The Coming of the Railroad to Burrillville

** The following article was originally published in the July 1959 edition of The Hinterlander, Bulletin of the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society, Mr. Mathias P. Harpin, Editor. The following is based on a presentation given to the Society by guest speaker Mr. Oscar Greene of Mapleville, RI.


Along with the growth in industry in Burrillville came a need for better transportation for the finished products. Delivery by horse and oxen took days. Early in the 1820’s a canal was suggested for northern Rhode Island. Investigation for this project was made and it was declared feasible. However, it was never done and next came transportation by rail. (* History Blackstone Canal)

In 1850 a charter for a railroad was granted to the Woonasquatucket Railroad Co., but failed in 1869 because of lack of money.

Talk about a railroad from Providence to Springfield was begun in 1857, work started in 1869 and completed in 1871.

William Tinkham, a manufacturer, was instrumental in building the Providence & Springfield Railroad. Harvey Chace, president of the Providence & Worcester Line, helped him.

Two hundred men bought subscriptions to the road for ten thousand dollars each. The town of Burrillville bought fifty thousand shares.

The total cost of the road was $1,360,286.00 which was $45,056.00 per mile. It was 23 miles long with a station to each mile.

By horse and oxen the journey to Providence from Burrillville took one day; by train express fifty-nine minutes; by local sixty-nine minutes.

The little back country railroad had no serious accidents or loss of life in it’s twenty-one years prior to its being taken over by the New York & New England Railroad in 1892.

All kinds of freight was carried. The road had a contract with the City of Providence to remove garbage to a station near Primrose; using five or six cars for this purpose.

The road had no financial difficulties until it was taken over by the New Haven Railroad.

Mr. Greene named the stations on the line which may bring back some nostalgic memories.

Providence, Acorn Street, Dyke Street, Plainfield Street, Merino, Dyerville, Manton, Lymansville, Allendale, Centerdale, Graystone, Enfield (Esmond), Georgiaville, Stillwater, Smithfield, Primrose, Fields, Tarklin, Mapleville, Harrisville, Pascoag, Saxonville (Bridgeton) Wallum Lake


*Note: A canal was created in the northern parts of Rhode Island. Information on the Blackstone Canal (1828-1848) can be found at