The Cambridge Tunnel

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The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby ThinkBoston » Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:59 pm

I can find some rather informative information and schematics on many of the subway tunnels built in Boston from the BTC records, but the Cambridge Tunnel was constructed by the Boston Elevated Railway and I've not yet discovered any similar records for it. Does anyone here know of or have graphical data, or otherwise, on that tunnel, cross section drawings, exact station placements, elevation/depth data, and the like?
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby madcrow » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:26 pm

I've wondered about this myself, especially as such documentation would provide an interesting look at the layout and building of things like the old Harvard Square station. My guess is that no such documentation exists, as BERy probably didn't have the money to publish lavish documentation of its work the way that the BTC did... I'd love to be proven wrong, though.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby MBTA3247 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:48 pm

madcrow wrote:I've wondered about this myself, especially as such documentation would provide an interesting look at the layout and building of things like the old Harvard Square station. My guess is that no such documentation exists, as BERy probably didn't have the money to publish lavish documentation of its work the way that the BTC did... I'd love to be proven wrong, though.

While they may have never been published in book form, such documentation does exist somewhere. The T needs to know where its tunnels are and how they're designed, the utility companies need to know where the tunnels are if they have to dig in the area, etc.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby Disney Guy » Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:50 am

The utility companies should have their own documentation for the locations of their lines.

For a tunnel near the surface, some useful information should be obtainable by measuring the inside of the tunnel and doing various radio frequency tests and making comparable measurements on the surface.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby madcrow » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:23 pm

Disney Guy wrote:The utility companies should have their own documentation for the locations of their lines.

For a tunnel near the surface, some useful information should be obtainable by measuring the inside of the tunnel and doing various radio frequency tests and making comparable measurements on the surface.

I suspect that the T has documentation for its own use, making the elaborate procedures described unnecessary. That doesn't really help for railfan/history buff purposes, though. I wonder what it would take to get at the T's internal archives? A FOIA request, maybe?
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby jrc520 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:18 pm

If memory serves me, Try the archives at the Sanborn Transportation Library. I'm PRETTY sure that there are diagrams. I went through so much material in there that I can't remember for certain. Oh, and bring gloves. And a camera. A lot of those pages are VERY thin, and VERY frail.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby 3rdrail » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:04 pm

Check out the Sanborn Library first and on your way home, go via the new Copley Square kiosk after stopping in the Boston Public Library's Documents Room. The El wanted to put in an El through what became the Cambridge Tunnel. NIMBYism attacked with a vengeance, headed by Harvard. When it was all said and done, the Cambridge Tunnel was born. I wonder if a Cambridge El would remain to this day if an el had gone in originally ? Another option was a Southie route, which lost out to Cambridge, Cambridge being more in the developmental stage at the time. I'm sure that documentation exists and must be officially on record somewhere. Just as a side note, an interesting observation and discussion would be to compare the talents of BTC vs BERy regarding subway construction (although I'll bet you that in fact, that BERy used BTC "advisers", so in reality, BTC probably had a major hand in building the Cambridge Tunnel as well). Keep in mind that back then, electric subways were still in their infancy, so the gang who had built the Tremont Street Subway would be highly sought after.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby Disney Guy » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:44 pm

Now the designers of the Cambridge subway did have the experience of New York subway designers to draw from.

One of the desired features of the Cambridge subway was to accommodate cars much bigger than even the Main Line El (Orange line) cars of the day, the latter were apparently based on the Manhattan Railway (NYC) elevated cars for size.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby 3rdrail » Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:11 pm

Disney Guy wrote:Now the designers of the Cambridge subway did have the experience of New York subway designers to draw from.

One of the desired features of the Cambridge subway was to accommodate cars much bigger than even the Main Line El (Orange line) cars of the day, the latter were apparently based on the Manhattan Railway (NYC) elevated cars for size.


Nah - the BTC had seven years on the IRT in learning subway construction. Tremont opened in 1897. 9th Ave. opened in 1904. The NY guys were subway rookies who learned all their tricks from the BTC vets. BTC had done deep bore, cut and cover, underwater, you name it- when IRT was in their sand boxes ! As far as the El was concerned, why go 200 miles when you've got the best right at home.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby madcrow » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:47 am

3rdrail wrote:
Disney Guy wrote:Now the designers of the Cambridge subway did have the experience of New York subway designers to draw from.

One of the desired features of the Cambridge subway was to accommodate cars much bigger than even the Main Line El (Orange line) cars of the day, the latter were apparently based on the Manhattan Railway (NYC) elevated cars for size.


Nah - the BTC had seven years on the IRT in learning subway construction. Tremont opened in 1897. 9th Ave. opened in 1904. The NY guys were subway rookies who learned all their tricks from the BTC vets. BTC had done deep bore, cut and cover, underwater, you name it- when IRT was in their sand boxes ! As far as the El was concerned, why go 200 miles when you've got the best right at home.

Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that the older bits of the Red Line really do feel like a scaled-down (no express tracks, etc) version of the older bits of the NYC system.
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby Disney Guy » Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:02 am

... 9'th Ave. (NYC) opened in 1904 ... when you got the best right at home ...

The mission: Make it much better than 9'th Ave. and also make it fit in a limited amount of space, the latter including the bi-level Harvard Station taking advantage of the marvelous skills that brought about the Washington St. Tunnel (Orange Line). However those skills and the money available might have not been sufficient to include express tracks. Hmmm. Would either Central or Kendall have been express stations?
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby 3rdrail » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:38 am

Maybe it's just what I've grown accustomed to, but I'm not sure that express tracks in Boston historically would have improved service, and may very well have hindered it. I just don't think that we have the headway to make it work, and our streets are narrower, making the subway narrower also. In later years, an express on the Red Line's South Shore Extension bypassing Broadway, Andrew, and Columbia would have worked, but I am a little leary about anything else. I believe that for a while when the South Shore Extension began, Columbia (JFK, UMass) was by-passed by Quincy bound trains with Dorchester trains making the stop. (or is the subway dust making me hallucinate ?)
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby fl9m2026 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:39 am

Not to mention that the Cambridge tunnel cars were FAR ahead of the curve in design and size (69' long) compared to anything in existence in any system in the world at the time. IIRC, the BMT copied the basic design of Cambridge cars when developing the venerable "Standards".
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby 3rdrail » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:43 am

Oh yeah, you can see the C/D's clearly in the "Standards". Those seven years from 1897 were not seven regular years either. They were akin to the learning curve with a new born child. More was probably learned those seven years than the following fifty ! Nice to hear from you Mike !
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Re: The Cambridge Tunnel

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:15 am

3rdrail wrote:Maybe it's just what I've grown accustomed to, but I'm not sure that express tracks in Boston historically would have improved service, and may very well have hindered it. I just don't think that we have the headway to make it work, and our streets are narrower, making the subway narrower also. In later years, an express on the Red Line's South Shore Extension bypassing Broadway, Andrew, and Columbia would have worked, but I am a little leary about anything else. I believe that for a while when the South Shore Extension began, Columbia (JFK, UMass) was by-passed by Quincy bound trains with Dorchester trains making the stop. (or is the subway dust making me hallucinate ?)


JFK wasn't a stop on the Braintree line until Dec. 1988 when the second platform opened. Everything for the 17 years prior that the branch had been operating was an Andrew-North Quincy express. Express being the explicit intention of the branch, which is why Columbia and Savin Hill were skipped before the lines diverged and the historical Old Colony stop at the Morrissey Blvd./Freeport St. rotary wasn't reinstated as an intermediate station.
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