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Old 11-20-2012, 10:12 PM   #1
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Crumblin' Shithole

In the latest episode of America: Crumblin' Shithole... the rail bridge under the BU bridge is in such bad shape that freight trains are now (hopefully very briefly) barred from crossing it. CSX was presumably unable to deliver produce to Chelsea yesterday or today (unless they went from Worcester to Ayer, and then down the Fitchburg Line... doubtful...). There are also limits such as not being able to cross with two locomotives hooked up together, and you may not cross at or over 5 MPH. Fantastic.
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:20 PM   #2
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

That's a potential crisis for the MBTA commuter rail. They depend on that bridge for maintenance moves. They often go with two locomotives together too.

Hmm, when Worcester North Station was being proposed, I asked around on the boards if that Grand Junction bridge was going to be an issue, and someone said it was just fine. Guess not.
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:54 AM   #3
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It should be replaced with a two track bridge that curves slightly more than the existing rail bridge where it crosses Soldiers Field Road, so that the two tracks can continue under the Turnpike viaduct.

They can spend $15 billion on the Big Dig, but cannot fund essential links in the rail system? Welcome to Massachusetts.
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Old 11-21-2012, 06:13 AM   #4
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

The current bridge has two tracks, but only one is in use.
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:10 AM   #5
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

You would think they'd inspect that thing before forking $100M over to CSX, but apparently not. These people probably buy a house on spec without having the building inspector look at it, and then are SHOCKED when the ceiling caves in.


From what I understand short-term repairs should have all restrictions lifted within days to at most 1-2 weeks. The T and Amtrak are not restricted from making all normal equipment moves. They just can't lash up two locomotives to the same equipment consist without sandwiching a 'spacer' coach between them. Freight is banned until further notice, so the produce deliveries from Everett terminal are disrupted.

CSX has been rumored all year to be itching to sell the Everett job to Pan Am so it can get out of running anything east of Framingham. It's not a particularly lucrative job for them, and they'd rather do container freight out of Marine Industrial Park and Readville than take odds-and-sods from Everett (where Pan Am has more of the business) all the way back to Framingham. This will get them expediting whatever negotiations may or may not be taking place with Pan Am. And will also put pressure on Houghton Chemical--which is staying behind after Beacon Park closes because its siding is off the Storrow engine house yard that isn't being ripped up yet--to relocate to the 'burbs like Beacon's other tenant, Romar Transportation, is doing (they're leaving town for Hopedale in a few months to be served by Grafton & Upton RR). I'd put money on whatever maneuvers are/were in play to dump Everett and make HC a relocation offer it can't refuse have now gone into overdrive and that we'll probably have seen the last Worcester Line freight inside 128 by sometime middle of next year.


The bridge will have to be rehabbed for any revenue passenger service going >10 MPH, but we're not talking major rebuild. With the junction right there there isn't enough acceleration room to go more than 30-35 over it. Thanks to the BU and MIT kids it's got so many coats of paint on it the deck is virtually rust-free and the above-water portions of the pilings hermetically sealed, so it's probably the joints that need the most work. You wouldn't be talking more than $1M or so in decking work, especially if there's no longer a need for regular freights to cross it.
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:36 PM   #6
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

Update: no rail traffic whatsoever as of 3PM today. Condition deemed even worse. This ban now including MBTA and Amtrak and any locomotives period.

No wonder CSX sold it!
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:15 AM   #7
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

So Boston no longer holds the distinction of being the only place where a plane can pass over a car that is passing over a train that is passing over a boat?
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:59 AM   #8
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

Where is this bridge located?
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Old 11-22-2012, 09:36 AM   #9
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

Exactly where the original post says it is.
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:34 PM   #10
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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The current bridge has two tracks, but only one is in use.
Functionally it does not have room for two tracks, thanks to the intrusion of the Mass Pike. Originally designed as a two track bridge, the construction of the Mass Pike made it geometrically impossible to use the full width of the rail bridge. Currently the single track has to change from the east side of the railroad bridge to the west side to have the proper radius to fit under the Turnpike viaduct.

All I was saying in my post above is that when/if a new two track rail bridge is built, it needs to have a sharper radius curve where it crosses Soldiers Field Road so that the two tracks can again extend all the way under the Turnpike viaduct into Beacon Yard.
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Old 11-22-2012, 09:18 PM   #11
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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Functionally it does not have room for two tracks, thanks to the intrusion of the Mass Pike. Originally designed as a two track bridge, the construction of the Mass Pike made it geometrically impossible to use the full width of the rail bridge. Currently the single track has to change from the east side of the railroad bridge to the west side to have the proper radius to fit under the Turnpike viaduct.

All I was saying in my post above is that when/if a new two track rail bridge is built, it needs to have a sharper radius curve where it crosses Soldiers Field Road so that the two tracks can again extend all the way under the Turnpike viaduct into Beacon Yard.
Why? Beacon Yard's been deactivated as far as I'm aware. There's functionally no reason why the Grand Junction needs to connect to it, now or ever again.

If anything is done other than an emergency patch-up, it should be flipping the curve in the opposite direction, so that South Station to North Station doesn't require a reverse move.

(I'd accept a wye, as well.)
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Old 11-22-2012, 09:21 PM   #12
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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Why? Beacon Yard's been deactivated as far as I'm aware. There's functionally no reason why the Grand Junction needs to connect to it, now or ever again.

If anything is done other than an emergency patch-up, it should be flipping the curve in the opposite direction, so that South Station to North Station doesn't require a reverse move.

(I'd accept a wye, as well.)
It doesn't require a reverse move as it is. There is a loop. The only time there is a reverse move is going from the yard or from west of the yard, onto the Grand Junction. (Yeah, it is weird)
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Old 11-22-2012, 11:13 PM   #13
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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They can spend $15 billion on the Big Dig, but cannot fund essential links in the rail system? Welcome to Massachusetts.

Why would you want to maintain old stuff when you can take credit for building new stuff?
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:39 AM   #14
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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Why? Beacon Yard's been deactivated as far as I'm aware. There's functionally no reason why the Grand Junction needs to connect to it, now or ever again.

If anything is done other than an emergency patch-up, it should be flipping the curve in the opposite direction, so that South Station to North Station doesn't require a reverse move.

(I'd accept a wye, as well.)
It's not deactivated yet. Main yard is still open for freight and end date is currently projected for 2/1/2013. Engine house will be open a few hours a day to refuel CSX locos and do light repairs at least until summer if not later because they still need to install a replacement fuel station in Metro West. And Houghton Chemical's siding next to the engine house will remain active for weekly deliveries until somebody pays them to relocate; their contract prohibits CSX from dropping freight service to them so long as they're guaranteeing CSX a steady number of carloads.

CSX will come in next spring and start dismantling the main yard and the Romar Transportation siding that snakes under the Pike ramps to the Genzyme side of Cambridge St. They're responsible for hauling away all yard trackage and ties (they always recycle the scrap internally), demolishing the blue yard office that abuts the Pike and a few other squat buildings, demolishing the light towers, dismantling the transload ramps, and stitching the lead tracks from the west back together to the Pike viaduct minus the dozens of removed yard switches.

The T then comes in and revamps 1 of the lead tracks into the 2nd Worcester Line mainline track and takes over the dispatching there. That's supposed to be immediate...next Spring. Then they're responsible for eventually dismantling the engine house yard which forks off under the Viaduct separate from the main yard. I doubt you will see that happen for many many years because that's the very last parcel Harvard will be building on, and there's no money to tear down and environmentally mitigate that site. That's why I think the T and Amtrak should just move into the yard and take out a 10-year lease from Harvard to ease the southside storage crunch and rent itself a cheapo refueling facility until they've got real money to expand Readville. It's either that or watch it rot from Storrow into an abandoned Superfund eyesore. Presumably at some point they'll work over the switches underneath the viaduct to make the Grand Junction switchable on a straight regular-speed shot off the main instead of meandering through a bunch of engine yard switches, but they don't have to care until they need it for revenue service.


A wye to the GJ is not possible: http://goo.gl/maps/wBAxC. The lines converge under the Viaduct at way too sharp an angle, with the GJ approaching from an incline and the main approaching from a cut, and that little Pike service road duck-under in the mix. The loop is a shitty way to turn trains because it's at yard limit speeds (5 MPH) and ends up being no faster than an outright reverse. So basically, every time somebody's proposed studying a NS-SS shuttle it belly-flops at the required reverse move.

To be fair, this wasn't for lack of foresight on anyone's part. The Pike extension was designed and built when Boston & Albany was still a (fully-solvent) Boston & Albany. The NYNH&H that owned the rest of the southside and Old Colony never had access to it; they used the far shittier street-running Union Freight line on Atlantic Ave. (which lasted intact into the early 60's) to reach B&M inside town. So there was never potential of an NEC or South Station-originating train from the ex-NH trackage ever needing to use the GJ. That is totally an MBTA/Amtrak ownership (post-1973) era dilemma.

Nothing preventing the bridge from being double-tracked if needed. The junction would be singled, but it can fork into double 500 feet after the junction by the Storrow overpass and meet up with the existing 2-track siding from Waverly St. to Mass Ave. I don't think it's ever going to need it as a RR line, though. Even with Amtrak Inland or Worcester-North revenue service the frequencies are never going to be high enough across such a short branch to require anything more than that existing MIT passing siding. The second berth only matters if it's Urban Ring-ed someday.
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Old 11-23-2012, 10:43 AM   #15
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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It doesn't require a reverse move as it is. There is a loop. The only time there is a reverse move is going from the yard or from west of the yard, onto the Grand Junction. (Yeah, it is weird)
That's... bizarre. From where I'm looking at it, it seems like the opposite is true.

Is there an actual track map somewhere?

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Nothing preventing the bridge from being double-tracked if needed. The junction would be singled, but it can fork into double 500 feet after the junction by the Storrow overpass and meet up with the existing 2-track siding from Waverly St. to Mass Ave. I don't think it's ever going to need it as a RR line, though. Even with Amtrak Inland or Worcester-North revenue service the frequencies are never going to be high enough across such a short branch to require anything more than that existing MIT passing siding. The second berth only matters if it's Urban Ring-ed someday.
Does Worcester to North Station even really need the Grand Junction?

Why isn't Worcester-Fitchburg-North Station possible?
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:36 PM   #16
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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That's... bizarre. From where I'm looking at it, it seems like the opposite is true.

Is there an actual track map somewhere?
Sort of: http://www.dbperry.net/mbtacommuterrailnetwork.pdf. From 1993, very crude, and doesn't give a lot of detail of the Beacon Park area.

The loop is only used for turning CSX locos and for fueling. The Amtrak/MBCR equipment swaps reverse direction under the viaduct. Tight loops are a higher derailment risk (albeit at ultra-slow speed), especially when going through a dozen manual-throw yard switches to reach one. So it's simpler to just change ends on a siding. This is why using that loop for revenue service wouldn't be a swell idea even if the track got upgraded...if it can't be widened and if there's probability of a couple negligible derailments per year on the crawl around such a tight loop that's an equal number of probable PR hits per year where a train full of irate passengers have to board shuttle buses underneath the dank, noisy, smelly viaduct. Not worth the hassle.

It's way too narrow to shiv in a wye. By the time the GJ inclines down to grade it's roughly at the NW corner of the BU Fine Arts building and only separated from the Worcester Line by the literal width of the viaduct. The turning radius of a wye spanning 8 car lanes would be too narrow for a commuter rail coach and a bigger crawl-speed derailment risk than the loop. The geometry's not just tight...it's tighter than Amtrak's and the T's car design margin.



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Does Worcester to North Station even really need the Grand Junction?

Why isn't Worcester-Fitchburg-North Station possible?
The Pan Am Worcester Branch goes to Ayer, not Fitchburg...so you have to take the west leg of the Ayer wye, go 10 miles out of the way to Fitchburg, and reverse. Worcester Branch is also incredibly twisty track because of the hills it weaves around, and currently unsignaled and 10 MPH its whole length because Pan Am can barely be arsed to maintain it. Any other route such as the Worcester Branch to Clinton, then Fitchburg Secondary fromn Clinton-Fitchburg (with restored track from downtown Leominster to Fitchburg) requires 2 reverses because the cemetery in Clinton makes that former junction NB-->EB / WB-->SB only. Yes, the T's got perpetual trackage rights on the Worcester Branch. No, they didn't acquire those rights because they intend to use it for anything other than equipment swaps. Its future utility is Worcester-hub commuter rail mid-century, not some godawful scenic route through small Worcester County towns that takes an extra 40 minutes of twists and turns to get to town. That will never ever ever be part of a Boston one-seat commuter rail route.


Grand Junction is the only logical one. No question at all. Just keep in mind that Cambridge's bitching about it is because the state started flapping its gums about service before even describing what basic grade crossing, vibration, and other mitigation it would entail on just the vanilla upgrade from Class 1 to Class 3 quality track. Tim Murray was merely being an insensitive clod the way he pitched it, and got what was coming to him resistance-wise. Put quadrant gates on Mass Ave. wired to the adjoining traffic signals and the queues will clear in 2 minutes flat. It's a low degree of difficulty problem to solve for the relatively light-volume 10-per-day frequencies they envision. Just because the GJ's crossings include Broadway, Main, and "MASS AVE." in bright lights doesn't mean they're particularly challenging ones to traffic engineer. I only think you need outright crossing elimination if it's DMU frequencies. So, shucks, if the Worcester Line gets "Fairmounted" it'll have to be the BBY/SS flank only with the GJ getting the lower frequency Worcesters and Regionals. I don't think anybody's going to find that an unacceptable compromise. World-class everywhere-to-everywhere service are what the N-S Link and Urban Ring Phase II are for.


For what it's worth there was a N-S spanning intercity train that lasted till the late-50's: the State of Maine, a joint NYNH&H and B&M train that ran NYC-Portland. Originally NEC to New London-->P&W main to Worcester-->Worcester Branch + Stony Brook Branch to Lowell-->Lowell Jct. and Western Route...then got re-routed New Haven-->Springfield-->Worcester-->Lowell. NNEPRA is already talking big things about "Downeaster Regional" runs out of NYC as an advocacy point. And the way they're pitching it is using the GJ to bootstrap a DE onto an Inland Regional after the Springfield Line is finished with its 110 MPH upgrade, the B&A goes full 80 MPH, and the slow-ass Haverhill-south portion of the DE gets full 80 MPH. Re-crew and change ends at North Station, but keep one timetable for 1-2 runs per day. Certainly a more immediately reachable goal than trying to re-create the old State of Maine route on crap freight track. It's multi-stakeholder stuff like this that the state should be waiting for before talking big game about Worcester to NS. The route's arguably just as valuable to Amtrak, and if some regional authority 2 states away is licking its chops at it too shouldn't we be waiting for the national players to be ready with their funding contributions first?
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Old 11-23-2012, 03:03 PM   #17
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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Just because the GJ's crossings include Broadway, Main, and "MASS AVE." in bright lights doesn't mean they're particularly challenging ones to traffic engineer. I only think you need outright crossing elimination if it's DMU frequencies.
How difficult would it be to grade separate the line? I know its filled land so that might lead to water issues, but it appears there is enough room for acceptable grades on each end, although Cambridge St would most likely have to remain a grade crossing. It goes through what is quickly becoming a downtown area of Cambridge with a perpetually increasing amount of pedestrians. At-grade railroads in a downtown area just feels... outdated. Also if it was grade separated I could see a 4-6 track station in that wide swath of nothing by Broadway as well, allowing for a Back Bay station equivalent, complete with a transfer to the Red Line.

If the Downeaster was extended to NYC via Springfield it would allow for a connection to three of four subway lines, and a faster one seat transfer from the North to South side. If it was grade separated with a Kendall station I would argue for all Worcester and Springfield trains to go there, with the same transfer options as the southside I don't think anyone would mind.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:17 PM   #18
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

If MIT and others hadn't been granted air rights which were developed in the last 10 years this line could have been elevated to avoid the grade crossing issues. The at grade route could have been converted into a bus, light rail, or MUP route underneath the elevated railway.

If MIT and the biotech companies would kindly pay for a tunnel through the developed part of central Cambridge, then this proposal could still be possible with a combination of elevated and subterranean sections.

Sadly I don't think this will ever happen unless Beacon Hill can be convinced this presents a sufficient opportunity for graft.
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Old 11-26-2012, 09:48 AM   #19
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

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How difficult would it be to grade separate the line? I know its filled land so that might lead to water issues, but it appears there is enough room for acceptable grades on each end, although Cambridge St would most likely have to remain a grade crossing. It goes through what is quickly becoming a downtown area of Cambridge with a perpetually increasing amount of pedestrians. At-grade railroads in a downtown area just feels... outdated. Also if it was grade separated I could see a 4-6 track station in that wide swath of nothing by Broadway as well, allowing for a Back Bay station equivalent, complete with a transfer to the Red Line.

If the Downeaster was extended to NYC via Springfield it would allow for a connection to three of four subway lines, and a faster one seat transfer from the North to South side. If it was grade separated with a Kendall station I would argue for all Worcester and Springfield trains to go there, with the same transfer options as the southside I don't think anyone would mind.
Like I said, probably traffic levels over it as a RR line don't really merit the grade separation when smart gates tied to the adjacent traffic signals clear out the queues plenty well enough. The existing MBCR grade crossings at West Medford, Framingham center, and Everett Ave. + Eastern Ave. Chelsea are all worse than than anything on the GJ in terms of queue management. Plus RR separations are expensive with the incline length required to achieve 1-2% grades...so the embankment for a Mass Ave. overpass would have to start the second the line emerges out from under the air rights and end almost at Pacific St.

Separation of some of these crossings is something to shoot for when it's Urban Ring'ed for rapid transit and the headways drop from 30+ to 5-10 minutes. In which case a narrow-profile, steeper-grade rapid transit overpass ought to do the trick for Mass Ave. and Cambridge St. Would be virtually impossible to eliminate Main because of the MIT air rights overhead and the Red Line below, and Main + Broadway are both at intersections where the street signals align perfectly so you might not even need gates for a trolley there. Binney and Medford St. aren't high-traffic locations.
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Old 11-26-2012, 10:02 AM   #20
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Re: Crumblin' Shithole

http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/11...CZP/story.html

Bridge closed for 2 weeks. Inspection found some crossbeams have shifted, so they're replacing 7 of 44 beams.

First north-south equipment swap via the "scenic" route Ayer-Worcester happened Saturday and will run 2-3 times a week: http://imagestorage.greatrails.net/p...8003629837.jpg. Until the bridge is back P&W in Worcester will be doing light southside loco repair; BET in Somerville will be servicing all Downeaster trainsets; Readville is doing all southside coach light maint; and Pan Am is pinch-hitting for CSX on the Everett produce train.
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