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
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
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 Twenties.
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,
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 passenger cars.
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
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 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.
Railway Co., ten 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