Six of these
cars were built by Wason in Springfield, Mass. in 1923. The
lightweight design provided for less electrical power
consumption in operation. Only five years old when operations
ceased, they were sold to the Milwaukee Electric Railway and
Light Company for service in Racine, Wisconsin.
Combine #99 in street in front of carbarn in Milford.
|Trolleys in Hopedale
A brief history
By Robert Heglund