Category Archives: Massachusetts

Important Dates In New York Central Railroad History From Mark Tomlonson

July 1, 1900 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad leases the Boston & Albany for 99 years. Map featured at top, heavy freight at Pittsfield, MA below
June 23, 1831 The Boston & Worcester Railroad Corporation incorporates in Massachusetts. It is the oldest element of the New York Central system in New England.

July 1, 1870 The Kalamazoo & South Haven is leased in perpetuity to the Michigan Central.
July 4, 1870 The first train enters Bloomingdale MI on the Kalamazoo & South Haven Railroad (later MC, NYC, PC, CR).
July 1, 1937 Passenger service ends on the former Kalamazoo & South Haven, now a branch in Michigan of the New York Central.
June 30, 1937 Last day of mail service on the former Kalamazoo & South Haven as the Post Office shifts the contract to motor freight.

July 1, 1935 The New York Central Lines (subsidiary companies) are re-named the New York Central System.

July 1, 1958 The New York Central withdraws from The Pullman Company and begins staffing its own passenger trains.

July 1, 1964 The New York Central opens its first “Flexi-Flo” terminal, in Indianapolis. The system uses steel pipes to transfer loads directly from covered hoppers to trucks.

July 2, 1831 First test of the “Dewitt Clinton” on the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad. Read more about the original NY Central

July 3, 1948 The New York Central issues a report that only 20 per cent of its long-distance passenger trains are diesel powered, but the number is expected to rise to 50% by year’s end.

July 4, 1871 The Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana (later LS&MS) begins service to Saline MI.

July 4, 1878 The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad opens between Youngstown and Beaver Falls (some sources say July 3).

June 30, 1889 The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (The Big Four) is formed from the merger of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railway, the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway and the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway.

June 30, 1908 Last day steam trains could legally operate south of the Harlem River in New York City. Read about the Harmon Shops where electric locomotives were maintained.

June 30, 1940 Last day “archbar” freight trucks could legally operate in U.S. interchange service, and then only on empty cars returning to their home roads.

June 28, 1832 The Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad (MI) is chartered. Although little is actually constructed, the proposed route will form the basis of the Central Railroad of Michigan [later MC/NYC/PC/CR/NS] charter. The proposed route closely follows the present State of Michigan/Amtrak line from Detroit to Kalamazoo. From Kalamazoo it was planned to go west through Paw Paw to St. Joseph, a route that was never constructed.

June 27, 1859 An express train bound from Chicago wrecks between South Bend and Mishawaka on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. The train was passing over a fill that, because a culvert had plugged, was serving as an unintended dam. The saturated earth was not able to support a train. At least five of the crew were killed. Many passengers were swept downstream and drowned, as well as being killed in the wreck. There was an estimated 150 persons on the train, but a death toll has never been determined.

June 27, 1937 First train over Michigan Central’s Michigan Avenue viaduct in Kalamazoo. Auto traffic will not run under the bridge until October.

June 27, 1960 Demolition of the Grand Central Terminal office building begins to allow construction of the Pan Am Building.


June 24, 1878 William H. Vanderbilt gains control of the Michigan Central.

June 24, 1928 The New York Central inaugurates Day Coach De Luxe No. 1 & 2 between New York and Buffalo on a 10 hour 20 minute schedule with 18 stops. It is the first luxury coach train.

June 25, 1844 The Central Railroad of Michigan reaches Albion from the east.

June 25, 1866 The Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad [later MC, NYC, PC, CR, NS, JAIL] completes its line from Jackson to Lansing via Mason.

June 25, 1902 Michigan Central and Pere Marquette Railroads open Union Station in Lansing.

June 26, 1918 The USRA contracts with the American Railway Express, making it the sole U.S. express operator on U.S. railroads.

June 23, 1954 Robert Heller & Associates present the result of their passenger train study to representatives of the Pennsylvania, New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio railroads. The study finds that passengers are leaving trains for automobiles and airplanes and the railroads are unable to price their services by cost because so many of the rates are frozen by regulations. The railroads decline to follow any of the study’s recommendations to consolidate long-distance trains. Most of the study’s recommendations will be made under Amtrak.

Thanks again Mark Tomlonson

The North South Rail Link project connecting — indeed creating — a New England Regional Rail System through Boston has been proposed as a critical infrastructure project for more than 35 years.

The North South Rail Link project connecting — indeed creating — a New England Regional Rail System through Boston has been proposed as a critical infrastructure project for more than 35 years. It has now been given a new push by a broad-ranging coalition of elected and appointed officials, business leaders, transportation advocates, and others, led by former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis.

An Integrated Regional Rail NetworkFor New England

The Prospects and Promises OfA New Engand Rail Connector

Mass. GMass. Gov. Baker highlights MBTA’s progress on rehab workov. Baker highlights MBTA’s progress on rehab work

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday visited a work site in Ashland to review the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority‘s (MBTA) progress on several infrastructure upgrades.

Gov. Baker visited a work site in Ashland, Mass., to highlight the MBTA’s recent infrastructure upgrades

In Ashland and along the Framingham-Worcester commuter-rail line, the MBTA is replacing more than 26,000 rail ties through early June, which will allow the agency to lift heat-related speed restrictions. Additionally, the agency has invested more than $600 million this fiscal year for state of good repair deferred maintenance, including an $83 million winter resiliency program; systemwide station improvements; and track, signal and power upgrades.

“Since last winter, the MBTA and its new leadership have undertaken a renewed focus on the important work of reducing costs and investing in infrastructure improvements to the core system that will ultimately mean more reliable public transit for commuters,” Baker said in a press release.

As part of the winter resiliency work, more than 36,000 linear feet of heater element infrastructure have been installed to support the Red Line’s third rail heating systems. Along the Orange Line, more than 200,000 linear feet of new wiring for third rail has been installed.

MassDOT continues meetings on MBTA’s Green Line Extension

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) this week is continuing to hold public meetings on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority‘s Green Line Extension project.

Due to significant cost overruns, MassDOT in February began a re-evaluation process, which is expected to be completed and submitted to the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board next month.

MassDOT plans to revise the now $3 billion project with reduced capital and overall costs, as well as a new procurement method, department officials said in a blog post. Project elements under reconsideration include reduced station designs, redesign of a vehicle maintenance facility, reconsidering community path options, construction work hour limitation, power signals, and retaining and sound walls.

The original project consisted of two distinct branches: a mainline that would operate within existing right-of-way of the MBTA Lowell Line beginning at a relocated Lechmere Station in Cambridge and traveling north to Medford; and another branch operating within existing right-of-way of the MBTA Fitchburg Line to Union Station in Somerville.

Plans called for seven new stations and a vehicle storage and maintenance facility. Trains would operate every five to six minutes in peak periods once the extension is completed.

Canceling the entire project still remains on the table “until an affordable, feasible alternative has been identified,” MassDOT officials said. However, any decision to cancel must take into account potential legal ramifications and money already spent on the project.

Keolis gears up for tie replacement project on MBTA commuter-rail line

Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority‘s (MBTA) commuter-rail system, this month will start trackwork on the Framingham-Worcester Line to end heat-related speed restrictions.

Crews will replace as many as 30,000 ties, Keolis officials said in a press release.

The company will perform and oversee much of the work.

The track on the Framingham-Worcester Line was built and maintained by previous railroads using different design and maintenance standards than the MBTA. When the agency took control of the line in 2012, there were insufficient records available about the original installation of the rail, according to Keolis.

Such records help engineers verify that the rail will respond to heat variations between winter and summer seasons, Keolis officials said.

To compensate for the unknowns, the MBTA has either replaced rail or de-stressed sections of rail to ensure the line’s safety. That work is continuing this spring between Worcester and Framingham, Mass., and between Newtonville and Wellesley Farms, Mass.

“Commuter rail’s performance on the Framingham-Worcester Line has improved dramatically thanks to the work we and the MBTA have already completed,” said Keolis General Manager Gerald Francis. “This next round of track work will help move trains more efficiently and finally end the speed restrictions riders have dealt with for many years.”

Boston MBTA unveils rehabbed Government Center Station

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) yesterday reopened the Government Center Station in Boston, marking the completion of a two-year reconstruction project.

The station now features a glass head house structure and elevator access from street level to the Green and Blue line trolley routes.

Additionally, the station is now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Previously, riders could access the station only by stairways and escalators, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials said in a blog post.

Other upgrades include new escalators, LED signage, a new and expanded fare collection area, upgraded backup electrical power supply, improved interior finishes, and a new emergency exit structure on Cambridge Street.

“Crews have worked hard to keep our pledge to reopen the station in two years – a feat they were only able to accomplish by closing the entire station, rather than parts of it,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola.

The project was completed on time and under budget, added Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The reconstruction cost $82 million, radio station WBUR Boston reported.

For MBTA and Amtrak, FAST Act a fast track to federal court

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is suing Amtrak in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts after the two companies failed to reach agreement on new, vastly increased access fees for MBTA commuter trains operating between Attleboro, Mass., at the Rhode Island border, and Providence, R.I., on the Northeast Corridor.

According to reports published by the Boston Herald and Politico, the Capitol Hill-based newsletter, the MBTA is asking a federal judge to throw out a claim that it owes Amtrak $28.8 million in annual fees. Amtrak, MBTA’s 26-page court filing says, is “claiming that it is both permitted and required … under a pair of federal statutes … [to] demand that MBTA pay it tens of millions of dollars each year for the very services that Amtrak is already obligated by the Attleboro Line Agreement to provide MBTA without charge.”

The existing Attleboro Line Agreement was struck by MBTA and Amtrak in 2003, when Amtrak ceased operating MBTA trains under contract and MBCR (Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad) took over. Keolis has been MBTA’s contract operator since July 2014. In 
exchange for allowing Amtrak to operate its intercity trains on the state-owned portion of the NEC between Attleboro and Boston’s South Station, Amtrak maintains portions of the right-of-way and 
provides access for MBTA trains operating between Attleboro and Providence, R.I.

According to the MBTA, Amtrak has cited language in the new FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act and PRIIA (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008) that established a commission tasked with developing cost-sharing policies used to replace existing contracts between Amtrak and state commuter rail agencies. Amtrak reportedly has threatened to go to the Surface Transportation Board if the MBTA doesn’t fork over the near-$30 million.

The commission, the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Operations and Advisory Commission, is named in MBTA’s suit along with Amtrak.

The MBTA argues that “federal law that Amtrak is invoking … is unconstitutional … Congress cannot by statute relieve federal agencies, such as Amtrak, from their contractual obligations without putting those agencies into breach of contract.” The MBTA is asking for declaratory judgments saying that the new cost-sharing policy violates the U.S. Constitution, and that Amtrak is in breach of contract with the MBTA.

According to the lawsuit, under FAST and PRIIA, Amtrak saves $56 million a year on the Northeast Corridor, while requiring Massachusetts (MBTA) to pay $28.8 million, New Jersey (NJ Transit) to pay $90 million, Pennsylvania (SEPTA) to pay $14 million and Maryland (MARC) pay $1 million.


MBTA commuter trains achieve best on-time rating in December

Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter-rail system, logged an on-time performance rate of 92.4 percent in December 2015.

The figure marks the best on-time performance last year, Keolis officials said in a  press release.

When adjusted for delays beyond Keolis’ control, such as trespassers or police activity, December’s on-time performance rate was 95.5 percent. December is typically a challenge month because of the transition between falling leaves, falling temperatures and winter’s first snow, Keolis officials said.

The numbers show that the service improvement agreement between MBTA and Keolis is producing positive results, said Keolis Commuter services General Manager Gerald Francis.

In August 2015, Keolis developed a service improvement plan for the last five months of 2015 that set performance benchmarks for commuter-rail service in areas of on-time performance, fare collection, staffing levels and locomotive availability. By year’s end, Keolis had met or exceeded those goals, company officials said.

Additionally, between July and December last year, the number of late trains on the commuter-rail system decreased by 25 percent when compared with the average for that period over the last decade.

Winter storm threatens Cape Cod with up to 18 inches of snow

The second winter storm in four days to hit the Northeast centered on New England on Monday, bringing howling winds and coastal flooding and threatening Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts with up to 18 inches of snow.

The storm could last into Tuesday, when New Hampshire’s first-in-the nation presidential primary is held. The storm was accompanied by high winds that brought scattered power failures, as well as coastal flooding from south of Boston to Cape Cod and Connecticut. A major surface road in south Boston was closed by flooding late Monday morning.

By Monday afternoon, Cape Cod and the islands appeared to have met the conditions for a blizzard, the National Weather Service said. Much of the rest of Massachusetts and most of Connecticut were under a winter storm warning and could get as much as 10 inches of snow. Boston could see 6 to 10 inches.

The storm led to accidents, including in Connecticut, where a charter bus crashed and fell on its side on Interstate 95 in Madison. At least 30 people were injured, including six of them critically.

In Rhode Island, crowds of mourners lined the streets amid bitter temperatures and falling snow to bid farewell to former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, whose hearse was carried by horse-drawn carriage from City Hall to the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral.

Other parts of the Northeast, including Northern New England and the New York City area, was expected to get much less snow. New York City, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey could get 2 to 3 inches from Monday into Tuesday night, the weather service said.

The snow meant unpleasant outdoor work for some people.

Sean Nardone, a custodian for the U.S. Postal Service, was scheduled to spend the day shoveling and treating the front steps of several post offices south of Boston.

“I don’t like it very much,” Nardone said as he tossed rock salt on the steps of the Whitman post office while a howling wind blew.

“I hope global warming friggin’ helps out this winter,” he said. “I hate to sound selfish, but I could use some warmth.”

Raj Patel, who co-owns a convenience store in Whitman, said the storm is good for business.

“It’s convenient for the neighborhood. We are always open for them. In past storms, we’ve sold out of milk right away. Milk, bread, water — a lot of people walk from their homes, so we stay open,” he said.

Communities across the region closed schools and issued on-street parking bans.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker closed state offices in nine counties Monday, and state courts were closed in 10 counties.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which was crippled by a series of historic storms during Boston’s record-breaking winter last year, was operating on a normal weekday schedule with winter routes in effect for buses. Although there were delays, no major problems were reported.

Restoring confidence in the MBTA’s reliability is important, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said.

“That’s what we all lost faith in last winter,” she said. “I think every storm where the T is able to run service pretty well, I hope, will help to restore that (faith).”

Boston’s Logan Airport remained open, but hundreds of inbound and outbound flights were canceled.

Ferry service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard was suspended.

Bring high-speed rail to New England

After years of false starts and unfulfilled promises, New Englanders have plenty of reason to be skeptical about grand plans for Japanese-style high-speed rail zipping through the region.

But the Federal Railroad Administration’s ongoing planning study for the Northeast could be the real deal. Earlier this month, the agency said it was exploring three possible blueprints for upgrading the Northeast Corridor, the 457-mile rail thoroughfare from Boston to Washington. There’s no funding for any of the plans now, but the choice is still crucial: Whatever proposal the agency approves will guide future investments in the corridor for decades to come, potentially revolutionizing rail travel in the region.

Although the logistical challenges and costs would be enormous, New England’s governors and congressional delegation ought to press the agency to embrace the boldest of the visions, which calls for a faster, more direct route from Boston to New York via Hartford. This proposal, the most ambitious of the plans, would cut travel times in half, bringing New York City to within two hours of South Station by building an entirely new route through southern New England. Faster connections would have major economic benefits; they would also relieve flight congestion at Logan and other East Coast airports, freeing them to focus on more distant destinations. Needless to say, it would also take cars off the highway.

The current Acela Express service can hit 160 miles per hour, but averages only 63 mph between Boston and New York, running on curvy, congested tracks. It would take massive upgrades like the new route to put it in the league of Japan’s Shinkansen trains, which average 132 miles per hour.

Getting Acela’s speeds up to international high-speed standards would open up economic opportunities, knitting together an increasingly regional economy. Speed isn’t the only benefit. The plan would also route trains through Hartford, and potentially Worcester, large cities that don’t have Acela service, while skipping the sparsely populated areas of Rhode Island and Connecticut that Amtrak now serves. The plan would also move tracks away from flood-prone areas, making the system more resilient in the face of rising sea levels due to climate change. The eight commuter rail services that also use the Northeast Corridor, including the MBTA, would see ripple effects because the new route would free up capacity on the existing lines.

Of course, rail travelers have heard some of these ideas before. In the 1990s, Amtrak promised to reduce travel times from New York to Boston to three hours, which didn’t happen. More recently, new planned tunnels in New York City, which would have relieved some congestion and improved reliability, were scuttled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over cost concerns. And it seems like an “inland route” has been just one study away from reality for a few decades now.

Part of the problem has been that no single entity has been in charge of the Northeast Corridor. Ownership is split between Amtrak and the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, all of which have their own priorities; a GAO study after Amtrak failed to reach the three-hour goal pointed to slow stretches on the Connecticut-owned portion of the line. Building new lines is also extremely difficult, thanks to geography and politics. Unlike in Japan or France, countries with strong high-speed rail networks, communities can also throw up roadblocks to trains running past their backyards.

Dividing up costs has also been difficult, but that may be changing. At the urging of the federal government, the eight states along the Northeast Corridor have been working on improved governance and hammering out a formula for sharing costs. In New York and New Jersey, talks about new tunnels under the Hudson have restarted. It’s important for states to lay that groundwork, because a high-speed route would likely require significant coordination and financial support from the eight states on the corridor; California is building a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles largely out of its own pocket.

And while improving rail is essential now, it shouldn’t preclude experimentation by private sector entrepreneurs who want to disrupt transportation altogether. For example, the first Hyperloop — Elon Musk’s vision for a nationwide network of transport that can travel at nearly sonic speeds in vacuum tubes — could break ground as soon as 2016. But such efforts shouldn’t be allowed to sap the political will to upgrade rail transit in the near term.

The cost of “Alternative 3” would potentially exceed $100 billion. It’s a huge number, and when states like Massachusetts are nickel-and-diming even tiny transit projects like art on the Green Line, it seems almost fanciful to entertain plans like the Federal Railroad Administration’s. But with interest rates at historic lows, now is the time to make long-term investments in the country’s infrastructure, and rail is a safe bet. Moreover, a high-speed rail line in New England would unlock huge economic growth, save money on highways and airports up and down the East Coast, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the sake of the region’s competitiveness in the 21st century, planners need to think big. Reaching agreement on what that future should be is the first step.