Monday, July 11, 2011

South Station, Boston

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South Station
Submitted by Paul Cutler III on Thu, 10/28/2010 - 11:43am.[on this page]

South Station is only 9 years old in this photo. All 28 tracks are in use, and at this time it is the busiest passenger terminal in the world. It was capable of handling 8 simultaneous train movements through the yard throat.

This picture most likely was taken from the drawbridge control cabin over the Fort Point Channel. This 3-bridge, 6-track structure was only torn down in the past 10 years or so for the Big Dig.

The large train shed was torn down in the 1930's due to the expense of maintaining it and the corrosive effects of the coal smoke on the steel and concrete structure. Not to mention keeping the glass clean.

The building on the left is the outbound express building, which was originally used by a predecessor of the Railway Express Agency. Most if not all the cars in the photo are wood framed cars. The 3 cars behind the leg of the tower are especially ancient with their flat arched roofs.

The building on the far right is the power plant and gas plant for power and lighting of the station (replaced by the South Postal Annex in the 1940's). The coal carrying cars are of the drop bottom gondola type, rather than a true hopper car. The reporting marks on that old tank car is "W.O.W.", and I have no idea what railroad or shipper that is.

The two ramps on the right lead to the abandoned underground commuter loop. This was to be used with electric commuter cars like the ones used on the Nantasket Beach Branch of the New Haven Railroad. This was center 3rd rail, like Lionel toy trains. Safety complaints and projected expense kept the New Haven from electrifying all Boston commuter traffic like it wanted to. South Station was the 1st terminal in the world to be designed for electric trains, and yet it didn't happen until the 1990's for Amtrak on the upper level. The reason for two ramps is that the one on the right was to be used for all Old Colony RR lines to the South and East, while the ramp to the left was to be used for all Providence, Franklin, Needham, Dedham, and Stoughton lines. From what I read, they tried to use the loop once with a steam engine test train, but almost killed everyone on board due to the total lack of ventilation.

The loop station was used at various times as a parking garage and a bowling alley. It was not fully removed until South Station's reconstruction in the mid-1980's.

The Atlantic Street wing of the station (visible at left) was torn down before preservation efforts started. It was rebuilt much wider in the 1980's for a food court. They reopened the same quarries used in the 1890's to get the same color granite. The Summer St. wing was shortened by half for the Stone & Webster tower.

All of South Station was owned by the Boston Terminal Co., which was jointly owned by the railroads that had their own stations replaced by South Station: Old Colony RR, Boston & Providence RR, Boston & Albany RR, and the New York & New England RR. Each RR owned 20% of the BTCo., plus the New Haven RR which owned the OCRR, NY&NE, and B&P (giving the NHRR 80 percent control).

Today, South Station is at 13 tracks, yet it has more scheduled trains than in 1940. There is serious talk of moving the Post Office out, and expanding the track diagram to 20 tracks.

Below is a picture of the lower level track system. 

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday and mentioned them, but he didn't believe it. I replied that I myself didn't either until I saw them myself.

About 19 years ago I had gone into Boston at the beginning of the re-construction project, they had two full blocks of double high scaffolding blocking off the front and East sides of South Station. Along the inner sides of the scaffolding was a plywood barrier wall to protect pedestrians from falling debris and on that temporary barrier they had posters and historical referances to South Station posted along the path. 
It was very interesting, I think I spent a couple hours looking over all of the material. One particular point of interest was the underground tracks system. Several photos had pictures of trains parked underground on a series of tracks layed out in about a 2 mile radius right under the outer edges of the station and under the surrounding streets.

The note however with this picture of part of them says that they were never even put to use.  
"The lower level loop tracks which were never put into service.  The lower level later became an employee parking lot and a bowling alley.  This photo taken shortly after South Station was opened."
Link to that page is [here].

NOTE: I plan on emailing the station to ask for more access to the reference material that they had posted on the walls back then, because it was really very interesting anyway.

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