Saturday, July 16, 2011

MBTA Orange Line route diagrams

My latest project on Wikipedia: Historical route diagrams on the MBTA Orange Line.

It's been pretty tricky. Having a standard set of route diagram template icons to work from helps, but they're from the German wikipedia, so their abbreviations are all in German, as is some of the documentation.

The Orange Line is also especially tricky because its route has varied a lot. The Green Line streetcars have had many different routes, but they always shared the Tremont Street Subway. The Red Line has always been centered around the connected Cambridge and Dorcester tunnels. The Blue Line, the East Boston Tunnel.

But the Orange Line strays a lot - in fact, it no longer uses any of the route that it did in 1901, when the major elevated sections were opened.

In 1901, the Charlestown Elevated carried trains from Everett to the North End. Some cars went along the Atlantic Avenue Elevated to South Station; others went into the Tremont Street Subway through center Boston. All met up in the South End and took the Washington Street Elevated to Dudley Square.

In 1908, the Washington Street Subway opened through center Boston, and the Tremont trains were diverted through it, leaving the Tremont Street Subway open to streetcars. Thus, the first modern section of the Orange Line - from Friend-Union (now Haymarket) to Boylston-Essex (now Chinatown), stopping at Milk-State (State) and Summer-Winter (Downtown Crossing) - was born.

In 1938, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated closed at South Station then completely due to lack of ridership; it was torn down for scrap during World War II.

The MBTA (formed 1963) did not like elevated lines; they are noisy and prone to derailments on sharp curves. In 1975 the stop at North Station was placed into a tunnel and a new tunnel carved under the Charles. The line was extended to Oak Grove along the commuter rail tracks, and the Charlestown Elevated was torn down.

The Washington Street El came down in 1987, as the Southwest Corridor project relocated the line to a trench alongside Amtrak and commuter rails. The service along southern Washington Street was sorely missed; the Silver Line bus service began to fill its place in 2002, but many feel that a true rail line is needed.

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