Photos on this page by John Corbett
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How it began
The Boston "T" Party was yet another group gathering whereby our group of railfans got together to ride various modes of rail transit. This group, whose nucleus is the Prodigy Trains Community, included both members and non-members of Prodigy. It was another in a string of meets held several times a year. Previous outings in the past two years have been held in Washington, DC, New York City (2), Philadelphia, and Cleveland.
The Boston site was chosen a year ago at PhillyFest 2001. It was decided to make this our largest event ever, by virtue of the fact that none in our nucleus group live in the Boston area. We would make it an entire three-day weekend event to maximize our time on the rails since we would have to stay overnight.
We named it the Boston "T" Party, "T" being the nickname given the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system, and the whole name depicting a famous event in our early history leading to our nation's independence.
I made a series of preview trips to Boston to check out routes, possible transfer points, and run times. The first trip was done on a Sunday morning in December, between my arrival on the TWILIGHT SHORELINER and my departure for Maine on the DOWNEASTER. Two weekends were also spent in the area (one in mid-February and one in mid-March) to do "dry runs" of the planned itinerary.
Everything was essentially ready to go with the routes and times by the end of March.
Through continuous updates to my official Boston "T" Party website potential participants were kept up-to-date on the ever-changing guest list, the itinerary, expected transit costs, the available hotels in the area, the places to eat along our route, my concerns about luggage storage following the terrorist acts in the fall, scanner frequencies, and links to other interesting websites about the MBTA, AMTRAK, local rail advocacy groups, and future area projects.
The next few months were spent preparing route guides, keeping the guest list up-to-date, and selling the Boston "T" Party to our Prodigy group and advertising it elsewhere on the internet. The route guides, as well as much of the other important information, was printed and put into report folders by Alan Burden, to be handed out to participants at the event.
Closer to the event, I had to compile another list for myself, to keep track of information on our participants: their expected trains or other modes of travel to and from Boston, the days they would be participating, and their cellular phone numbers so we could keep in contact in the event of missed trains or no-shows.
At the last minute, I decided that Michael and I would stay in a hotel in Woodbridge, NJ on Thursday night, so we would not run the risk of getting caught in morning rush hour traffic on the way to Metropark. That let us sleep later on Friday, and ensured we would be on the 7:02 AM NJ TRANSIT express train to Newark, where we would catch AMTRAK's Acela Regional Train 170 for Boston.
Friday, July 19, 2002: Day One
Getting to Boston
Our means of travel varied as much as where we came from to attend. HaRRy Sutton was travelled the furthest, coming from California by plane. Mike Hammond was next, coming in from Cleveland on the eastbound LAKE SHORE LIMITED, and the rest of us not from the Boston area came by various Northeast Corridor AMTRAK trains, either Acela Regional or Acela Express. Mike Hammond was on Friday's train, so he would meet us in the evening and join us for Saturday's main part of the railfest.
Michael and I were on Acela Regional 170, which was in Newark early, actually waiting for us as we got up to Track 2. The train's consist was:
938 AEM-7 locomotive
21688 Amfleet I coach
21214 Amfleet I coach
(we sat here)
44674 Amfleet I coach
21226 Amfleet I coach
44234 Amfleet I coach
85005 Acela Regional Cafe
44957 Amfleet I Metroliner coach
as Business Class
Our tickets were not taken leaving Newark; the new crew that boarded in New York took them instead.
Along the way, John Corbett joined us in Bridgeport, having taken the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry from Long Island. Lou Petrillo joined us in New Haven.
It was a smooth trip. At times we fell anywhere from two to seven minutes late. But thanks to padding, we arrived at Boston's South Station at 12:34 PM, six minutes early.
Some of us were able to have the AMTRAK baggage area hold our luggage for the day, so we would not have to bring it along on our two commuter rail round trips. We would be passing through South Station twice more today.
Meeting us upon our arrival in Boston were HaRRy Sutton, Owen Sindler and his son Isak, Bill Antonides, Ed Findlay, and Jack Suslak. Ed and Jack were local guys from the area northeast of Boston that I had just met online in the past week, as they had responded to a posting I had put up on an MBTA Yahoo Group. Missing in action was Alan Burden, who should have beaten 170 to Boston, but his Acela Express 2152 was delayed about 20 minutes. Thankfully, he and the route guides arrived at about 12:50 PM, so we were ready to go. The only other person expected but missing was Skip Howard, another Boston-area friend who had participated in our dry runs in March.
At precisely 1 PM, eleven of us headed for the subway and the "T" Party had begun!
The one thing a railfan does most when he is not riding trains is to eat. And we ate very well, visiting three different food courts in as many days. Part A1 of our party was a one-stop ride on the Red Line to Downtown Crossing. There, we walked to The Corner food court for lunch. It was a bit crowded being lunchtime, but we found space down in the basement to eat together. Skip Howard caught up with us there, and we were an even dozen.
After lunch, we went back into the same subway station, but took the Orange Line south a few stops to Back Bay/South End station. We had just a little time to explore before boarding our first train.
Parts A3 & A4: Needham Line Commuter Rail, Back Bay Station-Needham Heights-South Station
The twelve of us enjoyed this first trip. The short layover at Needham Heights allowed us to pose for our first group photos. We returned to South Station, passing Back Bay where we had boarded. HaRRy left us at Back Bay, to catch the Orange Line train back to North Station and his commuter rail train to Woburn, where he was staying overnight. Owen and Isak also left the group, to return to their accomodations at the YMCA on Huntington Avenue, along the Green Line E trolley.
The other nine of us had roughly 40 minutes to kill in South Station before our next train. We used it to purchase snacks, get MBTA tickets in advance, and use the facilities. The eastbound LAKE SHORE LIMITED, on which Mike Hammond was still making his way towards us, was listed on the Solari Board as "on time", which seemed to most of us to be a mistake. We re-convened under the same board, and then made our way to Track 5 to catch our Franklin Line train to Forge Park/495.
Parts A5 & A6: Franklin Line Commuter Rail, South Station-Forge Park/495-South Station
This ride was much longer than the earlier Needham Line trip. It took about one hour 7 minutes in each direction, with the same 10-minute layover at the far end. We posed for more photos at the Forge Park station.
This round trip was chosen because the return trip ran on the Dorchester Branch (also known as the Midlands Branch and the Fairmount Line) instead of along AMTRAK's Northeast Corridor. In fact, we ran express after making our stops in Dedham, passing the Fairmount Line stations. We got into South Station at 6:35 PM.
Dinnertime, surprise, and Missed Train #1
A late dinner at South Station's food court was enjoyed by all. Ed and Jack left us from here to head home to the northern suburbs. Bill also went to his downtown hotel. Skip had to take the Red Line since the Braintree parking lot had been full and he had to park at Quincy Adams instead.
The rest of us were ultimately headed for Braintree.
While we were eating, Mike Hammond called me to let me know his train was in Back Bay Station, within a few minutes of South Station and an on-time arrival! Originally we had expected that one of us would go back to South Station to meet Mike and escort him back to Braintree. With our Visitors Passes we had unlimited rides anyhow on the Red Line. But here he was on time, and right during our 50-minute layover in the station.
Afterwards, Alan stayed to watch our stuff, while the others went to the baggage area to claim our held luggage. At the same time, Mike Hammond arrived on 448 on Track 8, and Lou went out to greet him.
The time of our 7:25 PM train was also drawing near, and it was being called for boarding on Track 11. I assumed that Alan would get his bags and meet us at the train. I looked behind me as we ran to board the train, but there was no Alan. The rest of us did get onto the train, just before the doors closed and the train departed right on time. I now hoped Alan was ahead of us, but the ringing of my cell phone as we were walking to find seats confirmed he was not aboard.
The very fact that the LAKE SHORE LIMITED was on time spelled disaster for Alan. After I had claimed my luggage, the baggage guy went to meet the train and left his post un-manned. Alan had to wait for his return, thus missing our train. I told him to just take the Red Line to Braintree, and we would meet him there. Thankfully I had chosen a location with duplicative services!
Part A7: Plymouth/Kingston Line Commuter Rail, South Station-Braintree
Alan did not miss much, other than a nonstop ride. This train did not make the stops at JFK/U-Mass or Quincy Center. However several people did detrain with us at Braintree. A one-way trip on the train costs $2.75, which is just 75 cents more than the double-zone fare charged at Braintree on the Red Line, so it's worth it for the express ride.
Once we were off the train, and within sight of our night's accomodations, I called Alan. He was lucky to have a minimal wait for the Red Line at South Station, and was already at Quincy Adams. We went into the transit station and waited about five minutes for him to arrive with the rest of the masses at this end-of-the-line station.
There was a short line when we got to the Motel-6, which our group just made worse. Six different rooms were occupied by our group. Besides Michael and myself in one room, also checking into their own rooms were Mike, Lou, John, and Alan. I took down room numbers so we could communicate.
Since I had inadvertantly not planned for Saturday breakfast, we agreed to meet at 7 AM at Bickford's Restaurant, which we found shares the same parking lot as the motel.
And then we all retired for the night, knowing that Part A of the Boston "T" Party was only a warmup for the big day tomorrow!