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When architect Solomon Willard arrived in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1825, and discovered a granite ledge in a wooded area, he knew he had found the perfect raw material for what would become his most famous building, and the first monumental obelisk erected in the United States — the Bunker Hill Monument. Willard envisioned a 221-foot tall obelisk with a 30 feet square base that would require some 6,700 tons of granite. Transporting the massive blocks of granite from the quarry to the site of construction presented a challenge.

Quincy was separated from Charlestown, where the monument would be erected, by 12 miles of swamp, forest, and farms. The granite needed to be delivered to Neponset River, four miles north, from where a barge would transport the stone through Boston Harbor to Charlestown. Willard wanted to move the stones to the Neponset River on sledges during winter, but Gridley Bryant, an engineer, suggested a more efficient method — a railroad.

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The Incline portion of the Granite Railway, Pine Hill Quarry to Neponset River, Quincy. April 1934. Photo credit: Arthur C. Haskell/Library of Congress

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