Friday, March 16, 2007

saying goodbye to the Boeing Green Line cars

(Globe Photo / Jodi Hilton)
Now, after years of being cannibalized for spare parts, the Boeings -- which first hit the rails on Dec. 29, 1976 -- are making just one trip a day on the D branch of the Green Line. Only two are used on any given day.

"If we get one good trip out of it, we feel good," said Peter Messina, chief inspector at Riverside. "It's like having an old person around, you know? They can only walk so much. They can only go so far. I came on the job before they were here, and they're going to retire before me."

The last trips were scheduled for today, but snow could cancel them.

Most of the remaining trolleys will be disassembled by backhoe for scrap metal. One car may go to a trolley museum in Maine, and about six could find new life scraping slush off overhead trolley lines.
originally written in January


There are only a few left in service and as Breda finally delivers the last cars in an order than has been a saga in itself for over 9 years, the infamous Boeing cars will soon be retired. The Green Line cars numbered in the 34-3500's were supposed to be the future when they were introduced in late 1976. They were the first new streetcars bought by the T since 1951 and they were a disaster. But in this case the T wasn't at fault.

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation decided that the MBTA and the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) should work together in producing a new generation of streetcar. What wound up happening was that both the T and MUNI were forced to accept things they didn't want in the new cars so it would be able to run on both systems. The contract was put out to bid and was awarded to a helicopter manufacturer Boeing-Vertol and the order would be for 250 cars (150 for Boston). The one major difference in the order was that Boston would have air conditioning something not needed in San Francisco.

In Boston there were problems with derailments, power failures and doors (which had over 1300 parts) closing unexpectedly on passengers. In San Francisco they found that only 2 of the 3 doors could function in the Market Street Subway. The T sued Boeing-Vertol for the repairs and won $34 million dollars in damages.and Boeing in turn was able to convince San Francisco to buy 40 of the cars that the T no longer wanted. The T tested a Canadian made LRV for 3 months in 1980 but in the end decided to build their next cars from scratch. Eventually the new design would become the
Type 7 cars manufactured by Kinki-Sharyo of Japan (numbered in the 36-3700's) starting in 1986 and for the most part the T only ran the remaining Boeing cars during rush hour. The Kinki cars proved to be very reliable and the T bought 20 more 10 years later. San Francisco decided to replace their Boeings with cars manufactured by an Italian company named Breda. Boston then decided that instead of ordering the new Type 8 cars 10 years ago from Kinki-Sharyo that they as well would use Breda which has proven to be a disaster equal to the Boeings. The Breda cars were supposed to be fully delivered in 1998 but the T will take final delivery sometime in 2007 on the remaining cars.

Still there is a certain nostalgia concerning the Boeing cars though they will never be as beloved as the old PCC cars they replaced. They were a part of Boston for 30 years but it is time to say goodbye to them. Those interested can read more on the MBTA's problems with streetcars in an article written some 9 years ago by Scott Moore. The last words in the article proved to be incorrect and we the riders continue to suffer.

The new cars are expected to arrive sometime in 1997 or 1998. With the MBTA planning on keeping the LRVs until 1999, it is possible that the system has learned from the mistakes of the past, and will be much more careful when purchasing rail-cars in the future.







3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great story, I had forgotten much of the MBTA history.

Anonymous said...

So is this just going to be on the D line? I actually PREFER the older cars to the newer ones. They seem more spacious and better configured.

Ron Newman said...

All Boeing cars have been permanently retired, on all branches.