Train #465 entering Porter, bound for South Acton.
|System||MBTA Commuter Rail|
|Character||Commuter rail line|
|Rolling stock||Commuter rail cars|
|Line length||49.55 mi (79.44 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Fitchburg Line is an MBTA line that runs from Boston's North Station to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The line is along the tracks of the former Fitchburg Railroad, which was a railroad line across northern Massachusetts, United States, leading to and through the Hoosac Tunnel. It is one of the more scenic commuter rail lines, passing by Walden Pond between Lincoln and Concord. At nearly 50 miles, the Fitchburg Line is the second-longest line in the system, and ranks as one of the worst lines in terms of on time performance. The MBTA attributes this to the line's having the oldest and least adequate infrastructure in the system, and commuter trains' need to compete with freight traffic, mainly between Littleton and Fitchburg. Despite this, the Fitchburg Line still draws about 10,000 daily riders, and the MBTA expects it to draw even more once upgrades to the line are completed.
The Fitchburg Railroad opened between 1840 and 1845 from Boston to Fitchburg. The Boston and Maine Railroad leased the Fitchburg Railroad in 1900 and bought it finally in 1919. The portion between Fitchburg and Boston was sold to the MBTA on December 27, 1976 as part of Boston & Maine's divestiture of commuter rail operations.
Passenger service ran only to Fitchburg after 1960, after the Boston and Maine eliminated its through service to its western terminal in Troy, NY. In the early 1960s at least part of the right-of-way was to be utilized to connect Route 2 with the proposed Interstate 695 (Inner Belt) in Union Square, Somerville. On January 18, 1965, service was cut back to West Concord, but was restored to Ayer on June 28, 1965. On March 1, 1975 it was cut back to South Acton.
On December 27, 1976, the MBTA bought the Boston and Maine Railroad's northside commuter rail assets, including the entire length of the Fitchburg Line. The closure of the Lexington Branch the next month represented the limit of the contraction of the northside lines; as a results of the 1970s energy crisis and especially the 1979 energy crisis, a period of rapid expansion began in the end of the 1970s. Service was restored to Fitchburg and beyond to Gardner on January 13, 1980. Gardner service was ended on January 1, 1987 when Amtrak took over the MBTA contract, due to a dispute between Amtrak and Guilford; the MBTA only owned the trackage to Fitchburg. The Fitchburg route was once double tracked from Boston to Troy, NY. Double tracks now extend only to Acton, MA which is why, operationally, South Acton is the only station beyond Cambridge at which every train stops. Since the advent of Commuter Rail Operations by the Commonwealth, several stations along the Fitchburg lines have been closed. These include Clematis Brook and Beaver Brook in Waltham, West Acton in Acton and Harwood Depot on Taylor Street in Littleton, the last of which was immediately replaced by Littleton/495 station a mile away.
The Fitchburg Line west of the old Stony Brook Railroad, which now junctions east of the old Ayer Junction, now serves as part of Guilford's main line between Mattawamkeag, Maine and Mechanicville, New York.
In 2007, the MBTA announced a $150 million project to significantly upgrade the Fitchburg Line.  Double track is being extended from South Acton to Ayer, leaving one-third of a mile in Waltham as the only single-track section of the line. Littleton/Route 495 reopened with a full-length high-level platform in June 2013, and a rebuilt South Acton station will open in 2014. The new stations are fully handicapped-accessible, and designed such that all South Acton short-turn trains will be extended to Littleton in 2015. Additionally, service will be extended 4.5 miles west of Fitchburg to a new Wachusett park-and-ride station, to be opened in 2014.
Station and junction listing
This listing shows only stations and junctions that have been active since the creation of the MBTA in 1964. A full list is also available.
|Milepost||City||Station / Junction||Opening date||Connections and notes|
|Orange Line and Green Line; 4 bus
Lowell Line, Haverhill/Reading Line and Newburyport/Rockport Line
|0.7||Somerville||Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility||A flag stop with a wooden platform for MBTA employees only
Lowell Line, Haverhill/Reading Line and Newburyport/Rockport Line split
|3.37||Cambridge||Porter Square||1843||Red Line; 77, 77A, 83, 96 buses
Formerly Porter's, North Cambridge, and Cambridge
|4.28||West Cambridge (junction)||split with (abandoned) Watertown Branch Railroad loop (east of New Street)|
|4.53||Brick Yards (Fens)||closed; split with (abandoned) Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad (just east of Alewife Brook Parkway)|
|5.35||join with (abandoned) Fitchburg Cutoff|
|6.43||Belmont||Belmont Center||74/75 bus, temporarily closed 1958, reopened March 4, 1974|
|7.39||Waverley||73 trackless trolley, temporarily closed 1958, reopened March 4, 1974.|
|8.31||Waltham||Clematis Brook||closed June 1978. Was located off Clematis Avenue in Waltham. Track connection to the (abandoned) Central Massachusetts Railroad.|
|9.26||Beaver Brook||closed June 1978. Was located at Massasoit Street in Waltham.|
|join with (abandoned) Watertown Branch Railroad loop|
|9.86||Waltham||70, 70A, 505, 553, 554, 556, 558 buses|
|10.55||Riverview||closed January 17, 1965|
|13.72||Hastings||limited service, five inbound trains and six outbound trains on weekdays.|
|14.71||Silver Hill||limited service, two inbound trains and three outbound trains on weekdays.|
|16.66||Lincoln||Lincoln||originally South Lincoln|
|25.06||Acton||South Acton||Clock Tower Shuttle; terminal station for some trains; temporarily closed January 17, 1965, reopened June 28, 1965.|
|26.77||West Acton||closed January 17, 1965, reopened June 28, 1965, closed April 30, 1975.|
|30.16||Littleton||Littleton/Route 495||January 13, 1980
June 3, 2013
|Opened as a replacement for the former Littleton station.|
|31.47||Littleton||Opened 1879, temporarily closed January 17, 1965, reopened June 28, 1965, closed April 30, 1975. Replaced by Littleton/Route 495. The former station building, Harwood depot, still stands at the intersection of Taylor Street and King Street.|
|33.72||Ayer||Willows||Closed; it was located between Littleton and Ayer and served both communities. Junction with Stony Brook Railroad|
|36.07||Ayer||temporarily closed January 17, 1965, reopened June 28, 1965, temporarily closed April 30, 1975, reopened January 13, 1980|
|39.43||Shirley||Shirley||temporarily closed January 17, 1965, reopened May 1981|
|45.34||Leominster||North Leominster||temporarily closed January 17, 1965, reopened January 13, 1980|
|49.55||Fitchburg||Fitchburg||March 5, 1845
January 13, 1980
|MRTA Buses to Gardner
Closed from January 17, 1965 until 1980
|Wachusett||2014 (planned)||New station under construction|
|Gardner||Gardner||January 13, 1980||Closed January 1, 1987|
- "Ridership and Service Statistics". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- Fitchburg Rail Line Improvement Project Alternatives Analysis
- The cancelled I-695 route (superimposed on Google Maps)
- Belcher, Jonathan (12 November 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
- "Cambridge Cattle Market", in Cambridge Historical Commission-North Cambridge Stabilization Committee report, 2002
- Monahan, John J. (30 November 2007). "$150M smile for MBTA: Fitchburg riders get the nod". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "Patrick-Murray Administration, U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood, Congressman Olver Kick off Wachusett Commuter Rail Extension Project". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to MBTA Fitchburg Line.|
- MBTA - Fitchburg Line
- Mileposts from FRA Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Files and Guilford District 3
- Unofficial map of line on Google Maps template