Starters

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Starters

Postby JWilson » Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:28 pm

In reading about various aspects of the MBTA I have seen the term "starter" used for a person who evidently has something to do with getting trolley (and rapid transit?) cars on their way from stations or terminals. What do the people who hold this position actually do and why was it necessary?
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Re: Starters

Postby MBTA3247 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 6:22 pm

The use of starters I believe goes back to the 19th century. Based on operating rules, schedules and/or limited authority granted by the dispatcher, the starter is responsible for providing clearance for trolleys/trains/buses to depart the location s/he's stationed at, without the need to communicate with the dispatcher for individual clearance for every single departure.

Seashore Trolley Museum uses starters on occasion. Usually the starter is just substituting for the dispatcher when the latter has to leave the platform (for lunch, say), typically with authority to give cars clearance to return from Talbott Park. During special events, a Talbott Park starter will often be appointed by the dispatcher to facilitate sending cars back from TP: instead of each car at Talbott Park individually calling the dispatcher over the radio for clearance back to the visitor's center, the starter will make one call to the dispatcher for return clearance and then send each car back at reasonable intervals (leaving the dispatcher free to deal with yard movements).
"The destination of this train is [BEEP BEEP]" -announcement on an Ashmont train.
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Re: Starters

Postby Gerry6309 » Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:18 am

Besides having authority over a section of the railroad, traditional starters also were "Street Railway Police Officers" assigned to maintain order and uphold the law in their assigned areas. Groups of starters would be assigned to supervisors called "Inspectors". Today, on the MBTA, Inspectors are called "Chief Inspectors" and Starters are called Inspectors. Their police powers have been ceded to the Transit Police.

Search Paul Joyce's postings for more detailed information.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Starters

Postby johnpbarlow » Thu Mar 05, 2015 4:45 am

Are "Starters" the same people who on occasion hold primarily in-bound trolleys at Reservoir and Kenmore for a few minutes ("we're standing by...") for no apparent reason? And the same people who, after the evening rush hour, send 3-4 outbound B and C trolleys through Hynes before a lone packed D trolley appears? :wink:
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Re: Starters

Postby Literalman » Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:51 pm

When I lived in Massachusetts (in the 70s and 80s), a starter could also reassign cars to other lines to balance service. For example, if three cars in a row arrived at Lechmere from Cleveland Circle and none from Arborway because of some backup on Huntington Avenue, then instead of sending all three Beacon Street cars back to Cleveland Circle, the starter could send one to Arborway instead. Later, when a bunch of Arborway cars came in together, the starter might send one out Beacon Street. At least that was my understanding.
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Re: Starters

Postby jonnhrr » Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:43 pm

I remember them when I commuted to school on the T in the 1960's at places like Field's Corner and Ashmont. They would for example hold buses due to depart if a train from downtown was imminently due. There was a bank of lights in the bus bay on the outbound side which showed occupation for several of the outbound track blocks so they could see a train coming.

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Re: Starters

Postby Gerry6309 » Thu Mar 05, 2015 6:16 pm

Literalman wrote:When I lived in Massachusetts (in the 70s and 80s), a starter could also reassign cars to other lines to balance service. For example, if three cars in a row arrived at Lechmere from Cleveland Circle and none from Arborway because of some backup on Huntington Avenue, then instead of sending all three Beacon Street cars back to Cleveland Circle, the starter could send one to Arborway instead. Later, when a bunch of Arborway cars came in together, the starter might send one out Beacon Street. At least that was my understanding.

In general inspectors and starters could reassign cars from Boston College to Cleveland Circle, Arborway to Heath Street, short turn or extend trips, or hold a train downtown (cancel a trip). They could not exchange cars between divisions, for example Arborway to Boston College. Their job was to keep the railroad moving, not to tie it in knots though!

That being said, there were some occasions where some bizarre reroutes took place, when circumstances demanded it. A steady parade of 3-car trains out Huntington Av. usually meant disaster had struck somewhere west of Copley! Likewise all-electrics on Beacon St. were a bad omen, as were revenue cars west of Packards Corner on the Watertown Line.
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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Re: Starters

Postby Literalman » Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:31 pm

Back in those days, some people called the Green Line "the banana line": because they come in bunches.
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Re: Starters

Postby Gerry6309 » Mon Mar 09, 2015 1:46 pm

Literalman wrote:Back in those days, some people called the Green Line "the banana line": because they come in bunches.

Especially Arborway: Not only did they come in bunches, but they were either Green or Yellow!
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The next stop is Washington. Change for Forest Hills Trains on the Winter St. Platform, and Everett Trains on the Summer St. Platform. This is an Ashmont train, change for Braintree at Columbia.
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