Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

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Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby B&Mguy » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:31 pm

This is something that I've been thinking about over the recent years as I have been a Boston area resident for my whole life. It seems that in the mid to late 1990's, when I was doing most of my active MBTA railfanning, the system had lots of interesting quirks and historical items to explore. Things that in many cases no longer exist, or have been modernized so they don't have the same level of appeal. I now am a daily MBTA rider to get to work, but it seems that the MBTA that captivated me as a teenager no longer seems to do it anymore.

Specific examples:

Not nearly as much interesting Green Line work equipment to see. I remember seeing the PCC wire car, "Cheesebox" wire car and Type 3 Snowplow while just riding the D Line.

Watertown A Line tracks are long gone, and very little evident remains

Arborway E Line is slowly disappearing too. Line was fully intact in 1990s.

All Green Line Rollsigns are LED, eliminated random Watertown, Arborway and Mattapan sightings

Extensive station modernization as all but eliminated sightings of vintages maps, etc.

Fantrips can now longer visit obscure locations as they no longer exisit. Very few "rare milage" places to go on system.

I'm sure a lot of this stems from being younger then, and the system being more unkown and mysterious, but I still feel like there's not nearly as much of interest on the MBTA that there was twenty years ago.

Any other long time MBTA riders feel this way?
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Charliemta » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:20 pm

The passing of the Orange Line elevated lines, replaced with boring ground level/depressed lines, ramped up the boredom factor a lot for me, and I suspect many others. The elevated lines were vibrant and exciting.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby dieciduej » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:24 am

It is and it isn't. For someone that is not from the greater Boston area, I am sure there is excitement and interest. For those, like me, that have grown up with the MBTA it has lost some of it's appeal. Photography has gotten harder from a location standpoint, underground stations and poor exterior camera angles. Another point is that the MBTA has become stagnant for equipment, with the exception of the Rotem cars and the MPI HSP46s, no new equipment is out there to chase and photograph. I remember trying to get clean photos of the #5 East Boston cars testing on the Orange Line and that was the last major new equipment chase. So the long and short of it, I feel those who have been here forever it has gotten somewhat snooz-ville, and for those just coming in there will be some excitement.

The next major items up would be the Longfellow Bridge and track movement for the excitement level.

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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Arborwayfan » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:04 am

From the early 1990s:
Wooden ramp-like escalators at DTC and South Station (both red line).
Stairs and corridor that used to connect North Station on the OL to North Station on the GL visible through chain-link fence; old high-level NS platform visible past the end of the North Station GL platform (must once have been for Atlantic Ave shuttles or some such.

But those things were interesting because they were quirky and old. New construction is also interesting, I guess. It's probably a good sign that the system is less quirky, because that's kind of a sign that it's less patched together, less hobbling along. 1970s commuter rail (or Amtrak) was pretty quirky, too, I bet, and not in a way that made service appealing.

I love the old stuff, but I don't want to see old stuff just because the system is falling apart. I wish they would keep more of the original design in the old stations etc., but as time passes different old equipment becomes the cool work cars etc.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby jaymac » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:43 am

Ditto to what Arborway fan posted. As a 6-year-old, I was convinced that I would not make it alive to the top of the South Station Under wooden-slatted escalator. If boring : reliable/non-traumatic, give me -- and quite possibly bunches of others -- boring.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby highgreen215 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:58 pm

It was great fun standing at the open door of the first car of the Forest Hills- Everett train on a warm day. Zipping along with the wind blowing your hair and only a wire gate between you and the track. Then down into the tunnel where the air was suddenly cool and dank. Yup, it's boring these days by comparison.

Do any other older timers out there remember seeing the car doormen (or what ever they were called) riding outside between the cars and sitting on a long leather strap seat, sort of a mini-hammock? OSHA officials would have had fits.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Fred Rabin » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:16 pm

I have fond memories of the system in the '40s and '50s, when I was a kid. I now live in Colorado, but am a frequent visitor to Boston. It just ain't the same. Almost all the surface lines are now busses; only 3 trackless trolley lines are left. It was always interesting to see the layout of surface tracks, crossings, junctions and dead ends where street cars used to run but no longer do. Busses are inherently boring and are rightfully excluded from this website. Instead of a series of unique stations on the old Orange El, we now have character-less lookalikes such as Community College, Green Street, and Roxbury Crossing. And you can no longer stand at the front of a train to see where it's going. I used to love standing at the head of a Red line with the wind blowing through the grated door. I also miss the sense of "danger" riding the old wooden escalators. And the different kinds of Type 4 and Type 5 cars, and the different kinds of PCC cars. And the array of different lines running through Park Street. Remember the old dimly-lighted subways with the incandescent bulbs shielded so they would not shine in the operators' eyes?

The only real interesting things now are the notorious screw ups such as the Silver Line and the all-meaning suggestions abut what to do with it.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:55 pm

Fred Rabin wrote:Instead of a series of unique stations on the old Orange El, we now have character-less lookalikes such as Community College, Green Street, and Roxbury Crossing.

That's also exactly what happened to the BMT Jamaica El in Queens, NY during the 1980s. It was torn down and replaced (at least in part) by the Archer subway, a modernist construction not unlike the Southwest Corridor. At least Dudley Station (with its trainshed) survives as a local bus station.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Mcoov » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:11 pm

highgreen215 wrote:It was great fun standing at the open door of the first car of the Forest Hills- Everett train on a warm day. Zipping along with the wind blowing your hair and only a wire gate between you and the track. Then down into the tunnel where the air was suddenly cool and dank. Yup, it's boring these days by comparison.

This brings up a question in my mind: were subway cars always sealed off from each other in operation, or could passengers at one point in time freely transfer between cars?
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby jrc520 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:43 pm

I think the answer is both yes and no. I know I suffer from this in a more extreme way, but we all go from being interested in something to not - in my case, I know it's very much a case of there not being anything new to learn, or the rate of learning slowing down significantly. Yes, the system has become more consistent, more reliable, less old and rare things to see. Maybe you have burnout of the topic of the MBTA. That's fine, it happens to all of us. Best thing you can do is to move on for a while, learn about some other system or even another topic altogether. Come back and see how things go once and a while - it'll still be here. I do it all the time, pop in and out. That said, there is nothing like someone who is just learning about the system - that bright look in the eyes as they hear about everything. :-D
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby typesix » Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:49 pm

highgreen215 wrote:Do any other older timers out there remember seeing the car doormen (or what ever they were called) riding outside between the cars and sitting on a long leather strap seat, sort of a mini-hammock? OSHA officials would have had fits.


They're called guards. Last ones to stand between cars to operate the doors would have been around 1981, when the 01100s on the Orange were replaced by the 01200s. They only rode outside when it was nice weather, otherwise inside.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Charliemta » Tue Apr 22, 2014 10:31 pm

Mcoov wrote:This brings up a question in my mind: were subway cars always sealed off from each other in operation, or could passengers at one point in time freely transfer between cars?


I was 5 years old in 1955, and from then on can remember things very clearly, as I was a fanatic fan of the old MTA (the Boston MTA, that is) back then. I never saw passengers being able to transfer from car to car on any of the rapid transit lines. Maybe prior to 1955, but not anytime after that. I suspect that way back in the early 1900's it may have been allowed, but I don't know.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby highgreen215 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 11:44 pm

My recall of riding on the el goes back to maybe 1945 and even then there was NO PASSING THROUGH. In the late '40s I went on a trip to New York and was amazed when we were allowed to walk through from car to car. Do they still do that in New York?
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby Mcoov » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:22 am

highgreen215 wrote:Do they still do that in New York?

You're not supposed to, but yes, they do.
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Re: Has the MBTA Gotten "Boring"?

Postby BigUglyCat » Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:46 am

Mcoov wrote:
highgreen215 wrote:Do they still do that in New York?

You're not supposed to, but yes, they do.

I was in NYC with my father probably about 1956 or 1957 (I would have been 5 or 6). With Dad leading the way, we passed between cars as a subway train was in motion. Even at that age, I thought, "Wow, this is dangerous!"
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