Monday, January 08, 2007

The T (MTA) in Charlie's day (1951)

Back in 1951 Stephen M. Salisbury a transit buff from California came to Boston to compare Boston's streetcar system with the extensive one in Los Angeles. He wrote that trains were slower in what is now the Green Line because during rush hour trains would arrive at stations EVERY 30 SECONDS.

In the article he talks about Boston's use of Type 5 cars and PCC's. Today you can see restored versions of each at Boylston Station. The T still uses PCC's cars on the Mattapan-Ashmont line which is currently closed for renovations at Ashmont. The T would soon convert most of these lines to either bus or trackless trolley and most of the remaining PCC cars were transferred to the Riverside line that opened in 1959. Los Angeles in a decision the city came to regret decided to abolish the rapid transit lines there and use the right of ways to build the area Freeway system in the mid 1950's.
He also looked at other Eastern transit systems
THE MTA of 1951

It is encouraging to find a municipally operated system, which is not pro-bus. Such is MTA, Boston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. In addition to its three genuine rapid transit routes, one of which is now being extended on surface right-of-way to Orient Heights, MTA at presents operates 26 electric railway routes with trolley cars. A third of these use the trolley subway in downtown Boston and are assured a permanent lease on life. Another third will probably stay rail for some time also, some using PCC cars even at present. A find third including all the Maverick-Revere Beach lines and some Southside lines will go trolley coach in the fairly near future.

Boston at present uses three major car types on its trolley lines. There are a large number of PCCs, including the 50 picture window PCCs received this spring. Oldest PCC group was purchased in 1941. The PCCs, as on LATL, are numbered up from 3000.

More numerous than the PCCs are the omnipresent “Type 5's,” numbered in the 5000 class. These are of two types, the “high speeds”, all of which are on a single line, the 100 to Elm St., and the far more numerous “low speed” Fives. These cars are all products of the mid-1920s, and are unevenly maintained: some are in poor condition while others are excellent. The few “high-speeds” are the equal of the PE 600s in acceleration and speed, but far inferior in appearance and comfort (all Type Fives have wooden seats).

The third type of equipment yet running in Boston has all but been retired: the MU center-entrance trains, which the PCCs have almost replaced in the subway. At the time of our Boston sojourn, the last week in July, no trains were running on regular runs, but would fill in occasionally when too many PCCs were being shopped. The only center-entrance train actually seen in service was on the Subway-Arborway line 39, although this type of equipment was in evidence in several car yards about the city. They are numbered in the 6000s and of course were the backbone of Boston EL for many, many years before the PCCs.

A fourth type, the so-called Type Four cars, which are deck roof, older city cars numbered in the low 5000s, were seen in one or two yards, but are not (so far as we were able to discern) any longer in service at all, and will soon be scrapped.

South Boston has not much equipment variety left: only the PCCs and type Fives run commonly over the system. Old cars still run in the trolley subway, although they are in the vast minority.
The most unusual feature of Boston’s trolley system, of course, is the extensive use made of the trolley subway. This permits all surface cars to run in the downtown district free from interference of surface traffic. Actual speeds made in the Trolley subway compare rather unfavorably with those in Los Angeles’, but the subway is undeniably far faster than surface routes could ever be. Speed underground is hampered by the close headways that are maintained: three-car PCC trains less than thirty seconds apart in rush hours. Fortunately, the block signal system is far more adequate than is the case in Los Angeles’ subway, but even so, during base and rush hours there is not much opportunity for the PCCs to show any speed.

From a single tunnel running north and south on Tremont St., which is four-tracked in places, cars fan out to six portals south of the downtown area, and then commence street ( or in some cases, private right of way) operation, usually for considerable distances further. Rail in the subway is not too smooth, and the PCCs are as bouncy as they are on most systems where they run on private right of way. The new PCCs are if anything more bouncy than previous models.
Aside from the subway, the most notable Boston characteristic is the great number of prepayment stations, which are combination subway or elevated stations and surface car and bus line terminals. At these stations, which are entirely within turnstiles, a great deal of transferring and reverse-direction riding can be accomplished on a single fare. Certain of the stations are large-scale streetcar terminals in their own right, such as Arborway-Forest Hills, at the south end of an elevated line, from which seven surface car lines depart (one of which uses the trolley subway). Another large rail terminal is Maverick, entirely underground, from which several car lines depart on the same level as the adjacent tracks of the subway trains with which they connect. Present fare over the entire MTA system is 10 cents for local surface rides of any length without transfer, 15 cents for surface rides with transfer, and 15 cents for all rapid transit-surface rides, with or without transfer. The 15 cents rapid transit fare applies also in the trolley subways, but so far as we could tell, the operator of an inbound trolley on the street before entering a subway portal has no way of checking who has paid 10 cents for a local ride and who has paid 15 cents.

In the outlaying areas, there is more than a mere smattering of private right of way on the various lines. Most of this is center or side-of-the-street, there being little trackage completely away from streets.

The following is a resume of the MTA rail system’s routes. Numbers are given on the route map, but no cars or buses display them, and no company employee discusses lines other than by name.

1-ASHMONT-HARVARD TUNNEL: This is a true rapid transit route, nearly all subway, with cars similar to the IRT cars in New York City. It runs from Harvard Square in Cambridge, to the west of Boston, into the downtown area, then south partly thru open cut and surface private right of way, partly still in subway, to Ashmont on the southern side of the city.

2-FOREST HILLS-EVERETT ELEVATED: This is entirely elevated except for a section of subway in the heart of downtown Boston. It is probably the nicest of the true rapid transit routes. Stations are much farther apart than on New York EL’s, allowing greater speed, especially on the downhill outbound run to Forest Hills in the southern side of the city.

3-BOWDOIN-MAVERICK TUNNEL: This line is entirely subway at present, and runs from Bowdoin in downtown Boston beneath the Charles River to Maverick, where at present it ends. It is to be extended via a surface private right of way using catenary rather than third-rail. All rail and wire for this extension are in place to the new terminal at Orient Heights, and the cars for it are sitting at the latter point.

7-SOUTH STATION-CITY POINT: A surface trolley line entirely on city streets. South Station, which is on the edge of downtown Boston, is the closest point to the center of the city to which trolleys operate on streets. This line runs near the waterfront for a good distance, over many bridges. It is entirely Type Five, as there is a stub end in the middle of the street at South Station.

9-SUBWAY-CITY POINT: This is a PCC line which runs underground to a portal south of the downtown area, then turns east along rather uninteresting streets and joins lines 7 and 10 to the end of the rather dilapidated City Point section of the city.

10-DUDLEY-CITY POINT: This is a PCC line beginning under the Forest Hills EL and running north, then east to join the 9 and continue to City Point. Its most unusual feature is the Arlington Station where it loops twice around the same trackage each trip to enter the station.

28-ASHMONT-MATTAPAN “HIGH SPEED” LINE: Without doubt this is the finest MTA route. It is all on private right of way, entirely away from streets, and plunges thru beautiful wooded areas, running for some distance beside the banks of a river.
Type Five equipment used.

29-MATTAPAN-EGLESTON: A surprisingly nice line because of a side of the road private right of way along the edge of a park in a hilly section, which is very beautiful. Much bracket arm over pavement operation also. Evidently quite safe for the future as the rails are being renewed. Type Five.

30-ARBORWAY-MATTAPAN: A rather dull PCC line entirely on city streets.

32-ARBORWAY-CLEARY SQUARE: Another not too interesting street-running line to the extreme south of the city. Uses Type Five.

33-ARBORWAY-ROSLINDALE: An odd-shaped line taking two-sides of a very narrow-angled triangle of trackage, with little independent running. Unimportant. Uses Type Five.

34-ARBORWAY-DEDHAM: This rather long south side line uses Type Fives and enjoys a stretch of center-of-the-highway private right of way on its outer end; eastern Massachusetts cars used to run further out from it.

36-ARBORWAY-CHARLES RIVER: A nice, winding line, but entirely on streets. Trolley coach overhead is 100% in place, and the line will go TC in about two months. At present it is served by the Type Fives during daylight hours, and by PCCs evenings.

39-SUBWAY-ARBORWAY: A long, rather dull route with MU PCCs and still an occasional center-entrance train; totally on built-up, congested streets after it leaves the subway. Has Type Fives also.

40-EGLESTON-ARBORWAY: A short line on tracks entirely underneath the Forest Hills EL. An unimportantline stripped of all Sunday service in a recent economy move. After all, the EL is overhead.

43-SUBWAY-EGLESTON: PCCs and a few Type Fives on this line, which winds along congested city streets much like the Subway-Arborway line, only shorter.

47-MASSACHUSETTS STATION-DUDLY: This is obviously a remnant of a whole group of other lines that were abandoned. It runs rail Monday through Friday from 5.20 to 9.40am, and 3.13 to 6.37pm. Other hours and on weekends it is bus. It has under-the el running and very tedious route thru city streets to a high-roofed terminal at Mass Station on the trolley subway. Probably the most boring rail line on MTA.

61-SUBWAY-CLEVELAND CIRCLE: This is one of the heaviest lines on the system, and uses both new and older PCCs in 2 and 3 car trains. Not an inch of this line is on streets (except, of course, for grade crossings), as it enjoys a tree-shaded center-of the-street private right of way along its entire course after it leaves the subway. Rush hour headway is terrific.

62-SUBWAY-BOSTON COLLEGE: Twin of the Cleveland Circle route, with same equipment and also much private right of way beside and within streets. A very important and scenic line not quite as nice as the 61.

69-SUBWAY-WATERTOWN: A long line, on streets after leaving the subway, from which it heads due west to the city of Watertown, Mass. There is a turn back loop at Braves Field. An all PCC operation.

71-HARVARD-WATERTOWN: Entirely in the outlying areas of Cambridge and Watertown. Mostly PCC, with a few Type Fives. Track is very smooth, making the PCC ride unusually pleasant.

73-HARVARD-WAVERLEY: Runs with 71 for a ways west of Harvard, then runs west on broad, hilly streets to Waverley, Mass. Type Fives, as it is stub-end in Waveley. A pleasant but unspectacular route.

79-HARVARD-ARLINGTON HEIGHTS: A long line running to the northwest of Harvard. A mixture of PCCs and older cars. It is actually thru-routed with 71, as cars run all the way thru from Watertown to Arlington Heights, but passengers must get off at Harvard, pay another fare, and walk thru a gate to re-board. Turn backs run to two points, one of which is stub-end and will not take PCCs.

100-SULLIVAN SQUARE-ELM STREET: This is entirely removed from all other MTA rail lines, but has its own car house and connects with other MTA lines via trackage not in regular use. It is the second-nicest line on the MTA, being almost all of center-of-the-street private right of way, and using the fast “High speed” Fives, which are capable of 40 mph and have excellent acceleration. “Too fast for the track on this line,” one operator commented. Yet rail has been improved, and prospects for the rail service on this highly scenic line seem good. It was even more scenic until 1946, when it ran thru the woods to Spot Pond and via Eastern Mass St. Ry. (whose buses still carry the railway name, incidentally) to Stoneham. It should not have been cut back to Elm St., but the remaining portion is still heavily patronized and a must for photography.

114-MAVERICK-MERIDIAN ST.: All these lines that use Maverick are to go trolley coach probably within a year. Much TC overhead is in place already. The Meridian St. line is a remnant of an alternate route to Chelsea which was abandoned when a bridge was closed. Now it ends on a crossover laid at the beginning of the bridge. It is entirely on slow, uninviting streets.

116-MAVERICK - REVERE BEACH VIA REVERE: This line goes to Chelsea, with many turn back cars to “Chelsea via Central” only. It is the farthest north of any New England trolley passenger route, and is entirely on streets.

117-MAVERICK - REVERE BEACH VIA BEACH: An alternate route to Revere, which separates from the Rev-via Rev line, beyond Chelsea and cuts across to reach Rev much more quickly (about the same as the PSL, POK situation between LA and Pasadena). All on streets, but very nice.

A third and entirely different route between these two terminals, and the shortest of them all, (continuing the analogy, it would resemble the Pasadena via Garvanza route). It parallels the rapid transit extension, and enjoys a stretch of complete private right of way in a very country-ish setting, with a trestle across a creek or pond in its middle. It reminded Steve and I , as we walked it, of the Balboa Park Line in San Diego, more strongly than anything else either of us has seen, yet it is also very, very different, as there are no cliffs or drop-offs. Turn backs run to Gladstone loop (called line 115). There is also a private right of way branch to a racetrack a short distance, which runs Sundays only.

121-MAVERICK - LEXINGTON ST.: The only single-track line on MTA, running with Meridian St. until a few blocks before the end of that route, and then turning onto a run-down street, changing to the single pair of rails, and continuing up and down hill for perhaps a mile, ending in a car house. Very unimportant, requiring only one car for base service.
All Maverick lines, of course, use the Types Fives exclusively. Some of these cars still say “Boston Elevated Railway” on their sides. The Maverick lines were part of Eastern Massachusetts Street Ry. until 1936.

And there you have it--a fine system, with some track amputations still in store for it, but with an excellent future for the rail lines that will still remain.

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