Eau de Red Line

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Eau de Red Line

Postby joshg1 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:47 am

or Orange, but strangely not Green…

Smell is the sense that holds the strongest memories, so I recognized the distinctive must of the Red and Orange lines (trains, platforms, tunnels) as I walked over the vents and past the passenger entrances along Washington St. I never thought about it before. The best description I can give is dust burning on electric heater- it's not an acrid human or trash smell. I'm particularly sensitive to smell and taste, but I don't have the terminology to describe things. How do others describe the scent? What is the source?
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby jaymac » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:09 pm

Orange and Red cars have shoes not always in perfect contact with the third rail. The eau d'ozone produced by third-rail arcing is quite probably greater and hotter than would be produced by trolley arcing just because rapid transit cars draw so much more current than trolleys. What other wonders of chemosynthesis might be at work on their way to the street grates is beyond my ken. For me, the greatest olfactory assault was during summer at Park Street Under when cars from Cambridge pushed that usually warmer and damper slug of air into the tunnel, producing odeur de stanque.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby jr145 » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:22 am

A lot of it is a combination of creosote in the railroad ties, burning brake shoes, and a general must/earthy smell from the dirt, water, and other things that accumulate in the tunnels/stations. Much like old papers or items in an attic have a unique smell if left alone long enough.


As to why the orange & red are different, that I don't know.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby wicked » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:06 pm

When I lived in cities without rapid transit systems, I missed that aroma.

Most of the underground Metro stations in D.C. have it, too, presumably for the same reason.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby The EGE » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:24 pm

Every city's subway has its own scent. Hell, even some T stations have very distinctive smells. Maverick, Boylston, and Government Center come to mind.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby wicked » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:38 pm

Maverick's scent was certainly distinct about 15 years ago. I haven't been there since the rebuild, though.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby Arlington » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:51 am

The rusted steel dust from the wheels/rails has a smell and then IIRC, certain microorganisms enjoy the extra iron in their diet.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby jr145 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:53 am

wicked wrote:Maverick's scent was certainly distinct about 15 years ago. I haven't been there since the rebuild, though.




That entire section of East Boston has a distinct smell. It smells like pee and too much cologne.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:25 pm

Sometimes Aquarium smells like salty ocean water... ...and sometimes it smells like low tide. ;-)
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby Patrick Boylan » Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:47 am

When we'd go to the shore, I remember us kids voicing enjoyment on the ocean smell as we crossed the marshes between the NJ mainland and the barrier islands. My dad, so helpful, would remind us that we were smelling the decaying critters from the swamps.

Much of subway smell, urine aside, I think was brake shoe dust. I'm not sure about the "microorganisms enjoy the extra iron in their diet", but when I was young I always thought Philly's Market Frankford line smelled differently than the Broad St line, which I later attributed to MF's cars having dynamic brakes, and consequently less brake shoe wear, than Broad St. Do any Boston geezers think 'Eau de Red Line' has changed since the new fangled equipment has different brakes from the old days?
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby bellstbarn » Tue Nov 20, 2012 1:41 pm

When the Montreal subway first opened in the 1960's, I think a special wood, immersed with peanut oil, was used in part of the brake shoes. Could composite materials likewise be emitting the Boston fragrances? The Hudson Tubes (PATH) have also had an odor of dampness, as I would judge.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Tue Nov 20, 2012 4:30 pm

PATH also has a distinct smell. Even I can sense in NYCT IND stations have certain "notes" different from other lines. The #7 R62As seem to have their own smell, different from, say a R46 or R142/R142A/R160 series.
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby BandA » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:57 am

Besides the brake dust and ozone / ionization, I think we are smelling greases and lubricants. Does the MBTA publish MSDS for chemicals and brake compounds?
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby Patrick Boylan » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:33 am

My dad had taught me that ozone's odorless, and what I thought was ozone was brake shoe dust.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_ozone_odorless
No. It has a very pungent smell. If ever after a thunderstorm you smell something like that, it is ozone. You smell this because ozone is created when lightning interacts with oxygen.

After a short period of time, your nose will become acclimated to the presence of ozone, and you will not notice it, unless the concentration increases.

http://www.airinfonow.org/html/ed_ozone.html
Ozone is a colorless odorless gas made of oxygen.

But we should believe our government, shouldn't we?
http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/sc_fact.html
It is blue in color and has a strong odor

but on another of their pages, they say it's not blue. Maybe they mixed up the odor part too?
http://www.epa.gov/apti/course422/ap5.html
It is a colorless compound that has an electric-discharge-type odo

If we can't trust the feds, can we trust state government?
http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/planning/ozone.htm
Ozone, commonly called smog, is a colorless, odorless gas that can be harmful to human health and plant life.

The interweb is such a wealth of info. You can always find the answer you're looking for, you just have to ignore all the other answers you weren't looking for, even though they're for the same question.
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Re: Eau de Red Line

Postby Patrick Boylan » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:58 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VMSGrY-IlU
the song MTA was Ode to Red Line
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