Shortly after 11 a.m., the first of the new Orange Line trains pulled out of Wellington, heading south. Around 11:40, it pulled into Forest Hills, disgorging its first load of railfans, regular T riders, T workers and a lots of reporters.
If it didn't quite glide silent as a cloud, neither did it belch one of those loud sighs Forest Hills users have grown accustomed to over the years. Most of the squealing at Forest Hills came from two kids who were really, really excited to see and get on the new train. One kid who rode from points north to Forest Hills wore an Orange Line shirt for the occasion:
The train had six cars, the first of a set of 152 the T hopes to take delivery of through 2022, to replace the current fleet of 120 wheezing, rusty old rec rooms on wheels that have been plowing the Orange Line tracks since the early 1980s, back when the Orange Line still ran as an el through Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.
State officials say the second new Orange Line train should go into service this fall and that, eventually, the extra cars, when coupled with track and signal improvements, will mean more frequent, more reliable service on the Orange Line. In the meantime, though, riders will mostly have to continue to put up with the current trains:
A new train didn't mean a faster ride from Forest Hills, at least not yet - the thing still had to crawl up to Green and then Stony Brook. And the view out the doors - much wider than on the old trains - at some stations remains just the same, as Saul Blumenthal, who rode the train from Wellington and then back, noticed:
At least on the car the UHub Action Mobile News Team jumped on, there seemed to be more reporters than actual people (maybe it was because we were in the car with the open bar):
An old outbound train and the new inbound train were in Stony Brook at the same time:
One of the features of the new cars are screens that tell you which station you're approaching and what connecting buses or commuter lines you can get there:
The trains also have automated announcements alerting riders to the next stop, voiced by Frank Oglesby, the guy who gave us the "Attention Orange Line riders, the next train to Forest Hills is now approaching" station announcements, brought back from retirement for his smooth vocal stylings. On the minus side, that might eventually mean no more Angry Screaming Orange Line Driver shouting at passengers who hold doors or refuse to move away from the yellow line.
The cars have new signage, as well, although the doors at the ends of cars are still marked with "No passing through" signs, and you've got to wonder how long those will remain unedited:
The seats showed the T learned from their mistake on the Blue Line: Like Blue Line cars, the new Orange Line ones have seats that are more like benches. But unlike on the Blue Line, the shiny plastic seats have a nubbly surface, to hug rider butts so they don't slide into other rider butts on curves or during sudden stops.
A look down our car, featuring a smiling TV reporter, her cameraman and a guy who looks like he's trying to place her:
Yes, the new cars had a faint new-car smell. More important, and we can't stress this enough: THE AIR CONDITIONING WORKS!
The first ever passenger service of the new cars began, of course, with a short ceremony. Gov. Baker was there, but no, don't worry, he didn't get jostled or have his hair mussed on the Orange Line: He spoke, posed for photos, then departed for a ride somewhere in his SUV.