El's bells

Old Boston el stop

The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can figure out where this el station was and when the photo was taken. See it larger.



Free tagging: 


    Got this

    Rowes Wharf Station on the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. On the right it says "Trains to Revere Beach, Lynn, Winthrop," but it's actually just ferries to the East Boston terminal for the BRB&L railroad.

    This must be after 1936, but before closure in 1939. There were trolley tracks in 1936 (the track shown is freight, not trolley) and in 1939 the line was closed and scrapped within a couple years.

    Looks like the photo was

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    Looks like the photo was taken after it closed in September 1938, because all the staircases look to be blocked.

    No, fares were paid at the

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    No, fares were paid at the turnstyles next to collector's booth at the mezzanine. The stairs are from street to mezzanine. If they are blocked, that means station is closed.


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    The last streetcar line to use surface tracks here was the ancestor of the modern Route 07 bus. Trolley service was cut back from Rowes Wharf to a stub track at South Station in 1937. The freight line (Union Freight RR) remained active until circa 1970.

    Our rail transit system used

    Our rail transit system used to be so amazing. I wish Boston embraced the El through urban renewal so it could have a positive impact on the city in the 21st century.

    El amazing? I don't think so.

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    It can certainly be argued that overall, the rail system may have better served the existing population in the past, but as far as the elevated parts go, I'm glad they're gone - they sucked. Made the streets and surrounding area dark, dank and nasty.


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    Whenever someone brings up the El a certain contingent says it made the streets dark, but when residents of downtown complain of shadows and lack of sunlight the same contingent says they should get over it. Which one is it????

    50 shades of shade

    Buildings may block direct sunlight, but light is still able to refract down to street level. [Primitive] elevated structures would be an impenetrable canopy which did not allow much refracted light down to the street. I specifically mention "primitive" els, because modern structures can be much more sleek, "sexy," and less intrusive.

    I no longer see the virtues of elevated trains.

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    As at least a couple of other posters on here, the elevated trains not only make the streets dark, dank and less safe, but all too often, elevated trains go right by people's windows, which create disturbances for them, particularly at night when they're trying to sleep, or even work.

    Elevated train tracks are coming down all over the United States, and throughout the world, for that matter. They're no longer the "in" thing that they once were.

    Then Open Your Eyes - Some Elevated Train Systems Are Very Nice!

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    Modern elevated systems don't have to be dark and noisy. A system like Miami's Metromover would be great for connecting North Station with South Station:

    There are many obstacles to constructing new underground subways, most of all the cost. A more practical elevated system (covered, to better deal with Boston winters) could be constructed faster, and for much less money.

    Additional loops serving major attractions and busy locations within the downtown core could supplement and enhance existing mass-transit in Boston.

    Because the trains are automated and don't require drivers, service is very frequent. And, the best thing of all about the Miami Metromover ...
    ... (see end of video).

    This particular line would be great now

    This corridor is the most heavily trafficked (and provides the greatest time savings) of any in the data on Hubway use.

    In other words, the transit connections are not working for an increasing number of people who either travel from South Station to Haymarket or Long Wharf areas, or from North Station to the Financial District or (increasingly) the Seaport.

    Although the El might have been difficult to maintain due to salt spray. Perhaps a dedicated trolley lane on the Greenway would be a good start.

    Don't have any data for you,

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    Don't have any data for you, but walking those connections you mention is not all that difficult. Time constraints might be another thing , but good exercise . A shot of Old T , oops , I mean cortisone , might enhance the experience , make it more better .

    South Station to Long Wharf

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    South Station to Long Wharf,seriously no big deal to walk. Don't inflate things and try to pour gas on the pile.

    Sure, It's Walkable For You And Me ...

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    ... but walking from South Station to North Station isn't practical for everyone at all times. I wouldn't want to do it in the middle of winter or in a pouring rainstorm, especially if carrying any luggage. Since Government Center closed, I've been walking (or biking) between Bowdoin and Charles/MGH all the time, but that doesn't mean the Red-Blue connection between those two stations shouldn't be built.

    If growth is to continue in Boston; especially with redevelopment in the central core; it makes more sense to improve and better integrate the mass-transit lines to serve more people, than it does to add new streets and highways to accommodate more cars. That's why specific transit expansion projects were required as mitigation for the Big Dig construction. Although the Green Line extension is finally moving along, other important projects such as the Blue Line extension to Lynn/Salem, the North-South Rail Link, and the Red-Blue connection are completely stalled.

    The time to make that

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    The time to make that connection was when they had the whole shooting match tore up, and run the summa bitch where the ladala Greenway is, and try to figure out how to deal with the cross streets. That mitigation hogwash was a placebo, there are no more leaves left on the money trees, and trying to force something in now will not be tolerated by the residents , or funding nation. Everything costs money, someone has to pay , can't see it happening. They even managed to eliminate the Arborway trolley, that was bullshit too.

    I fail to see the virtual of an El

    Have you seen the pictures of Charlestown Main St or Washington St when the the El was in place? Noone wanted to be anywhere near them. They were a blight.

    I have to agree it seems like it should be possible re use the route of the old El connecting North and South Station, just underground would be so much better.

    It was what is was , just

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    It was what is was , just like we had black & white tvs. Good enough to get it done, better tha no tv and just the radio. Maybe they can design a sexy minimalistic model for the South Station - North Station link, but I like the idea of the trolley car on the Greenway, but too many intersections to cross. Don't think there ever will be a link, the people don't want the interruption of construction even if there was a practical design.

    Els get a bad rap

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    What's worse than an elevated train line is an elevated highway, as Boston and Brooklyn both learned the hard way. At least the elevated train isn't so wide, and it disperses and attracts pedestrians around the stations. Unlike a highway, which simply repels everyone.

    I have to say, that after spending some time around the remaining elevated subway lines in New York City and Chicago, I have come around to liking them a bit more. Better than nothing, or being stuck in traffic. The streets below the Els in NYC and Chicago are doing just fine, usually quite vibrant areas despite the noise and the shadows.

    I think Washington Street suffered more from "urban renewal" and the associated neglect than from the El. The resurgence would still have happened, just with proper rapid transit instead of the Silver Lie. They structure could have used some repairs, it appears, and some infill stations, though.

    On the other hand, a surface line can do quite well if designed properly. Oftentimes, going above or below grade is not a benefit to transit riders, but rather, a benefit to car drivers. Just look at the politics in Toronto, where car-crazy (among other things) Rob Ford promotes subways, while the "Transit City" group promotes at-grade light rail and streetcars.


    On the West Medford / Somerville boarder on Boston Ave every so often a pothole exposes what appears to be rails which were covered by asphalt at somepoint in distant past. I've asked about when railcar service used the road but no one knows.

    I find it ironic that the Green Line extension will cost billions to pretty much replace something the area already had but foolishly got rid of in favor of the private automobile.

    The same is true with Mass Ave in Arlington -- that's why it's so wide. The rails are still buried along much of the road.

    If you look at the old trolly maps around Boston you can see how extensive the system used to be.

    So I'd agree that rail transit used to be a whole lot better. But I'd not sheding any tears for the El or the elevated Green Line. (Though it did always feel like the trolly was going to hit the federal building next to the Garden.)

    Any more Info?

    I figured it was something like that. I'd be curious as to when the service stopped, it's ridership, photos, etc.


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    Why not just spend the money on expanding the subway system everywhere so the next generation doesn't have to deal with it. If the started planning right now, we could replace trolley services with rapid transit subways in about 10-15 years. We're waiting....


    The line up Boston Ave was last used in 1933. At the time, service stub ended somewhere between North St and Mystic Valley Pkwy. The tracks beyond that point remained all the way to High St (where they turned down High, down Medford, and into Arlington Center). The tracks beyond Mystic Valley Pkwy were removed in 1934.

    Boston Ave. tracks

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    The Boston Elevated Railway had a streetcar line between Sullivan Square Terminal and Arlington Center, via Medford Hillside. The outer end was the same as today's #80 bus, but the inner end went via Broadway to Sullivan, instead of to Lechmere. The outer end of this streetcar line, between Massachusetts Ave. and Parallel St. in Arlington, was converted to a bus shuttle on Nov. 11, 1931. The remaining portion between Parallel St. and Powder House Square in Somerville was converted to a bus route on July 9, 1932.

    The inner portion of the current #80 route, along Medford and Pearl Sts. in Somerville, was also a streetcar route, converted to bus on Oct. 27, 1924.

    The Answer!

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    Thanks for playing folks! Those of you who guessed Rowes Wharf Station on Atlantic Ave are correct. The date is March 18, 1942.

    March 18, 1942

    The date is March 18, 1942.

    Hmm, this must have been one of the very last stations to be scrapped then. Anyone have specific dates on scrapping?

    I think the entire line was

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    I think the entire line was mothballed in 1938 after it closed, and wasn't torn down until 1942, to provide scrap steel for the war effort.