In Jamaica Plain, the train tracks followed the path of Stony Brook for much of its path. The railroad engineers looked for the straightest, most gradual upward slope to the south possible, and found Stony Brook valley. Thus, the brook and the tracks have been associated since the rail line was built in the 1830s.
I've been doing some reading of old Boston Globe articles, and I found this one last night. In 1896, the tracks were being raised on to an embankment to eliminate the grade crossings at the many streets that crossed the tracks. This article, dated August 20th, is a nice description of the building of the raising of the tracks. It also mentions the brook, so we can see how they were inter-twined.
I remember the embankment with a sort of nostalgia today. At two different periods in my younger days it served as a playground for my friends and me. So, without further delay, on with the show...
Boston Globe. August 20, 1896
On Elevated Tracks Sunday
Enormous Engineering Work on Providence Railroad More Than Half Completed in a Year
Sunday morning the Providence division trains of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad will begin to run on the elevated tracks. This means the the costly engineering job of removing the grade crossing between Chickering station and Forest Hills has been more than half completed, inasmuch as two of the proposed four tracks are up in the air. This much has been done in just about a year, the greater part having been accomplished i the fall, spring and summer.
The roadbed for about four miles on the main line and for 2500 feet on the West Roxbury branch has been raised to a height of from 18 to 20 feet above the old location and new bridges have been built over 15 streets, all but one of which throughfares had been grade crossings. New stations, one on either side of the tracks, are either under construction or will be built at Roxbury, Heath, Boylston, Jamaica Plain, and Forest hills, all of handsome design, of granite and buff brick.
In addition to this, subways have been constructed under the tracks at every station for the use of passengers, and when the trains are in operation on the elevated line, no only will there be no excuse for crossing the rails, bu no one will be allowed to do so.
The grade begins at the repair shops, just south of Chickering station, reaches a height of 18 feet above the old level at Roxbury Crossing, 20 feet at Centre st.the old Hogg's bridge location, 18 feet at Green st. Jamaica Plain, and 19 feet at Morton st. Forest Hills, gradually dropping from washington st, near Forest Hills station to the grade of the old roadbed at Stony brook culvert, half way to Mt Hope station.
Two features of the work are most prominent, the enormous amount of gravel filling required and even yet to be done, and the costly and handsome granite retaining wall, which practically extends along the westerly line of the road from the point where the grade begins to the end of the Washington st bridge abutment. This wall, beside being a necessity becomes an object of no little ornamentation, especially at the approaches to the station.
The plans do not provide for a similar wall along the easterly line of the road-bed, excepting in the cut from Prentiss st to Centre st. From Centre st the east side will be an embankment, a gravel slope, excepting for a short distance on either side of the stations, where a granite retaining wall will be built similar to that on the west side.
The Anxiety of the railroad company to complete the work accounts for the plan to operate trains over the two elevated tracks at once, and passengers will have to put up with a few inconveniences until the stations are completed. Only two tracks can be elevated at one time, and even then the job is a difficult one between Centre and Ruggles sts, as there is only room for four tracks, and no extra space on which to work.
While granite stairways have been built from the street to the elevation at stations, the buildings are nowhere near completed. The road has constructed small wooden shelters, with a ticket office at every station, and these will have to do duty until the more commodious and pretentious structures are finished.
Ruggles is the first way crossed by the elevated tracks, and here the street had to be depressed a little to lessen the grade of the railroad tracks. The construction of the bridge at this point has cost the engineers more work and worry than at any other point, all because of Stony brook.
That apparently inconsequential waterway has in its history cost more money to control and provide for than probably anything of its size in this part of the country. In the first place, before making any move, the railroad company had to build a new culvert for Stony brook some 20 feet east of the old course, from Boylston station to Centre st. in order to get room for the track raising.
Then further along, when the engineers came to place the abutments for the Ruggles st. bridge, they found that troublesome Stony brook placidly flowing along under the railroad at the spot where some of the masonry for the bridge would have to be sunk. So they had to dicker with Stony brook again. A new culvert was built, and the brook was diverged so that it comes through and under Ruggles st instead of the Railroad.
Ruggles st. is crossed by a double span, steel-plate girder bridge, with a granite pier in the center. Like all of the bridges along the line this one is not an open-work structure, for the sleepers are embedded in gravel, a compact construction of angel plates between the girders making this possible, and preventing any drippings or siftings from the bridge to the street below.
From Ruggles st. to Prentiss st. there was room for making an embankment for the two tracks, but from there to the Centre st. bridge the trains on Sunday will be run upon a stout wooden double-track trestle, filled in at the base of the supports. The steel-plate girder bridges for Prentiss and Station sts. are all in place, and the tracks are laid over them.
At what is known as Roxbury crossing, Tremont st., the work has been delayed. Here there is to be a 40-foot span plate girder bridge for carriages and pedestrians to cross from Columbus ave. and Tremont st. under the tracks, to the station on the west side of the tracks. This passageway takes the place of the subway which has been used at other stations.
Then there is the 67-foot span of Tremont st. The tracks are to go over Tremont st. on a steel-arch bridge, but neither this structure nor the passage-way just below it, separated by granite masonry, is yet in place. Two wooden bridges will be used until the tow iron ones are done. Some idea of what the Roxbury crossing bridge is to be can be obtained from the cut showing WalkHill st and Forest Hills station. It will be a steel arch of similar design, only of a much broader span than that on Walk Hill st.
At Roxbury a new station will be built on the west side of the tracks, and the present brick and stone structure will be raised and utilized as a waiting room on the east side. From Roxbury crossing through the deep cut made by the buildings on either side, the trains will continue on the trestle, crossing Old Heath and New Heath sts. on steel plate girder bridges. Between the two streets will stand two handsome brick and stone buildings, and Heath st. station will look much more inviting with the old freight yard removed.
Considerable objection was made by the brewers, whose grain was received and output loaded at this convenient point to the abandonment of this yard, but the railroad company has to make some other arrangement. So it satisfied its patrons by laying out a new freight yard along Lamartine st., beyond Hogg's bridge.
This brings out another striking change in street levels as a part of the tracks. Formerly Centre st. crossed over the tracks by a dilapidated bridge, with a slight ascent of either side. Now Centre st. is depressed some 19 feet by a somewhat steep inclining from the east and the railroad is carried over on a steel plate girder bridge with granite abutments and steel posts supporting it. Beyond the railroad the level of grade of Amory st. has been lowered to correspond with the new Centre st. lines as this is the junction of these streets.
The electric rails on Centre st. are only partly laid, and it will probably be more than a week before the West End cars will run to Jamaica Plain without change. During the changes in Centre st. passengers have been transferred over a temporary wooden footbridge, and this will have to be continued until the car tracks are ready on the new Centre st.
Beyond Centre st. the tracks leave the trestle and take the gravel roadbed. Between here and Boylston station the railroad engineers have built a steel plate girder bridge for a new way which will be laid out as an extension of Mozart st. This structure is designed for five tracks, being the only one on the line wide enough for more than four. The extra track is a line to the new freight yard, which occupies the land between the main line and Lamartine st. and extends to Centre st. bridge. A granite retaining wall marks the limit of the freight yard, and the entrance from the street to the freight tracks is by an easy grade.
At Boylston station the old brick building has been raised to the level of the new tracks, and the lower story has been constructed to correspond to the appearance of the retaining wall. On the other side a new station will be built.
Girder bridges of identical design carry the railroad over Boylston and Green sts. to Jamaica Plain station. Here two new stations will be built, and the subway under the tracks will enter the lower stories of each station. The railroad line of old Depot sq. is now a length of Pittsburg granite with a smooth coping surmounted by a low iron fence, and a long flight of granite steps near the Green st. bridge built against the wall furnishing the means of ascent to the tracks above.
A new street will be laid out between Green st. and Keyes st., and the bridge is already built and waiting for the street.
When Morton st at Forest Hills is reached, the most substantial as well as ornamental construction of any along the line is seen. Here the Arborway from Jamaica pond to Franklin park crosses the tracks, and the railroad engineers have added to the picturesqueness of the park drive by the character of the bridges they have chosen.
A succession of five stone arches breaks the retaining wall for Morton st. and the parkway. Above every arch rises the granite parapet, between them being heavy stone buttresses, which add to the formidable appearances as well as the carefully balanced consistency of the line of the wall.
This will be repeated in the construction for the two easterly tracks, yet to be elevated.
Forest Hills station will stand just beyond the parkway and Morton st. arches, and the west side of the station is well along in construction. It is practically what all the other will be. From the street level to the height of the tracks, the walls correspond with the granite construction of the roadbed wall, and the story above the tracks will be light brick.
The buildings have long, rambling roofs, which give them a squat appearance when viewed from the railroad, but from the street level the aspect is much more pleasing. The lower story is intended to be used for baggage rooms and for the heating plant, and the hall and stairway to the upper story take up considerable room.
The second story is a large waiting room with a ticket and telegraph office. These offices will be in the stations on either side of the track. At every station, exterior stairways will be built.
After leaving Forest Hills station, the tracks cross Walk Hill st. by the steel arch bridge as shown in the cut, and just beyond here the West Roxbury branch leaves the main line. A temporary switch tower has been built, supported on a pile of ties on the embankment, and the interlocking system will be in working order by Sunday, so that the switchman will simply walk from the old tower from which he now operates the switches and take up his routine at the new levers, some 18 feet higher.
It was not possible to fill in enough for two tracks on the branch at the junction with the old branch tracks running under an old trestle a few feet beyond so a single track will be used on the branch for some 50 feet until the lower tracks are entirely abandoned.
From the junction to the new Washington st. steel girder bridge, a short distance, the main-line rails have been elevated on a wooden trestle, in order that during construction and filling along the line there would be no interference with the West Roxbury branch line, which crosses beneath.
When the elevated tracks are used then all the trestle work along the line will be filled in with gravel.
According to the plans the two outside tracks will be used entirely for suburban traffic, and the double track in the center for express trains. At all of the stations on the line of the elevated, an iron fence will enclose the express tracks, thus making it impossible for passengers to cross on the tracks. They must take the subways provided for that purpose.
As has already been published, the tracks to be devoted to suburban service will be fitted with a third rail, similar to that now used on the South Shore branch, and electricity will be utilized as the motive power.