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MBTA - North Station Charles River Bridges


General View Showing Bridge In 'Closed' Position

Photo taken for the Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #289353

Street Views 


Part of the extensive terminal improvement program by the Boston & Maine Railroad, and the last element to be completed, was the replacement and realignment of the railroad's crossings of the Charles River. The Boston & Lowell was the first railroad in the U.S. to be faced with the need for a movable bridge, when in 1835 their tracks had to cross the Charles River in order to enter Boston. The railroad's solution was a movable span with a horizontal swing, hinged at the corner of one end. A system of cables supported the free end of the span. The structure was the forerunner of the jackknife bridge, invented in 1849. One by one, the three other railroads crossing the Charles River adopted this solution (and later the jackknife design), which became a characteristic feature of the railroads north of Boston. Beginning in the 1890s, most movable railroad bridges were replaced by steel bascule spans. Not until 1931, however, were the Charles River bridges replaces. To the very last, the bridges were air and steam operated. In 1931, after extensive filling and dredging, the channel of the Charles River was relocated further away from North Station to allow the terminal tracks to converge into eight main leads crossing the river. The four new structures were double-track, single-leaf, rolling-lift bascule bridges, a design made famous by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company of Chicago. All four were nearly identical in design, varying only in their length and the degree of their skew, two spans crossing the channel at a slightly greater skew than the others. Two were 87 feet in length and two, 97 feet. Each span carried a single 629-ton overhead concrete counterweight and, operated by two electric motors, was controlled from the second floor of the new signal and interlocking station, located nearby on the north side of the river. The bridges were designed by Keller & Harrington, Chicago, while the steelwork was fabricated and erected by the Phoenix Bridge Company, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Today, only two of the bascule spans remain.

-- Historic American Engineering Record


Baltimore through truss bridge over Charles River on MBTA North Station Leads
Boston, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and Suffolk County, Massachusetts
Open to traffic
Built 1931, two bridges removed at a later date
- Keller & Harrington of Chicago, Illinois
- Phoenix Bridge Co. of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
- Boston & Maine Railroad (BM)
- Commuter Rail
- Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
Baltimore through truss
Total length: 87.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.36905, -71.06532   (decimal degrees)
42°22'09" N, 71°03'55" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
19/329943/4692818 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Boston South
Inventory number
BH 61961 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • August 14, 2021: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • October 5, 2020: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • June 4, 2020: New photo from Patrick Gurwell
  • December 7, 2015: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • August 2, 2015: New photo from Ian Martin
  • May 6, 2015: New photos from Ian Martin
  • August 1, 2014: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • July 26, 2014: New Street View added by Ralph Demars
  • July 25, 2014: New photos from Douglas Butler
  • July 25, 2014: Added by Ian Martin


  • Ian Martin
  • HAER MA-22 - Boston & Maine Railroad, Charles River Bridges, Charles River, North Station vicinity, Boston, Suffolk County, MA
  • Douglas Butler
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Geoff Hubbs