The 1928 photograph taken from the water shows the larger vessel on the 2000-ton double-track marine railway–the closer of the two railways visible ahead. At the time, it was the largest railway in Boston and second largest in the country. Crandall Dry Dock Engineers designed and built the marine railways on this site and moved their office here in 1891.


State-of-the-art shipyard facilities on this site provided repair and maintenance services from 1854 to about 1950. By 1858, Samuel Hall's East Boston Dry Dock Company included a steam-powered floating dry dock capable of lifting 500-ton ships. Its 600-foot-long marine railway had a cradle with an unprecedented capacity of 1000 tons. Railways with capacities of 1500, 2000, and 2500 tons were built later–all by Crandall Dry Dock Engineers.

In front of you are remnants of the marine railways built in 1890 and 1892. A vessel in need of repair was floated over a timber cradle, which rested on cast-iron rollers on top of the tracks. Once secured, the vessel was hauled up the rails above the tidal zone.

Innovative design and simplicity of operation with minimum manpower contributed to the shipyard's success. Industrial era improvements such as wrought iron chains and steam-powered winches had replaced ropes, men, and horses. Despite economic downturns, a devastating waterfront fire in 1861, and the decline in local shipbuilding, ship repair thrived here and along Marginal Street.


How did the Harborwalk come to exist? [expand]

How did Colonial laws help create today's Harborwalk? [expand]

Who is Crandall Dry Dock Engineers, Inc? [expand]

Why use a marine railway? [expand]

What happened to the cradles at this location? [expand]

What happened after Atlantic Works bought East Boston Dry Dock Company? [expand]



Banner image: Courtesy of MIT Museum

Stock certificate: Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

Dry dock ad: Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Detail from map by G. W. Bromley & Co. Reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

Diver image courtesy of the University of Vermont Bailey Howe Library, Special Collections

Translation and recording thanks to the generosity of the Boston Marine Society

Our gratitude to the Perkins School for the Blind and David W. Cook for their partnership in creating the audio files.

About us

The Friends of the Boston Harborwalk is a group of volunteers, affiliated with Boston Harbor Now, dedicated to enhancing enjoyment of Boston's 43-mile Harborwalk. The Friends meet monthly to plan and coordinate our three main priorities.

1. Host monthly two-hour long tours connected to the Harborwalk or Boston Harbor;

2. Facilitate waterfront clean-up days to ensure that the full length of the Harborwalk is clean, safe, and inviting;

3. Create engaging interpretive signs to help people learn about and enjoy the rich stories connected to Boston's waterfront.

For more information and to join the Friends, contact Mike Manning, Chair, .