Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Maynard's Transportation History - Part 2

The early years of the twentieth century were a watershed for local transportation. Electricity provided power for a trolley system (later replaced by a bus line). The advent of automobiles would in time end the golden age of bicycling (and passenger trains, and that bus line). Trucks would make obsolete the need for local freight trains.  

The trolley power station, now
the Indian Orthodox Church
There was an electric trolley system going by the name Concord, Maynard & Hudson Street Railway. It operated October 1901 to January 1923. In addition to the named towns, there was a spur north to South Acton and beyond, to West Acton. Trolleys ran every 30 minutes from 6 AM to 11 PM. From Maynard to the other towns cost a nickel. In addition to the standard passenger cars, CM&H operated custom-built luxury cars, for rented use. Think of these as the party limousines of the day. Each of the three cars, the “Concord, Maynard” and “Hudson” had carpeting, wicker chairs, electric lights and curtained windows. These private cars could be hired for trips, and were not limited to CM&H rails. There is a record of a day trip to Woonsocket, Rhode Island!

Worth a historical mention that in Boston and other cities, trolleys predated electric power. In 1890, the City of Boston had a horse-drawn trolley system, known then as the West End Street Railway Company. West End had 2,000 cars in service, and employed as many as 9,000 horses. Conversion to electric motors started in 1891. By 1897 the last horse was retired.

Charles H. Persons (center) being driven in his 1904
Ford Model A, on Main Street. Note trolley tracks. Photo
courtesy of Maynard Historical Society. Click to enlarge.
The first car owned in Maynard, a Stanley Steamer, was purchased by Dr. Frank U. Rich in 1899. The Harriman brothers, of Harriman Laundry also went in for steam-powered vehicles, but gas engines were a coming thing. Charles H. Persons purchased the first Ford in town in 1904. From a photo, this was likely a Model A: 8 horsepower, top speed 28 mph. Newspaper ads in 1914 offered Ford Model T cars for $500. By 1910, there were two car dealers in town, repair shops, gas stations, car rental businesses, attempts to control speeding, and the first reported accident (small boy hit, bruised but otherwise unharmed). By 1925 the town’s annual report numbered 879 motor vehicles in Maynard. The horse count had dropped from to 70. As of 2021, there are two used car dealerships, two rental businesses, four gas stations and a dozen or so repair and parts establishments. 

Steamboats operated on the Assabet River from 1906 to 1914, offering transportation from a dock at the rear of the trolley headquarters to Whitman’s crossing, at Lake Boon. The company started with one boat, named “Queen,” but in time added “Gertrude” and “Teddy.” Weekdays, boats departed every 30 minutes, 8 AM to 8 PM. At Whitman’s Crossing, a short walk to Lake Boon brought people to a dock where the “Princess” would take them to docks scattered around to lake, providing access to summer cottages, club houses, restaurants and drinking establishments.

The trolley barn, located on the west side of where Routes 62 and 117 merge, became the base for the Lovell Bus Lines (1923-1954). John Lovell started bus service from Maynard to the South Acton train station one month after the trolley stopped. In time, he added bus service to Concord and Hudson. Eventually the line was extended west to Clinton and Leominster, and east to Waltham and Revere Beach (summers only, round-trip $1.25). Lovell Bus Lines was sold to Middlesex & Boston Street Railway – which operated trolleys and buses – later merged with MBTA. Bus service for Maynard dwindled over time, ended in 1972.

As for airplanes, Sidney H. Mason created an airstrip in 1948, behind his house on Summer Street. Sid was 28 at the time, and an Army veteran. He and three friends bought a used Luscombe 1946 8A in 1947 for $1000. Sid bought out his partners soon after. The airstrip was carved out of what had been an extensive Mason family farm that dated back to at least 1875. In fact, back in the farm days, the family had two runways, and many of the pilots in Maynard and nearby towns kept their planes there. Sid was still flying as late as 1997, age 79. In the meantime, Sid's son - Jack Mason - had taken up his father's hobby while still in his teens, earned his pilot's license, and was flying a Vector Ultralight in and out of the backyard. This meant that “Sid’s Airport” continued to be an active, FAA-numbered airstrip (MA52). Sid Mason passed on to the big airport in the sky in 2005. His life-long love affair with the air is memorialized by his tombstone, as it portrays his Luscombe in flight, with the plane's registration number N72025 on the side. Jack sold the property in 2016.

The blimp pictured flying over the
company's corporate headquarters, in Maynard.
The latest air experience for Maynard did not actually land here, but there was a valid connection. For many years, Maynard was the headquarters for, a once vastly successful jobs search company. Circa 2002, Monster leased two blimps from Virgin Atlantic for promotional flyovers at sports events, etc. One of the blimps did a flyover of Maynard, captured in a photograph that includes the blimp, mill buildings and the clocktower. Not occurring anywhere near here, but in response to an “I dare you” from Richard Branson (the CEO of Virgin Atlantic), Jeff Taylor, CEO of Monster, water skied 3.3 miles being towed by his blimp, setting a world record. The previous record holder was Branson.

On November 23, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Transportation from Horses to Airplanes.” Register at

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