MBTA Green Line

From nycsubway.org


MBTA Green line LRV on line C at Beacon & Tappan. Photo by Richard Panse, October 2004.

Green Line Subway

We will begin our look at the Green Line at Lechmere at the end of the line, just northwest of downtown Boston in eastern Cambridge. Lechmere is a surface stop, consisting of a loop track that circles a small storage yard. Station platforms are on either side of the loop, on the outside perimeter. From Lechmere, the Green Line climbs an incline over a street and up to the Lechmere Viaduct dated 1912.

Crossing the Lechmere Viaduct, a long arched structure, takes the line southward, across the Charles River Dam, and past the Museum of Science. Science Park is at the end of the viaduct as the Green Line enters elevated trackage. The Science Park Station is two platforms on either side of the two tracks.

The elevated section takes the line over the city streets in the area of North Station, and is the last "EL" operated by the MBTA. The line takes a sharp turn east, to the North Station stop. Passengers can transfer to the Orange Line or commuter rail from this station. It is also the site of the old Boston Garden, now demolished. This entire area has seen some major changes recently as the Green Line is being moved to an underground tunnel from Haymarket to Science Park. This station was one of the more unique on the Green Line as it featured both an elevated station, and also a surface level platform on the street. Trains that would terminate at North Station would use the surface station, trains continuing on toward Lechmere use the upper level. Continuing, the Green Line turns sharply back to the south and descends an incline into the subway at Haymarket Portal. Now the track alignment got a little complicated. At the mouth of the portal is where the North Station surface tracks diverged from the elevated. The surface line heading north, stays at ground level, surrounded by the two inclines to the elevated portion. The surface line tucked underneath the elevated structure, and traveled a very short distance to the surface level North Station stop. This was once a turnback loop, but was trimmed back to a stub end track. This surface stop was closed in 1997 as part of the Green Line relocation project. The old inclines and Haymarket portals have been removed. The Green Line now uses a temporary incline to reach the elevated trackage, using a new portal constructed in the area once used by the old Orange Line El. This incline is on a lower level, of a double deck structure. The upper level is a temporary highway off ramp. The tracks swing west and connect to the old elevated structure.

More changes are in store for this area as the Green Line relocation project and Central Artery "Big Dig" highway project move ahead. The relocation project will move the Green Line into a subway as well as the highway. It will spell the end of service on the elevated structure around North Station. It is planned that the new Green Line subway will run beneath North Station, exiting out of a new portal to take the line to the Lechmere Viaduct. The new North Station stop will be a "superstation", featuring shared inbound platforms for Green Line and Orange Line trains.

The current subway portals were once shared with the Orange Line elevated to Charlestown. When the Green Line relocation is completed, the Haymarket Portals will be closed permanently.

Just after entering the subway, the original platforms of Haymarket station are visible along the outer sides. The current Haymarket station was relocated slightly and opened on May 10, 1971. This station has a low-level side platform on either side of the tracks. Passengers can transfer here to the MBTA Orange Line.

Plan of Haymarket Square Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Haymarket Square Station, South Bound Platform (looking North). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Stairway Building, Haymarket Square Station (looking North). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.

The next stop is Government Center. The original station at this location was known as Scollay Square and was rebuilt as part of the Government Center redevelopment. The current station reopened on October 28, 1963. The station is sort of shaped like a triangle, with the active tracks running along two sides, and a loop around the third. The loop track in the station can be used to turn trains back to Lechmere, but this is rarely done and the platform is disused. (Another loop track, northeast of the station, can be used to turn trains coming from Park Street.) The unusual shape of the station has to do with the City Hall building above, which required the northbound track to be relocated. A station in between Government Center and Haymarket, known as Adams Square, was closed and completely demolished during the Government Center construction. Green Line passengers can transfer here to the MBTA Blue Line operating on a lower level.

Plan of Scollay Square Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Cross Sections, Scollay Square Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Building over Stairway, Centre of Scollay Square (looking Northeasterly). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Building over Exit Stairway, Northerly end of Scollay Square (looking Southwesterly). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Southerly end of Platform for North Bound Cars, Scollay Square Station (looking North). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Platforms for Return Loop, Scollay Square Station - New Additional Platform on the Right (Looking North). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Platforms for Return Loop, Scollay Square Station - New Additional Platform on the Left (Looking South). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Escalator and Exit Stairway Coverings in Scollay Square, Looking Southerly Towards Entrance to Tremont Street Subway. Boston Transit Commission report, 1916.
Plan of Adams Square Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Stairway Building, Adams Square Station (looking Northeast). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
North Bound Platform, Adams Square Station (looking South). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.

The next station is the famous Park Street. This station has seen trolleys for over 100 years, as it is part of the original 1897 subway. Here the Green Line diverges into four tracks, two each direction. One track is actually built into the platform allowing people to cross the track. Street cars rumble through, clanging bells, and stopping at designated locations along the platforms. Each location represents a different destination on the Green Line. Passengers must be at the right place to board the right train. Destinations are also well displayed on the roll signs on each streetcar. Park Street also allows transfer to the MBTA Red Line on the lower level (leading to the famous Boston expression "change at Park Street Under").

Plan of Park Street Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Park Street Station, South Bound Platform (Looking South). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Park Street Station, South Bound Platform (Looking North). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.

Traveling onward, now heading southwestward, we ride through the 100 year old tunnel. The next stop is at Boylston, which has two platforms offset from each other. The southbound platform is an island, with trains operating on the "inner" track. (The outer track is used for emergency storage and formerly led to a duck-under and into the Tremont Street Subway). The northbound platform was an island at one time as well, with the outer track from Tremont Street and the inner track from Arlington. It is now a side platform. An entryway on the northbound platform to a nearby building is closed, as is a passageway connecting the northbound and southbound platforms. The Tremont Street tunnel is still largely intact to its portal at Tremont & Broadway, but has not been used since April 6, 1962. The portal was sealed and a park built in its location around 1975.

Bellmouth near Van Rensselaer Place, Tremont Street (looking North). Sept 27, 1897. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Bellmouths, Four Tracks, and Sub-Subway under Tremont Street, Near Hollis Street (looking South). Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.
Plan of Boylston Street Station. Boston Transit Commission report, 1898.

After leaving Boylston we take sharp turn westward and passes beneath the Back Bay area. Between here and the next station, remnants of two former tunnel portals ("inclines") can be seen, one leading to Charles St. and one to the Public Gardens. (These were closed 2/14/1941 and 9/6/1914 respectively). There is also provision for an extension to Post Office Square. The next stop, Arlington, has two side platforms across from each other. An exit to Berkeley Street is closed, as is a passageway leading to the Public Gardens side of the corner of Arlington & Boylston Streets.

Copley station is next, also two side platforms, is next. Just past the Copley station, the E-Arborway branch subway splits off of the central tunnel, at grade, and heads southwest. See below for the continuation of the E-Arborway route to Prudential and Symphony stations.

Continuing west in the Boylston Street tunnel, the next stop is at Hynes/ICA (formerly Auditorium). An exit, closed in the late 90s, at the east end of the inbound platform leads to a disused street entrance about a half-block north of Massachusetts Avenue along Boylston Street.

The final station in the Boylston Street tunnel is Kenmore. Kenmore station has four tracks and two island platforms. Trains from the B-Boston College branch use the inner tracks, and trains from the C-Cleveland Circle and D-Riverside branches use the outer tracks. Inbound trains from the C and D branches can either merge into the Boylston Street main line or use a loop to re-enter Kenmore Station on the outbound side. Departing Kenmore, the B branch and the C/D branches use different portals and begin their runs on the surface.

The Arborway line split off of the central subway just past Copley station, with two more subway stops. The first is at Prudential, with two side platforms and a divider between the tracks to prevent crossing over. There is no fare control at this station; all fares are paid on-board the vehicles.

The next stop along the E-Arborway service is at Symphony, another side-platform station with a divider between the tracks. There is a disused crossunder passage between north and southbound platforms, which had been in use until circa 1962.

Lechmere, Science Park, New Green Line Portal/Viaduct, Canal Street/North Station (Lower Level), North Station (New Subway), North Station (Viaduct), Causeway St., Causeway St. & Lomasney Way, Lomasney Way, Haymarket, Government Center, Park Street, Boylston, Pleasant Street Portal, Arlington, Copley, Hynes/ICA (Auditorium), Kenmore, Prudential, Symphony

A-Watertown Branch

This branch ran split from the B branch at Packard's Corner and continued to Watertown Carhouse mostly by street running. The Watertown Branch was replaced by the MBTA 57 bus in 1969. Tracks remained mostly in place until the mid 1990s.

Brighton/Harvard, Brighton/Cambridge, Cambridge/Eleanor, Cambridge/St. Elizabeth Hospital, Union Square, Oak Square, Tremont/Ricker, Tremont/Marlboro, Tremont/Pembroke, Washington/Galen, Galen Street, Newton Corner, Watertown Yard, MBTA Green-A Watertown, Loc. Unknown

B-Boston College Branch

The Boston College line exits the subway just past the Kenmore station and heads west northwest through Brookline. It runs in a median in Commonwealth Ave., crossing numerous intersections at grade. Traffic signals govern automobile as well as train traffic at the grade crossings. A fence is between the two tracks most of the way to prevent people from jaywalking across the rails. Many small stops exist along the route, each one no more than a small platform with a shelter. About half way up the Boston College line, the line turns southwest. At this point the former Watertown branch used to split off. The Watertown line has not seen service for many years, and it is in the process of being removed. This line was one of the last street running transit routes in the Boston area.

Another mile or two brings the Boston College line to its terminus. Just before the Boston College stop, a set of tracks peels off to the south, linking to the Cleveland Circle and Riverside lines. This line is not used for regular service, but for moving cars between the branches. At Boston College a loop exists to turn cars back, surrounding a small storage yard.

Commonwealth Portal, Commonwealth & Blandford, Commonwealth & Cummington, Commonwealth & Hillside, Commonwealth & Granby, Commonwealth & Essex, Commonwealth & Amory, Commonwealth near Boston University, Boston University East, Boston University Central, Boston University West, Commonwealth & St. Paul, Commonwealth & Pleasant, Commonwealth & Babcock, Commonwealth & Alcorn, Commonwealth & Brighton/Packard's Corner, Commonwealth & St. Lukes, Commonwealth & Fordham, Commonwealth & Chester, Commonwealth & Linden, Commonwealth & Harvard, Commonwealth & Royce, Commonwealth & Griggs, Commonwealth & Redford, Commonwealth & Walbridge, Commonwealth & Allston, Commonwealth & Warren, Commonwealth & Commonwealth Terr., Commonwealth & Summit, Commonwealth & Melvin, Commonwealth & Washington, Commonwealth & Claymoss, Commonwealth & Mt. Hood, Commonwealth & Cummings, Commonwealth & Colborne, Commonwealth & Wilson Park, Commonwealth & Sutherland, Commonwealth & Leamington, Commonwealth & Wallingford, Commonwealth & Chiswick, Commonwealth & Strathmore, Commonwealth & Braemore, Commonwealth & Chestnut Hill, Commonwealth & South, Commonwealth & Wade, Commonwealth & Foster, Commonwealth & Greycliff, Commonwealth & Evergreen Cemetery, Commonwealth & Lake, Boston College, MBTA Green B-Boston College/Commonwealth, Loc. Unknown

C-Cleveland Circle Branch

The Cleveland Circle line also exits its subway portal just past Kenmore. This line runs down the median of Beacon Street, across intersections, like the Boston College line. This route is more scenic and is also one of the first trolley lines in Boston. It passes through Brookline and Newton Heights on its way westward. It also features many small stops along its route until terminating at Cleveland Circle. Past the station the trains loop through Cleveland Circle and through a small yard (which is just north of the Reservoir stop on the Riverside line) before re-entering Cleveland Circle station. Non-revenue tracks connect the B, C, and D, branches at this location.

Beacon & St. Marys, Beacon & Carlton, Beacon & Hawes, Beacon & Kent, Beacon & Powell, Beacon & St. Paul, Beacon & Charles, Beacon & Pleasant, Beacon & Harvard/Coolidge Corner, Beacon & Webster, Beacon & Winchester, Beacon & Summit, Beacon & Marion, Beacon & Brandon Hall, Beacon & Fairbanks, Beacon Between Fairbanks & Westbourne Terrace, Beacon & Westbourne Terrace, Beacon & Washington Sq, Beacon & Winthrop, Beacon & Williston, Beacon & Tappan, Beacon & Regent, Beacon & Corey, Beacon & Dean, Beacon & Kilsyth, Beacon & Englewood, Beacon & Strathmore, Beacon & Ayr, Cleveland Circle, Beacon & Chestnut Hill, Cleveland Circle Yard, Chestnut Hill Avenue - Connection between B & C Lines, MBTA Green C Cleveland Circle/Beacon, Loc. Unknown

D-Riverside Branch

This line, the youngest of the Green Line branches, exits the Subway prior to the Fenway station. From this point, the Riverside line follows an exclusive right of way, with wide sweeping curves on its way to Riverside. The Riverside route is formerly a Boston and Albany railroad branch. It was converted over to rapid transit in the late 1950's. Many of the older stations are still in existence, and are used by the Green Line as transit stations. This is one of the faster parts of the Green Line as trains speed right along, running at up to 50 mph.

There are 11 stops on the journey to Riverside, about 8 to 10 miles from the subway portal. The line can be scenic as it passes through the woods and residential sections of Brookline and Newton. One of the more interesting stations is the Reservoir stop. A yard is adjacent to the station, which is used to store streetcars as well as some work equipment. Some of this work equipment is actually rebuilt PCC and older streetcars. A non revenue rail link also exists from here to the Cleveland Circle and Boston College lines. (The three branches are close enough to walk between.)

Continuing westward, the line passes through wooded areas and the backyards of homes and businesses before ending at Riverside. Here two tracks split and form a loop around a large yard, and shop facility. More streetcars and work equipment is stored in this yard. Most major Green Line repair projects are conducted here. The station platform is located on the eastern side of the loop, before the line turns back to Boston. This station has a large platform with the two tracks running through it.

Fenway, Longwood Ave, Between Longwood & Brookline, Brookline Village, Brookline Hills, Between Brookline Hills & Beaconsfield, Beaconsfield, Near Reservoir, Reservoir, Chestnut Hill, Newton Centre, Crystal Lake (Between Newton Ctr. & Newton Highlands), Between Newton Center & Newton Highlands, Newton Highlands, Cook Junction Loop, Eliot, Waban, Woodland, Between Riverside & Woodland, Riverside, Riverside Yard, MBTA Green D Riverside, Loc. Unknown

E-Heath/Arborway Branch

After Symphony station, the line then exits the subway, and runs down the center median of Huntington Ave. Numerous small stops exist on its route southwest, then southward. Just before Heath Street station, the Arborway line actually begins street running, the last MBTA line to do so. At Heath, there is a loop to turn trains, and is currently the terminal point for service on this branch, about 4 miles from the subway portal. But the tracks continue southward, in the streets to the actual end of the line at Arborway, right next door to the Forest Hills Orange Line station. Service on this part of the line has been suspended since the mid 1980's. Currently it is being debated whether to restore service on the line, or to tear up the tracks.

At Arborway, the line circles around another storage yard. This area has been extensively rebuilt, and is used for storage of some Green Line equipment. The future of this area is also in doubt. There are proposals to build a bus garage in place of the yard.

Huntington Portal, Huntington & Forsyth, Huntington & Greenleaf, Huntington & Northeastern, Huntington & Parker, Museum of Fine Arts, Huntington & Ruggles, Huntington & Evans, Huntington & Ward, Longwood Medical Area, Huntington & Worthington, Huntington & Wigglesworth, Huntington & Francis, Huntington & Brigham Circle, Huntington & Fenwood, Huntington & Wait, Huntington & Frawley, Huntington & Mission, Huntington & S. Huntington, S. Huntington/Riverway, S. Huntington/Back of the Hill, S. Huntington & Colburn, S. Huntington & Heath, S. Huntington & V.A. Hospital, S. Huntington & Evergreen, S. Huntington & Bynner, S. Huntington & Perkins, S. Huntington & Halifax, Centre & Boylston, Centre & Moraine, Centre & Spring Park, Centre & Robinwood, Centre & Lakeville, Centre & Pond, Centre & Grosvenor, Centre & Severns, South & Centre, South & Carolina, South & Child, South & St. Rose, South & Arborway, Arborway/Arborway Yard, MBTA Green E-Arborway/Huntington, Loc. Unknown

Route Map

MBTA Rapid Transit Route Map

Track Map

MBTA Rapid Transit Track Map

Green Line Signals

Boston's Green Line, which is a streetcar/trolley/light rail line, has a unique signal system. The description below of its aspects and indications is paraphrased from the Rules for Operators and Other Employees of the Light Rail Lines. Wayside signals are used in the central subway (westerly portals to Haymarket), as well as on the Lechmere viaduct between Haymarket and Lechmere, and on the entire D/Riverside line (Highland Branch) which runs on private right-of-way. Wayside signals are not used west of the portals on the B/Boston College, C/Cleveland Circle, and E/Heath St. lines, which have street or central reservation trackage. There are no trippers (stop arms) on the system; operators are responsible for keeping their cars under control and obeying all signals.

1. Automatic Block Signals

  • RED - STOP. Proceed after one (1) minute at restricted speed. (Proceed, prepared to stop short of a train, car, or other obstruction and watch for broken rail or switch not properly lined, not exceeding ten (10) miles per hour to the next signal.) Typically means that the next block is occupied.
  • YELLOW - Proceed prepared to stop at the next signal. Typically means that there is one clear block ahead, but the following block is occupied.
  • GREEN - Proceed at authorized speed. Typically means that there are at least two clear blocks ahead.

2. Interlockings and Stations

  • RED over RED - STOP and STAY. This aspect is usually found protecting interlockings, and is the equivalent of NYC's home signal. Only an "authorized person" (Inspector or higher grade) may hand flag a car through this aspect.
  • YELLOW over YELLOW - COME TO A COMPLETE STOP. Then proceed at restricted speed. Typically found at the entrance to a station, and it means that the station is occupied by the proceeding car. This was added as a safety measure some years ago following a rear-end collision; multiple cars have always been able to enter stations but this aspect adds an additional mandatory stop when the station is occupied.
  • VERTICAL YELLOW ARROW - Proceed on through route. This is the equivalent of NYC's home signal indication to take the main route.
  • LEFT (or RIGHT) YELLOW ARROW - Proceed on diverging route to the left (or right). This is the equivalent of NYC's home signal indication to take the diverging route.

3. Mattapan High Speed Line

The Light Rail Division also operates the Mattapan High Speed Line, which is an all-PCC operation. On public maps, it appears as an extension of the MBTA Red Line, however its operations are governed by Green Line rules. This line uses two additional signal aspects:

  • FLASHING RED - STOP. Then proceed with caution.
  • FLASHING YELLOW - Proceed at reduced speed, prepared to stop.

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 32113

(175k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Richard Panse
Location: North Station (Viaduct)

Image 33230

(181k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Richard Panse
Location: S. Huntington & Heath

Image 35887

(195k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Richard Panse
Location: Commonwealth & Brighton/Packard's Corner

Image 103453

(256k, 1044x701)
Photo by: Richard Panse
Location: Newton Centre

Image 151851

(288k, 1044x594)
Photo by: Bernard Chatreau
Location: Copley

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By Gerry O'Regan.

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