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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Postby TomNelligan » Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:00 pm

In the late 1960s, the Freight Cutoff saw three or four trains each way. By the end of the 1970s it was down to just a single Boston-Mechanicville road freight plus an occasional local. At the time the Salem-East Deerfield job ran via the passenger line through Porter Square because of the yard layout; later it was rerouted via Lowell.
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Postby Ron Newman » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:14 pm

Also, I've heard that some Fitchburg Line passenger trains were occasionally diverted onto this branch in the late 1970s or very early 80s -- possibly because of flooding or construction. Somewhere I've actually seen a photo of a B&M train discharging passengers in the middle of Davis Square.

(Hey, John Roderick, are you reading this thread?)
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Postby TomNelligan » Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:17 pm

Ron Newman wrote:Also, I've heard that some Fitchburg Line passenger trains were occasionally diverted onto this branch in the late 1970s or very early 80s -- possibly because of flooding or construction.


Yes, that's true, and it was because of flooding. There was a low spot on the Fitchburg line that was prone to flooding in heavy rain, located where it passed under the now-removed multi-track freight bridge that was adjacent to old Tower H, the Brickbottom art studios, and McGrath Highway. Because the freight cutoff diverged from the Lowell line and avoided that spot, Fitchburg passenger trains could use it as an emergency alternative and rejoin their regular route in West Cambridge.

I believe that the Fitchburg line track in that area was raised up a few years ago when the freight bridge was removed following Guilford's yard closure.
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Postby Ron Newman » Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:17 pm

That "Red Bridge" was removed during the Democratic National Convention in 2004, while service was suspended for the week.
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Postby octr202 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:25 am

Yes, the tracks were raised. During a "monsoon" type event earlier this year I recall riding the Fitchburg Line and seeing various BET/B&M/CSXT tracks in that area under water, but Fitchburg Line tracks were just out of the water and still open.
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Postby roberttosh » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:32 pm

I think the last thru train I saw on the Fitchburg was a very long GP-18 led train sometime in the late 70's at the Tower in Waltham. At that time I'm pretty sure it was down to the one Boston-Mickeyville train, so it wasn't like you were railfanning the CSXT Boston line or anything, but it was still cool knowing you could still catch a big train like that heading through places like Concord, Lincoln, Waltham, Cambridge, etc.
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Postby Ron Newman » Mon Oct 15, 2007 9:59 pm

This Wednesday, the city of Somerville will remove the rails from the grade crossing at Cedar Street.
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby doorlatch » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:39 am

Hi,

I realize I'm late to this post, but had a question about the Fitchburg cut off at the Alewife end: where did the connection from the cutoff to the Lexington branch run in relation to the existing Alewife Station and the Rt. 2/Rt. 16 intersection? There's a small pond just north of the parking facility. Did the connection run "inside" that pond, or "above" it? Or is the pond an artifact of the station construction?

Thanks for any insight.
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby moth » Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:10 am

You can see that pond on this map: http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.a ... g&state=MA

It looks like Alewife station was built to the immediate South East of the diamond for the Lexington branch and the freight spur. The pond (and Rt 2 and 16 intersection) is to the immediate North East.
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby doorlatch » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:00 am

Great map! Thanks for the link. I see now that the connection from the cutoff to the Lexington branch ran under Rt. 16. I'll have to see if the bridge abutments for Alewife Brook are still there.

Justin
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby matignon82 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:45 pm

If you drive on the access road that takes you under rt 16 you are driving on what was the right of way. We used to play hockey on that little pond which we called Yatesies. I don't know were the name came from. The bridge over the access road is a replacement for the one that went over the railroad tracks but is essentially in the same spot. When I was in High School we used to sit on the sloped abutments of the old bridge and watch the trains run through. There also used to be tons of trails to ride our bikes on, those might still be there.

The crossing for the Lexington branch was at grade over rt 16. It was long gone when I was a kid but there were still rails running up to the side walk just after Whittimore Ave back in the seventies and maybe even the early eighties. I don't remember the remains of a bridge over the Brook but you could pick up the rails on the Arlington side and they went all the way to the right of way of the Lexington branch. IIRC they were still connected to the branch right up till the end. Dewey and Almy used their portion of the remaining Lexington branch as one of their 4 sidings right up until the line was closed for the Red Line project.

I spent a lot of time as a kid watching the locals switch all the businesses down there. There were also at least a couple of very long through freights every day. There was in fact occasional commuter rail traffic when we had severe storms although I was led to believe that the flooding was nearer to Porter Square. There was good amount of action to watch down there until the red line went in.

Does anyone remember the tower at Davis Square? It was right in the middle of that park in the square. If my memory serves me it was a classic B&M interlocking type tower. Does anyone know what it was for?
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby GP40MC1118 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:57 pm

The tower was for the crossing tender I believe.

Speaking of the Red Line, some of the last regular freight trains to operate on the Somerville side of
the FCO was BOX-1. This was a unit train that took the spoils from the Red Line tunnel construction and
brought it to a dump site in West Cambridge. The train used the MBTA Sidedumps and usually made
two round trips (sometimes a third) Monday through Friday.

BOX-1 would come down the FCO to Somerville Jct, down the 4th Iron to Yard 8, then down to Tower H.
From there it would shove to West Cambridge. The dump site was off the west side of the mainline.

D
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby matignon82 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:29 am

That big tower was just for the crossing tender? Maybe it was not as big as I remember. There was a signal between Mass ave and davis square too. I used to look down that way from Mass ave to see if I should bother waiting for a train.

The West Cambridge dump that the spoils went to is Danehy Park. Before the Red Line was built that was the city dump. Before it was the city dump it was the A.H. Hews' clay pit from which a lot of local bricks came from. You can still find bricks around with the name embossed on them. There were spoils trains operating on the North Cambridge side too. and I think that W.R. Grace/Dewey and Almy was serviced right to the bitter end because I remember two ties blocking the line at just around the split for the the former Lexington Branch. There must have been a signal there at one time too because I remember a large cement block between the switch and the main with severed wires.

Boy. this thread brings back my youth in North Cambridge.

Mark
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby jaymac » Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:37 am

The Freight Cutoff was one of those stretches of track that sometimes got -- to use a word that came into existence after the Cutoff left existence -- repurposed. It got a significant amount of use as the Central Mass. approach from Hill Crossing to North Station. This is documented in both editions of the B&MRRHS's The Central Mass.
As part of George Hannauer's improvement plan for the B&M's Boston terminals, the line then became the Freight Cutoff so inbound and some outbound Fitchburg Division freights would have easier access for the Yard 8 and 9 humps that were being built. I'm surmising that Wildcat Branch traffic increased, as well, so Portland freight would have easier New Hampshire Division-based access to the hump yards.
When traffic declined and real estate became more profitable -- even before Guilford -- and the Yard 9 and then Yard 8 humps were deactivated, there were still some local customers, and pig traffic also used the Cutoff. The somewhat-hopefully named Apollos weren't as swift as Zeus's messenger, but did give the B&M some creds.
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Re: Abandonment of Somerville Freight Spur (ex-Fitchburg Cutoff)

Postby TomNelligan » Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:10 pm

matignon82 wrote: Does anyone remember the tower at Davis Square? It was right in the middle of that park in the square. If my memory serves me it was a classic B&M interlocking type tower. Does anyone know what it was for?


Not only do I remember that tower, I also remember watching movies at the Somerville Theater and feeling the rumble when freights went by a few feet from the side of the building. If it weren't for the right-of-way being preserved as a path, there would be no sign today that there was ever a railroad in the middle of Davis Square.
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