The Orange Line's portal to another dimension

Orange Line portal

Go to the front of the outbound Orange Line station at Chinatown and you'll see these mysterious tunnel entrances just past the end of the station, where the tracks curve on the way to Tufts Medical Center.

What strange wonders lie on the other side of this gateway?

Not much, alas. It's a few hundred feet of tunnel left over from when the Orange Line ran above ground south of Chinatown station, back before 1987, when the station was called Essex Street.

The new underground alignment, which runs along the turnpike, rather than crossing over it into the South End, and which included new stations at Back Bay and Tufts (then New England) Medical Center, required a new approach to the main Washington Street tunnel, a short distance to the west of the original "portal" at Ash and Nassau streets (you can watch a train enter the portal, around 9:30 in the video).

Chinatown station has other remnants of its days as Essex Street station, including a former exit now in place strictly for emergencies, also at the front of the southbound platform (note the bench for the weary):

Emergency exit at Chinatown

There are a couple more emergency exits at the opposite end of the station. For years, two of them stood as these weird concrete boxes on the edges of a parking lot on Washington Street near Avery Street. The parking lot's been replaced by what will become luxury apartments, but the developers have incorporated the old structures into the building (if you're tall enough, you can peer in and see "Essex" in tile on the wall):

Old Essex Street entrance



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I think this tunnel was going

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I think this tunnel was going to be used when the silver bus was going to a real line connecting underground at Boylston to the green line and then on to south station. However, we are now stuck with 2 separate bus lines that dont even connect, and the south Boston silver bus doing crazy eights at 8 mph to get to the airport.

Link please?

I have not heard of 'Washington Street Under' until now. Could you please link to the Wikipedia page that you are referring to?


No, I not for the SL

No, I don't think the SL was ever meant to use this. There was some talk about using the old Tremont St. portal to connect the SL to Boylston, but the train tunnels aren't wide enough for buses. The final plan (before cancellation) was that a new portal would be built on Charles St. for the buses, which would then curve under the common to Boylston Station, pass under the GL tracks and continue on Essex St. toward South Station. The engineering for the Essex St. tunnel proved prohibitively expensive, which is why we got a surface/no build "solution" instead.


Lost subway stations

Which is the line that used to go to the State House? And is it still accessible, I mean aside from the actual entrance into the State House being closed?


No, no, no

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1. Any Silver Line Tunnel, (Single Seat Ride From Dudley To The Airport! O Joy!) would have use a portion of the old Eliot Street entrance under Charles Norton Park, then looping into a new tunnel from Boylston to South Station. This would have cost billions. Thankfully people with IQs over room temp prevailed in this matter.

2. I can't think that there is any storage past Chinatown.

3. There is no line which goes to and has an entrance under The State House, Old State House, yes. The State House, no. There was a proposal in the 1844, yes 1844, by Robert Gourlay, to put a railroad station under the statehouse. Alas, it did not come to pass.

Abandoned tunnels

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There is a streetcar tunnel (too narrow for buses) mostly existing down Tremont Street; the outer tracks at Boylston Station still connect to it to this day. The MBTA, having decided that a one-seat ride from Dudley to the Airport was what everyone needed, proposed destroying it for their bus fantasies.

I thought the Red Line tunnel was bored under the State House? But of course you're right that there has never been a station there.



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Interesting guy, seen as kind of a crank, who had rather grandiose plans for Boston - including tunneling railroads through Boston and turning the Back Bay (still an actual bay back then) into a large pond.

The old "el" access

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The tunnel is in fact the former access portal for the Washington Street elevated segment of the Orange line. The Orange line ran into this segment of tunnel and into Essex Station (now Chinatown) up until the switch-over to the new alignment.

Then on a weekend, the Orange line stopped, and a crew came in to make the final connection to the new tunnel to New England Medical and the new alignment started up the next week.

During construction there was actually a small bridge there. This allowed work crews to work at night to pour the concrete and create the final alignment to the new tunnel on weekend evenings. The bridge segments could be lifted out and replaced as necessary for work until the final connection was made.

The old portal is in the vicinity of Oak Street.

The emergency access used to come out onto Washington Street in the vicinity of Avery Street.


the MBTA should lease this space

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Very interesting, since the MBTA is so underwater in the operation of their business they should consider leasing this to someone who may want to create an underground restaraunt or night club there.....

Wow, one weekend to do the

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Wow, one weekend to do the changeover?

These days, the T can't even install an elevator without closing a station for years.

They can still do that

The cut over is a fairly simple final step in a project like that, but it can only be done if service is shut down. Everything is already built, but one section of rail needs to be shifted slightly to align with the new track. They recently did the same thing up at Assembly Square for the temporary tracks bypassing the statoin construction. It also did not require a significant service disruption.


Three days

My recollection is that the Washington Street elevated ended service on Thursday night, and the new line opened on Monday morning.


A Familiar Sight

I once spent about an hour a day at various times for maybe a week casing this place for a little exploring. I know there's at least 100 feet of former tunnel space back there, as I later found out in a Boston Globe piece on abandoned tunnels and stations. I was noting cameras, train intervals, etc. I came to the conclusion that I'd most likely die trying to get to the tunnel and went off to the Bowdoin tail tracks instead. Which is probably more rewarding, anyway.

There is also allegedly manhole-and-ladder access to the abandoned section of tunnel. I haven't the slightest clue as to where it is or what it says on the cover.