Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

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Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby Yellowspoon » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:41 am

My daughter moved to Watertown which causes me to pass through Waltham to get to her apartment. I noticed that there is a single track through Waltham center. When I cross the tracks at Roberts, it's double tracked. In looking at Wikimapia, it appears to be single tracked for about 3/4 mile. I feel pretty sure that there were two tracks when I was a teenager 50 years ago. Why (and when) was one track removed. Doesn't that create a scheduling headache should there be a delay somewhere along the line? Is this the only place it's single tracked?
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby TomNelligan » Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:16 am

The single track through Waltham dates back fifty years or thereabouts, to the late 1950s or early 1960s. When the Boston & Maine started handling piggyback traffic on Fitchburg Division freights there was a clearance issue at one or two of the highway bridges over the rock cut east of the station. The solution at the time was to remove the second track and run the remaining single track on the center of the right-of-way through the constricted area. And yes, this has been a bottleneck ever since.
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby BandA » Wed Jun 15, 2016 11:16 am

Are they engineering a solution? My understanding from prior discussions is 1)Where to put the station platforms 2)All trains stop at Waltham so it has been a lower priority up till now. 3)Technically still a clearance route so double-stack or wide freight could theoretically happen 4)Would also be nice to grade separate at the same time but that is next to impossible due to the Charles River and width of the ROW.
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Jun 15, 2016 11:51 am

BandA wrote:Are they engineering a solution? My understanding from prior discussions is 1)Where to put the station platforms 2)All trains stop at Waltham so it has been a lower priority up till now. 3)Technically still a clearance route so double-stack or wide freight could theoretically happen 4)Would also be nice to grade separate at the same time but that is next to impossible due to the Charles River and width of the ROW.


1) Probably would work best adding the inbound platform west of Moody St. crossing opposite the current platform, since that's the only place you can put a full-length platform and have trains not foul the Moody and Elm crossings at the same time. The current midblock platform is just too awkwardly short and would have to go. Would entail switching the angled parking to parallel parking, shifting the current platform back where the switch currently is so the DT can be extended, installing the other side platform abutting the Biagio Ristorante parking lot with back egresses onto the Charles River Greenway. Only tricky part is getting permission from Biagio's to have the platform egresses so close to their property. Any parking loss can easily be compensated when the midblock platform is abandoned; they can buff it out with a few more spaces of extra width.

2) Yep. And one of the main low-motivation points is that the decrepit Jackson and Newton St. overpasses need replacement. Kind of pointless to lay DT if MassDOT is eventually going to be on the ground doing lots of side abutment work for the replacements. Easier to wait till after they're done. It's also an ADA mini-high station, so they've got bigger fish to fry getting one or both of the non-accessible Belmont stops up to compliance first. All in due time.

3) No. Lowell is the clearance route that can do 17' tall, wide-load Plate F cars, and thus the only route PAR uses into Boston unless it's got a service disruption to work around (in which case Reading is #2). There is no freight whatsoever on the Fitchburg Line inbound of Willows, and hasn't been since the now-closed Ocean Spray plant in Littleton ended rail deliveries. Nothing's reached inbound of Littleton since the last Watertown Branch delivery almost 10 years ago. All Boston jobs originate out of Lawrence, not Ayer, so unless there's a reshuffle to some Ayer-Boston routings inner Fitchburg's strictly a tertiary backup route at this point. Even if it did see "a" freight job or two reshuffled to Ayer, you're talking very small rinky-dink stuff like Everett and Peabody. The biggest Boston-area job, PAR's DOBO to Boston Sand & Gravel, is forever captive to the Lowell Line because it originates in Dover, NH.

4) Correct. Not possible to trench because of the Charles, not possible to bridge because of the Jackson and Newton overpasses not allowing enough running room. Best they can do probably is grouping both platforms west of Moody so Elm stays un-fouled during train stops, optimizing the traffic signaling to dump the car queues quickly after a train, and maybe tarting up the alley between Moody and Elm a block south of the station as a quasi- River St. Extension to offer a cross-block load-bearing match to Carter St. on the other side of the tracks. There's definitely slack space today in that sub-optimal downtown street grid to tighten up the bolts beneficially. In no way is Waltham Ctr. the irredeemable dumpster fire that is downtown Framingham abutting those Worcester Line crossings. Waltham has good room for improvement with inexpensive finesse touches if they pick their spots carefully.
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby BandA » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:14 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: In no way is Waltham Ctr. the irredeemable dumpster fire that is downtown Framingham abutting those Worcester Line crossings. Waltham has good room for improvement with inexpensive finesse touches if they pick their spots carefully.
Big difference was Moody/Lexington St. was bypassed sixty years ago when they moved 128. 126 was never bypassed (and there is no passenger service on the north-south branches through Framingham or Natick...hmmm)

Irredeemable dumpster fire - hilarious!
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby newpylong » Thu Jun 16, 2016 2:42 pm

There have been numerous freight detours over the Fitchburg in the past 10 years but nothing of Plate F.
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Re: Fitchburg line: why single track through Waltham?

Postby CRail » Mon Jun 20, 2016 1:28 pm

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