11 Retro Photos of the Orange Line

The MBTA’s Orange Line, like much of Boston, has a long, evolving history. The first parts of the elevated train were constructed in 1901, and by 1909, the train ran all the way from Everett to Forest Hills, with the southern portion riding above Washington Street. The route took a right turn when city residents defeated plans to extend I-95 through the heart of Boston, cutting through Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. Unfortunately, the state had already cleared the land for the new highway, so they had to answer a question: What to do with all that empty space? The emerging answer was to build a new route for the Orange Line, as well as adding in a commuter rail line and the Southwest Corridor Park.

After the new tracks were completed in 1987, the Orange Line moved a bit west, and the original elevated line was torn down. But not before Robert Welsh snapped a bunch of photos. Welsh decided to dig them back up in honor of the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the elevated line.

“In the 1970-80s I worked as a driver for the Red Cross delivering [patients] to city hospitals,” Welsh wrote in an email. “I passed by Orange Line stations and under the elevated tracks. Over the years I noticed the architecture of the stations: the character of the iron stairways, the light and shadows cast by the overhead tracks at different times of the day. I appreciated the copper used in the facade of Dover station and in the awning above the entryway of Northampton station. I noticed the beauty in the patina as the copper aged. These observations and others inspired me to bring a camera with me in 1983 to record the stations and the surrounding areas.”

Here, 11 cool photos of the elevated Orange Line circa 1983, courtesy of Welsh.

1. Orange Line traveling over Mass Pike:

(All photos by Robert Welsh)

2. Orange Line with Prudential Center in the background and some awesome cars in the foreground:

3. Dover Station in the South End, with the copper facade:

4. Dover Station with the Luncheonette Cafe, a Welsh favorite:

5. Washington Street and Mass Ave.:

6. Northampton Station (near Mass Ave./Washington Street), with Skippy White’s Records in the background:

7. Another shot of the elevated Northampton Station:

8. Egleston Station at Washington Street and Columbus Ave.:

9. Another shot of  the elevated Egleston Station:


10. Driving underneath the El on Washington Street, looking south toward Forest Hills:

11. The terminus of the line then and now remains the same: Forest Hills station: