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Rails laid in Holyoke, as of 1894. from <em>History of the Holyoke Street Railway </em>by Donald Shaw. unpublished. courtesy of the Holyoke History Room and Archives
Rails laid in Holyoke, as of 1894. from "History of the Holyoke Street Railway" by Donald Shaw. unpublished. courtesy of the Holyoke History Room and Archives

The 1890s brought further expansion and growth to the Holyoke Street Railway. This growth was realized despite a major economic depression in the mid 1890s that forced some factories to either shut down or reduce hours. Rail lines were expanded into the Willimansett neighborhood of Chicopee, and the neighborhoods of the Highlands and Oakdale in Holyoke. A connecting line into West Springfield created the first inter-urban line in Western Mass. But the two most important events of the 1890s for the Holyoke Street Railway were most certainly electrification and the purchase of land on Mt. Tom.

The rails were electrified in 1891 and the remaining 64 horses were retired. Electrification was looked at with some suspicion when it was first proposed. There were many perceived drawbacks to the technology including; fatal electrical short circuits, blindness resulting from flashes and flames coming from overhead wires, and attraction of lightning to the rails. Although accidents did occur over the course of HSR history, many of these turned out to be myths.

Summit House.  From <em>Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad</em>
Summit House. From Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad

Sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s, William Loomis purchased land on Mt. Tom from Mr. Roswell Fairfield, who had used the land for timber harvesting. Mr. Loomis bought the land to create a resort destination for weekend travellers looking for a respite from the rigors of urban life. The plan included an amusement park called Mountain Park and a mountaintop restaurant and hotel called the Mt. Tom Summit House.

Click below to see a proposal to build the building that housed the Merry Go RoundOnce completed, Mountain Park featured a midway, carousel, water ride and entertainment casino.

Mountain Park Views. From Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad
Mountain Park Views. From Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad

The Holyoke Street Railway extended lines to Mountain Park in 1895 and in 1897 created a subsidiary of the company called the Mt. Tom Railroad. Although Mr. Loomis owned the Holyoke Street Railway, he did not become it’s president until 1896. In 1897 the 365 acres that made up Mountain Park was purchased from Mr. Loomis by the Holyoke Street Railway for $50,000

Click below to see a copy of the Board of Railroad Commissioners approval for use of Mt. Tom land, 1897.

Specially designed car leaving base of mountain for summit.  from <em>Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad'</em>

Specially designed car leaving base of mountain for summit. from Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt. Tom Railroad’

In 1897, the Mt. Tom Railroad Co. began construction of the 1 mile rail line that ran from the base of Mt. Tom at Mountain Park up to the Summit House using a unique mechanical constuction. The grade up the mountain was steep, so slanted seating was created.

Click below to see a copy of a proposal for the construction of the incline railroad

View of lower station and summit house. From <em>Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt Tom Railroad</em>

View of lower station and summit house. From Views on and About Mt. Tom and of Mt Tom Railroad

The two cars that made the daily trips, the Elizur Holyoke and the Rowland Thomas, were named after the men whose names were used for the Mt. Holyoke and Mt. Tom ranges.

In June of 1899, U.S. President William McKinley visited Holyoke and the Summit House while in the area to attend his neice’s graduation from Mount Holyoke College. He was a guest of Willam Loomis, who borrowed a special car, the “Rockrimmon”, from Springfield to charter his distinguished guest. Massachusetts Governor Roger Wolcott was also in attendance.

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