Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General
Getting Here
the Arsenal Branch
Over at Porter Square


In General

Waltham Massachusetts is a great little railfan stop for those of you who are in the area.  It is the site of a former Boston & Maine RR station, now an MBTA commuter stop.  The B&M had two lines going through the area, and if you look on the north side of town, you can find traces of the right-of-way.  Back in the 2000 timeframe, there were still a few old crossing gates still standing, but I'm sure they are gone by now....

On the south side of the tracks is the former B&M Waltham Tower, complete with a semaphore type Train Order (TO) signal.

There are about 34 commuter trains through here each day.

A branch heading over to the Arsenal in Watertown was discontinued in 1960.  See the maps below.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) took on total responsibility for running commuter service in 1965 and now contracts with the MBCR (Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company) to run the day-to-day operations of the local commuter lines.

The B&M used searchlight signals almost exclusively.   When I was here in the 2001 timeframe, there was a complete searchlight pole laying on the ground adjacent to the WB platform, covered with years and years worth of vine growth.  The signal housings were still attached to the poles, but (I'm guessing) the mechanisms were probably removed.

All photos by Mike Brotzman, except where noted!

Maps from Google Maps.  Aerial shots were taken from www.bing.com/maps. The snap-shots from Bing are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!  Give it a try!

As always, if you have something to add or correct, my email is here

Getting Here

For those of you familiar with the Baltimore and DC Beltways, Boston has a similar arrangement with I-95, I-495, and a partial with 146/I-190.  Waltham is close to the I-95 "loop" which is the innermost of the three circular routes.

From the north or south, I would stay on I-95, following the signs to stay on I-95.

From the west, come in via I-90 to I-95, and then then take I-95 north.

The exit of interest is number 26.  Head east from I-95 on Weston Street, about two miles to the station area.  About halfway there, Weston runs into Main St, which takes you the rest of the way into town.




the PDF version is here


At the Station


    1      Waltham MBTA Commuter Station

  Photo by Justin Morgan, found here.  
MBTA commuter rail station, outbound side. Taken from Moody St. facing west.

  Taken from the Jackson St overpass.... Judging from Google Maps, it looks like the siding is now all gone.

   Looking east towards Boston (L), from roughly where the signal bridge is; looking west (R).

   Looking west, east of the station.

Many (many) years ago, this was the scene here in Waltham!

    2      Ex B&M Waltham Tower

The tower was built by the Boston & Maine RR in 1928.  The tower is in typical B&M style with brick facing and a tile roof.  It is the last tower of this type still in operation in the state.  According to one source, the tower has sisters in Ayre MA, East Deerfield MA, and Johnsonville NY.  The former B&M tower in Waltham, MA still sits beside the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line.

The tower controls operations on the Fitchburg Line between West Cambridge and Acton, and has been manned continuously since it's opening, currently with a staff of 5 operators.  Mary Howard is the operator seen below.

More info and pictures by Mike Brotzman can be found here and here

Info and the pictures below come from:





Picture by photoman82.  The picture was found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photoman82/3402750537/

The TO signal..... Dunno who took the picture, but it was found here


For what it's worth, here's what's left of the bridges on the Arsenal Branch.




    1      East EB Searchlight Signals

This signal used to have a deep blue doll post signal when I was here last around 2001-2002.  I was here several times, and only got to see it lit twice, the other times it was out.  Dave P. tells me that the doll post lamp assembly is now gone.  The doll post was for a siding that stood between the signal and the track it governed.  The siding has been disconnected from the mainline, and the freight cars on it can only be taken out by truck....

                    Photo by Dave P.

In these aerial shots from Bing:
     The blue arrow points to the signal location.
     The green arrow points to the station.
     The light blue line is the siding that necessitated the doll post and lamp.
     The yellow arrow points to the tower.
     The red arrow points to another siding, shortened somewhat, but still used for MOW storage.

    2      WB Searchlight Signals

These signals are just east of Moody St.  Only WB signals in the immediate area.


    3      West EB Searchlight Signals

The right track (inbound to Boston) has the high signals on the signal bridge, the dwarf searchlight is for the left (outbound) track.  The signals are west of Moody St.


    4      Arsenal Branch Dwarf Searchlight



1940's Era USGS Topo Maps

The first one is a 15 minute projection, the other three are 7 1/2.

The Arsenal Branch


In 1946, Waltham end on top, Watertown above, and the Arsenal below.
Notice the Boston & Albany had tracks in the area too, along with a large yard on the right side of the map below.


Map from Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watertown_Arsenal

Over at the Porter Square Station (in towards the city)

All of these photos are by Mike Brotzman

Porter Square station in background, from the Beacon St overpass.
Notice the green over green, not very common.



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NEW 03/21/2012
Last Modified 13-Aug-2013