Green Line "D" Branch - Conversion To Light Rail - The MBTA Takes Over

The MBTA Takes Over

By August 1964, when the MBTA took over, service on the Riverside Line was extended on all days but Sundays to Lechmere. Sunday service was extended September 10, 1966.

In 1967, letter designations replaced the route numbers for the light rail lines and the 4 Riverside-Lechmere became the D Riverside.

Over the years, the following changes in eastern terminal have been made:

  • March 25, 1974: cut back from Lechmere to North Station (termini swapped with Green Line "B" Branch). This was in connection with track reconstruction on the surface portion of the line which significantly increased trip time.
  • June 26, 1976: cut back to Government Center due to construction at North Station.
  • September 11, 1976: extended to North Station (Canal St. loop terminal).

The MBTA's first Boeing light rail vehicles operated on the "D" Branch on December 30, 1976, and turned around at Park Street or Government Center due to the North Station loop catenary not yet upgraded for pantographs.

  • January 1, 1977: extended to Lechmere weekdays, cut back to Government Center weekends.
  • March 19, 1977: cut back to Government Center on all days.
  • June 18, 1977: extended to Lechmere.
  • September 9, 1977: cut back to Government Center.
  • December 15, 1997: extended to the North Station Canal St. terminal which was reconfigured with three stub end tracks replacing the turning loop. The Riverside line terminated here for the next few years as it was the only line scheduled with all double ended equipment (Boeing LRVs). Any PCC cars on the line looped at Government Center.

Use of PCC cars on the "D" line officially ended March 23, 1978, but later LRV shortages prompted the occasional return of PCC cars.

  • March 21, 1980: extended to Lechmere
  • June 21, 1980: cut back to North Station
  • April 4, 1981: extended to Lechmere
  • January 2, 1983: cut back to Government Center rush hours and middays
  • March 26, 1983: extended to Lechmere rush hours, midday and some rush hour "D" trains continue to loop at Government Center
  • January 20, 1984 to shortly after: cut back to Government Center rush hours due to North Station on the MBTA Commuter Rail being closed due to a bridge fire, and all rush hour Lechmere service being provided by a shuttle to Government Center
  • June 20, 1987: cut back to Government Center always
  • March 28, 1997: extended to Lechmere weekends, due to North Station turnback facility being permanently closed
  • June 21, 1997: extended to Lechmere always
  • June 28, 2004: cut back to Government Center, due to the line north of North Station being closed
  • November 12, 2005: Lechmere viaduct reopens, however D line service is not re-extended.
  • November, 2006: Service during off-peak hours (except for LRV trains) extended to North Station.

From the very start of light rail service, in 1959, there were complaints about rough riding followed by continual improvements to the track. While the ride was generally satisfactory at 30 MPH, many operators went faster. At least one news report, in response to riders encountering almost violent side-to-side swaying of the cars, mentioned a 35 MPH speed limit imposed by the MBTA management. (A PCC car can reach nearly 50 MPH on level track.) Also, welded rail joints were gradually introduced.

When the first Boeing LRV was brought in for testing in the early 1970s, it became clear that the entire track would need to be rebuilt in order to support the greater weight of those cars and take advantage of their 50 MPH speed. Different techniques were used for maintaining service as each of three sections of the line were rebuilt.

  • September 8, 1974 to December 28, 1974 (dates need confirming). The outer end of the line, from Riverside to Eliot, was taken out of service and passengers transferred to and from substitute buses at Newton Highlands. A temporary turning loop was built just beyond (west of) Newton Highlands. (This turning loop is now in use at Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine.)
  • Mid-June to mid-September 1974. The inner portion of the line from Reservoir to Fenway was taken out of service for rebuilding. A rather ingeniously placed, at grade, inbound to outbound turning loop was built in the Cleveland Circle-Reservoir yard. This was used by both inbound and outbound cars to access the existing grade separated short turn loop which also connected to Beacon Street and its subway connection, eliminating the need for passengers to make transfers. This section of track has since been reconfigured with crossovers and a relocated ramp out to Beacon St. and the temporary through routing from Reservoir via Beacon St. to the subway can be repeated with cars, now all double ended, changing ends just east of Reservoir. This routing has not always been utilized; a bus shuttle from Reservoir to Kenmore or Fenway has been used on several occasions.)
  • September 13, 1974 until September 29, 1975. Partial bidirectional single track operation between Newton Highlands and Reservoir was done permitting rebuilding of the track, one approximately two mile segment at a time. This maintained a continuous trip by rail from Riverside to downtown Boston although not without an increase of trip time, sometimes by up to ten minutes.

The tracks were rehabilitated again in 2007. This project was undertaken because the newest LRV's, low floor handicapped accessible models from Breda, did not operate reliably over the tracks at the desired 40 to 50 mile per hour speeds. While the Riverside line generally received the newest cars first, it was the last to get the Breda cars due to the need to upgrade the tracks.

  • June 23 until August 3, 2007: Shuttle buses replaced rail service between Riverside and Reservoir during the upgrading of that section of track and facilities. Travelers reported increases in trip time of 15 to 30 minutes. The work was originally planned for nighttime hours, but overnight construction noise upset the residents in the neighborhoods through which the line passes. The line was not fully out of service, and was used for non-revenue moves to the car shops at Riverside. In addition, full service operated on the July 4 holiday to handle crowds attending the annual concert and fireworks display.
  • August 4 until August 31, 2007: Service was replaced by shuttle buses between Reservoir and Fenway for upgrading of track and facilities.

A two car train of articulated light rail cars carried roughly the same number of people as a three PCC train. These were the typical rush hour consists during their respective years in service. While the Boeing LRVs and their successors could be operated in three car trains, such operation on a regular basis did not begin until March 21, 2011.

The Highland Branch, under the MTA and the MBTA, originally used trolley pole current collection and had simple suspension overhead with span wires. No changes were made in terms of current collection for the PCC cars.

The Boeing LRV's and their successors used pantograph current collection, except under unimproved overhead where only a few, equipped with trolley poles, operated for non-revenue purposes. Meanwhile the PCC cars continued to use trolley poles. The overhead for the entire Highland Branch was modified to handle both trolley poles and pantographs, with short runners installed at each switch frog to guide the pantographs past. The overall structure of the overhead remained unchanged for several more years.

At first, most of the overhead wire was not given a pronounced side to side stagger to spread out the wear on pantograph sliders. However inaccuracies in the original overhead construction perhaps together with a less noticeable side to side stagger added later improved pantograph operation while not detracting significantly from trolley pole operation.

By 1985, the MBTA was finally in a position to retire its PCCs from the Green Line as the issues plaguing the Boeings were resolved to a point where a majority of the cars operated reliably, and the MBTA placed an order for additional light rail cars from Kinki Sharyo, which were delivered the following year. With the PCC cars retired, the operating fleet had become exclusively pantograph equipped, eliminating the need for the wire frogs that were used to guide the trolley poles' current collectors at switches. The overhead catenary received additional upgrades, the first of which used primarily span wire support from the existing line poles. The second upgrade used many more bracket arms. Due to the added weight of the new overhead construction, side guy wires were added to many existing line poles, or a horizontal beam was installed across a pair of line poles.

Timeline of the extent of "D" service

Read more about this topic:  Green Line "D" Branch, Conversion To Light Rail

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