Sunday, November 20, 2016

Railfanning: Boston, Boston Herald site

You don't always have to travel to railfan - sometimes railfanning right in your back yard can provide you with new experiences as well.  

On this occasion I was at the old Boston Herald site in the South End of Boston.   The area, once bay and swampland, was filled with brownstone like homes for around 100 years.   In the 1950's the whole area was bulldozed as part of Urban Renewal and zoned light industrial.   At this location Boston Herald set up shop for both reporters and printing presses.   This was still the era of rail deliveries, so a rail spur for paper delivery was built as part of the complex.

Former Boston Herald site from 2005.  No deliveries by rail any more but spur was still in place.


Loading Docks at the end of the spur (2005)


The area is located at Herald and Albany streets.  The spur came off the North East Corridor (NEC), under Herald street, then onto the Herald property.   (Most folks driving on Herald street have no idea there is a bridge over this spur).

The Herald has moved away, and the location is being redeveloped as housing with ground floor commercial.   The railspur area is currently parking lot and open grass (dirt).

In the below snapshot from Google Earth view (2015) you can still see the siding coming off the NEC, and the rail spur going under Herald street.   Construction of the new housing (Ink Block) is well under way at this point.

Spur coming off the NEC (upper left) and spur portal under Herald st (lower right)

The spur looks quite different now.  At the moment the area seems unused - some parking.  and a small hillock attempting to obscure the portal.   I have no clue what plans are for this corner of the site.


Herald Siding - 1
Portal today (2016)

but now that construction is done, the portal is accessible.


Herald Siding - 2
Looking in from the portal entrance


There's some trash in the underpass.   Not sure if it's construction leftovers or trash form people hanging out there.   It had not rained in days, but the area was still muddy from showers the previous week.   Some serious drainage issues.   I sank instantly if I tried to get closer, so I had to railfan from mid underpass.

Herald Siding - 5
Mid portal looking back. 

Looking back to the parking lot it's evident how much landfill has been added.   The spur came in at NEC level and actually sloped down to the siding.

Even mid tunnel you get a great view of the NEC.  The siding has been removed form the NEC main line.  Looks like the switch body/frog was left on the side of the mainline.  You can see the mud I'm standing on was added, bringing the tunnel floor up around 6 inches to begin with.

A fence is in place to keep all safe and prevent anyone wandering onto the NEC tracks.   While there is no high speed service at this location, there is a lot of train activity - several trains an hour during rush hour.    For those in the know, this is between the main curve out of South Station and Cove interlocking.     From the view below, Back Bay station is to our left and South Station is to our right.


Herald Siding - 4
Looking out of the tunnel onto the NEC tracks.

Both Amtrak and the MBTA use these tracks.  The tracks closest to us are for southbound service, including the NEC to New York.    The tracks furthest from us (on the other side of the stone abutment) go west towards Framingham, Worcester and (Amtrak) to Albany and points west.


Herald Siding - 5
Eastbound MBTA train on the Framingham/Worcester line

Herald Siding - 6
Eastbound MBTA train on the NEC line.

When trains go by on the closest track, you really feel like you're close to the NEC!

At this point there are no 'no trespassing' signs to the portal.   it seems fully accessible to the public.  The few people around didn't seem to care I went exploring.  I visited mid-day, so there were no 'undesirables' hanging out here.   It is a parking lot/delivery ware for a Whole Foods supermarket, so the owners do have an interest in keeping the area safe.

Happy railfanning.


Herald Siding - 7
Train on the way to back Bay station.


See all my railroad images on my Flickr Railroad album.



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