Proposal for a MBTA Station in Foxboro, MA

It’s been talked about a few times in the last 10 years to bring passenger rail service back to the Foxboro area. Multiple ideas were expressed, but none of them gaining any traction. For many years now, the MBTA has been providing a special commuter rail service for Patriots games. These trains come from both the north and the south via the Northeast Corridor. Trains come from South Station in Boston and the TF Green Airport in Warwick, RI.

Background on the Framingham Secondary Line
Back in 1867 the Mansfield & Framingham Railroad built this 22 mile route providing freight service right from its beginning. Passenger service was on and off from 1893 to 1933. Freight is still alive and well on this 22 mile route now know as the Framingham Secondary line. Most weekday CSX trains make their way back and forth between Framingham and Mansfield. Once in Mansfield, rail traffic merges on to the Northeast Corridor. CSX services both industrial parks in Mansfield plus points north and south when needed.

One of the most photographed spots on the line is the diamond near the historic Union Station in Walpole, MA. This is where Mansfield & Franingham Railroad meets the Norfolk County Railroad line built in 1847. Nowadays you would see over a dozen Franklin commuter trains crossing over the diamond using a good portion of the Norfolk Country Railroads route.

David Mohler, the Executive Director of the MassDOT Office of Transportation on Right and Stephen Jones director of transportation and customer service MassDOT on left.

David Mohler, the Executive Director of the MassDOT Office of Transportation on Right and Stephen Jones director of transportation and customer service MassDOT on left.

The Selectmen Meeting
This past Tuesday, I attended the Foxborough Selectmen meeting in the auditorium of Ahern Middle School. The auditorium wasn’t full but there was a good amount of people that showed up for this hearing. Representing the state was David Mohler, the Executive Director of the MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning. He placed two maps on the stage, one displaying how the Foxboro Station will play a role with the current MBTA Commuter Rail lines while the second one displaying the existing Foxboro station, proposed parking, and support facilities.

Proposal for a MBTA Line for Foxboro, MA

 

The proposed Foxboro Station would become a part of the “Fairmount line” via the Franklin line. The MBTA would run approximately five trains weekdays: two AM peak trains, one mid-day train and two PM peak trains. Studies show that this new MBTA station would attract nearly 600 new riders. Currently, service on the “Fairmount Line” ends service in Readville, but if the Foxboro station is approved, trains would run express to and from Foxboro.

Proposal for a MBTA Line for Foxboro, MA

Back in March, the MassDOT met with the Kraft Group, the owners of Gillette Stadium. Nothing is written in stone, but the Kraft Group like the idea. Currently there is a platform already in place and ready to use parking is available as well. The Kraft Group with allow 500 of their current parking spaces to be used by the daily commuters. The Kraft Group would collect parking fees and maintain the parking lot (plowing, cleaning, etc.). The parking fee would be split between the Kraft Group and the MBTA. Also proposed is a five acre lot for support (layover) facilities, which would include storage tracks for the MBTA Commuter Rail trains. The layover facilities wouldn’t be built right away, but this is something that would happen over time.

MassDOT is currently acquiring the Framingham Secondary right of way from CSX. The deal should be done by the end of the month or no later than the end of the year. The price tag for this 22 mile right-of-way, is 23 million dollars. Mohler states MassDOT is investing in the future with this purchase. Without this purchase, the Foxboro Station proposal wouldn’t be possible. Whether or not the Foxboro station gets approved, this right of way would be a key connection to three major MBTA Commuter Rail Lines; Worcester, Franklin and Providence/Attleboro Line. This line could be used in emergency situations, allowing trains to bypass an incident such as derailment. Right now with the current track trains can travel at speeds of 15 MPH, but once the MBTA updates the track, that would bump up speeds to 45 MPH. This would also open up opportunities for a “Worcester Patriots” game train.

The Selectmen board and the general public seem to have mixed feeling on this proposal. I heard everything, as far as complaints, from noise to safety concerns. But, on the other hand, one resident was very vocal about how great it would be to be able to get in and out of Boston without dealing with the traffic.

Not that I know everything about Foxboro, but it seemed like the selectmen have a bitter taste in their mouths because of the Krafts’ involvement in this project. Multiple times during the hearing, Mohler was asked, “why didn’t you meet with us first before the Kraft Group?” His reasons were that the station is a part of their private property and to see if they have an interest in this project was a private matter. Bob Kraft recommended meeting with the town of Foxborough selectmen before processing any further, which prompted this meeting.

My thoughts…
In my opinion, this would be a great opportunity to connect the town of Foxboro to the city of Boston. Everything is already there as far as parking, the right of way, and a station. Yes, it will cost some money to upgrade the track and the station, but this project is no different than the CapeFlyer Summer train service. Everything was there, it just needed some improvements. The CapeFlyer just completed its second year of service with much success. I’m going to keep a close eye on this, stay tuned.

Streaming Your Own Online Railroad Scanner Feed

BroadcastifyWhen you think of Police Scanner Apps for your smartphone, you normally think of police and fire, right? Well, if you visit http://www.broadcastify.com, you can find over 4,000 online scanner feeds and nearly 100 of them are railroad scanner feeds.

I’m often asked, “well, how is that possible?”
You may already have the tools to stream your very own railroad scanner feed.

Setting up a Railroad Feed
If your scanner is buzzing with railroad activity because you live near an active railroad yard or busy corridor, you may want to consider setting up a feed. First, I would visit the Broadcastify website to see if there is a feed already in your area. If not, I would begin with the set up process.

You will need the following:
– A pre-programmed scanner that will be dedicated to the railroad broadcast feed
– A computer you can run 24/7 with a stable internet connection and a designated sound card
– An audio cable to connect your scanner to your computer sound card via the input jack

(Broadcastify will provide the audio software for streaming the audio up to their servers, once your feed is approved.)
Read more about the requirements for approval and fill out the online application

Once your feed is approved, you and others can monitor your feed online and on smartphones. By the way, Broadcastify does not charge for streaming, so you just need to get the audio to their servers.

Uniden  Bearcat BCT15XScanner Recommendation
The most ideal scanner would be the Uniden Bearcat BCT15/BCT15X. This scanner provides an alpha tag display for if you’re scanning multiple railroads on different frequencies. This data can be sent along with the streaming audio. That means that the stream listener would be able to see who is talking if they are using a Java audio player. Sharing the alpha tags requires additional set-up and cables. This scanner also provides a record-out jack and the volume is pre-adjusted for streaming and recording. You can still use this scanner for listening, and when you adjusted the scanner volume it will not affect the volume of the stream.

Southeastern New England Railroads

Player with Alpha Tags

Really any scanner can be used as long as it’s narrow band capable and it covers 160 -162 MHz. If it does not have a record-out jack, you will need to adjust the volume when setting up the stream, so it will not be too low or too loud. Ferret 8 Band Base Antenna

Antennas Recommendation
If you’re able to put up outdoor antenna, you may want to look at getting a VHF Base antenna such as the TrainTenna – Vertical Outdoor Base Antenna. If you’re not able to put an antenna outside of your home, you may want to check out the TrainTenna Blade Indoor Antenna. Both of these antenna are highly recommend by railfans. I’m currently using the Austin Ferret Outdoor Antenna (photo on right) which is a great all band antenna and works really well on VHF. Having a great antenna is key to providing the clearest signal. Depending if you’re within close range, a basic telescopic antenna would be fine.

My Railroad Feed
As you may already know, I have a railroad scanner feed on Broadcastify called “Southeastern New England Railroads“. My feed covers Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. You will hear communications between the dispatcher and the trains running along this busy corridor, which includes Amtrak’s Acela, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional, CSX, Providence & Worcester and the MBTA Commuter Rail.

I hope this inspires you to share your railroad scanner with other rail-fans. This is one of the ways railfanning is moving into the digital age!

We would love to hear from you!
If you set up or already have a railroad scanner feed we would love to hear about it, so please e-mail us with all of the details.  Your feed may be featured in an upcoming blog post!

Amtrak Exhibit Train in CT

Amtrak Exhibit Train
Last weekend I made my way to Essex, Connecticut, the home of the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. I made the trip for two reasons: to take a ride on the train and to see Amtrak’s Exhibit Train; a rolling, 510-foot museum of Amtrak’s history. This rolling museum includes two Amtrak locomotives, 3 display coaches, sleeper car and a café car converted to an exhibit store. The coaches date back to the early to mid-1950s; they display Amtrak’s timeline in history and their memorabilia. The 2014 tour is wrapping up, so before it’s gone, check out Amtrak’s Exhibit Train website for more dates.

Must see!

 

ExhibitTrain001

ExhibitTrain002

ExhibitTrain003

ExhibitTrain004

ExhibitTrain005

ExhibitTrain006

ExhibitTrain007

Seashore Trolley Museum – 75th Anniversary

Seashore Trolley Museum 75th
One of my favorite places to go railfanning is the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. This year they are celebrating their 75th anniversary. On Saturday, July 5th they had their annual “Founders Day” Trolley parade showing off its extensive collection. Leading the parade was the Biddeford & Saco Line No. 31 the museum’s first trolley. The parade was narrated by long time member Scott Hopper, giving detailed history about each trolley. The museum also reintroduced the Montreal “Golden Chariot” No 2, observation car, this car had underwent some much needed restoration. Below are a few of the many photos taken on that day, you can see all of them on the official Train Aficionado Fickr page.

 

Biddeford & Saco Railroad Company No. 31

Biddeford & Saco Railroad Company No. 31

No 2 “Golden Chariot” Montreal observation car

No 2 “Golden Chariot” Montreal observation car

Exploring the Danbury Railway Musuem

Danbury Railway Museum

Danbury, CT – Danbury Railway Museum is like most railroad museum, started by a few passionate railfans and railroad historians. The group took over the 6 acre abandoned railroad yard and the historic Union Station back in the early 1990’s. This group of individuals has grown into a 500 plus member organization.

Danbury Rail Yard
One of the key features of the yard is its 95 foot long turnable, build in 1917 by the New Haven Railroad. There was a nine-stall roundhouse unfortunately that is gone do to a fire some years back. The yard has nearly a dozen storage tracks displaying nearly 70 pieces of railroad equipment. Narrated tours by one of the many volunteers are available if you would like one . You can also take a 30 minute “Yard Local” train ride around the yard.

Danbury Railway Museum
Danbury Railway Museum
DRM_SteamLoco

Union Station
Union Station was built in 1903 by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. During the railroads peak nearly 125 trains would stop here. Today only a handful of Metro-North trains service this area. The Station was featured in the 1950 Alfred Hitchcock Film “Strangers on a Train”. In 2005 the station along with the only motorized turntable in the state of Connecticut became listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Today the station serves as the indoor portion of the Danbury Railway Museum and gift shop.

Danbury Railway Museum - Union Station


Strangers On A Train Trailer [1951]

 

The Danbury Branch
This branch was build in the mid 1800’s by Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. In its hayday the branch was primarily for passenger service. One could take a trip to New York City via the New York & New Haven Line (now known as the Northeast Corridor). Passengers could also go points north via the Housatonic line. Passenger service is still around but not as frequent heading to New York City (Metro-North). Freight service is still around as well, handled by the Providence & Worcester Railroad.

Danbury Station with Metro North Train

The Museum
The Danbury Railway Museum gives you an opportunity to see railroad history up close and even ride some of the historical rolling stock. One of the most popular railcars on display is the U.S. Railway Post Office Car built in 1910 by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and they are passionate about preserving railroad history. The museum is open year around, but only offering “Yard Local” rides from April to November.

Getting there
120 White St, Danbury, CT 06810

Railroad Scanner
Yard Ops 160.755

Danbury Railway Museum

Mansfield, MA – Amtrak Train 132 vs SUV

Mansfield, MA – Amtrak Train 132 vs SUVPhoto Credit @CBSBoston [WBZ Boston]

Details:

  • Sunday, June 22, 2014 just before mid-night
  • Amtrak Train #132 – Washington DC to Boston, MA
  • On board 180 passengers/crew no one injured
  • Train came to stop at Mile Post 201 (Mansfield, MA) after hitting SUV on the right of way.
  • 3 passengers in the SUV killed
  • Police are investigating how the SUV got on the right of way
    Read full news story

Exclusive Scanner Audio

Scanner audio is from the Train Aficionado “Southeastern New England Railroads Scanner Feed”.
You will hear Amtrak Train #132 calling to dispatch. You can also hear Southbound MBTA Train #2817 just before Mansfield Station. [Gaps between audio edited for time]

Video updates throughout the day:
Monday, June 23, 2014

Press Conference On Fatal Amtrak Crash In Mansfield – Mid Morning
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston


Amtrak Train Hits Vehicle In Mansfield, Killing 3 – NOON
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston


3 Dead After Amtrak Train Hits Vehicle On Tracks In Mansfield – 5 PM
Video Credit to WBZ TV Boston

Railroad & Transit Safety Videos

Did you know:
About every 3 hours, a person or a vehicle is hit by a train – Operation Lifesaver

Back in 1972 Operation Lifesaver was formed, to educate people about being safe around railroad tracks.  Please check out their latest campaign “See Tracks? Think Train! bellow.  I was able to find some pretty neat safety videos made by railroads and transit systems, even one dating back to 1959.

Operation Lifesaver
“See Tracks? Think Train!”

 

Union Pacific Railroad
The Last Clear Chance – 1959 Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Film

 

Long Island Railroad
Safety Commercial

 

MARTA (Atlanta)
Safety Slide

 

MBTA (Boston)
Safety Bounce

 

MTA (New York)
“Kevin and the Train” – Subway Platform Safety PSA

 

Metro (London)
Dumb Ways To Die

 

Metro (Los Angeles)
Rail Safety Animation Program

 

Utah Transit Authority
Operation Lifesaver

Riding the Rails – Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum

Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Willimantic, Connecticut
Willimantic is a small town in the heart of Eastern Connecticut known as the “Thread City”. In the early 1800’s there were six cotton factories, making Willimantic the largest thread producer in the world.

In the mid 1800s, Willimantic became the junction for many New England railroads. It also became a station stop for the high-speed “White Train” passenger rail service between Boston and New York in the early 1890s. In the early 20th century, one could see up to 50 trains making their way through Willimantic daily.

Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Willimantic is home of the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. This museum sits on the historical “Columbia Junction”, which is a part of the “Air Line” Route running between Boston and New York. This portion of the route was built by the New Haven, Middletown, and Willimantic Railroad in 1873, running 25 miles between Willimantic and Portland, CT. This line was abandoned back in 1965.

A few weekends ago, myself and some friends stopped by the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. This museum is entirely operated by volunteers, and has came a long way since 1991. They reconstructed the 6 bay Columbia Junction Roundhouse on to its original foundation. The original turntable was scraped and removed around the end of 1930s, but the museum bought a replacement turntable from Edaville Railroad in South Carver, MA, in 1994. This 60-foot Armstrong Turntable can be operated by two people. Volunteers are also laying down track reforming Columbia Junction Yard and laying some track on the original “Air Line” right of way. Over the years the museums display has grown; with some displays bought or donated. The museum currently has locomotives, freight equipment, passenger coaches, cabooses, and railroad-related buildings on display.

6 bay Columbia Junction Roundhouse and 60-foot Armstrong Turntable

6 bay Columbia Junction Roundhouse and 60-foot Armstrong Turntable

During our visit, we were able to learn about Columbia Junction and its role in Willimantic history. Visitors can take a short train ride on a portion of the historical Air Line right-of-way; there is a lot to see and the volunteers are exceptionally knowledgeable about the equipment, buildings, and the local railroad history. I would recommend visiting the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. I know we will be back!

#0800 General Electric 44-ton Locomotive

#0800 General Electric 44-ton Locomotive

Visiting the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
55 Bridge St, Willimantic, CT 06226

Open Saturdays & Sundays
10:00am to 4:00pm
First Weekend in May through the Last Weekend of October

Railroad Scanner
466.1375

Today, you would only see a few freight trains traveling through Willimantic. The New England Central Railroad and Providence & Worcester Railroad often exchange freight here. The railroad yard is located in downtown between Riverside Dr and Pleasant St.; where you can get a great birds-eye view of the yard on the Willimantic Footbridge.

View from Willimantic Footbridge

View from Willimantic Footbridge

Great Place to Eat!
After visiting Museum, we made a stop at the Aero Diner, located on 361 Boston Post Road and North Windham, CT. This diner was built in 1958 by the Bramson Engineering Co. If you’re a fan of Diners make sure you plan a stop here. The food was great and they have amazing thick milkshakes.

White River Junction – Historic Railroad Town

White River Junction Station
If you have ever traveled throughout northern New England, you may have heard of this small Vermont village called White River Junction (WRJ). This small community is at the major interchange for Interstates I-91 and I-89. But this isn’t why this community is called White River “Junction”. In the mid 1800 this small village became the hub for five railroads; awarding the town its name.

White River Junction Railroad Map

Those original five railroads include:
The Connecticut River Railroad - Red 
The Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad – Brown
The Northern New Hampshire Railroad – Green
The Vermont Central – Red
The Woodstock Railroad – Yellow

At one point, this railroad community had nearly 50 passenger trains traveling through it daily. Once the interstate highway systems took shape, passenger travel on the railroads declined significantly. Today this village isn’t booming with railroad activity as it was in its heyday.

Amtrak’s Vermonter
Passenger Service is still alive and well in Vermont with Amtrak’s Vermonter. This train provides service between Washington, DC and St Albans, VT. The Vermonter travels nearly 200 miles along historic rail lines in Vermont, including the Vermont Central Rail Line which runs north between East Northfield, VT through White River Junction before making a northeasterly turn to Burlington; a total of 174 miles. Then in Burlington, it heads down the Vermont & Canada Line to St Albans, VT; a total of 20 miles. These lines were built back in the mid 1800s.

The Vermonter travels over 600 miles with 30 stops between Washington, DC and St. Albans, VT. The train has one northbound and one southbound daily trip. The Northbound stops at White River Junction at 11:16AM and the southbound at 6:29PM.

Amtrak Vermonter at White River Junction

Amtrak Vermonter at White River Junction

New England Central Railroad
NECR handles freight service; this railroads reaches far north at the St Albans VT and as far south as Western Mass and Central Connecticut. NECR shares the same historical routes as Amtrak’s Vermonter.

New England Central Railroad

New England Central Railroad

Vermont Rail System
This is the primary freight service for the state of Vermont. This rail system bring freight in and out of White River Junction via the Connecticut & Passumpsic River Rail Line. This line runs north between White River Junction and Newport, VT; a total of 104 miles.

Vermont Railway at White River Junction

Vermont Railway at White River Junction

Green Mountain Railroad
The “White River Flyer” is a scenic railroad that takes riders on a 2 ½ hour round trip ride to Montshire, VT via the Connecticut & Passumpsic River Rail Line. The Flyer operates in the summer and fall months only.

Green Mountain Railroad

Green Mountain Railroad at White River Junction

Some of the forgotten rail lines

Woodstock Line – (The Woodstock Railroad)
This branch was built in the mid 1800’s; running 13 ½ miles southwest from White River Junction to Woodstock, VT. One of the challenging parts in building this line was crossing the Quechee Gorge. The first bridge constructed was a wooden bridge, but later in 1911 this bridge was replace by an arched truss bridge. For almost 60 years, this line provided freight and passenger services in and out of Woodstock. In 1933, the railroad was dismantled and most of the right-of-way became what its known today to be Route 4. The Quechee Gorge Bridge was converted from a rail to a highway bridge. Most people wouldn’t even know this was an old railroad bridge, unless they see the road side sign telling the history of the bridge.

Quechee Gorge Bridge

Quechee Gorge Bridge (Present Day)

Northern Line – (The Northern New Hampshire Railroad)
This line was also build in the mid 1800’s, running 70 miles southeast from White River Junction to Concord, NH. Less than five miles of the right-of-way is still in use between White River Junction and West Lebanon, NH. This area is handle by Claremont Concord Railroad; this short line railroad provides freight service to its customers in the West Lebanon area. They operate out of the Westboro Yard in West Lebanon, NH. While I explored this line, I was able to see the Westboro Yard and the roundhouse. Some local railroad historians want to save the roundhouse along with the neighboring structures but unfortunately it would cost millions to do so. As for the Lebanon portion, a “rails-to-trails” group is working to convert this abandoned right of way into a rail trail.

Westboro Yard (NH) Roundhouse

Westboro Yard (NH) Roundhouse

Railroad Scanner
All railroads traveling through White River Junction Communicate on 160.7700 MHz.

Ride and Hike at the Seashore Trolley Museum

Seashore Trolley Museum
Opening Day at Seashore

My wife Jodie, Watson (our 8 month old puppy) and I made our way north to Maine for our wedding anniversary weekend.  She surprised me with a visit to one of my favorite places, the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.  Not only were we going on a trolley ride, we were going do some hiking on the Smith Preserve which is part of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust Trails.  In 2013 the museum partnered up with the trust, giving the riders an opportunity to ride and hike. The trust created the “Trolley Trail” to link up the two organizations.  Also last year the museum became a dog friendly facility, after a successful dog day event.

Trip out to Talbott Park
We boarded the Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821 at the Visitor Center and made our way Talbott park.  At Talbott Park  we deboard the trolley and made our way to the trail system via the Atlantic Shore Line Railway right-of-way. The Museum currently owns 5 miles of this historical right-of-way and operates on nearly two miles of it. This was my first time exploring the right of way beyond Talbott Park. The tracks end just after Talbott Park and the roadbed becomes a gravel trail in the forest. The Smith Preserve Trail Entrance is a little over a 1/4 of a mile on the left.

Watson riding Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821

Watson riding Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821

Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821

Boston Elevated Railway Trolley 5821 at Talbott Park

Atlantic Shore Line Railway right-of-way just beyond Talbott Park

Atlantic Shore Line Railway right-of-way just beyond Talbott Park

SSTM2014_TrailMapSmith Preserve
Once in Smith Preserve you can explore the 10 miles of recreational trails in this 1,100 acre wildlife habitat. The Trails are clearly marked and maps are located at each trail junction.  We were able to explore Trolley Trail and most of the Steele Trail.  When we have more time we want do this again.

>>  Information about Smith Preserve
>>  Download the Smith Preserve Trail Map

If you’re going to visit the museum and do some hiking you need to let them know at the visitor center.  They will give you an additional ticket and schedule for deboarding and boarding at Talbott Park.  There is no additional cost to do the hiking your museum admission fee covers everything. Trolleys normally run every 45 minutes.

Smith Preserve Trail

Smith Preserve Trail

Smith Preserve Trail Marker

Smith Preserve Trail Marker

Watson Hiking on "Trolley Trail"

Watson Hiking on “Trolley Trail”

By the way…
The Seashore Trolley Museum is celebrating it’s 75th year of preserving mass transit history. The museum has tons of events planned.  I hope to attend the “Seashore Trolley Dog Day“, “Founder’s Day Trolley Parade“, and Members Day to just name a few. Stay tuned for more blog entries and photos!

Railroad Scanner
160.4700 Road
160.5000 Yard Ops

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