Sunday, November 20, 2011

Boston 1974 - 1


I went to Boston for a conference a few weeks ago. I didn't bring the camera, and I'm feeling increasingly old fashioned not carrying a camera phone either. But anyway, no pics for you.

It reminded me that I do have a few photographs of Boston transit, and they're the kind you can't get any more. You'd have to go back to the summer of 1974 to get them. The negatives are missing, so I've had to scan the prints, which have undergone some color shift over the years. The past actually came in the same colors as today, as far as I recall. It just looks like this in old photos.

Last month I stayed in Brookline and commuted a short way to the event on the C car of the Green Line. That was fun. I got off the Acela at Back Bay and walked up to Copley. It's only two blocks. Easy if you have only a small bag.

At Copley I went in on the outbound side of course. It's a conventional stairway in the sidewalk subway entrance. But I took a look across the street to check that the inbound side still has the wonderful kiosk we saw way back when.

That's... just amazing. I imagine the city fathers felt a civic duty not to deface the magnificent public library with a humdrum subway entrance out front. Or an iron works gave political contributions to the right people. Either way: well done. And it's been kept up. Even the modern green sign somehow looks like it belongs there.

That's Helen. Just for scale.

We had some free time in the afternoons. The vendor fair was only so big, and once I'd been through it a couple of times and spoken to people at the few directly relevant booths, I felt like it would be good for me to go outside and walk around.

One day I rode out to Harvard Square. Do you know that if you look up at a certain building in Harvard Square, you can see the offices of Dewey Cheatham and Howe on the third floor? This is not from 1974: it's from Google Street View. I have not altered the image except to add the helpful arrow.

Back in '74, while walking around with Helen at Harvard Square we just happened to find ourselves at the south portal of the trolley bus tunnel at Mount Auburn Street. Don't know how that happened.

Here is a blast from the past.

You don't see that kind of bus any more. That car, maybe.

The portal is still there, approximately, but there's a large building now on top of it, so the scene is almost unrecognizable. At this time you could still see the remains of streetcar track on the right.

Be sure to notice how banged-up the front of that bus looks. These things looked old to me even then. It was as if the MTA could no longer figure out where to buy a trolley bus and didn't know what else to do but just send out the ones they had no matter what shape they were in.

Also notice the left-side door. It's there only for the stop in the bus tunnel.

From this angle you can see that the abandoned track is in the same path taken by one of the bus lines, the 72. It still makes its last stop at Harvard Square in the tunnel, comes out here with no passengers, loops around the block, and goes back in again to start its run.

Here's my favorite of today's batch.

I wrote on the back of this one: A two-car train of trolley cars at Chestnut Hill Avenue on the Boston College line, in Brighton. That's the B car line. This scene looks very much the same today except for the type of trolley.

Another short trip I took last month was to the Mattapan High Speed Line (sic) at the end of the Red Line Ashmont branch. It's a railfan favorite but I'd never found an excuse to go down there. To my surprise, it's still run by PCC trolleys just like the ones above, but painted in the old orange and cream colors. So you don't have to go to a trolley museum or San Francisco to ride them.

I think they looked great in green and white. And I love the T in a white circle: why has the New York system never had a good symbol? Sorry, the dark blue M does not cut it.

That boy is 31 years older now (I hope!).

Here is the railfan geek shot.

The B, C, and D lines are very close to one another at Chestnut Hill Avenue, so it's a choice location
if you want to go out one way and back another. We walked past the end of the C line at Cleveland Circle and found this in the block between there and the D Riverside line.

My note on the back says: Entrance to storage yard and repair shop at Cleveland Circle. The yellow vehicle is a very old boxcar trolley. Besides that, two of the PCC cars are in the colors they still use now on the Mattapan line. There is still a transit yard here but these buildings and cars are gone.

A few paces farther east and we're over the Riverside line, at Reservoir station. The most recent of the Green Line branches, this route opened in 1959, running in a former mainline railroad branch. The splindly concrete stairways still looked a little makeshift fifteen years later.

My note on the back points out: Train of very old red cars in distance on a siding. Yes. It's not clear whether they're in the storage yard or on a siding of the former railroad right of way. The track in the foreground ran from the yard (or even from the B or C lines) around to the right and down to the D line. It's gone now.

Today this scene looks very different. The overpass is much wider, providing a bus loop in the empty space out to about the end of the hind trolley car, and the stairs have been replaced. You can hardly see the D line from the street, and only a large T sign alerts you to the station.

(to be continued)


1 comment:

  1. That's my apartment building partially obscured by trees in those pictures of the trackless trolleys going into the Harvard Sq tunnels. That area is very different now...