On the T, a Step Back in Time

One of the joys of living in an ‘old’ city like Boston is when it reveals a hidden, seemingly unknown piece of itself. Having traveled enough to fear the growing homogenization of the American streetscape by chain stores but having lived in and around Boston for most of my life, I was surprised and thrilled to discover the Mattapan Line.

Its a small spur off the terminal point of southbound Ashmont Red Line that runs only three miles, stops at 8 stations, and carries about 4,500 passengers on a given weekday.

As careful readers will note, I’ve got a thing for transit, and its the railcars on the Mattapan Line that are the real treat. Take a look at the video below.

Those cars are “PCC” cars built in 1945 and 1946. They’ve been rebuilt twice, but the look and feel is straight from a 1950s film. There are only a handful of other cities – mostly outside North American – that still have these cars in service.

The line runs from Mattapan Square to Ashmont, two solidly urban locations. In between, you run through leafy Milton along the Neponset River within a passing view of Lower Mills. At one point, you can actually see the tidal Neponset Estuary and the boats of the Milton Yacht Club. It also runs right through Cedar Grove Cemetery.

As noted, I’ve ridden the MBTA for years, but the Mattapan Line was a singular experience – like stepping back in time and getting an amazing crossection of the city in a mere three miles.

Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.

Photo by Erik Weber