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Walpole Tunnel


Photo taken by P. K. Lazrus


View this photo at mhc-macris.net

BH Photo #318998

Street Views 


Stone arch tunnel carrying MBTA Franklin Branch underneath Main Street (MA Route 1A) at milepost 18.63 in Walpole, Massachusetts. Included as a bridge in National Bridge Inventory. Originally a 2 track tunnel, the line is not single-tracked and is centered in the tunnel.

MBTA Historical Property Survey 

Written by P. K. Lazrus

"National Register recommendation: Eligible. The tunnel appears to date to the original construction of the railroad in Walpole Center. It is a well-preserved example of stone-arch technology for bridge construction and appears to be among the oldest spans carrying an overhead roadway in the area."

"The portion of the Franklin Line extending from Readville to Franklin was originally conceived of as two, short, branch lines; the Walpole Railroad, linking Walpole with Dedham, and the Norfolk County Railroad that ran from Walpole to Franklin. The Walpole Railroad was chartered but never actually built. It was vigorously contested because the populous wanted a local line independent from the larger rail lines planned to Connect Boston with New York City and the upstate Hudson River region. The Norfolk County Railroad, chartered in July, 1847, was promoted by wealthy Blackstone millowner Welcome Farnum (1796-1874). The line was opened for service from Boston to Blackstone on 16 May 1849. Farnum's plan was to extend the line through to the Hudson River in order to bring coal form Pennsylvania mines into New England. Farnum had the proposed route surveyed as far as the Hudson River at his own expense, and in 1853, the line was extended as far west as Southbridge, Massachusetts. Farnum's failure during the Panic of 1857 spelled the end of his involvement with the railroad, but the line was completed to Fishkill Landing on the Hudson in 1881. The Norfolk County Railroad went through several reorganizations, consolidations, and name changes between 1858 and 1869 when the line became part of the New York and New England Railroad. In 1898 the New York and New England became the last major acquisition to come under direct control of the New York New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The [200 foot]-long, stone arch tunnel with a severe skew appears to date to the original development of the rail line in Walpole Center. Carrying Main Street over the right-of-way in a residential area north of the business center of the town, the tunnel ranks as one of the oldest structures taking a vehicular roadway of the railroad in Eastern Massachusetts. In most instances, grade crossings were not eliminated until beginning in the third quarter of the 19th century when increased rail and vehicular traffic began to become a threat to public safety. While stone arch bridges were not uncommon in the middle of the 19th century, they were usually restricted to water crossings. The only other documented railroad tunnel in Eastern Massachusetts is in 1839 Salem, but it was completely rebuilt in 1957.

The single track tunnel is built of split, rubble-coursed shale, as are the splayed wing walls and abutments, but the ring stones on both ends are dressed ashlar. The joints have been stylistically inappropriately repointed with Portland cement mortar, but otherwise the tunnel appears to be in good condition."

- Massachusetts Historical Commission (P.K. Lazrus, MBTA Historic Property Survey, 10/1988)


Stone arch tunnel carrying MBTA Franklin Branch on under Main Street (MA 1A) in Walpole. Administered as a bridge by the State.
Walpole, Norfolk County, Massachusetts
Open to railway traffic below, and to vehicle and pedestrian traffic above
Built 1848 by original Norfolk County Railroad
- Commuter Rail
- Conrail (CR)
- Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
- New York & New England Railroad (NYNE)
- New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (NH)
- Norfolk County Railroad
- Penn Central Railroad (PC)
Shale arch tunnel
Total length: 202.0 ft.
Deck width: 24.5 ft.
Skew angle
45 degrees
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Main Street Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.14972, -71.25056   (decimal degrees)
42°08'59" N, 71°15'02" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
19/314047/4668851 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Average daily traffic (as of 2016)
Inventory numbers
MA W03013 (Massachusetts bridge number)
BH 19425 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of January 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 77.8 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • March 22, 2015: New Street View added by Erich Pfistner