Search this catalogue
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]
 [?]

Historical Materials: Gloucester Buildings & Businesses

Historical Materials  »  Gloucester Buildings & Businesses  »  Burnham Brothers Marine Railway

Burnham Brothers Marine Railway

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (6) »

Lane was commissioned by his neighbor John Trask to paint a sign for his shop at the Burnham Brothers' Marine Railway, as seen in Three Master on the Gloucester Railways, 1857 (inv. 29). The railway, built in 1849-50, was a vital component of the ship building and repair trade, allowing large ships to be hauled out of the water to repair and clean the hulls. Originally there was just one railway, but a second was added due to increased demand. It consisted of a heavily reinforced timber structure anchored with iron spikes and topped with pairs of iron rails fitted with cast iron rollers. The vessel was hauled onto a wood cradle using a steam-powered winch, where it remained, blocked to prevent movement, for the duration of the repairs. Upgrades to the steam power plant can be observed when comparing the height of the smokestack in the painting with that in the later print View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 446). This may also be visible in drawings such as Gloucester from Fresh Water Cove, 1850s (inv. 144). Burnham’s was probably up-dating its steam power plant, not just to run power saws, but to power the steam winch which pulled the cradle with a ship on it up the rails.

Gloucester City Archives, Valuations for Harbor Parish, East Ward, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854.
Valuations for wharf facilities and railway, 1851: $3,280; 1852: $4,800; 1853: $6,000; 1854: $9,000.

This steady and substantial growth is hard to explain in any other way than in the form of mechanical improvements, including steam-powered machinery to operate the hauling winch and power saws for a mill building for shipbuilding timber and planking. A note in the 1853 valuation, simply stating “new railway”, probably refers to the addition of a second railway, which would account for the significantly higher valuation in 1854.

Erik Ronnberg

Related tables: "California" (Full-Rigged Ship) »  //  Burnham: Parker (Jr.), Joseph & Elias »  //  Collins's, William (estate wharf) »  //  John Trask Paint Store »  //  Marine Railways »  //  Waterfront, Gloucester »

photo (historical)
Burnham Brothers Marine Railway
unknown
c.1870
Mounted print
8 x 10 in.
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Railway at the tip of Duncan's Point. Vessels on the ways are "Isabell Leighton" and "Hattie B. West."

model
Shadow box model of Burnham Marine Railway
Erik Ronnberg
1997
Wood, cordage, acrylic paste, metal
~40 in. x 30 in.
Erik Ronnberg

Model shows mast of fishing vessel being unstepped.

Also filed under: Fishing »   //  Schooner (Fishing) »

map
Locator map showing Burnham Brothers' marine railway
H.F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
map
1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of Gloucester Harbor)
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
Henry Francis Walling, Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Philadelphia, A. Kollner, 1851
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Printer. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

publication
1857 Cape Ann Advertiser 8.1.1857
Procter Brothers
Various dates
Newsprint
From bound volume owned by publisher Francis Procter
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

“PRETTY SIGN. – If our readers wish to see something pretty, let them walk down to Burnham Bros. Railway, and take a peep at the new sign recently hung out over the paint shop of Mr. John Trask. It is a painting on canvass 4 1-2 feet by 5, executed by Fitz H. Lane, Esq., representing a view of Burnham Bros. Railways, the wharf and stores adjoining. The front view represents the ‘way’s’ with a ship and schooner receiving a coat of paint. The workshop and counting-room of Burnham Bros., and the buildings of Mr. Joseph Shepherd, together with the old Parrot and Caswell houses are plainly visible. In the background a partial view of the residence of Capt. F. Norwood, on Spring street, the Universalist Church, on Elm St., Capt. Isaac Somes’ residence on Pleasant St., and several other buildings on Prospect St. The view was taken from Rocky Neck and makes a very pretty picture.”

publication
1859 Gloucester Telegraph 6.3.1859
6.3.1859
Newspaper

Fire in the steam planing mill of Parker Burnham & Bros, foot of Water St. It spread through the block that included Ignatius Winter's sash-and-blind factory and John Trask's paint shop.

map
1865 Commissioners' Map of Gloucester Harbor Massachusetts
A. Boschke
1865
41 x 29 inches
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Archives
Maps and Plans, Third Series Maps, v.66:p.1, no. 2352, SC1/series 50X

.

publication
1874 Gloucester Telegraph 4.15.1874 Parker Burnham obituary
4.15.1874
Newspaper obituary
Obituary of Parker Burnham, Esq.
Sawyer Free Library

Parker Burnham, Esq., the alderman from Ward 5, died at his residence on Spring Street on Thursday morning, of neuralgia of the heart, after a few days’ illness. Mr. Burnham was a native of Essex, son of the venerable Parker Burnham, recently deceased, but settled in Gloucester when quite a young man, and has been closely identified with the business interests of the town and city. On his removal to Gloucester, in connection with his brothers, Joseph B. and Elias, he established a shipyard, and the firm, under the name of Burnham Brothers, were successfully engaged in the building and repairing of vessels. Subsequently they built the first marine railways ever constructed in Gloucester, and in the business connected therewith Mr. Burnham remained to the time of his death. He was a man of marked character, honest in his dealings, kindly in his intercourse with his fellows, correct in his deportment and unassuming in his manners, devoting himself to his business without stepping aside to seek notoriety or distinction from his fellow citizens. In religion he was a Universalist and a regular attendant upon the services of the Independent Christian Church. In politics he was a Republican from the earliest formation of the party, and fully in accord with its principles, although he was elected upon the Board of Aldermen upon a democratic nomination, unsought, by a large majority. Since the organization of the city government Mr. Burnham has devoted a large portion of his time to the interests of the city, being constant in his attendance upon the meetings of the board and taking an active part in its deliberations. As chairman of the joint standing committee upon public property he had the oversight upon the Collins School House and the investigations concerning the remodeling of the City Hall; he was also a member of the committees upon finance and highways. His loss will be deeply felt by his associates in the city council, and by the community generally. His funeral took place on Saturday afternoon, and was attended by the members of the city council in a body.

publication
1883 Cape Ann Weekly Advertiser 7.13.1883 Elias Burnham obituary
7.13.1883
Newspaper obituary
Obituary of Elias Burnham
Sawyer Free Library

Mr. Elias Burnham, whose severe illness was alluded to in our last issue, died at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, having been unconscious for several hours before his death. He had been in his usual health until within a little over a week before his departure, when he was taken with an ill turn at the camp of his son, Mr. Elias P. Burnham, at West Gloucester, and grew rapidly worse until the end. Mr. Burnham was a native of Essex, being a son of Parker Burnham of that town. He was a ship carpenter by trade, and came to Gloucester over forty years ago with his brothers Parker and Joseph B., and engaged in the vessel building business on Pearce’s wharf, under the name of Burnham Brothers.  Subsequently the firm purchased the Hough wharf, now owned by Walen & Son, and on the flats adjoining built the first marine railway ever constructed in Gloucester. To this business they afterwards added a planing mill, doing an extensive business. Mr. Joseph B. Burnham withdrew from the firm several years ago, carrying on for several years a planing mill on Pearce Street, and Mr. Parker Burnham, the oldest of the brothers, died in 1874, the firm of late years consisting of Elias, Elias P., son of Elias, and Parker H. and Enoch, sons of Parker. Identified for nearly half a century with the business interests of Gloucester, Mr. Burnham won a high place in the regard of his fellow citizens by his industrious habits, by the promptness and honesty which characterized all his business transactions, by his kindly social nature, his unassuming manners, and his respect for the rights and opinions of others. He was a prominent member of and liberal contributor to the support of the First Baptist Church, and his loss will be deeply felt by the members of that communion. He leaves a widow, son and daughter. His funeral took place from his late residence on Elm Street on Wednesday afternoon, his pastor, Rev. Dr. Morris officiating, and was largely attended.

publication
1884 Cape Ann Weekly Advertiser 3.25.1884 Joseph Burnham obituary
3.25.1874
Newspaper obituary
Obituary of Joseph Burnham, Esq.
Sawyer Free Library

Mr. Joseph Burnham, for many years a well known resident of this city, died very suddenly at his residence in West Gloucester on Tuesday, of paralysis, in the 67th year of his age. Although in somewhat feeble health of late years, he was able to keep about, and was out of doors the evening before his death. He was a son of Parker Burnham of Essex, and was formerly a member of the firm of Burnham Brothers (Parker, Joseph B. and Elias), who commenced ship- building in this city some two score years and more ago, and afterwards built the first marine railway in Gloucester and established a planing mill. Subsequently he retired from the firm and carried on a planing mill on Pearce Street for a number of years. He was also engaged in the remeasurement of our fishing fleet when the new tonnage law went into effect. Later, he purchased a farm in Rowley, but after a short residence there returned to Gloucester and took up his permanent residence at his summer camp at West Gloucester, where his death occurred.

He was an ingenious mechanic, steady, honest and industrious, and his sudden death will be deeply deplored by a large circle of friends. Mr. Burnham was a veteran Odd Fellow, having long been a member of Ocean Lodge, and was one of the seven charter members of Cape Ann Encampment, from which he withdrew about five years ago. His death is the second among the seven charter members of the Encampment, Capt. Edward Staten having been the first to depart from the earth life. The funeral of the deceased took place yesterday afternoon, Rev. Wm. H. Rider officiating, and was attended by the brethren of Ocean Lodge.

object
1892 Gloucester Harbor Diorama (detail of marine railway)
Lawrence Jensen, Erik. A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.
Detail views: marine railway and hauling cradle for vessel
Wood rails, metal rollers, chain; wood cradle. Scale: ½" = 1' (1:24)
Original diorama components made, 1892; replacements made, 1993.
Cape Ann Museum, from Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, 1925 (2014.071)

A schooner is shown hauled out on a cradle which travels over racks of rollers on a wood and metal track.

model
1892 Gloucester Harbor Diorama (detail of Marine railway)
Lawrence Jensen, Erik. A.R. Ronnberg, Jr.
Detail views: marine railway and hauling cradle for vessel
Wood rails, metal rollers, chain; wood cradle. Scale: ½" = 1' (1:24)
Original diorama components made, 1892; replacements made, 1993.
Cape Ann Museum, from Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, 1925 (2014.071)

Close up showing detail of rollers and hauling chain.

Also filed under: Marine Railways »

map
Chart showing key buildings
Erik Ronnberg / H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Marine Railways »

artwork
Three Master on the Gloucester Railways, 1857 (detail)
Fitz Henry Lane
1857
Oil on canvas
39 1/4 x 59 1/4 in.
Detail showing construction of marine railway. Details of the rollers and chain are obscured due to past cleaning efforts.

Also filed under: Marine Railways »

Citation: "Gloucester Buildings & Businesses." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/historical_material/index.php?type=Gloucester+Buildings+%26+Businesses§ion=Burnham+Brothers+Marine+Railway (accessed October 20, 2017).
Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
Please share your knowledge with us: click here to leave feedback.