My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

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My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby atlantis » Tue Sep 08, 2015 5:19 pm

While growing up in Westford Ma in the late 1970's/early 80's, I saw an MBTA commuter train passing through town on the then-Boston and Maine Stony Brook Line. This went on for several weeks back in 1982, IIRC. Later I saw some bulletins in North station that because of trackwork, some trains on the Fitchburg line were being substituted with buses, and even taxi service from Littleton to South Acton. Some of the Fitchburg trains ran via Lowell during the rush hours.
Westford has been without passenger rail service from the early 1950's AFAIK, and without public transportation at least as long, if I understand correctly. In the late 70's.early 80's, for whatever reason, the town of Westford was generally non supportive of public transportation, let alone commuter rail service. The trains to Fitchburg that were rerouted naturally did not stop in Westford or Lowell for that matter. Now Westford does have a bus route run by Lowell Regional transit authority along Route 110/Littleton Road so attitudes might be changing there.
A friend and I posited a hypothetical rail service from Boston to Fitchburg with some trains running via Lowell the same way that some of the Haverhill trains use the "Wildcat" branch in Wilmington. We postulated a train running express from North Station to Lowell with the first stop there, (There was no Anderson/Woburn station then, or even Mishuwum.) then hypothetical stops in North and West Chelmsford, Westford, picking up the Fitchburg line in Ayer, and making all stops to Fitchburg.

I wonder if this has been discussed or even this service could be feasible. On paper anyway, it looks good.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby The EGE » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:09 pm

The route misses both the 110-based density in Westford and the likely North Chemsford station site for future NH service, so it shouldn't shoot real high on ridership. By the end of the year the whole Fitchburg main (save the Fitchburg and soon Wachusett sidings, and the Waltham pinch) will be fully double-tracked and signalized for bidirectional operations, which will make it a whole lot easier to run expresses.

Where this route could theoretically be used, though, is if the NSRL ever gets built. If you save money by eliminating or deferring the Fitchburg portal - and you've almost certainly electrified at least to Woburn, with 90 and 110mph sections where possible to Lowell as part of the deal - then running dual-modes to Wachusett over the Stony Brook routing becomes a bit more attractive.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby BostonUrbEx » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:54 pm

I think a Fitchburg-Haverhill and/or Worcester-Haverhill service is more likely. And I don't really think that is likely at all. There's much better projects at the top of the queue.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby johnpbarlow » Wed Sep 09, 2015 5:30 am

If MBTA did opt to use the Stony Brook branch for scheduled service, PAR would pick up another 15 miles or so of track/signals maintained to higher speeds using Other People's Money. So I would think PAR would be OK with this proposal.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby Engineer Spike » Mon Dec 07, 2015 7:00 pm

Metra had proposed an inter suburb route on the EJ&E, which would connect the UP routes with BNSF, and Rock Island. The claim was that many businesses had relocated to the suburbs.

I know that the T has much more pressing issues. It also inherited lines in worse shape than RI was in at the end. Some day MA might find the same problem, and institute a line via the Lowell branch, Brook, and Worcester Main

This is really low on the priority list, but there may be a market. One poster said that there isn't much traffic in Westford near the Brook. Who knows how much sprawl 20 years will bring.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby Rockingham Racer » Mon Dec 07, 2015 7:32 pm

If you check the traffic on I-495 during rush hour, you have to ask yourself where all these people are going and is train a viable option. It's especially bad at the Rt. 28 exits in South Lawrence.
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Re: My crazy idea: Train to Fitchburg via Lowell?

Postby leviramsey » Mon Dec 07, 2015 7:45 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:Metra had proposed an inter suburb route on the EJ&E, which would connect the UP routes with BNSF, and Rock Island. The claim was that many businesses had relocated to the suburbs.

I know that the T has much more pressing issues. It also inherited lines in worse shape than RI was in at the end. Some day MA might find the same problem, and institute a line via the Lowell branch, Brook, and Worcester Main

This is really low on the priority list, but there may be a market. One poster said that there isn't much traffic in Westford near the Brook. Who knows how much sprawl 20 years will bring.


We're about to find out how much reverse commute business the Fitchburg line can do (at least out to Littleton) and if service is extended to Nashua (or beyond), Lowell becomes a short-turn. Eventually, turning trains at Littleton and Lowell becomes a capacity limiter; a Middlesex Loop via an upgraded Brook (with a wye leg behind the PAS auto unloading facility) with Littleton outbounds becoming Lowell (and UMass-Lowell) inbounds, and vice versa puts the time spent turning trains into time in revenue service. The traffic that you can see going 2W->495N/495S->2E in Littleton indicates some demand.
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