• Fitchburg Cutoff and Davis Square Tower

  • Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.
Discussion relating to the pre-1983 B&M and MEC railroads. For current operations, please see the Pan Am Railways Forum.

Moderator: MEC407

  by seagull6
Back in the 50s my family used to visit my cousins in Davis Square, Somerville. Invariably we'd end up down the street watching the long freight train s on the Fitchburg Cutoff. It was great fun watching the trains rumble through with a red caboose at the end. I was disappointed when I got back from the service to find that line gone. I also remember a B&M tower in the center of Davis Square. What did they control from there? I thought the cutoff was pretty much a straight through. Does anyone remember the tower?
  by jaymac
The tower was among a number the B&M and other lines had for crossing protection in areas that didn't lend themselves to automation. There were still local sidings that would get switched, and to prevent false activation, the elevated vantage point allowed the tender so see whether it was a switching or through movement that had triggered the bell and then to either activate or not activate the protection. The B&A Grand Junction had a similar setup at the Mass. Ave. crossing.
  by jbvb
BTW, the proper name of that route was "Hill Crossing Freight Cutoff". It was originally built by the Central Mass. RR to reach Boston & Lowell tracks to use their station in Boston. It was revived in the 1920s to give access to the most efficient hump yard layout at Cobble Hill in Somerville. The Red Line took over the RoW after clearances were raised on the Lowell line.
  by ThinkNarrow
If you visit Google maps, look at the law offices building at 2409 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, at the intersection of Cameron Avenue; it has a very railroad tower appearance. I have a vague recollection of there having been a crossing there, and I believe the present building was adapted from being a tower on the Hill Crossing Freight Cutoff.
  by The EGE
2409 Mass Ave is an odd little building. However, there wasn't a tower at 2409 Mass Ave - just a small gate shack. The tower was a bit west, controlling the junction with the Lexington Branch.

Cambridge assessor's map says 2409 was built in 1906. The 1950 Sanborn map shows 2409 as a single-story wooden building with a slate or metal roof, in use as a store, with the gate shack as 2411. This implies that the second story and brick facing was added sometime after 1950. There's no indication it had any railroad use - it was just an odd shape to fit in the triangular lot.
  by neman2
A little know fact during construction of the Red Line Extension the Freight Cutoff was kept in service from a tunnel shaft at about 35 Grove St. in Somerville to the east. Tunnel "muck" (mostly blasted rock) was transported from that shaft by B+M trains with side car dumps into Boston then out the Fitchburg Main and down the Watertown Branch to be dumped at the future fields behind the Fresh Pond shopping Center along present day New St.
  by jfloehr
Approximately fall 1976 or spring 1977, I happened to be in Davis Square trackside the "cut-off". Suddenly , crossing bells sounded and a long B&M freight (more than 25 cars with several bluebird engines, as I recall) barreled through the Square, moving at more than 35 MPH. I was amazed by the speed and length of a train seldom seen at this location (and perhaps never seen again). Since I am always a day late (and a dollar short) when it comes to catching trains at crossings (I always pause to look both was for the headlight that never appears) I certainly did not expect to see one at this dense urban location. I will never forget the experience.
  by copcars
I was in grammar school in Cambridge in the 60s near porter sq.I remember being stopped at a crossing many times,with my dad,as a slow freight would go by.I think they only went East.Recently I followed the old Central Mass line through Walthham.There is still a thru truss bridge on the waltham Watertown line.A beautiful old station ,now a business, there is a thru girder bridge over 128, and I believe a thru truss bridge over the Fitchburg line on the Walthham Weston border. Some of the rail is still there in Waltham ,even though the railroad is long gone.That was back in the day when Cambridge had alot of blue collar families, and hard to believe alot of industrial sidings and the fitchburg main had 4 tracks and bud liners!