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MBTA Unveiled First of 40 New Locomotives

April 18, 2014

This week, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) unveiled the first of 40 brand new, MPI HSP46 locomotives that will support commuter rail service at North Station. The locomotive was designed and assembled in the U.S.A. by MotivePower, Inc.


The first of 40 new MPI locomotives

Veteran MBCR locomotive engineer Paul Taylor operated the locomotive on its first run to Haverhill. Taylor was selected for this honor to commemorate his retirement later this year after more than 40 years on the railroad.


Paul Taylor, MBCR locomotive engineer

The 40 new MPI locomotives will replace existing equipment that has outlived its useful life. The new units meet Tier 3 emission standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will reduce fuel consumption by 400,000 gallons per year.

The new locomotives are a critical element of the MBTA’s ongoing initiative to improve commuter rail performance and the customer experience.

Watch the locomotive depart North Station: 

Modified Weekend Service Schedule to be in Effect due to Fitchburg Line Improvement Project

April 9, 2014

Littleton/Image Courtesy of Pi.1415926535The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR) and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) today announced that rail service will be suspended for all stations west of Brandeis/Roberts on the Fitchburg line and a modified schedule will be put into place for stops between Brandeis/Roberts and North Station to accommodate ongoing improvement projects. This change will begin on Saturday, April 26th through Sunday, June 29th.  

Busing will not be provided during weekend service interruptions. Customers are advised to seek alternate modes of transportation. Weekday service is not affected by the ongoing improvement work. Regular weekend service will be provided on Memorial Day weekend, May 24th and 25th.

This interruption will impact weekend service to and from Fitchburg, North Leominster, Shirley, Ayer, and Littleton/Route 495, South Acton, West Concord, Concord, Lincoln, and Kendal Green stations. All other trains between Brandeis/Roberts and North Station will operate on the modified weekend schedule below:


Inbound to North Station
Train No. Saturday 1402 1404 1406 1408 1410 1412 1414 1416 1418 1420
Train No. Sunday 2402 2404 2406 2408 2410 2412 2424 2416 2418 2420
  A.M. A.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M.
Brandeis/Roberts 7:51 10:26 12:01 2:07 3:46 5:17 6:13 8:48 10:46 12:18
Waltham 7:55 10:30 12:05 2:11 3:50 5:21 6:17 8:52 10:50 12:22
Waverley f 8:00 f 10:35 f 12:10 f 2:16 f 3:55 f 5:26 f 6:22 f 8:57 f 10:55 f 12:27
Belmont f 8:02 f 10:37 f 12:12 f 2:18 f 3:57 f 5:28 f 6:24 f 8:59 f 10:57 f 12:29
Porter Square 8:07 10:42 12:17 2:23 4:02 5:33 6:29 9:04 11:02 12:34
North Station 8:18 10:53 12:28 2:34 4:13 5:43 6:40 9:13 11:12 12:45


Outbound from North Station
Train No. Saturday 1401 1403 1405 1407 1409 1411 1413 1415 1417 1419
Train No. Sunday 2401 2403 2405 2407 2409 2411 2413 2415 2417 2419
  A.M. A.M. A.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M. P.M.
North Station 7:00 9:40 11:13 1:20 3:00 4:30 5:30 8:00 10:00 11:30
Porter Square 7:10 9:50 11:23 1:30 3:10 4:40 5:40 8:10 10:10 11:40
Belmont f 7:15 f 9:55 f 11:28 f 1:35 f 3:15 f 4:45 f 5:45 f 8:15 f 10:15 f 11:45
Waverley f 7:17 f 9:57 f 11:30 f 1:37 f 3:17 f 4:47 f 5:47 f 8:17 f 10:17 f 11:47
Waltham 7:23 10:03 11:36 1:43 3:23 4:53 5:53 8:23 10:23 11:53
Brandeis/Roberts 7:30 10:07 11:40 1:47 3:27 4:57 5:57 8:28 10:27 11:58


To find out more information about the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line Improvement Project, please visit

Danvers Preschoolers Learn Rules of the Railroad

February 26, 2014

Whether you’re a pedestrian or behind the wheel, young or old, it’s important to know how to stay safe near trains and railroads. MBCR recently participated in an Operation Lifesaver presentation for students at the Step Into Learning preschool in Danvers. The lesson provided these young school children with valuable knowledge about railroad safety when they are boarding a train, riding on a train, approaching gate crossings, walking near tracks, and what railroad signs mean.

MBCR Customer Service Manager Linda Dillon with Hailey, a student at Step into Learning

MBCR Customer Service Manager Linda Dillon with Hailey, a student at Step into Learning

MBCR staff shared these safety tips with the students:

  • Stay alert: Trains can come from both directions, so always stay clear of the tracks. Also, never go around or under gates when they are down.
  • Trains do not stop quickly: It takes a long time to stop a train – you can’t just put on the brakes and stop like in a car. Trains can take up to a mile to stop! Locomotive engineers may not stop in time if a person or car is on the tracks.
  • Stand back on the platform: Trains can extend three feet or more beyond the rail. Stay behind the painted lines or raised markings at the platform edge and never sit on the edge of a station platform. If your friends want to play on the tracks or on the train – tell them, “No, that’s dangerous!”
  • Never get on or off a moving train
  • Always listen to the conductor’s instructions – if you have questions or need help the conductor is happy to help you.


A peek of what’s inside the gift bags given to the schoolchildren

The children also learned about riding the train in inclement weather. Station platforms often turn icy when temperatures drop after winter storms.

At the end of the lesson, each child took home a gift bag with an Operation Lifesaver coloring book filled with additional safety tips, an engineer’s hat, and an MBCR toy train.

For more information on teaching railroad safety and to print out lesson plans for schoolchildren of all grade levels, click here.

The Rail Story: Tools of the Trade

December 23, 2013
The tool room: before and after

The tool room: before and after

After 39 years on the railroad, most employees have an eye on retirement. Not MBCR’s Danny Bikos, who began his career in the welding department in Billerica back in the 1970s.

As one might imagine, Bikos is a genuine encyclopedia when it comes to tools of the railroad trade. A lifetime of knowledge made Bikos the perfect choice to lead on a new venture inside the walls of the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility – the building’s first-ever formal ‘tool room.’

The benefits of a single tool room are clear. From Allen wrenches to pneumatic impact guns, CRMF employees now have a one-stop destination for any tool they will ever need, no matter how unique.  Wrenches, sockets, drills, and multimeters rest among the inventory inside the room, awaiting their next assignment. Bikos notes his “best seller” is an exhaust stack wrench, which is used to tighten bolts around the exhaust stack.

“I can’t keep it on the shelves,” he jokes.IMG_2828

The benefits of having Bikos build the room from the ground up are equally apparent. Bikos has utilized every possible tool for more than 30 years while maintaining MBTA commuter locomotives. Who better than Danny to organize dozens of tools that are critical to a unique fleet of locomotives – including engines that date back to the 1980s?

Warning: The new facility isn’t your dad’s toolshed. Bikos is utilizing a computerized barcode tracking system that records use of tools based on the machinists and electricians who checked them out and the equipment they repair. Bikos says the tool room makes a world of difference to the mechanical department because of the high level of operational efficiency it has created.


“Everyone loves the organization the tool room brings,” says Bikos.

The tool-filled drawers and shelves inside Bikos’ chain link cubby look unassuming, but everybody who works in the “big blue” building just north of the Boston Garden knows they are essential when it comes to maintaining the Commuter Rail fleet’s reliability.  Bikos’ fellow employees might be surprised, however, why he decided to take on the tool room.

“It was my way of paying [my experience] forward,” he says.

Riders Count! Fall peak ridership jumps 7%

December 18, 2013
Commuters arriving at North Station

Commuters arriving at North Station

As many commuter rail customers know, ridership on the MBTA system rises and falls with the economy, the weather, the price of fares and the quality of service. MBCR is pleased to report that, backed by strong service performance over the past year, commuter rail experienced a near 7% increase in ridership during peak hours.

Every year, MBCR counts passengers during peak travel times. This exercise, which takes place during the fall and again in the spring, allows MBCR to provide enough coaches to serve commuters during the morning and evening rush hours.  Spotters spend weeks on platforms counting customers as they board and disembark trains at South Station, Back Bay, Ruggles, Yawkey, JFK/UMass, Quincy Center, Braintree, North Station, Porter Square, and Malden Center stations. This rigorous process requires gathering data every day for every peak hour train over two consecutive weeks, then creating a snapshot of ridership for every train, on every line.

A train departs Back Bay Station

A train departs Back Bay Station

For the entire system, MBCR recorded an average of 86,300 peak hour passenger trips in September, a 6.9% increase from 80,600 recorded in the fall of 2012. Several lines also experienced growth, including an 8.1% rise on the Worcester Line and a 6.4% increase on the Providence Line.

The single largest segment of customer growth came on the Fairmount Line, which saw a 45% jump during peak hours following the opening of new stations at the Four Corners/Geneva station in Dorchester and the Newmarket stop near South Bay. These improvements are part of an ongoing, eight-year MBTA program to upgrade service only commuter rail line that exclusively services Boston customers in Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roxbury.

Slippery Rail: Fall Foliage’s Pesky Residue

November 12, 2013


MBCR is used to all of the challenges Mother Nature brings our way. Whether keeping coaches cool during summer’s scorching heat or clearing the snow off more than 400 miles of track, MBCR has a plan in place, ready to go.  In New England, the weather brings another service-challenging phenomenon every autumn: falling leaves and the ‘Slippery Rail’ that results from a greasy combination of leaf oil, rain and muck.

Yes, here on the rails, falling leaves don’t have quite the reputation that gorgeous foliage enjoys among so-called leaf peepers.  The average mature tree can hold 50,000 leaves, and the rail corridors are lined with these trees.  The height of the ‘slippery rail’ phenomenon is typically October through mid November.

When water and leaf oil are mixed together by pressure from passing trains, a sticky black ooze forms atop the rails, making them too slick for train wheels to gain traction.


Long-time customers know that severe build-up of the slippery residue impacts On Time Performance. When the problem arises, especially after a heavy rain, engineers must brake earlier to make stops. The condition forces engineers to accelerate more slowly to limit wheel slippage.

Left unchecked, ‘Slippery Rail’ can cripple equipment, result in significant repair costs and unwanted delays for customers.

To prepare for ‘Slippery Rail,’ our work crews spent the summer cutting back trees and shrubs along hundreds of miles of track. Starting well before the leaves fall, crews began the annual use of our unique, made-by-MBCR high-pressure rail sprayers that navigate the track to blast away pesky leaves and residue. This method safely removes leaf residue using 15,000 pounds per square inch of water pressure without causing damage to the rail.


To help mitigate impacts of Slippery Rail, this fall, MBCR is testing a new traction gel on the Newburyport/Rockport and Worcester Lines.  Once the train passes over a sensor, the gel is pumped out of a strategically placed solar operated hopper through a hose onto the rails and picked up by the train wheels.  The gel is carried along treating both the wheels and the rails providing continuous conditioning.  OSHA classifies the product as non-hazardous biodegradable and having no environmental or physical health hazard.

While MBCR has taken extensive preventative action, customers are still warned to expect some delays from the “Slippery Rail” condition.

Thank you for riding with us!

Train or Treat: Blood Drive Coming to South Station

October 17, 2013
MBCR employee Joyce with the Halloween T-shirts and snacks for the donors

MBCR employee Joyce with Halloween T-shirts and snacks for the donors

After immense success last year at North Station, this year we’re bringing our “Train-sylvania” blood drive to South Station to benefit patients at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Eligible blood donors can book appointments between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24th and will then board the stationary “Train-sylvania” on South Station’s Track 8 during their assigned donation time.

Snacks and drinks will be provided to volunteers after donating blood—as well as a special Halloween-themed gift.

Volunteers giving blood aboard the Halloween-themed train

Volunteers giving blood aboard the stationary Halloween-themed train

Book an appointment by phone at 617-222-8127 or by email at (And don’t forget a photo ID on donation day!)

Generally, donors 17 years of age or older who are in good health and over 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood, however, it’s always best to double check. Contact Brigham & Women’s Hospital at 617-632-3206 or by email at  for more information.


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