Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society
The close of the last century was marked by many changes in town, not the least of these was the coming of the streetcars, finally eliminating travel by stage coach. The last rail was laid in 1900, and for twenty-five years the people of Bedford enjoyed the convenience of being connected to an expansive trolley system. Fare was only five cents and children under five traveled for free.
The rail system began at Arlington Heights where it met the Boston Elevated and where the waiting room served the patrons of both lines. The electricity of the line was made in the large car barns in North Lexington and power lines for the company stretched for many miles. As shown in the image of the transfer ticket, connections could be made with the neighboring towns, thus providing access to a network of public transportation all over New England. Bedford was a junction for the branch to Billerica via North Road and the Concord Road branch to Concord, Maynard and Hudson.
The railway tracks came into Bedford Center from South Street and passed on the west side. A turnout that enabled cars to pass one another occupied a portion of the road in front of the stores at the Common, the tracks are visible in this photo of the old Blake/Sheldon Block. Other turnouts were set midway between Bedford Center and Concord and Bedford Center and Billerica.
Because Bedford had no high school until 1956, its young people attended Lexington High School and were given streetcar tickets to get there.
The “Scholar’s Ticket” shown here was donated to the Society by John Brown, who added that some students operated a black market by trading their tickets for a variety of goodies (of course, they had to find another way to get to school!).
The company owned both Lexington Park and Norumbega Park. Combination fare and park entrance tickets could be bought at a special price and must have been a popular outing, based on the number of passengers exiting the streetcar at Lexington Park in the accompanying photo.
Automobiles were the undoing of the prosperous street railway system and by the time of the first World War it was recognized by all that no amount of fare raising or curtailing of service could keep it running. Old electric cars became just a memory.
Additional images show an open trolley car of the Middlesex and Boston Street Railway Company in Bedford Center with First Parish Church in the background, an open car speeding along with a stone wall in the foreground, an enclosed car traveling up South Road, and a streetcar, traveling up the Great Road by the old Bedford House Hotel (now the fire station), coming up behind a wagon decorated for Old Home Week in 1912.
This story and the accompanying photos are brought to you courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society. The Society was founded in 1893 and exists today to preserve Bedford’s history. Learn more about the Society at its web page, www.bedfordmahistory.org or on its Facebook page. Visit the Historical Society in its archives in the Bedford Police Station. Contact the Society by email at [email protected] or call 781-275-7276 for hours or directions.