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Trip Report

OTOL Boston "T" Party RailFest 2008

November 7-8, 2008


Photos by Lynn Hammond

Click small photos to see larger

Chapter 0: Introduction

Boston "T" Party RailFest 2008 was another meet in Boston. When we met there one year earlier, we featured MBTA commuter routes on the south side of the city, including all of the Old Colony Lines. This time, we would primarily ride routes out of North Station. We would also take a trip out to Worcester from South Station.

Chapter 1: Preparation

This Fest was planned for a Friday and Saturday, so that we could take advantage of weekday frequencies at least one day of the event. There was also one very short stretch of the Blue Line between Government Center and Bowdoin only open on weekdays that we hadn't ridden and was due soon for elimination.

It was also held at a time of month that is uncustomary for us. We usually try to do them the third week of the month for the benefit of those who are paid on the 15th. However, since I am bound to Michael's school schedule, these were the only dates available. New Jersey schools are always closed on a Thursday and Friday right after Election Day for a statewide teachers' convention. A Friday & Saturday Fest allows participants to travel on Thursday and Sunday.

We agreed ahead of time that 7-day Link passes would be the best fare instrument for us, even though most of us would be in town no more than four days. The pass would get us to and from our hotels, work for all Fest-related subway and trolley travel, and also was good on the planned commuter rail trip to Malden.

Chapter 2: Thursday, November 6, 2008

Most of our two-day participants from out of town began to head for Boston today.

Chapter 2.1: Getting to Boston

Michael and I originated in Cherry Hill, NJ, taking NJ TRANSIT and an Amtrak Keystone train to get to New York. There, we met Alan Burden in the Club Acela, and the three of us took Acela Express #2160 up to Boston.

Lou Petrillo took Northeast Regional #190 from New Haven to Boston on Thursday morning. Jishnu came up to Boston on Acela Express #2166, while Piotr was aboard Acela Express #2172 later. Ted Patchell left Philadelphia on Thursday night, taking the overnight Northeast Regional #66.

Meanwhile, Lynn and Mike Hammond flew from Cleveland to Boston on Thursday afternoon on a flight that was delayed.

Chapter 3: Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday was the first official day of our event. A total of 14 of us were involved in two commuter rail round trips and plenty of transit riding as well. We also made a trip that night on the Ashmont branch of the Red Line, as well as the Mattapan Trolley.

Twelve of us met at South Station. Besides Lynn, Mike, Alan, Jishnu, Lou, Piotr, Ted, Michael, and me, we were joined by Rick Metcalf, Ed Findlay, and Jack Suslak. Together, we boarded our first train to Worcester as soon as it was called.

Chapter 3.1: MBTA Framingham-Worcester Line, Train #P509, Boston South Station to Worcester

Lynn had some business to attend to around Copley Square, so she only rode with us between South and Back Bay Stations. She would meet us again at dinnertime.

The rest of us were joined at Back Bay by Chris Wyatt from Texas. Chris was a pilot and happened to be in the Northeast so he was able to join us. He had come up from New York to Boston that morning in Acela Express #2190. We therefore retained a count of twelve for this trip.

Our westbound trip out to Worcester was uneventful. We got into Worcester Union Station at 10:18 AM, two minutes late. That gave us only twelve minutes dwell before our eastbound return to Boston. A few went inside the station to look around, but most remained trainside or aboard the train.

Chapter 3.2: MBTA Framingham-Worcester Line, Train #P518, Worcester to Boston Back Bay Station

It was another routine trip, as we departed Worcester on time at 10:30 AM, and got to Boston's Back Bay Station at 11:59 AM. A dozen railfans went upstairs and then headed down another set of stairs for the Orange Line.

Chapter 3.3: MBTA Orange Line, Back Bay to State

This was a very quick six-minute trip, mostly underground except for the first few feet adjacent to the Massachusetts Turnpike. We were right on schedule when we got to State at 12:10 PM. We then negotiated the connecting passageway to the Blue Line.

Chapter 3.4: MBTA Blue Line, State to Bowdoin

It took a little over two minutes to travel from State to Bowdoin. The segment between Government Center and Bowdoin, which we had not covered as a group, may someday soon be eliminated as the MBTA moves towards ten-car consists on the Blue Line. Bowdoin cannot accommodate trains this long, and its access is a few feet from the westernmost entrances to Government Center.

Ed had suggested that we could save time by not backtracking on the Blue Line to Government Center and then waiting for the Green Line to get to North Station. I hadn't realized that it's only a little over two long blocks walk from Bowdoin to North Station. Everyone agreed with taking the walk instead, as it gave us a few more minutes for our lunch break.

Along the way we stopped at a Subway restaurant (although Michael opted for its competitor Quizno's a block away). Since the restaurant had very limited seating, we decided to take our sandwiches to go and instead eat on the benches in North Station.

Chapter 3.5: Lunch at North Station

Many in the group were seeing the expanded waiting area at North Station for the first time. It was a good thing we had those benches available to us, or we would have been sitting on the floor in what used to be a congested corridor. When we finished, we awaited our afternoon commuter rail trip to Fitchburg.

Chapter 3.6: MBTA Fitchburg Line, Train #423, Boston North Station to Fitchburg

Our train left North Station on time at 1:20 PM, with twelve aboard from our group. We were joined at Porter Square by Joel Webber, who lives locally in Somerville. Thirteen of us continued west to Fitchburg, remaining close to schedule.

There was a crew change stop at a yard between the North Leominster and Fitchburg stations. Train #423 ended up coming into the Fitchburg station at 2:57 PM, five minutes off the advertised. This gave us only eight minutes of dwell time, so our participants either remained aboard or stuck very close to the train.

Chapter 3.7: MBTA Fitchburg Line, Train #424, Fitchburg to Porter Square

The same consist, now MBTA #424, departed Fitchburg on time at 3:05 PM. The cause of our delay on this trip is unclear, but we got to Porter Square at 4:24 PM, two minutes late. At Porter Square, we all went down the long escalators to the Red Line. Rick left us here to take the Red Line in the opposite direction to South Station and his Old Colony Line train.

Chapter 3.8: MBTA Red Line "A", Porter Square to Alewife

We had a rather long wait at Porter Square for an Alewife-bound train. We were finally on our way at 4:37 PM, four minutes late. The ride took all of five minutes. We alighted briefly at Alewife. We said goodbye here to Joel, who would be returning home from this point.

Chapter 3.9: MBTA Red Line "A", Alewife to Ashmont

There was some confusion at Alewife as to which train would be leaving next. Luckily the eleven of us had boarded the correct train and were soon on our way at 4:46 PM.

We had decided earlier that since we would otherwise have been wrapping up our activities early, we would instead continue riding on the Red Line out to Ashmont, and then take the Mattapan Trolley to Mattapan and back. Most of us had not ridden the Mattapan Trolley since the line had been closed for rehabilitation, including major reconfiguration of its endpoint terminals in Ashmont and Mattapan. So instead of getting off at Park and taking the Green Line to our dinner stop, we remained aboard this Red Line train all the way to Ashmont.

As our train went through downtown Boston, Jack got off at Park to take a Green Line trolley to North Station. Our numbers had therefore dwindled to ten people before we arrived in Ashmont at 5:33 PM.

Chapter 3.10: MBTA Red Line "M" (Mattapan Trolley), Ashmont to Mattapan

At Ashmont, we worked our way through what is still a construction zone until we came to the reconfigured trolley loop. Basically, whereas the loop once went through the Ashmont station building (and allowed for cross-platform subway transfers), they have now placed it at one end of the structure, necessitating a longer walk.

We left Ashmont on the trolley at 5:39 PM. Thirteen minutes later, we arrived at the Mattapan terminus. We then detrained, walked to the inbound platform, and boarded another car that would take us back to Ashmont.

Chapter 3.11: MBTA Red Line "M" (Mattapan Trolley), Mattapan to Ashmont

Our inbound trolley left Mattapan at 5:58 PM, and got to Ashmont at 6:11 PM. We got off at the loop and walked downstairs to the Red Line platform.

Chapter 3.12: MBTA Red Line "A", Ashmont to Park

The next train departed Ashmont at 6:20 PM. Chris got off this train at South Station to go have dinner with family. The rest of us, now nine, got to Park at 6:35 PM, and then went upstairs to transfer to the Green Line. Ed left us here to start home via a northbound trolley.

Chapter 3.13: MBTA Green Line "B", Park to Hynes Convention Center

The other eight of us boarded a B car, which we took to the Hynes Convention Center stop. We arrived there at 6:45 PM. From there we walked a couple of blocks to the Prudential Center food court, and met Lynn there.

Chapter 3.14: More participants headed for Boston

While we were having our afternoon and evening fun on the MBTA, more Fest participants were headed towards Boston. John Wireman was aboard Northeast Regional #176 from Philadelphia to Boston. Later, Maurice Carson took Friday night's Northeast Regional #66 between the same two cities.

Chapter 3.15: Dinner at Prudential Center

Friday‘s dinner at the Prudential Center food court. Despite the crowds at the food court, Lynn had somehow been able to reserve a set of tables for us. The nine of us took turns going up to various eateries and then returned to enjoy our dinner.

Chapter 3.16: End of Friday's activities

Lou left us first, to return to his hotel room downtown. Ted and Piotr left us to take a ride on the E trolley out to Heath Street Loop and then back inbound. Piotr then rode another line by himself before returning to his hotel in South Boston. Ted was the only person who participated on Friday only. He left Boston that evening on a bargain bus to New York, and then the combination of NJ TRANSIT and SEPTA trains back to Philadelphia.

After dinner, the rest of us walked through the mall to the Prudential station on the E line, and then took that trolley towards Park. At Park we officially split up, with Jishnu heading towards Cambridge on the Red Line, and the rest of us taking the Red Line in the other direction. Alan, Lynn, and Mike went to South Station, to make a connection to their hotel while Michael and I continued onward to JFK/U-Mass.

Chapter 4: Saturday, November 8, 2008

Our second and final day of excitement on the rails promised us two complete commuter rail round trips northeast of the city, one short commuter rail trip within the city fare zone, and some rides on the Orange Line. Unplanned trips on the Green Line, followed by a nice dinner, would complete our day.

Our day began at North Station as we met before our first trip. Returning from Day One were Chris, Piotr, Lou, Jishnu, Rick, Lynn, Mike, Alan, Michael, and me. John Wireman, who had arrived the previous evening from Philadelphia, was there as well. Others would join us later.

Chapter 4.1: MBTA Rockport Line, Train #1101, Boston North Station to Rockport

Rockport trip, right side of train. Our first trip was out to Rockport. The eleven of us began this trip from North Station (Track 4) four minutes late, at 8:34 AM, because we were held for connecting passengers from the Downeaster. We were joined at the Swampscott station in Lynn by Jack, who lives nearby. We arrived in Rockport at 9:44 AM, still four minutes late.

Rockport trip, left side of train. That gave us sixteen minutes downtime before our return trip. Most went into the nearby Dunkin‘ Donuts for coffee and snacks.

Chapter 4.2: MBTA Rockport Line, Train #1108, Rockport to Boston North Station

Our inbound train departed from Rockport on time at 10:00 AM. However our trip eventually took a downturn that threatened whether we would be able to do the next phase of our itinerary. There was some trackwork being done around the downtown Lynn station which necessitated single tracking. We therefore had to wait at the station platform for some time for an outbound train to pass before proceeding. The timetable had provided 23 minutes for us to make our connection to the 11:30 Haverhill Line train, but it was starting to look like we might not make it. We finally arrived at North Station's Track 4 bumping post at 11:25.

Twelve of us ran to the station and over to Track 8, where our next train was taking on passengers. We all did make it, albeit a little winded. On the platform to greet us was Maurice having finally made it to and across Boston. Our group was now up to thirteen people.

Chapter 4.3: MBTA Haverhill Line, Train #1209, Boston North Station to Malden

Had we missed this trip it would not have been the end of the world. This was just a "fill-in" trip to finish up the Haverhill Line which we had ridden from Haverhill to Malden in 2002. With our entire trip within the city fare zone, we were able to use our Link passes for this trip.

Our train left North Station on time at 11:30 AM. We arrived at Malden at 11:42, two minutes late. The train's crew was left scratching their heads why so many people took this short trip.

We went downstairs, and then up again to the Orange Line platform. It was now time to head for our lunch break.

Chapter 4.4: MBTA Orange Line, Malden Center to Downtown Crossing

We still had plenty of time to get to the elevated subway platform in advance of our planned 11:47 AM train. The train came on time, and we all boarded. The majority of us were headed for Downtown Crossing.

Jack got off at North Station and would meet us there later for our last commuter rail trip of the day. The rest of us detrained at Downtown Crossing at 12:01 PM, and headed for The Corner food court.

Chapter 4.5: Lunch at The Corner

At The Corner we dispersed to get the delicacies of our choice, and then sat at several adjacent tables. Once we were all done we decided to leave earlier than planned and head back to North Station.

After we entered the subway, some from our group elected to walk west through the tunnel towards the Green Line and take that to North Station, while the rest waited for the next Orange Line train.

Chapter 4.6: MBTA Orange Line, Downtown Crossing to North Station

The wait for this train turned out to be fairly long, such that those who had taken the Green Line got to North Station well ahead of us. When our Orange Line train came at 12:54 PM, it was a three-minute ride to North Station.

Group awaits posting of departure track for Newburyport train. We unexpectedly met Ed near the faregates in the North Station subway station. He had not been on the earlier Rockport and Malden trips but he was going to join us on our Newburyport run.

Our group was reunited in the waiting area in North Station. With Ed there and also Jack meeting up with us again, we now had reached our maximum for the day of fourteen people travelling together.

Chapter 4.7: MBTA Newburyport Line, Train #1161, Boston North Station to Newburyport

OTOL group during layover in Newburyport. This trip began on time at 1:30 PM from Track 4. It was identical to the Rockport trip as far as where the Rockport Line and Newburyport Line split at Beverly. To eliminate the extra round trip it would have been nice to change between the lines at Beverly. However, the timetable does not allow a convenient connection there.

After an uneventful trip, we got to Newburyport at 2:33 PM, just two minutes late. That gave us 15 minutes to stand on the platform and pose for a group photo.

Chapter 4.8: MBTA Newburyport Line, Train #1168, Newburyport to Boston North Station

Our last official commuter rail trip of the Fest left Newburyport on time at 2:48 PM. We began to lose people as Jack detrained in Salem to go home. Again we encountered some delays getting through the Lynn area. We arrived on Track 9 of North Station at 3:54 PM, five minutes down. This time, however, our tardiness was not of any concern, as we had no more schedule to keep. Officially our Fest was over at this point.

We had decided to have a nice steak dinner to end our time together in Boston. Since it was too early for dinner, we would first kill time by riding some Green Line trolleys. Piotr had not yet ridden the C or D lines, so we devised a little impromptu trip out of that.

Lou, Chris, and Rick elected to leave us at North Station. Chris and Rick actually beat us to the North Station subway superstation, and we saw them briefly again on the platform. Rick then went to catch an Orange Line train, while the rest of us jumped onto a C trolley for our trip to Cleveland Circle.

Chapter 4.9: MBTA Green Line "C", North Station to Cleveland Circle

Our group left North Station at 4:12 PM, and after making stops at the string of downtown stations we were soon outside running along Beacon Street. We got to Cleveland Circle at 4:48 PM.

The ten of us then walked together around the corner and up a slight hill to the Reservoir station on the D line.

Chapter 4.10: MBTA Green Line "D", Reservoir to Riverside

We had a rather long wait for an outbound car to Riverside. During this time, Maurice gave up waiting and decided to instead head inbound to ensure he would be able to catch Amtrak Northeast Regional #169 that evening back to Philadelphia.

An outbound car finally arrived at 5:02 PM and we boarded. During the trip, the MBTA dispatcher decided to make this trip an express, presumably because the cars had bunched and there were other cars just behind ours. That was good news to us, as it got us to Riverside quicker. We arrived there at 5:18 PM.

Chapter 4.11: MBTA Green Line "D", Riverside to Copley

The final trip of our extended Fest day was our return inbound on the D trolley. The group left Riverside at 5:23 PM. When we got to Copley at 5:55 PM, Ed remained aboard the car to go home, while the rest of us got off there and walked over to our agreed-upon dinner location.

Chapter 4.12: Dinner at Joe's American Bar & Grill

Dinnertime on Saturday at Joe‘s American Bar & Grill. Several people had eaten at Joe's American Bar & Grill a year earlier when we had our 2007 event in town, so it came well recommended. It did live up to expectations. Our waiter, Mike, handled the eight of us very well.

Chapter 4.13: End of Saturday's activities

After dinner, Piotr left us to walk in the Back Bay area before heading to South Station to catch Northeast Regional #67. John also left the group and eventually went back to his hotel.

The rest went together on the Green Line from Copley to Park, and then changed to the Red Line. Once again Jishnu went west to Cambridge and the rest of us went either to South Station for other connections, or to JFK/U-Mass.

Chapter 5: Sunday, November 9, 2008

On Sunday, those who had not already done so (with the exception of the Hammonds who spent one more day in Boston and flew home Monday) made their respective ways home.

Michael and I met Jishnu at the Club Acela. Although we were all going in Business Class, we were in there on Guest Rewards passes. Jishnu left the lounge before everyone else to attend to some business in the station. The lounge attendant was very orderly in rounding everyone up from throughout the lounge for our train and leading us out to trainside. We appreciated the advance boarding, something other Boston Club Acela attendants don't go out of their way to do. Jishnu joined our line as we headed through the station, so he got the advance boarding too.

Acela Express #2253 ran on time and was well patronized. From what we could tell, every seat was taken on our run from Boston to New York. Once in New York, Jishnu headed for NJ TRANSIT, and Michael and I took a Keystone to Philadelphia, and then an NJ TRANSIT train back to Cherry Hill.

Alan rode home to New York on the following Acela, #2255. John took Northeast Regional #163 back to Philadelphia, while Lou rode Northeast Regional #165 to New Haven later that day.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

I was once again very pleased to have drawn a group as large as we had, particularly when one of the official fest days was a weekday. While the future of any subsequent fests is unknown at this point, certainly the fact that these events can draw a good crowd any day of the week will play into decisions on if, where, and when we meet going forward.

Overall, we found that the MBTA is a lot more vigilant in its fare collection process than they were a year ago. On our 2007 trip, some of us ended up taking home some commuter rail tickets we had paid for. This time, although we were more careful to purchase fewer tickets at a time, all of our commuter rail tickets were either lifted or punched.

Probably the most popular topic in our chatting with one another was the plans for the following fest, the Metro New York RailFest 2009, which took place in the New York area in mid-January.

Hopefully, we will return to Boston again sometime, as one more commuter rail line remains to be conquered officially by our group. Thanks again to all involved for participating in another exciting event!

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