Wednesday, March 23, 2016

To Mattapan By PCC

Frank writes...

Last weekend my job took me to Boston, as it sometimes does.  This time I was able to fit in a little time to railfan the Mattapan-Ashmont High Speed Line, which is the only place in the country where you can ride an air-electric PCC in regular service.  The MBTA kept ten 1940s prewar-style PCC cars around to operate this line, which is kind of a shuttle between Ashmont, at the south end of the Red Line subway, and Mattapan a few miles away.  The route is all private right-of-way and there are several stations en route.

As I was on a Red Line train meeting the streetcar at Ashmont, the platform was pretty crowded and the car was standing room only.  But soon the railfan seat emptied and I snapped the meet above.  Service is quite frequent, with 5- to 8-minute headways most of the day, and I think 3-5 cars running at any given time.
Car 3268 was my ride for the outbound trip, shown here at the Mattapan terminal.  This car was built in Worcester, MA by Pullman-Standard in 1945.  It was rebuilt c2000 by the MBTA which is when it acquired that A/C hump on the roof.  But it also got repainted in old Boston Elevated Railway orange and cream at the same time, so I guess you take the good with the bad.
Car 3262 was sitting at Mattapan when I arrived.  This car was part of the same order as 3268.
There's a small yard and repair shop at Mattapan and the former held a couple of PCC cars that were obviously out-of-service and possibly being cannibalized for parts.  Car 3234, shown here, had apparently donated its front doors; 3265 had lost some windows and its track brakes.
For my inbound trip I was on 3262.  The interiors on these cars are mostly original, I suppose, except for the seats which were replaced some decades back with fiberglass versions (the two Boston PCC cars that IRM scrapped some 15 years ago had the same type of seats).  They're pretty minimal but I'm sure they keep maintenance costs down!
My motorman on the return trip was rather friendly and we carried on a conversation about the upcoming Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Boston.  Riding the Mattapan line was certainly a different sort of experience; I'm hoping to do it again when I go back but there is talk of scrapping the entire operation.
And I suppose I may as well include photos of some of the other Boston equipment I rode.  I didn't get a photo of the Red Line cars, but if you don't know what they look like, picture a shoebox painted white and red and you've pretty much got it.  The Blue Line uses very new equipment (above).  These recently supplanted the Hawker cars that were just arriving to replace the old 1920s "Doctor Zhivago cars" when my father was in Boston in the 1970s.  Note the pantographs, which are used in the outdoor section along the old Boston Revere Beach & Lynn.  This photo was taken in the old East Boston Tunnel section at Aquarium.
And the Orange Line still uses Hawker cars, similar to the old Blue Line cars (but significantly bigger), built around 1980.  The bodies of these cars are pretty wretched; the salt air has not been kind to them and they're noticeably rusting out.  I feel bad for Seashore, as I'm sure they'll have to get a set.  The Orange Line is what used to be the old Main Line Elevated, though not much of the original routing - and none of the original elevated structure - is still in use.

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