Railway tour re-traces steps of Quincy’s granite industry

The Massachusetts Bay Railroad Enthusiasts (Mass Bay RRE) is entering the final weeks of their Granite Railway tours for the season.Guests of the will be driven by van through the remains Quincy’s historic Granite Railway, a line which is thought to be the first commercial rail line in the nation.

“There is this nickname for Quincy, ‘The city of Presidents,’ ” said Victor Campbell, a Dorchester resident who leads the excursions. “For much of its history, Quincy was really “Granite City.”

The 3 1/2 hour tour features visits to several archaeological sites significant to Quincy’s early granite industry. Remaining tours are scheduled for this weekend — September 25-26 — and October 23-24. The new season will begin in late May 2011.

The Granite Railway was a horse-drawn line that was first built in 1826 to transport granite from quarries in Quincy and Milton for construction projects on Bunker Hill, including the prominent Bunker Hill Monument. The railway ran from its terminal station in Quincy to a dock along the Neponset River three miles away. The line remained in operation until the 1940s. Other than representing a final vestige of Quincy’s quarrying history, the rail also served as a the proving ground for several railroad innovations, including railway switches and the turntable.

Today, the railway is part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Quincy Quarry Reservation, a property that, according to Campbell, could be better maintained by the DCR.
“I think it’s kind of out-of-sight-out-of-mind,” said Campbell. “For a historical site, it’s not maintained very well by DCR.”

Campbell, along with several other railroad enthusiasts and historians, is working to create a Quincy Quarries and Workers museum, which would be dedicated to preserving the memory and artifacts from the history of Quincy’s granite industry.

“This goes back through the heritage of Quincy workers,” said Campbell “We don’t want that to be forgotten.”

The tours have been in operation since 1986. Patrons are encouraged to reserve spots by phone ahead of time. The Mass Bay RRE requests a minimum donation of $10. Dorchester residents can arrange to be picked up by the tour van at the Milton trolley station. To reserve a spot, call 617-822-4046.