Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

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Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:55 pm

Does anyone know of any studies about a Fitchburg line via Clinton and Hudson? I search for one, and also tried Boston MPO but I got nothing. I'm curious because it looks (based solely on a map) as though it would be faster than the current routing, serving about the same level of population. In fact, I'm not sure if there are any Fitchburg Line express trains already in existence, but it looks as though expressing between Boston and Hudson would be incredibly fast, on very straight track. This could also benefit Pan Am by perhaps truncating a couple of the current trains each day to South Acton, freeing up Fitchburg - Ayer/Littleton a bit. And could benefit CSX, too, as I believe the portion from Clinton to Fitchburg is a piece of their Framingham Secondary? So more interchange possibilities between Pan Am and CSX, plus improved trackage for CSX.


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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby TrainManTy » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:52 pm

Forgetting about the current political climate, this could be possible and I suppose reasonably fast. Faster, I don't know.

HOWEVER, the traffic just isn't there to justify the price. None of these towns are that far from the Fitchburg or Worcester Lines (Clinton is furthest about about 30 minutes to each) and almost all have a low population. All of the stations would be park-and-ride since houses are spread out, although TOD might work in Clinton. There are also sections of line that would require more major reconstruction than removing the trees all over the ROW, regrading, and replacing track. A new easement would need to be built to connect to CSX at West Berlin, as an interchange never existed there, and part of the line between Leominster and Fitchburg has been abandoned for real, with the track actually removed. Good luck getting that back in.

Unfortunately, this is very much a fantasy and not something that could happen without a population boom to justify the cost. The Fitchburg and Worcester Lines are just too close, and adapting the Fitchburg Line stations for park-and-ride and adding bi-level trains to handle the traffic is a much cheaper solution. People who really don't want to drive to Boston can drive to the train without spending millions (billions?) on rehabilitating an abandoned rail line and a neglected branch lines through the boonies of Central Massachusetts.

- Tyler, resident of said Boonies (one town over from Clinton) who would love nothing more than if this were actually built, both for convenience and nostalgia
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby BostonUrbEx » Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:59 pm

TrainManTy wrote:There are also sections of line that would require more major reconstruction than removing the trees all over the ROW, regrading, and replacing track.


What has to be done more major than that? Mass Central from Waltham to Clinton still saw freight until the 80s, I though, and then after maybe a decade the MBTA bought it? Just curious as to what could have happened to the ROW during that time (and who owned it during the time).
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby TomNelligan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:49 pm

The MBTA owned the Central Mass right-of-way out as far as Berlin before the B&M abandoned freight service. It was purchased from the B&M in January 1977 along with most of the railroad's other Boston-area trackage. Most of the rail in that section is still in place under the heavy vegetation. West of Berlin is a different story... I'm not sure whether MBTA ownership extends beyond Berlin since that part of the line (including the high trestle west of the Clinton tunnel) was gone prior to the sale.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby TrainManTy » Tue May 01, 2012 5:31 am

BostonUrbEx wrote:
TrainManTy wrote:There are also sections of line that would require more major reconstruction than removing the trees all over the ROW, regrading, and replacing track.


What has to be done more major than that? Mass Central from Waltham to Clinton still saw freight until the 80s, I though, and then after maybe a decade the MBTA bought it? Just curious as to what could have happened to the ROW during that time (and who owned it during the time).


Well, there's the section between rail end in Leominster and Fitchburg. The track has been removed completely, but I don't know the technical state of the line (abandonment vs just disuse). I would guess the NIMBYs would put up a pretty serious fight.

As Tom said, almost all the rail on the Central Mass west of West Berlin where the line crosses the CSX Fitchburg Secondary is still in place, however it's covered in smallish trees sprouting out of the tracks. The light track is obviously bad, but the big question is on the state of the roadbed and how much would need to be replaced.

I'm unsure as to where the MBTA owns up until, but it might be linked to where rail still exists (assuming B&M was the scrapper, they could pull up everything not being used by them or owned by the T). Rail is in place at least up to Highland Street in Berlin center, from there it's another mile or so to the CSX crossing at West Berlin. Past that, I don't think any rail exists, and I know it's gone by the tunnel adjacent to the Clinton Dam. The T might own all the Central Mass ROW they need, but there's still the issue of a connecting track at West Berlin to get past the NIMBYs.

Also, the part of the line that's not owned by the T is becoming a rail trail. Does anyone know if this is railbanked for a future trails-to-rails conversion? Their map seems to indicate a gap in MBTA ownership between Berlin Center and West Berlin.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby agarturbo » Tue May 01, 2012 12:00 pm

Although I would love to see it, I have to agree that this would be a pipe dream. The line was never that successful, saw multiple bankruptcies, was reincarnated under several names before being bought by the B&M (and we know how THAT worked out), and was often called the "Railroad to Nowhere" because it ran 60 miles and manage to miss every major city and town in Mass. There are major encroachment issues in Waltham, though those could be dispensed with by connecting to the Fitchburg near the new Biogen building where the Central Mass crosses over, However, getting that built might involving land taking and be a challenge. Lets also not forget the stink that Weston put up a few years ago about converting the section between Clematis Brook in Waltham and Sudbury to a rail trail. They effectively killed the project. How do you think they'd react to bringing back "noisy and smelly diesel engines" on that route? And lets not be naive about Weston's power. In addition to killing the rail trail they have managed to keep 3 station stops on the Fitchburg, 2 of which probably don't account for more than 20 riders/day. The T would be wiser to make what they already have work than to pursue a money-pit like this.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby jonnhrr » Tue May 01, 2012 2:03 pm

You could get some of the benefits by extending some Worcester line service over the Framingham Secondary between Framingham and Fitchburg, serving Clinton and downtown Leominster, probably easier than trying to bring back the central Mass. Not sure the benefits would outweigh the costs though.

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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue May 01, 2012 2:35 pm

TrainManTy wrote:
BostonUrbEx wrote:
TrainManTy wrote:There are also sections of line that would require more major reconstruction than removing the trees all over the ROW, regrading, and replacing track.


What has to be done more major than that? Mass Central from Waltham to Clinton still saw freight until the 80s, I though, and then after maybe a decade the MBTA bought it? Just curious as to what could have happened to the ROW during that time (and who owned it during the time).


Well, there's the section between rail end in Leominster and Fitchburg. The track has been removed completely, but I don't know the technical state of the line (abandonment vs just disuse). I would guess the NIMBYs would put up a pretty serious fight.

As Tom said, almost all the rail on the Central Mass west of West Berlin where the line crosses the CSX Fitchburg Secondary is still in place, however it's covered in smallish trees sprouting out of the tracks. The light track is obviously bad, but the big question is on the state of the roadbed and how much would need to be replaced.

I'm unsure as to where the MBTA owns up until, but it might be linked to where rail still exists (assuming B&M was the scrapper, they could pull up everything not being used by them or owned by the T). Rail is in place at least up to Highland Street in Berlin center, from there it's another mile or so to the CSX crossing at West Berlin. Past that, I don't think any rail exists, and I know it's gone by the tunnel adjacent to the Clinton Dam. The T might own all the Central Mass ROW they need, but there's still the issue of a connecting track at West Berlin to get past the NIMBYs.

Also, the part of the line that's not owned by the T is becoming a rail trail. Does anyone know if this is railbanked for a future trails-to-rails conversion? Their map seems to indicate a gap in MBTA ownership between Berlin Center and West Berlin.


The Fitchburg Secondary is OOS/railbanked by CSX, so would be an "at-will" reactivation with due notice to Leominster and Fitchburg. They don't show any inclination to changing that designation, so a reactivation would be easy. I believe the only permitting required is to get it up to par with the more modern regs in place since it was last an active RR. But the OOS designation means they have to maintain structures to standard of a ROW that could be imminently (i.e. weeks/months) activated. NIMBY's have pretty limited means of opposing that kind of reactivation. See Grafton & Upton...and CSX is big enough to not need to play nice for playing nice's sake.

The trail agreement on that segment fell through last year when the nastiness between Leominster and CSX over asking price boiled over. The trail lobby disbanded itself so that plan is officially dead, though they said they'd reincarnate if CSX offered more favorable terms or the state bought the ROW. I'm guessing it'll be the latter before that proposal resurfaces, because CSX sure isn't going to be the initiating party. So this ROW will likely retain the OOS designation for a long time.

Problem with the state buying it as that they almost always abandon every inch of track not in use, so there's no way they'd keep the reactivation hold on that connection to the Fitchburg Line. And they pass out $1 trail leases like free candy to the first warm body that shows up.


There's only a 1 mile ownership gap of Central Mass before it hits the Fitchburg Sec. MBTA landbanking cuts out at a private driveway on Carter St., Berlin about 500 feet from the Carter/Route 62 intersection. But it's wholly intact through the woods behind property lines and extremely unlikely to ever be encroached upon. The 1993 West Berlin/495 commuter rail study recommended locking this up to build a non-revenue connection between 495 and the Fitchburg Sec.



I don't really see this happening at all. The Fitchburg Sec. is a much better bet for commuter rail as a branch out of Framingham because the would-be stops on the Northborough/290 study 10 years ago were Framingham Ctr., Route 9/Mass Pike, Marlborough/495, and Northborough/290. A murderer's row of major highway park-and-rides. It's a very, very good extension on ridership and utilization of active infrastructure...just not high enough on the CR needs list to crack the Top 6 so probably not one considering for another 20 years. But the Northborough/290 stop is a straight shot to downtown Hudson via the Route 85 stub off the 495/290 interchange. And if extended in the future to Clinton it would probably have an intermediate Berlin stop at 62 right where the CM ROW crosses. I think the greatest need is a South Sudbury stub where there simply aren't a lot of good transit options. If it weren't for the anti-everything Weston NIMBY's that would probably have some tangible long-term momentum behind it. Problem overall with the CM is that none of the stations sites in the '93 study had any room for much parking, and we all know how parking-mad the T is with CR stops. Until there's a sea change in philosophy where they start valuing downtown stops more than the platforms-in-sea-of-asphalt builds, they are not going to consider expansion options too heavily of that ilk. (Northborough, though, is not only a parking maven's wet dream, but by dumb luck of crossing so many interstates it's the whole meat of the proposal).

Where I could see this going long-term future is the T using its newly-acquired passenger trackage rights on the Worcester Branch in concert with a Phase II extension of Northborough/290 into a sort of park-and-ride catered pingback line between Worcester and Framingham. Because then if you turn southwest to Worcester from Clinton wye there's Oakdale 190/140 and 12/190 on the northern tip of Worcester. This would be a pretty good thing when reverse-commuting to Worcester becomes a more viable need and both Worcester and Boston commutes can use the line to sweep clear all the park-and-rides on every Worcester County expressway. Slower than the direct Worcester Line shot, but with service tilted heavily to peak commute hours this northern flank would be a pretty big deal. I would much rather have this than a straight shot to Leominster. That simply runs into too much redundancy with the Fitchburg Line, and Fitchburg/Leominster metro has got nothing on saturation coverage of all 4 regional interstates tracing an arc around Worcester metro. Nobody's proposed this, but despite Tim Murray's bloviating about Worcester via Ayer on the horribly curvy Worcester Branch I'm betting when they cut that future considerations passenger rights deal that the synergies with the Northborough/290 study and Worcester reverse-commuting were a bigger eye-popper as a long-term hold. And they're quite likely going to gain possession of the Fitchburg Sec. sometime this decade because CSX doesn't want to outright own anything east of Worcester. I could see it going to the state in a package deal with the Framingham Sec. and Milford Branch if Foxboro CR happens. Anytime you've got a purchase opportunity for critical infrastructure with a chance of passenger in the half-century timeframe, it's worth buying up...and they've been quite proactive about doing that. I bet the Worcester Branch similarly gets locked up after PAR milks it for all the track improvements, 286K, double-stack they can wring out of it for a sell-high opportunity.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby edbear » Tue May 01, 2012 5:31 pm

MBTA ownership of the Central Mass. in Berlin ends at where the end of track was on December 27, 1976. I was in charge of B & M property records on the date the B & M sold most of its properties east of Fitchburg to the MBTA.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby edbear » Tue May 01, 2012 5:39 pm

When Conrail was being fought over by CSX and NS, the idea was bandied about that the MBTA might acquire or obtain trackage rights on the Fitchburg-Framingham-Mansfield route. At that time, the feeling was that only the Boston & Albany main would go to CSX. Most of the branches would go to operators like RailTex or New England Central. One reason for this acquisition would allow equipment to be shifted from outlying terminals, Fitchburg, Worcester, Franklin and Providence without running it into Boston. It would also permit rescues of stranded equipment in the event of a major freight wreck or natural disasters like washouts. It would also permit operation of a mid-state football train from Worcester to Foxboro. But it didn't happen.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby jonnhrr » Wed May 02, 2012 1:37 pm

F-line, if I understand what you are suggesting correctly, sounds like Framingham - Northborough - Clinton - Worcester routing, I don't see how that would work in Clinton given the grade separation there. I know at one time there was an interchange that ran between the CSX (former NH) and the PAR Worcester Main (the ROW still appears on Google Maps) but that route misses the station, so where would you put a Clinton station?

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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed May 02, 2012 3:27 pm

jonnhrr wrote:F-line, if I understand what you are suggesting correctly, sounds like Framingham - Northborough - Clinton - Worcester routing, I don't see how that would work in Clinton given the grade separation there. I know at one time there was an interchange that ran between the CSX (former NH) and the PAR Worcester Main (the ROW still appears on Google Maps) but that route misses the station, so where would you put a Clinton station?

Jon


Don't know...hasn't been studied yet because you're talking two different privately-owned lines. The Fitchburg Sec. study covered Northborough/290 only, and the MPO-rated projects were Leominster or Worcester-Ayer. All of this was well before the T cut its passenger rights deal on the Worcester Branch, so at the time negotiating trackage rights or purchase deals with 2 separate RR's was a bridge too far. Were they to study it again it would now be a different story because CSX is the only negotiating party left (and they're interested long-term in selling), so it'd be one-party trackage rights talks regardless of how they slice the Fitchburg Sec.

Knowing the T's allergy to downtown stops without large parking I somewhat doubt anything in Clinton would repurpose the old stop to begin with. I would guess they'd prefer a site several blocks away on the Worcester Branch side of the wye off 110 where they could plonk down a giant slab of asphalt. As unattractive as that sounds...but it fits the pattern of CR station builds of the last 15 years. Doesn't prevent them from re-using the old station, though. The former wye is directly across the Fitchburg Sec. tracks from the station building, untracked but fully intact. They could absolutely put in a wedge platform there serving the wye track and a ped grade crossing across the freight-only tracks, which aren't served by CSX more than couple afternoons per week because most days the local out of Framingham turns back at Northborough. Assuming there's much freight left at all past the junction by the point commuter rail becomes viable on this corridor. Business is rocksteady to Northborough but atrophying north of the junction because Leominster wants the freights the hell out of town and CSX has no love lost for town of Leominster.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby frrc » Wed May 02, 2012 5:23 pm

RE: Leominster & CSX

There's a fairly large lumber yard a few miles north of Clinton that gets a large number of cars every week, and Leominster has a transload facility for the plastics companies. CSX and the City of Leominster have been ad odds with each other due to some residents sounding "the horns are loud" scenario, and a washout of the old ABANDONED roadbed right behind the Long Horn Steakhouse. The City, in it's "wisdom" wants the washout repaired and has a lawsuit filed, as part of the rail trail lobby effort.

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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby TrainManTy » Wed May 02, 2012 8:00 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:
jonnhrr wrote:F-line, if I understand what you are suggesting correctly, sounds like Framingham - Northborough - Clinton - Worcester routing, I don't see how that would work in Clinton given the grade separation there. I know at one time there was an interchange that ran between the CSX (former NH) and the PAR Worcester Main (the ROW still appears on Google Maps) but that route misses the station, so where would you put a Clinton station?

Jon


Don't know...hasn't been studied yet because you're talking two different privately-owned lines. The Fitchburg Sec. study covered Northborough/290 only, and the MPO-rated projects were Leominster or Worcester-Ayer. All of this was well before the T cut its passenger rights deal on the Worcester Branch, so at the time negotiating trackage rights or purchase deals with 2 separate RR's was a bridge too far. Were they to study it again it would now be a different story because CSX is the only negotiating party left (and they're interested long-term in selling), so it'd be one-party trackage rights talks regardless of how they slice the Fitchburg Sec.

Knowing the T's allergy to downtown stops without large parking I somewhat doubt anything in Clinton would repurpose the old stop to begin with. I would guess they'd prefer a site several blocks away on the Worcester Branch side of the wye off 110 where they could plonk down a giant slab of asphalt. As unattractive as that sounds...but it fits the pattern of CR station builds of the last 15 years. Doesn't prevent them from re-using the old station, though. The former wye is directly across the Fitchburg Sec. tracks from the station building, untracked but fully intact. They could absolutely put in a wedge platform there serving the wye track and a ped grade crossing across the freight-only tracks, which aren't served by CSX more than couple afternoons per week because most days the local out of Framingham turns back at Northborough. Assuming there's much freight left at all past the junction by the point commuter rail becomes viable on this corridor. Business is rocksteady to Northborough but atrophying north of the junction because Leominster wants the freights the hell out of town and CSX has no love lost for town of Leominster.


Clinton Union Station apparently has a very well-preserved interior waiting room spanning both levels, I've been meaning to take a trip over sometime and ask someone if I can take a look. The rest of the building is occupied by (I believe) a dry cleaner and a tombstone company. I don't think they would integrate the old station into a new station as they'd need parking. Look at the new stations they built back when they extended the line back to Worcester: Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, and Grafton are all steel, concrete, and asphalt constructions, and at least two of those towns had the original stations available, without sufficient parking nearby.
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Re: Fitchburg via Clinton and Hudson (Mass Central?)

Postby KEN PATRICK » Thu May 03, 2012 10:45 am

why did i get castigated for suggesting the Fitchburg lay-over yard be in Gardner rather than Westminster? I opined that such layover siting would permit cr to travel to worcester as a means of balancing equipment as well as attracting ridership with select offerings. Also, cr North Station via Gardner can't be more than 45 minutes longer than Worcester to South Station. Ken Patrick
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