Boston "T" Party
July 19-21, 2002
Nobody complained that we were taking a bus, because we were touring the late great Arborway Line. The southern 2/3 of it still has its tracks intact.
We made the bus a lot lighter when we all got off at Heath Street to return to riding the rails.
Parts B4 & B5: Green Line E & D, Heath Street -Arlington-Riverside
We only had to wait about two minutes before an E car came into the loop. What a surprise when one of the people getting off was Ed Findlay! He had just missed the Orange Line so he went over to Park Street and took the E trolley towards Heath Street, choosing just the right trolley to be able to meet us at the loop. The luck Ed had here, however, would not remain for the rest of the day.
Ed also brought me bad news. It seems that the MBTA had decided seemingly at the last minute to do trackwork on the B trolley, and that line was not running beyond Kenmore. (Essentially it was just fulfilling its role within the tunnel shared with the other routes.) Substitute buses were running along Commonwealth Avenue. There had been no news of this on the MBTA's website, even on the weekend. The line, which passes Boston University and runs to Boston College, was scheduled for our afternoon trip, so we would tackle that problem when we came to it. In the meantime, our morning objective was to ride the E line to Arlington, and then the outbound D line to its end at Riverside.
Now there were 12 of us, headed inbound on our first trolley ride of the "T" Party. I noticed along Huntington Street that most of the regular stations were closed, and replaced with what appeared to be temporary stops about a block away. We made good time, and despite heavy Saturday boardings, we kept ahead of my planned itinerary.
After passing a sleeping vagrant on the inbound platform at the Arlington station, we made our transfer at Arlington, and had to wait only a few minutes before a D trolley showed up. Skip felt ill and had to temporarily leave the group at Arlington, but he would catch up with us later on. Our trip to Riverside was quick, and we all enjoyed the interurban feel of the route.
Once at Riverside, everyone had to detrain as the trolley went into the yard.
Part B6: Green Line D, Riverside-North Station
We crossed over, and waited about 5 minutes until an inbound trolley (not the same one) originated from the yard. Although there are turnstyles at this station, they were not in use and fares are collected on board. For most of us, we just had to show our Visitors Passes to the operator.
At the first stop, we got Skip back, so we were back up to 12 people. He had just taken a later trolley, then chanced that we would be on this inbound one.
We stayed on the D trolley until we got to the elevated North Station stop. It was before 11 AM, so we were more than 30 minutes ahead of my planned itinerary. I had allowed for the longest possibly headways and travel times (one might call it AMTRAK-style padding!) so we would not fall behind. The early arrival at the North Station area gave us much more time to relax at lunch.
We scattered here, as I pointed out the fast food places along Causeway Street, and advised of the places within North Station as well. Some opted to wait until we were on the train, to try the cafe car instead. HaRRy joined Michael and me for lunch at Burger King. I never found out where others in the group chose to eat. We decided to reassemble at 11:45 AM inside North Station to prepare for our 12:00 Noon departure on the DOWNEASTER.
Back at North Station, we went to stand near Track 7. The DOWNEASTER had arrived at 11:30 AM, so we knew the gate where we would be departing. Our group slowly came together once more, and this time Owen and Isak joined in, making this segment the only time that all 14 participants were together.
During the break, Skip had a conversation with one of the station's dispatchers, who told him that she might have to hold the DOWNEASTER's departure for five minutes or so to accomodate an inbound movement. When he informed me of this, it made me a little nervous, because I knew that we had roughly a 20-minute layover in Haverhill between the DOWNEASTER's arrival and the origination of the MBTA commuter rail train back southward.
Part B7: AMTRAK's DOWNEASTER, Train 683, North Station-Haverhill
Since we were now at our full strength, this was most likely the highlight of our trip. Some had never been on the DOWNEASTER before, so this provided a short taste of it, albeit only on the route's southernmost portion.
I had alerted Wayne Davis that we would be there. Wayne is the father of the DOWNEASTER, the man who worked tirelessly for a decade and a half to get this train running. He is also the President of the local NARP rail advocacy group, Train Riders Northeast. He is part of the crew of Train Hosts, who ride selected trips helping passengers with information on the route and assist the crew.
Wayne was not scheduled to be the Train Host for our particular run, but he told his colleague scheduled for Train 683 on Saturday, Bob Rodman, to be on the lookout for us.
Well contrary to what Skip was told, we were dispatched out of North Station at exactly 12:00 Noon. As soon as we were rolling, Bob sought out our group, calling for members of the Boston "T" Party group. He gave out some brochures he had brought specially for our group, and also gave us the first new timetables I have seen, which show the new stops at Old Orchard Beach and Woburn. Bob was very cordial with our group, and his attention to us made the highlight of our activities an even better experience.
After tickets were taken, the cafe car opened, and those in our group who had not eaten in the North Station area made a beeline for the counter, to be able to eat, and finish up before we were to get off. The 34-mile trip is scheduled for 53 minutes. I made a beeline for another luxury at the front end of our coach, one I find cleaner and less patronized than one in North Station.
For many, our trip over the Wildcat Branch was a treat, as it's difficult to accomplish on the MBTA unless you ride weekday contra-flow rush hour trains.
Our Party Train arrived in Haverhill a few minutes early, enough time for our group of 14 to detrain and a few others to board so the train could leave on time. Upon arrival, I ran up front to get this train's consist:
825 P-40 locomotive 44912 Amfleet I Metroliner coach 44790 Amfleet I Metroliner coach 44834 Amfleet I Business Class 44958 Amfleet I Metroliner coach (our group was here) 48123 Amfleet I cafe 90220 Cab-Baggage (ex-F40 220)
By the time I got back to the group, some were already going down the ramp to the street. Somebody had spotted an ice cream place across the small park near the station. About half of our group went to the ice cream place, while the other half remained on or near the inbound platform. They were able to cross over on a pedestrian crosswalk once the DOWNEASTER had left.
Since Michael had tagged along with the ice cream group, I made my way over there as well. Inside there was a pretty long line, and a very slow employee taking her time serving people. Michael and Isak were playing some table board game in the restaurant while Isak's dad waited on the line for an ice cream cone.
I began to get nervous, knowing we had a train to catch at 1:15 PM, and there were only about 10 minutes left. I also was well aware that the Haverhill commuter rail trains have three-hour headways, so missing this would really foul our plans. Michael and I left with Owen and Isak, leaving Lou, Ed, and Jack, and possibly others still in the ice cream place. We joined the rest of the gang on the platform.
Part B8: Haverhill Line Commuter Rail, Haverhill-Malden Center, & Missed Train #2
It was 1:14 on my watch (one minute early) when the train began rolling. We were still walking through the train, looking for an emptier car to accomodate our group. I looked back and saw that a few had just made the train by seconds. However, poor Ed had just gotten up the ramp in time to see the train moving, too fast to have stopped if anyone could have alerted the crew on time. I felt bad for Ed's unfortunate luck, and knew he would have a three-hour wait for the next train. I later found out he took a bus to Newburyport, and eventually got a train inbound from there, but it was too late to rejoin us. It turned out to be a very costly ice cream cone for him in more ways than one.
The rest of us proceeded south to Malden, arriving there on time.Continued in next section