MBTA Commuter Rail (Operations, Keolis, & Short Term)

The EGE

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Windsor Gardens and Walpole - both are 1 track + 1 platform right now, so any double tracking will inherently require a rebuilt with accessibility. (Same with Plimptonville in the unlikely event it ever reopens.) Franklin is 1 track + 1 platform, but the double-track projects ends north of the station; Endicott and Islington are already on 2-track sections.

Walpole and Franklin are the #1 and #3 non-accessible stations for ridership, so it's likely that Franklin will get at least a mini-high tacked on to the project. (I don't think that section of the line is a freight clearance route, so it may require a full-high.) Franklin, Windsor Gardens, Islington, and Endicott would all not be difficult to add mini-highs or full highs. Walpole will be trickier because of the junction and the historic station building. Early plans for Foxboro service called for a full-high island to the east, which would allow Foxboro trains to stop there.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Windsor Gardens and Walpole - both are 1 track + 1 platform right now, so any double tracking will inherently require a rebuilt with accessibility. (Same with Plimptonville in the unlikely event it ever reopens.) Franklin is 1 track + 1 platform, but the double-track projects ends north of the station; Endicott and Islington are already on 2-track sections.

Walpole and Franklin are the #1 and #3 non-accessible stations for ridership, so it's likely that Franklin will get at least a mini-high tacked on to the project. (I don't think that section of the line is a freight clearance route, so it may require a full-high.) Franklin, Windsor Gardens, Islington, and Endicott would all not be difficult to add mini-highs or full highs. Walpole will be trickier because of the junction and the historic station building. Early plans for Foxboro service called for a full-high island to the east, which would allow Foxboro trains to stop there.
So long as Forge Park is the terminus, Franklin would be unconstrained as a single-track station even in a :30 Regional Rail frequency universe. They just need to get the dang thing raised like yesterday. When the current platform was wholesale-rebuilt in 1978, it was double-track for a brief period into the early 80's. Albeit with still only the one platform, and a track crossing required. But that being the end of the line until 1988 they never used the second track, and it was ripped back out a few years later when the current layover was built. It's not on the freight clearance route; that only goes Walpole Jct.-Readville Upper Jct.

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Foxboro already has a freight passing track of its mini-high, because any weekday night games have traditionally overlapped with CSX schedules for its Walpole-Middleboro-Braintree overnight local. That passer is now fully-interlocked and automated with the new signal system, so is ready-made for regular/all-day use. They should be just fine to raise the platform in-situ with whatever Kraft fun bux get put forth for amenities upgrades there for full-time service.

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Walpole is going to be a deadly difficult one to do, because not only is it nearly impossible to raise so close to the historic building, but there's only 375 ft. of platform space total before it pinches out of room by the east wye leg...not even enough to open doors on more than 3-1/2 coaches given that the locomotive must occupy some of the platform. The Foxboro wye also can't hold any more than a 350 ft. platform because of the driveway grade crossing right in the middle of it. The replacement quite likely can't go in the junction infield at all, because the M.A.B.-ratified design regs state that any platform shorter than 450 ft. functional minimums specced in the T's Commuter Rail Design Guide are subject to approval of a hardship waiver over the accessibility demerits of so few cars being able to open doors. Given the average train lengths on the Franklin main, that's not a waiver the M.A.B. is likely to give them. The whole works will have to relocate somewhere to the northeast, which means the station building is going to have to go disused. The replacement also has to have a freight passing track if it's placed anywhere out of the infield and placed anywhere that both Forge Park and Foxboro trains can both access, because the Plate F freight clearance route starts on the north wye and there'd be no way to slow-crawl the freights through a full-high with part of said freight train turning on its axles on the wye. The likeliest outcome that would work for all users is:
  • Place an 800 ft. 2-track center island platform north of the junction spanning a much-widened Elm St. overpass to a much-widened Spring Brook overpass; the ground in-between spans rounds up to 800 almost exactly.
  • Super-extend the north freight wye onto a paralleling 3rd track running the full length of the new station, with tie-in switch north of Spring Brook at the point where everything must mash temporarily down to single-track to pass through the 1870's tunnel under Route 1A.
  • Throw down a very quick crossover from the outbound side of the island platform tying into the Foxboro/south wye switch so both branches have total bidirectional access to the platform.
  • Extend the new platform track across the diamond, tying into the current double-tracking switch just south of the junction.
  • New down/under stair + elevator egress from the island platform to a widened Elm St., and an up-and-over egress to the Santander Bank parking lot on 1A from the Spring Brook extreme of the platform. Historic station building is given a new tenant.
Ugh...pricey. And Walpole is such an infuriatingly hard town to work with on the public input side. They're so extremely likely to shit all over anything/everything the state presents to them as possible solutioneering. So I expect that one to drag on and on and on and on for years. Main reason why it's malingered so long to-date as the highest-ridership non-accessible station and why the state is so loathe to even pitch concepts at the townies.

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The others shouldn't be any trouble, even with the need to do up high-and-wide freight passing configurations.
 

Arlington

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Will the new setup on the Worcester line be all “center express and side platform locals” — it looks like that’s the plan, but would any station get two islands or something?
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Will the new setup on the Worcester line be all “center express and side platform locals” — it looks like that’s the plan, but would any station get two islands or something?
Natick is going to have the passer on the outer (northerly) side because it's an island with top-down access. The 3 Wellesleys will probably all be center passers splitting between side platforms since that used to be the configuration here when it was all quad-track through 1965 and space exists for triple with modern-width side platforms. Though from the FCMB slides it looks like they're toying with different (unseen) configurations at Wellesley Square. The new crossover seems placed for switching passing sides for Natick's benefit.

Not included, but ripe for eventually doing, is a Framingham that adds a third platform track so the triple-track extends west. That would make the most sense, since Framingham is the least-common denominator for all services on the great layer cake. If the current outbound platform were raised and widened into an island you could easily snake the third track across the wye infield. That stop is no longer grouped under the high-and-wide freight clearance exemption, because CSX consented to wyeing everything around to get around it (note also that the east wye is ballasted for future DT infill, so they'll also be able to wye high-and-wides around even if future Fitchburg Secondary commuter rail implants an extra platform on that side). The only reason they wouldn't lump Framingham in with the rest of this project is that as a fully ADA-compliant stop it's not under the same pressure as the 6 consecutive non-accessibles east of West Natick. But I could easily see a rebuild of that stop to full-high spec and addition of the third track being a punchlist item for East-West/NNEIRI instead.
 

Highwayguy

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Any update on when the second track through Ballardvale is going to start work? Took the CR up to the Valley for the first time since I lived up that way and noticed that about two miles of the second main installed in 2016 is still sitting there unused on either side of the station due to the location of the crossovers. Was there really no operational benefit to extend the second track through Ballardvale prior to adding the second platform like at Andover ; especially since the Southern crossover is just short of Lowell junction where Pan Am comes in? Right now there's an effective two miles of single track shared between Pan Am, CR, and the Downeaster. Just 1500' of track through the station would give at least two tracks to work with on the entire shared section of the Haverhill line from the Wildcat to NH.
 
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stick n move

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-Moved from Chelsea infill projects thread

Ive wondered for a while but just never asked, why do they sometimes stagger the station platforms like they are here vs building them directly across from eachother? Sometimes the platforms are offset from eachother like they are here and other times like at newmarket or uphams corner theyre directly parallel.

I always figured it was so the engines sticking out past the cars line up with the opposite platform which leaves room so not to block a road crossing, but looking on apple maps at the framingham station the space is way longer than the length of an engine, its almost an entire train length. These new platforms are also staggered the opposite way from those platforms and the old chelsea platform went right to the edge of a road crossing anyways. Im stumped.
 

Brattle Loop

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Ive wondered for a while but just never asked, why do they sometimes stagger the station platforms like they are here vs building them directly across from eachother? Sometimes the platforms are offset from eachother like they are here and other times like at newmarket or uphams corner theyre directly parallel.

I always figured it was so the engines sticking out past the cars line up with the opposite platform which leaves room so not to block a road crossing, but looking on apple maps at the framingham station the space is way longer than the length of an engine, its almost an entire train length. These new platforms are also staggered the opposite way from those platforms and the old chelsea platform went right to the edge of a road crossing anyways. Im stumped.
Not sure about Chelsea, maybe it has something to do with the necessary distance to clear the crossing. Framingham, since it was mentioned, was built inside what looks like a wye, and the offset there looks to be a result of that.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Not sure about Chelsea, maybe it has something to do with the necessary distance to clear the crossing. Framingham, since it was mentioned, was built inside what looks like a wye, and the offset there looks to be a result of that.
No, the offset at Framingham is because of the old station building, whose support poles pinch out the required ADA width (and also prevent putting a full-high right in front of it). The inbound side is shifted almost exactly the length of the building+overhang.
 

Brattle Loop

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No, the offset at Framingham is because of the old station building, whose support poles pinch out the required ADA width (and also prevent putting a full-high right in front of it). The inbound side is shifted almost exactly the length of the building+overhang.
I stand corrected then. Any idea when the leg of the wye between the old station building and the current inbound platform was removed?
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I stand corrected then. Any idea when the leg of the wye between the old station building and the current inbound platform was removed?
Late-80's ('87???), though the grade crossing and some of the connecting rail remained in-place but disconnected until the mid-90's. The T was the last regular user of that secondary wye, as in the 1970's they relegated some of their last pull-only (i.e. no cab car for running in reverse) coaches on the southside to the Framingham Line and wyed the train across Route 135 in-between runs to change directions for the return trip. That practice lasted until about 1979-80 when the very last of the pre-WWII cars were finally retired and everything left on the roster was fully push-pull capable.
 

Riverside

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Late-80's ('87???), though the grade crossing and some of the connecting rail remained in-place but disconnected until the mid-90's. The T was the last regular user of that secondary wye, as in the 1970's they relegated some of their last pull-only (i.e. no cab car for running in reverse) coaches on the southside to the Framingham Line and wyed the train across Route 135 in-between runs to change directions for the return trip. That practice lasted until about 1979-80 when the very last of the pre-WWII cars were finally retired and everything left on the roster was fully push-pull capable.
Okay... now this has me super curious. Were there any other wyes that survived into the MBTA era that were used for regular service?
 

stick n move

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No, the offset at Framingham is because of the old station building, whose support poles pinch out the required ADA width (and also prevent putting a full-high right in front of it). The inbound side is shifted almost exactly the length of the building+overhang.
Do you know what is the purpose of the offset platforms at some stations and parallel ones at others?

Nothing is consistent, Concord goes right up to the street at both ends on one side and then the other side is staggered at both ends. Wtf?



Morton st is grade separated, so no road crossing to fit the engine in before. Still staggered


Talbot ave, grade separated, staggered by only a few feet.


Newmarket, grade separated, perfectly parallel.


Wellesley hills is reverse staggered and by a MASSIVE amount.


What is going on here?
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Okay... now this has me super curious. Were there any other wyes that survived into the MBTA era that were used for regular service?
The T did not inherit many pull-only coaches. 1960's and 1970's northside was all bi-directional Budd RDC's; southside was loco-hauled for Providence/Stoughton and Worcester/Framingham only, RDC's elsewhere. For the loco-hauled services stuff like Stoughton ran with GP9's that had rear control stands, and they just detached the loco and changed ends on the double-track pocket south of the station that's still there prior to end of track (where Stoughton freights change ends to this day), then ran loco in front but "butt-forward"on the return trip. Providence had its own expansive engine shop/yard. So did Worcester. So it was really only Framingham short-turns and that brief '74-80 period when Worcester had been truncated to Framingham but before the fleet went 100% push-pull.

NYNH&H did do wyeing at Needham Jct. in the pre-MBTA days. They'd terminate at Heights, then do a deadhead throwing it outright in "R" back to Junction...wye...then in "R" deadhead again back to Heights for the return trip. But Needham became the domain of RDC's after the closure of the Old Colony lines in '58 freed up the self-propelled equipment, so that was all you saw out there by the time the T first started subsidizing everything.


BTW...the only reason Framingham had two completely redundant wyes is because it was the domain of competing freight RR's as late as 1969: Boston & Albany, and Old Colony/NYNH&H. One wye set was B&A's primary use, one wye set was NYNH&H's primary use...and they cross-pollenated usage depending on who was returning from interchanging with the other's freight yard. So the Holliston Branch wye was only "redundant" for the 1970's decade...the same time the T found itself with a newly truncated passenger turn that needed to use it for a few years. For pretty much all of history until they stopped using it for good by the 80's, it had a territorial purpose.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Do you know what is the purpose of the offset platforms at some stations and parallel ones at others?
Any of a million different reasons. They try for paralleling symmetry when possible, but each and every station is situational about whether there's room, whether there's ops awkwardness to smooth over, whether the station has been sitting on the same footprint for 150 years and never has been symmetrical, and so on. There's no blanket explanations...you're going to have to take every offset example on the system as pure individual cases.
 

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Nothing is consistent, Concord goes right up to the street at both ends on one side and then the other side is staggered at both ends.
Almost everything about Concord--including its non-accessibility--predates the MBTA and every iteration (1976 and later) of the T's Commuter Rail Design Guide. It's grandfathered. Now...B&M would've had a staffed ticket office in the depot building through the 60's so they probably opted for berthing at the depot-side platform all times except when traffic meets made that physically impossible, which would explain why the depot side is so much longer. There's multiple track crossings here, so they may also have opened the doors to the depot side and made everyone cross the tracks some of the time. Ease of accessibility was not exactly a factor in private-era ops.

Morton st is grade separated, so no road crossing to fit the engine in before. Still staggered
Morton was a renovated station that had to stay in-service while it was being renovated. The 1979 low platforms here were fully symmetrical (see Historic Aerials). You'd have to go deep-diving on Web Archive for any public meeting docs about the construction staging for the 2005-07 reconstruction, but I'm guessing that one side was easier to do half-and-half construction than the other while keeping a small rump of the old low platform in-service, and what you see today is just the scalpel scars from when it was mid-transition.

The Design Guide doesn't say it has to be symmetrical. When you've got independent side platforms with wholly independent egresses, there's absolutely nothing rooted in any accessibility reason that says they have to strive for perfect feng sui on an aerial view. It's not a usability detriment, and with 800 linear feet each there are many places you could stand and not even be able to see where the platform ends so isn't even a feng sui feels that would be at all noticeable on the ground. Symmetry only kinda-sorta matters in the sense that it usually minimizes the property acquisition cost scope for new construction. Other than that, it's not a big design driver in the slightest.
 

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Talbot ave, grade separated, staggered by only a few feet.
Probably has something to do with the signal heads for the crossover immediately north. If an inbound train were running loco-forward (it can happen every once in a blue moon if equipment rotations get screwed up), the engineer would have to crane neck upward to see if he/she had a green from the loco stopping spot. I doubt something this subtle would even show up on a Web Archive doc dump, but given. . .
Newmarket, grade separated, perfectly parallel.
. . .and is absolutely nowhere near any crossovers or sightlines of the signals protecting crossovers, I'm willing to wager crossover/signal placement is why Talbot is the way it is and Newmarket ain't.

Wellesley hills is reverse staggered and by a MASSIVE amount.

What is going on here?
Another way pre-MBTA era job. Boston & Albany did those platforms whenever it ripped out Tracks 3 & 4 at the dawn of the 1960's...no Design Guide to be had back then. Historic Aerials is fuzzy as hell, but it looks like the old platforms may have been symmetrical to the current outbound one (with the depot building centered rather than at the end)...and somebody saw a net gain of +30 parking spaces by cannibalizing some of the inbound side on the south end then hyper-extending it on the north end.



I mean, we can go case-by-case like this all day and find such little of-their-time wrinkles just for kicks. But what exactly is so objectionable about Commuter Rail platforms that aren't perfectly symmetrical on an aerial view no actual users of said stops will ever look at while using those stops? This is OCD-level feng sui feels, not an accessibility demerit.
 
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stick n move

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Any of a million different reasons. They try for paralleling symmetry when possible, but each and every station is situational about whether there's room, whether there's ops awkwardness to smooth over, whether the station has been sitting on the same footprint for 150 years and never has been symmetrical, and so on. There's no blanket explanations...you're going to have to take every offset example on the system as pure individual cases.
Gotcha, that definitely makes the most sense. Just something I had wondered about forever and seeing it again on the brand new chelsea station just threw me in an ocd loop.
 

Java King

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I apologize if this was posted earlier. What surprised and delighted me in the article was the addition of two platforms for EACH of the 3 Newton Stations.

I didn't realize that Newton had successfully negotiated that improvement. It's HUGE and seems like it would involve some major bridge work on the bridges near the stations over the Mass Pike. Am I the only one that is just hearing about this now? I used to live near Harvard Avenue in Newtonville, and always thought the train schedules were pretty much worthless because so many trains didn't stop at Newtonville.


"They had more good news regarding Newton’s three commuter rail stations in Auburndale, West Newton and Newtonville. A 30% design for all three commuter rail stations will be ready for a public meeting this fall, likely in September. Tesler and Poftak also committed to further funding for the 100% design. The design includes making all three stations fully accessible and building dual, 800-foot platforms to allow for more frequent, all day, bi-directional service and an eventual transition to electric trains. We still have a long way to go (nailing down the funding for the construction and living through the years of work) but it’s exciting to have this “green light.” Thank you MassDOT and MBTA."
 

stick n move

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Awesome news! “The project is expected to take four years to design and five years to build at a cost of about $400 million. Construction funds have not been secured yet.” 9 years? I know this stuff takes a while, but maan thats a long time.
 

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