BostonUrbEx wrote:According to the MA rail map, Pan Am still "owns" the Salem & Lowell Branch from Peabody Sq to West Peabody Jct, and again through the entire town of North Reading. However, it is also listed as abandoned and/or "unknown." So, is this true? Perhaps they're still milking the ROW from utility companies renting space for gas mains, power lines, etc?
The MassDOT map isn't accurate at all. It's compiled from GIS data and topo maps dating back to the 19th century, and there are all sorts of abandoned ROW's on there that have either been so thoroughly obliterated they no longer exist or showing incorrect ownership. It's a nice-looking map, but very flawed methodology for keeping track of ROW's because it isn't synced to active property records and over-weights old historical data vs. current availability. They'd have been much better off if they dialed it back to the same level of detail as, say, the New Hampshire state rail map.
For example, the S&L from Peabody Sq. to I-95 was abandoned by B&M in 1962 when I-95 was being built; all freight traffic was re-routed the long way around through Danvers to allow the interstate to sever it. Route 128 used to have a S&L grade crossing right there that was also eliminated in the abandonment so it could be reconstructed to full limited-access highway standards with Northshore Rd. built as a local-access frontage road. Despite this, the S&L remained a "phantom" active line on topo maps through there as late as 1984. See Historic Aerials. You can see the old 128 grade crossing disappear when Northshore Rd. appears, then click through all those erroneous topo maps. The MassDOT rail map reflects the aggregate of 20 years worth of erroneous topo maps by showing it as "Pan Am" ownership "Unknown" operating status. When what really happened is that B&M abandoned it 50 years ago and it was immediately snapped up by the power company before the easements got abolished and parceled off to landowners (pretty much the only excuse there was back then to maneuver a "landbank"). PAR isn't collecting rent on anything disused that pre-dates Guilford by 2+ decades...B&M had to shed all that stuff in their various bankruptcy reorgs and the '76 amnesty line sale to the state.
But that's what happens when you try to mix a kitchen sink's worth of GIS data streams into one map without any one reliable source (like...the state's own property records) acting as filter or final arbiter on conflicting data. The MassDOT rail map is a complete mess because of those sourcing flaws. My favorite one is the "Privately owned" ROW paralleling the Mass Pike in Berkshire County. That was never a railroad...that was a short-lived and very steep trolley interurban in the middle of nowhere that went belly-up nearly 95 years ago and is now partially used by power lines. The whole map is polluted with stuff like this: ROW's gone for a full century, ROW's so obliterated they aren't even traceable in the wild today, and ROW's with ownership and easements completely reverted to private abutters and impossible to reassemble. Generally speaking, it it's not active or OOS...and not abandoned but in MassDOT green, MBTA purple, or DCR gray where the record-keeping is 100% up-to-date...you'll need second sources to verify the ownership status of any ROW on the state map. Including the ones that go by most-recent carrier (CSX red or PAR brown), since if the state didn't pick it up the current ownership is very difficult to verify. Actually...a few of them the state DID pick up decades ago and are still screwed up in the GIS data: Dedham Branch, East Boston Greenway, the active Franklin Industrial Track are MBTA-owned but still showing in CSX red...probably because some set of topo maps kept listing it as "Conrail" one too many times.