• Woburn Loop Remains

  • 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 B&Mguy
I went searching in Woburn today for remains of the former branch line that closed in the early 1980s, and was disappointed to discover that very few traces of it remain. Where was the station located? Do any parts of the ROW still exist?

  by TomNelligan
At the end of service in 1981, the Woburn station was a just a crude shelter (cinderblock, as I recall) at the end of the stub track near the corner of Main Street and Prospect Avenue.

  by eriemike
The original station was a rather ornate brick building with a small tower and it was located right where the district court is located today. I have never seen the depot as it was gone long before I was born, but there are plenty of pictures of it. The station at Anderson Regional Transportation Center has some architectual features that, I guess, are supposed to remind you of the original one.

Portions of the Woburn Loop ROW still exist. In fact a large portion of it follows the Middlesex Canal. A good reference point to start is if you go to Central Square in Woburn and go down Wyman Street. As soon as you pass the Square you will see the ROW and the Canal. On the right is a fairly newer looking private home (probably built within the past 30 or 35 years). This was the location of the Central Square Depot. If you look to your left from Wyman St., you can walk the ROW back towards Woburn Center. The Canal will be on your right.

You can barely make out the ROW also from Winn St. If you are heading from Woburn Square down Winn St. towards Burlington, and not far after you pass Lannan Chevrolet, you will see it. It crossed Winn St. at a pretty sharp angle and is more prevelant on your right. As I recall there is also a Gibbs Gas Station (might be under another name now) next to the ROW. As I also recall, that portion of the ROW had a lot of brush on it, but if you know the signs of a ROW, then you will see it.

On the end of the Woburn Loop that lasted until 1981, a good portion of that ROW has been obliterated. There once was a bridge by Andea's Pizza, but it was taken out and was replaced by fill. At the Stop & Shop in Winchester there was another steel bridge (it was next to the main line bridge that is still there) that was taken out along with the fill. In fact there was an addition to the Stop & Shop that is now on the Woburn Loop ROW. This was the point where it connected with the Main Line.

As a kid (around 5 years old), my Mom, brother, and myself would take the Budd cars from that cinder block "depot" from the end of the line and go into Boston every so often. This was around 1973 and I remember how ratty those Budd cars were at that time. I remember very clearly all the grade crossings in Woburn and going by that round apartment building that is in Winchester.

Anyways, hope this all helps :-D

  by B&Mguy
Thanks for that info. I'll have to go back and explore more thoroughly sometime soon. It was just supirsed at how little remained of a railroad that's only been abandoned for about 25 years. Altough land in Woburn seems kind of scarce, so developers were probably quick to buy it up after abandonment. At the location of the old Cross Street stop, you can see where the ROW went to the north, but the southern end is now condos. Did the stations on this line have the purple MBTA commuter rail signs?

  by l008com
Both ENDs of the loop are actually still in service. Behind the mentioned stop & shop, there is still a very short siding that they sometimes will park MoW stuff on. Its a very short siding but I have seen it in use. And the other end, the loops is still in use as a spur to the cement plant near the woburn/wilmington border. If you go to Eames St in wilmington, you'll cross teh doubletrack of the loop. Most of the loop in woburn is intact, its just very hidden. And you have to watch out for toxic waste. Seriously. Winchester has tried very hard to obliterate their section of the loop. Only a few piece of it are even recognizable. I don't know when trains stopped running all the way through, but I still can't figure out exactly where the tracks crossed through woburn square to continue towards north woburn. Awww well.

  by eriemike
I was recently told that the Woburn Loop went under Route 128. It actually shared a part of the inbound (to Woburn Square) underpass rotary with Route 38/Main St. Of course they widened that part of the underpass to better accomadate the road after the Loop went out. It follows the Middlesex Canal at this point as well. I was told that there were metal plates on the ceiling of the bridge (again heading inbound they would be on your right) to deflect the smoke of a steam locomotive. I don't know if they are still there or not, but I'm sure they were there during the day. Interesting little tidbit.

  by eriemike
l008com wrote:I don't know when trains stopped running all the way through, but I still can't figure out exactly where the tracks crossed through woburn square to continue towards north woburn. Awww well.
McGinnis had the Woburn Loop closed from Woburn Square north in June 1959. The rest of the Loop was closed in 1981. If you know where the MBTA had their commuter run dead end until 1981, you can follow the ROW across Main St. Once it crosses Main St., there is a gas station to your right and a building that angles parallel with the ROW to your left. It then will continue through the parking lot and a portion of the District Court House building. This was where the orginal depot was located and it was right behind City Hall.

It then went across Lexington St. (is that the correct name?) and ran parallel to Winn St. It then crossed Winn St. (see my previous post.) I think once you cross Lexington St., the ROW does get very hard to find as the topography has changed.

Hope this helps.

On another note the Woburn Loop was double tracked its entire length and had very heavy passenger usage during the 1940's and early 1950's. :wink:

  by eriemike
I happened to be over in Woburn this afternoon and wanted to confirm what I stated in the above post. After the ROW crosses Lexington St. it continues along the far end of the playing field. The ROW is now a parking lot and the topography has been greatly altered. There is a big granite wall along the edge of that parking lot. This wall has a railroad look to it and appears to have been there since the "dawn of time." The other side of this wall is Lannan Chevrolet. The ROW then crosses Harrison St. and then becomes an access road way to the Woburn Police Dept. From there it curves towards the right and then crosses Winn St.

Hope that this helps.
Within the past couple of years I have hiked the Woburn Loop row from Middlesex Canal Park Road (near intersection of Main Street and Rt 128) to Woburn Center. It is in pretty good shape and provides a good view of the remains of the canal too. Also, I have explored much of the row going in the other direction to Wilmington. It is obliverated in some places but much of it is still in tact. It goes as far as Eames Street in Wilmington where the tracks are still in place and in use.

I remember when I was a kid the loop was still active. The tracks ran under the Rt 128 overpass adjacent to a Gulf Service Station which was located near where the Baldwin House is currently. I recall seeing steam power on the loop until around 1957 then the B&M switched over to Budd RDCs. I am pretty sure that I saw the last freight pass through Central Square heading towards Winchester in 1959. We used to have to stop and the crossing to get to and from the Wyman School so we had a good viewing location. After that I remember the line terminating at the Woburn train station which is where the court house is now by the library. Shortly after that they knocked the station down and turned it into a parking lot, moving the terminus across Rt 38. This allowed them to remove the crossing gates and hut where the tracks used to cross Rt. 38. Incidentally they put the new terminus roughly where the Woburn Yard used to be.

I can find much of where the row from Woburn Center to Winchester, but unless you knew where it ran I think you'd have a hard time seeing it. All of the cuts and bridges have been filled in and portions of the row have been built over.
  by bigbronco85
After browsing the website Historic Aerials, (http://www.historicaerials.com/) it's apparent that before 128 was widened in the late 50s/early 60s, the Route 38 Rotary was a smaller cloverleaf, and Route 38 itself only used one bridge to pass under 128, and that is basically the east side bridge on the current rotary. If you are heading south on 38 and enter the rotary, the west underpass that you use is the old Woburn Loop underpass where it went under 128. I have not looked to see if there are steel plates there still in place.

Another funny thing is that the Baldwin House (there is a chinese restaurant in there), is sitting ON the old ROW itself. The parking lot is just to the east of the ROW. I'd been to that place before and had no idea that's where the railroad went. There is a small wooded area just behind the restaurant that indicated where the trackage was.
  by bobshoring
Thank you, "The EGE," for posting the links to your map and the other two. They track with what I remember when, as a kid, I was living in the area in the 1950's. Looking at your map plus Google Earth, it appears to me that part of the court house is literally right on the right of way. Living in Stoneham and having family in Lexington, our family drove across the loop on Pleasant Street thousands of times in the 50's and if we went into Boston, we either boarded at the Woburn Center station or at Winchester. In the 50's that station was quite busy even on Saturdays and it was a very busy, double tracked line. Seems to me the loop was well maintained at the time and was also a great alternate route for the B&M. Usually we boarded Budd RDC's, but occasionally heavyweight coaches pulled by diesels. My earliest memories were of steam trains on the line in the early 50's. But steam was not unusual then. I saw steam on the Lexington and Stoneham branches.

I know B&M discontinued passenger service north of Woburn station in mid 1959. However I think the infrastructure was still intact when we moved out of state in Feb. 1960. Later on visits to the area, I did notice the Pleasant Street crossing gates were gone and that the line terminated at the Woburn Center Station. That lasted for a short while. Then on a later trip I had to get to Boston in 1967 and was dismayed to find that the old station was gone and so were the tracks. After some asking for directions I found the relocated station just east of Main Street. At that time a heated waiting room was offered in some sort of office. I thought it might have been a B&M freight office. There were a few benches in there and a radio was playing popular songs. When the train was ready, it was just one or two RDC's and not that busy, but it was a midday run. I do remember being surprised, though, at how much service was still going up to Woburn at that time. Then there were only two stations on the loop -- Woburn and Cross Street.

I have also seen photographs of a Woburn Highlands station. I can only guess it was between Woburn and Cross Street, but I don't recall ever stopping there.

This thread brings back great memories!
  by The EGE
Woburn Highlands was between Woburn and Cross Street, as you exected, about at Fowle Street.
  by l008com
I was just sitting here thinking. Even though the north half of the loop was killed decades before the south half, the south half is so obliterated that it would be significantly easier getting back to woburn from the north instead of form the south. The ROW seems to be mostly intact from the north, just long since scraped clean. Compared to the south where winchester just annihilated the thing. Not that it will ever happen anyway, just a thought.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
Why did the T sell the ROW outright instead of holding it under landbanking? That's really weird considering it was active until 31 years years ago. They slapped nearly every little extant ROW they got in those 1973 and 1976 PC and B&M asset purchases under landbanking, including fragments far more gone than this one. From the asset purchase listings on NETransit, the Woburn Branch and the Marlborough Branch are the only two that came in those sales that are no longer under state/MBTA ownership on the state rail map.