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The Car Shops

The Railroad Car Shops

In 1873, the machine and car shops of the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad in Readville, Massachusetts were destroyed by fire. Shortly after that, this railroad company became part of the New York & New England Railroad company. A number of Norwood businessmen – the town had only been incorporated in 1872 – wanted the railroad management to build new car shops in Norwood. As an inducement, the town appropriated money to buy 17 acres of land and presented it to the railroad. Three substantial shop buildings were built on Lenox Avenue and opened in the fall of 1874.

Extant car shop 2023

For several years, only the building and repairing of passenger and freight cars was done here, but around 1880, the railroad brought the locomotive repair work from Readville to Norwood as well. To that end, a paint shop, a blacksmith shop, and an additional machine shop were added to the complex. A building to house locomotives overnight was also erected at that time.

The car shops brought skilled mechanics to Norwood along with opportunities for men in the community to learn several good trades. The work continued even after the railroad became the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company. In 1903, however, the railroad car building and repairing was moved to new shops back in Readville. For a time, the locomotive repair shops continued in Norwood but that too was subsequently returned to Readville. Even so, many of the men employed at the car shops continued to reside in Norwood and work in Readville.

A number of Railroad Car Shop employees are interred in Old Parish Cemetery. These include:

Fred Bailey (lot 30)

In 1896, the Norwood Advertiser and Review reported that Fred Bailey (1861-1896), the son of Charles Bailey of Nahatan Street had died on Wednesday, January 8, 1896, in his home on Washington Street after an illness of three weeks. One source reported the cause as pneumonia, another attributed his death to typhoid fever. He was 35 years old. Fred was an oil cloth printer and was employed in the carpenter’s shop at the Railroad Car Shops. He was very popular among his fellow employees and “was mourned by a large circle of friends.” He was buried in his father’s lot in the Old Cemetery.

David Corbett (lot 94)

David Corbett (1832-1897) was a blacksmith by trade. He worked for the late Charles Morse for 5 years and then he hired J.W. Roby’s shop and opened his own business with his brother, Thomas. For a time, he stopped working due to illness. After his recovery, he was employed at the New York & New England Car Shops on Lenox Street until his death at 65 on February 13, 1897 of pneumonia. He was an expert workman, a thoroughly good and faithful man, and one of Norwood’s most esteemed residents. He had the friendship and good will of all his shop mates at the Car Shops.

James Hawes (lot 6)

James Hawes (1824-1895) was born in Wrentham. He served in the Civil War. Following the war, Hawes lived on Guild Street in South Dedham, later Norwood. In the 1880s, he was a watchman at the Railroad Car Shops. Hawes sold his house in 1890 to spent time at a Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts. Hawes died a widower at the age of 71 on March 29, 1895 in Attleboro. He was brought back to Norwood to be interred with his deceased wife, Esther, and their infant son, James.

Hawes stone after OPPV restoration

George Katzenmeier (lot 74; town lot)

On December 27, 1895, George Katzenmeier (c. 1862-1895) died suddenly of heart disease. The Norwood Advertiser and Review reported that he was single, had many friends who mourned his loss, and had worked in the boiler department at the Railroad Car Shops on Lenox Street. The paper also wrote that he was of German descent and “was buried beside his brother, William.” Both brothers were interred in Old Parish Cemetery in the “free lot” or “town lot,” an area set aside for the burial of those without means. A third brother, Charles, was interred there in 1898.

Bennett Pilley (lot 77)

Bennett Pilley (1829-1906) was born in Maine. A wheelwright and carriage maker by trade, he came to South Dedham sometime before 1870 and was employed at the Railroad Car Shops by 1880. The family lived at 135 Vernon Street in Norwood when Bennett Pilley died on March 27, 1906 of heart disease. (Although the death certificate says 1906, his gravestone has his date of death as 1907.) His widow, Mary, continued to live on Vernon Street until her death in 1913.


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