Beautifully engraved Certificate from the Taunton Branch Rail Road Corporation issued
in 1836. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with a company seal attached to the document. This item is hand signed by the company's president and secretary and is
over 168 years old. The president's name is Tho Wales, the treasurer is W. F. Otis and the certificate is made out to Thomas R. Sewall. The back of the certificate shows the transfer from Thomas R. Sewall to Charles Cunningham. There is a nice watermark in the documnet which shows a design and says "Appleton ?edley Mill 1830"
In New England the pioneering railroad lines of the 1830s and 1840s were improvements to existing transportation systems like turnpikes and stagecoach routes. Most rail lines connected with ports, reflecting the importance of shipping to the New England economy. Small branch lines, used for passengers and freight, were built between the 1840s and 1860s. In southeastern Massachusetts, they were consolidated under the Old Colony Railroad in the 1870s.
Developments in harnessing steam power made locomotive engines possible. The faster trains were an improvement over stagecoaches and wagons. The first railroad line in Massachusetts connected Boston and Providence, an important stop on the land route to New York. Completed in 1835, the 44 mile journey took about an hour and a half. The following year the Taunton Branch Railroad opened, connecting Taunton to the Boston/Providence route. The line was extended to New Bedford in 1840, linking industrial Taunton with the port city.
In 1845 the Old Colony line was built, connecting Plymouth to South Boston via Abington. The journey took just under two hours. Most rail construction was concentrated inland rather than along the coast. Inland towns like Abington, Bridgewater, Middleboro and Taunton had burgeoning industries which were helped by economical freight transport. 1846 saw the completion of the Fall River Railroad, between Braintree and Fall River via Middleboro. The Cape Cod Branch Railroad, which ran from Boston to Sandwich via Middleboro, also opened in that year. Service was gradually extended, reaching Provincetown in 1873. Plymouth had no rail connections except to Boston until 1892, when the Plymouth and Middleboro line started service. The new line linked Plymouth with the many lines running through Middleboro, including service to Cape Cod and Providence.
While intended for freight, the railroad attracted passengers in unexpected numbers. By the 1840s there was considerable competition between stage lines and railroads. Each tried to attract travelers by offering free dinner at coaching inns and depot restaurants. The faster and more reliable railroad soon replaced the stagecoach for mail delivery and passenger transport. All towns were not accessible by rail, however, so stagecoaches were still needed as links.
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