Tuesday, May 17, 2011

YAY HISTORY: The E Branch to Arborway

So I'm guessing many of you are probably thinking right now, "Those maps really weren't lying... the T did actually go there!".

So yes, the E branch did, at one time, terminate at Arborway/ Forest Hills station. Just as a quick note, to experience this line first hand Aaron and I, on our last night of our freshman year, took the Orange Line to Forest Hills and walked the now defunct street car line all the way to Heath Street (where the E branch currently terminates).

A map at Park Street Showing
the suspended service
Now onto the history! Streetcar service began on the Arborway line in the early 19th century. Jamaica Plain was one of the first suburban regions in America that had streetcar service to a major downtown. The line which ran along South Huntington, Centre St. and South St. was an integral part of Boston's streetcar network for about a century.

On December 27, 1985 the MBTA "temporarily" suspended E branch service in order to execute two construction projects along Huntington Ave. In one project, the City of Boston rebuilt part of Huntington Ave east of Brigham Circle, where the LRV's run on the street with the cars. The second project was to rebuild the portal (where the street cars enter the subway) to allow for the then new and heavier Type 7 LRV's to run on the E branch.  While the branch was suspended its service was picked up by a bus line that went from Copley Square to Forest Hills.

An old catenary pole on South St.
In 1986 service was restored to the inner part of the line but terminated at Brigham Circle. Then three years later streetcar service was restored but only to the current terminus of Heath Street. This section is the only remaining section of street-running tracks in regular use by the MBTA. The section of the line from Heath St. to Arborway, to this day, has yet to be restored. 

The paved over tracks leaving going
Inbound from Arborway
Today, in effect, the MBTA has phased out the Arborway Line between Heath St. and Forest Hill's. Although it is still officially "temporarily" suspended, the perception that the line has forever closed has gradually strengthened. There was some hope for the defunct line during the Big Dig, but, like many things that were linked to the  Big Dig, nothing ever came of it. The T was supposed to restore service to this section in order to comply with the Clean Air Act which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. They were to eliminate the #39 bus and restore electric streetcar service. This has still yet to happen! 

Although the presence of the old catenary poles shows that the line did once exist, today, it is really hard to picture LRV's rolling down South and Centre Streets. As Aaron and I walked through this very cultural and tight knit section of Jamaica Plain, it seems that this neighborhood is still thriving even though there is only a bus serving the area. I do know for a fact though that if streetcar service was restored to this area it would be thriving even more! The culture of this area is unbelievable and should be seen by everyone, but is hard for people to find because it is only accessible by bus. 

Well folks thats this months history lesson! I really hope you enjoyed it and I hope you go out to JP and experience the great restaurants and stores! Check out Ten Tables and The Real Deal Deli! 

If you have any suggestions for next month leave a comment!


  1. The Arborway Line never went to Forest Hills.

    The Green Line station at Forest Hills was built after the line was closed down in 1985, and has never been used. Worse still: Forest Hills station has signs inside pointing you to the Green Line.

  2. Hi Matt!
    Just curious on where you got your information.
    This is what I have gathered:

    The Arborway station which is located right next the the Forest Hills Orange Line station was built in 1902. The Orange Line station was built as part of the "EL" in 1909. In 1985 service was "temporarily" suspended from the Arborway station on the Green Line and in 2008 the tracks running along the road from Arborway were paved over. The tracks at the station still remain (as you can see from my pictures). In 1987 the Orange line station at Forest Hills was completely rebuilt (due to the MBTA phasing out the "El").

    Here are some pics of Trollies using the Arborway station and also its adjacent yard and maintenance facility.




  3. streetcars do not work in that area the street is too small

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. the shopping area on centre street near the monument is not wide enough to have streetcars


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