By the 1890s, the transportation infrastructure of downtown Boston - a maze of narrow, winding streets laid out, in some cases, along Colonial cow paths - proved completely inadequate for the needs of a modern, bustling metropolis. Tremont Street, the city's main thoroughfare, was regularly subject to gridlock from a convergence of foot traffic, horse-drawn conveyances, trolley lines, and electric streetcars. To rectify the problem, the Boston Transit Commission, with Howard A. Carson as chief engineer, was created in 1894 to study remedies.
This was a pioneering venture in mainline railroad electrification. It established single-phase alternating current as a technical and economical alternative to direct current. This concept exerted considerable influence over subsequent systems both in the United States and abroad. The major components of the system were developed by the engineering staffs of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad and the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company of East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Developed for use in both the plains and mountains, this coal-fired passenger locomotive was among the most advanced in design, construction, and performance of any 4-8-4. Designed by Norfolk & Western engineers and built in the Norfolk & Western Roanoke shops, the 611 was specially balanced to minimize rail damage at high speeds. No. 611, eleventh of fourteen constructed and the last survivor, was retired from service and donated to the Roanoke Transportation Museum in 1959.