Question about MBTA track ownership

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Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby spur01887 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:53 am

Hello all,

Just a few question about MBTA track ownership and one about freight over MBTA trackage.

First one....This may have been discussed beofre but can't find a thread about it. The old Saugus line branch, is that trackage owned by the MBTA? if so, has that been railbanked or abandoned?

Second one....On the Haverhill line by Wakefiled there is a line that branched off and goes through Lynnfield, Peabody (across Route 1), Danvers, from there it picks up another line and goes through Topsfield. Does anyone know the history of this line? If the MBTA owns that trackage and if it is railbanked?

Lastly....Does freight run along tha Haverhill line from Ballardvalle through North Wilmington and down to North Station area? Or does come down through the Havehill line and get diverted through the Wildcat Branch?

Thanks for the info!
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:11 pm

Yes, the MBTA owns both the Saugus Branch and the Old Newburyport Line. The former is being turned into a rail trail on a $1-for-99-year-lease. Supposedly with clauses saying that the MBTA can end the lease sooner, if need be. The latter is also being turned into a rail trail, which currently runs from Lowell St in Peabody, MA to the Topsfield/Georgetown line. This will eventually run from Wakefield to Newburyport (supposedly).

Freight is almost always diverted down the Wildcat, yes. Unless there's a problem somewhere.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby edbear » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:48 pm

On the Newburyport Branch, the MBTA ownership ends at what was the end of track at Topsfield on Dec. 27, 1976, the date it was conveyed to the MBTA. The abandoned lines from Topsfield to Newburyport and Georgetown to Bradford were not sold to the MBTA.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby MBTA1016 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:43 pm

The dobo freight train for Boston sand and gravel uses the wildcat to avoid the single Haverhill line heading inbound towards the city. Dobo is a pan/am, guilford freight between Dover New Hamshire and Boston.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby obienick » Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:36 am

Mbta fan wrote:The dobo freight train for Boston sand and gravel uses the wildcat to avoid the single Haverhill line heading inbound towards the city. Dobo is a pan/am, guilford freight between Dover New Hamshire and Boston.


DOBO is run at night so the single track isn't an issue. It's run via the Wildcat so it can avoid the roller coaster of the tunnel by Wellington.

LA-1 or -2 or whatever it's called now also runs via the Wildcat because it tends to run during the day. It is much shorter so the roller coaster isn't an issue, but the single track is. Also, no industry remains south of Reading, but there is some on the Lowell Line south of Willmington.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby BostonUrbEx » Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:23 am

Not to mention that most of the Reading Branch is still jointed stick rail, whereas running via the Wildcat means almost entirely continuously welded rail. Less wear and tear, faster speeds, and less noise complaints from entitled NIMBYs.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby Komarovsky » Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:10 am

edbear wrote:On the Newburyport Branch, the MBTA ownership ends at what was the end of track at Topsfield on Dec. 27, 1976, the date it was conveyed to the MBTA. The abandoned lines from Topsfield to Newburyport and Georgetown to Bradford were not sold to the MBTA.


I believe that National grid owns the ROW past Topsfield center into Boxford. Not sure if they own the rest of it to Newburyport.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby spur01887 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 7:52 am

Thanks for all the responses so far.

Well, that's good that the Saugus branch is still under T ownership and can be returned to rail if need be.
Wonder what's the liklihood of that line ever returning into service though. You would think that if it was returned to passenger service that it would see good ridership numbers seeing that that part of Malden and Revere have no train service and Saugus having none at all. Or because of the many at-grade crossings would that make it not feasible?

Found a little history on the second question I had about the line that runs from Wakefield to Peabody and up into Topsfield. It was originally called the South Reading branch which ran from South Reading (present day Wakefield) to South Danvers (present day Danvers), opened for service in 1850. Both towns changed their names in 1868. Since this branch is still owned by the T, wonder if it's got the chance to being restored to rail ever? It would appear that it would get rideship from Lynnfield, Peabody and Danvers, since none of those towns have rail. If they did restore, wonder how they would get around that at-grade crossing on Rte 1. Was that line in service in the 70's or 80's for freight? I may be wrong but I can vaguely remember stopping on Rte 1 as a kid when the train would cross the highway.

Aren't they double tracking now with continuous welded rail from Ballardvalle to Wilmington via the Wildcat to accomodate increased runs from the Downeaster and possible increased Commuter Rail traffic?

It's interesting finally tracing out the history of some of these branches I can remember as a kid seeing trains cross.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby obienick » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:25 pm

spur01887 wrote:Found a little history on the second question I had about the line that runs from Wakefield to Peabody and up into Topsfield. It was originally called the South Reading branch which ran from South Reading (present day Wakefield) to South Danvers (present day Danvers), opened for service in 1850. Both towns changed their names in 1868. Since this branch is still owned by the T, wonder if it's got the chance to being restored to rail ever? It would appear that it would get rideship from Lynnfield, Peabody and Danvers, since none of those towns have rail. If they did restore, wonder how they would get around that at-grade crossing on Rte 1. Was that line in service in the 70's or 80's for freight? I may be wrong but I can vaguely remember stopping on Rte 1 as a kid when the train would cross the highway.


The South Reading Branch went from Wakefield to Peabody, along the route of 128 past the Colonial CC. It was abandoned in the 1920's IIRC. What you're thinking about is the Newburyport Branch. I do not have my copy of "Rail Lines of Southern New England" handy, but north of Topsfied was abandoned around the 1960's, north of Danvers was abandoned in the 70's and the point by Rt 1 was active at least through the mid 90's (I remember as a kid seeing an engine parked at Lowell St just north of Rt 1) when a trestle fire rerouted all traffic via Salem except for the cement plant in Lynnfield which I think saw service for a few more years from Wakefield.

That intersection was an accident waiting to happen. There are many accident reports of GP7's with a handful of rail cars being hit by motorists ... including motorists who hit the sides of boxcars (how the heck do you manage to do that?). Theoretically many actions could be taken for a restoration including dropping the speed limit there (drivers go nuts on that stretch anyway), rumble strips, full gate protection, and pre-crossing warning signs. If it ever was to be restored they'd really have to raise Rt 1 just for safety ESPECIALLY, if passenger service ever came again. But that might not be possible as Rt 1 is on a decent hill there. That would eliminate all the cut-outs for businesses as the road would now be grade separated. You can't raise the RR due to I-95, and If you drop the RR, you'd mess up Lowell St, including the ramps to Rt 1.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby spur01887 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:08 pm

Thanks for the correction, I guess I had the placement of the tracks wrong when I first saw info on the South Reading line, lol.

Wow, I didn't know that service went across Rte 1 until the Mid 90's, and that was a dangerous crossing, surprised there weren't more accidents there. If they were ever were to restore service couldn't they build a tunnel from just before Rte 1 to just after Rte 95? Like something similar to what was done in Dowontown Hingham when the established service on the Greenbush line?
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:25 am

spur01887 wrote:Thanks for the correction, I guess I had the placement of the tracks wrong when I first saw info on the South Reading line, lol.

Wow, I didn't know that service went across Rte 1 until the Mid 90's, and that was a dangerous crossing, surprised there weren't more accidents there. If they were ever were to restore service couldn't they build a tunnel from just before Rte 1 to just after Rte 95? Like something similar to what was done in Dowontown Hingham when the established service on the Greenbush line?


That would be quite a long tunnel, and given the cost of tunnel building it's likely a nonstarter.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby TomNelligan » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:44 am

Wow, I didn't know that service went across Rte 1 until the Mid 90's, and that was a dangerous crossing, surprised there weren't more accidents there.


After passenger service ended in the 1950s, the only regular service on the line in its last three decades was a once-a-day (and in later years, once-every-now-and-then) local freight, and the crew stopped and flagged the crossing.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby jbvb » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:17 am

The former Newburyport RR from Topsfield to Georgetown, Bradford and Newburyport was abandoned and the tracks torn up in 1941 IIRC. All that RoW is used by power lines, as is the station/wye area in Georgetown. Most of the bridges are intact so line trucks can get in for maintenance. The original main to Newburyport is cut twice by I-95 and the bridge were MA 97 passed over the Bradford branch in Georgetown has been filled in.

As of 1965 or so, both the Salem & Lowell and Newburyport RR grade crossings across Rt. 1 were intact. I don't know when the last train used the Salem & Lowell crossing; the RRE excursion I rode in 1968 went Salem - Topsfield, then to South Middleton on the S&L via the Newburyport RR (existing) crossing, then on to Wakefield Jct. At that time, the manual interlocking at the S&L diamond was still intact.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby Komarovsky » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:21 am

In addition to the route 1 headache, the residents of Topsfield would probably put up quite an epic fight against any trains running through the town. The fight to get the rail trail built took several years because people were worried about trail users breaking into their houses.
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Re: Question about MBTA track ownership

Postby newpylong » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:37 pm

obienick wrote:
Mbta fan wrote:The dobo freight train for Boston sand and gravel uses the wildcat to avoid the single Haverhill line heading inbound towards the city. Dobo is a pan/am, guilford freight between Dover New Hamshire and Boston.


DOBO is run at night so the single track isn't an issue. It's run via the Wildcat so it can avoid the roller coaster of the tunnel by Wellington.

LA-1 or -2 or whatever it's called now also runs via the Wildcat because it tends to run during the day. It is much shorter so the roller coaster isn't an issue, but the single track is. Also, no industry remains south of Reading, but there is some on the Lowell Line south of Willmington.


LA-1, LA-2, and LA-3 all exist and use the Wildcat. LA-3 not as much because they are dedicated just to Billerica so their cars are usually picked up and set out in Lowell, not Lawrence.
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