Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Guilford Rail System changed its name to Pan Am Railways in 2006. Discussion relating to the current operations of the Boston & Maine, the Maine Central, and the Springfield Terminal railroads (as well as the Delaware & Hudson while it was under Guilford control until 1988). Official site can be found here: PANAMRAILWAYS.COM.

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Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby Ron Newman » Wed Aug 23, 2006 8:54 pm

On Monday, July 10, Boston & Maine Corporation and the Springfield Terminal Railway Company published a legal notice in The Boston Globe, entitled "Notice of Intent to Discontinue Rail Service".

The notice announced that the two companies planned to file an application for Exempt Abandonment with the federal Surface Transportation Board, covering the remaining 0.86 miles of the Fitchburg Cutoff, from Somerville Junction west to College Avenue. The filing was supposed to happen on July 14, but hasn't yet. I don't know why. Docket numbers will be AB 32 (Sub No. 99X) and AB 355 (Sub No. 33X)

The section from College Avenue to Cedar Street was removed in the early 1980s during Red Line construction, and eventually became the Davis Square busway, the Brooks Pharmacy parking lot, and the Somerville Community Path. The section from Cedar Street to Somerville Junction still has rails, and was active until about 7 years ago, carrying freight to or from the (now-closed) 'MaxPak' box factory.

The abandonment is a necessary step for extending the Community Path along this right of way. It is an abandonment of freight operating rights only, as the MBTA will continue to own the right-of-way.

(Disclaimer: I'm a member of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, which strongly supports extension of this path.)
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cut

Postby NellsChoo » Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:12 pm

Ron Newman wrote:(Disclaimer: I'm a member of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, which strongly supports extension of this path.)


Well, we all have the right to our opinions... Quite frankly every lost rail line to me means lost jobs, tax revenue, and supporting industries.

But again... that is just me...

Is this branch related to the moves to Newlyweds in Watertown? I keep hearing YES, and NO, they come in from Ayer.

JD

PS: sorry about that first statement, I just miss New England being a humming industrial area...
It is still GUILFORD to me... http://www.newenglanddepot.net
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Not The Same

Postby GP40MC1118 » Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:36 pm

Nells:

This not related to the Watertown Branch.

Its the former Freight Cutoff which ran from Somerville Jct (on the
Lowell Mainline) to Hill Crossing in Belmont (connecting to the
Fitchburg Route mainline). The FCO was the primary way freight
was delivered to Yard 8 in Somerville from the west (E. Deerfield,
Mechanicville). Out near Alewife Brook Parkway, it crossed the
Lexington Branch at grade (known as Fens Diamond).

As for the Watertown, its being served out of Ayer again as
needed. They match up with BO-1 out of Somerville and operate
push-pull down to Newlywed. Sometimes BO-1 will go solo to
retrieve empties.

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Postby Ron Newman » Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:44 pm

There was only one industrial customer on this 1/4-mile-long Somerville spur. It has gone out of business, and the factory will be replaced by residential development. Therefore, there is no potential for any more freight traffic on this line, ever.

This Google satellite photo shows the line. See that big black building in the middle of the junction, west of Lowell Street? That was the MaxPak factory. It will soon be torn down.

West of Cedar Street, this is already a path, and has been one for over 10 years. Eventually, the Green Line will run parallel to the Lowell Line tracks, and I hope to see a station built at Lowell Street, so that Somerville residents can use this path to reach it.

The Watertown branch is entirely separate from this. It leaves the Fitchburg Line west of Sherman Street in Cambridge and then runs behind the Fresh Pond 'Mall'.
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Postby Ron Newman » Fri Aug 25, 2006 12:08 am

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The rest of the FCO / Customers

Postby GP40MC1118 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:18 pm

Ron-

There were sidings off the FCO down at the west end around the Fens
Diamonds area. We got track chart drawn 11/20/70 showing them:

Avery Sual was between Hill Crossing and Fens Diamond

Between Fens Diamond and Willow Avenue were:

-Granada Wine, Dewey & Almys, Hastings Burial Case, Gilmans

Max Pax shows as International Paper (Agars)

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Postby Ron Newman » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:31 pm

Dewey and Almy is now called WR Grace.

MaxPak had a few names over the years, one of which was International Paper. There may still be a sign on the building saying that, but I haven't wandered over there lately.

I'd like to see that chart. Can you scan it in and post it somehow?
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Postby Ron Newman » Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:09 pm

A freight train serving MaxPak, coming from the Boston & Lowell mainline, had to run west on this spur beyond the factory towards Cedar Street, then reverse direction and run east through a manual switch into MaxPak's siding. I never saw any of these movements, but I did often see a single freight car sitting on that siding (in a fenced-off area) when the factory was still open.

This page from the Somerville planning office describes the site:

Three buildings are currently located on the site. All three are no longer in use and have fallen in to various states of disrepair. Over the past eighty years the site has been home to a number of industrial uses including a Hires Root Beer factory, package factory, construction supply, and International Paper factory. The name “Maxpak Site” is taken from one of the industrial companies that had used the site in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The last industrial user, L Hide Construction Supplies, closed its doors in 2002. In 1999 a SABIS charter school with 108 students opened a new structure at 61 Clyde Street. The school remained in operation until 2002. Since the closing of the school the site has been primarily vacant other than occasional temporary use. Both sites are currently owned by KSS Realty Partners.


If the other two industrial buildings had freight service (and I suspect they once did), it would have been from sidings on the Lowell mainline, not the Fitchburg cutoff.

By the way, this old topic in New England Railfan discusses the same area.
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FCO

Postby GP40MC1118 » Fri Aug 25, 2006 8:02 pm

L Hide was off the No.2/southbound Lowell mainline at Somerville Jct.
BO-4 used to switch it coming back from Montvale Yard to Yard 8.

Max Pax/IP also was under a name starting with an "L". The Yard 8
switcher used to service it.

I don't have any way to scan the track chart. It's not an official B&M
chart, but a very decent hand drawn chart.

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Postby Jonny Bolt » Sun Aug 27, 2006 4:50 am

Just a spur, yet still dead rail. Such a shame to see any go....
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Postby MikeB » Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:27 am

A friend of mine lived on Alpine street in the 80's. The cut off was practically his back yard. I got to see the max/pax place switched out a few times.
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Abandonment filing

Postby Ron Newman » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:36 pm

Boston & Maine and Springfield Terminal have finally filed a notice of exemption to abandon freight rights on the Somerville spur, between Somerville Junction (Lowell Street) and Grove Street. You can find the official filing by going to

http://www.stb.dot.gov/filings/all.nsf/ ... e?OpenView

and looking under today's date, 10/18/2006. I believe the two separate filings, AB_32_99_X and AB_355_33_X, are identical.

Much of the right-of-way, from Cedar Street to Grove Street, was paved over in the 1990s for a pedestrian and bicycle trail known today as the Somerville Community Path. This filing is a necessary step for extending that trail east to Lowell Street and beyond.

[also posted here]
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Postby Ron Newman » Thu Nov 16, 2006 8:17 am

Here's the Environmental Review of B&M's proposed abandonment.

One thing I don't understand: "If the notices become effective, the Boston & Maine Corporation will be able to salvage track, ties, and other railroad appurtenances and dispose of the right-of-way."

I thought the MBTA owned this line, and Guilford had only rights to run freight service. Is it possible that the T owns the land but Guilford owns the track?
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Postby Ron Newman » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:30 am

The Surface Transportation Board has now officially approved the abandonment of freight rights.

They removed a condition requiring B&M to work with state environmental authorities when salvaging the line, after we at the Somerville Bicycle Committee pointed out that B&M doesn't own the right-of-way, the tracks, or the ties.
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Postby roberttosh » Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:02 am

Just as a matter of curiousity, how many through trains a day used the freight cutoff say in the 60's (when business was still brisk in Boston) and the 70's (when things were slowing down some)?? Thanks!
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