Franklin Line

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Franklin Line
Norwood Central MBTA station, Norwood MA.jpg
OwnerMassachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
LocaleSoutheastern Massachusetts
TerminiSouth Station
Forge Park/495
TypeCommuter rail
SystemMassachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Operator(s)Keolis North America
Daily ridership11,671 (2018)[1]
Line length27.4 miles (44.1 km)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

0.0 mi
0 km
South Station
Silver Line (MBTA) MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
limited service via Fairmount
1.2 mi
1.9 km
Back Bay
MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
2.2 mi
3.5 km
MBTA Commuter Rail
6.5 mi
10.5 km
Mount Hope (closed 1979)
8.4 mi
13.5 km
limited service via Fairmount
9.5 mi
15.3 km
10.9 mi
17.5 km
11.8 mi
19 km
Dedham Corporate Center
12.5 mi
20.1 km
14.3 mi
23 km
Norwood Depot
14.8 mi
23.8 km
Norwood Central
16.6 mi
26.7 km
Windsor Gardens
17.7 mi
28.5 km
Plimptonville (closed 2020)
Lewis's Wye
19.1 mi
30.7 km
22.6 mi
36.4 km
23.0 mi
37 km
27.5 mi
44.3 km
Franklin/Dean College
30.3 mi
48.8 km
Forge Park/495
36.4 mi
58.6 km
Blackstone (closed 1966)

The Franklin Line, part of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, runs from Boston's South Station in a southwesterly direction toward Franklin, Massachusetts, utilizing the Northeast Corridor before splitting off onto the namesake Franklin Branch. Most Franklin Line trains connect to the Providence/Stoughton Line at Readville, though some weekday trains use the Dorchester Branch (Fairmount Line) to access South Station. Most weekday trains, and all weekend trains, bypass Hyde Park. Several weekday trains originate at Norwood Central or Walpole.

Foxboro station is located on a branch line, which connects with the Franklin Line at Walpole. Previously, trains only served the station during special events at Gillette Stadium. In October 2019, the MBTA began one-year pilot program of full-time service, the Foxboro Line.


Union Station in Walpole
The line was extended to Forge Park/495 station in 1988

The earliest predecessor to the Franklin Line began in 1835 when the Boston and Providence Railroad built a branch from Dedham to Readville, connecting with the main line from Boston to Providence. This was followed, in 1848, by the Norfolk County Railroad, which ran from Dedham to Walpole.[3] After various mergers and acquisitions, the line become part of the New York and New England Railroad until 1898, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad until 1968, and, ultimately, Penn Central until its 1970 bankruptcy.

What is today's Franklin Branch was a portion of the Midland Line of the New Haven's Midland Division, the New Haven's secondary route between Boston and New York; the MBTA's Dorchester Branch and the abandoned segments from Franklin to Willimantic, Connecticut via Blackstone were the remaining components of the Midland Line. In 1910, the passenger route on the Midland Line was a regional inter-city train that continued to New York via the Highland Line segment of the Highland Division between Willimantic and Waterbury, Connecticut, then continuing down the Housatonic Railroad to the New Haven Line.[4] Service was eventually shortened to Waterbury in 1937.[5]

However, in the 1940s and early 1950s service, including the New Haven's Nutmeg and several unnamed trains from Boston to Hartford and Waterbury continued.[6] It was shortened to Blackstone when the two southern spans of the bridge crossing the Quinebaug River in Putnam, Connecticut washed out during Hurricane Diane in 1955. The bridge was never repaired, and the line was abandoned between Willimantic and Putnam in 1959.

MBTA era[edit]

Service to Blackstone was discontinued in April 1966 when the MBTA began subsidizing the line; Franklin and beyond were not in the MBTA district, meaning that the towns themselves had to subsidize service, and only Franklin agreed to do so.[7] The easternmost bridge over the Blackstone River was washed out in the March 17-19th flooding of the river in 1968; the line beyond Franklin was abandoned 3 years later,[8] and is now preserved in full as the Southern New England Trunkline Trail. Between 1973 and 1976, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bought almost all track assets in Southeastern Massachusetts, including the Franklin Branch, from the Penn Central's bankruptcy trustees.

From the start of MBTA operations, Franklin was the terminus of the line. Service was extended to Forge Park/495 station on June 2, 1988, although the line retained its original name.[9][7] Forge Park/495 is not on the former NY&NE main line to Woonsocket, but instead on the former Milford & Woonsocket Railroad, which last saw passenger service in 1938.[10] The MBTA leased the branch from Conrail for the extension, with the possibility of future purchase.[7] In February 2020, the MBTA voted to purchase the line from Franklin to Milford for $13 million.[11]

Double tracking[edit]

In early 2019, the MBTA begin installation of an additional 3.8 miles (6.1 km) of double track - 3.3 miles (5.3 km) of new track plus the conversion of an existing siding) - between Walpole and Norfolk.[12] Major construction was completed in April 2020.[13] The $30 million construction of an additional phase and preliminary design of a third were announced in November 2019. Phase 2 will add 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of double track between Franklin and Norfolk, with completion by the end of 2020; it will allow headways to drop from 45 to 35 minutes. Phase 3 is planned to complete double-tracking between just north of Franklin/Dean College station and just south of Readville station, including the modification of several stations.[14][12]

Foxboro service and COVID-19 changes[edit]

A commuter rail train at a low-platform station
A train at Foxboro station in 2020

Until 1994, Boston–Foxboro service for Gillette Stadium events ran over the Providence/Stoughton Line, with a reverse move at Mansfield.[15] That year, Providence–Foxboro service was added, with Boston trains rerouted over the Franklin Line.[7] Initial intermediate stops were Back Bay, Dedham Corporate Center, and Norwood Central; Norwood Central was dropped beginning with the 2011 season.[16][17][18]

In September 2010, the MBTA completed a study to determine the feasibility of extending regular commuter rail service to Foxboro station via the Franklin Line. The study looked at extending some Fairmount Line service to Foxboro, running shuttle trains from Foxboro to Walpole, or a combination of both.[19] The MBTA planned to purchase trackage prior to restoring service; the Framingham Secondary, which provides access to Foxboro station, was acquired by the MBTA effective June 17, 2015. (CSX Transportation, the former owner of the branch, retained trackage rights over it.)[20]

In August 2017, the MBTA Fiscal Control Board approved an 11-month pilot program to test commuter rail service to Foxboro, with service planned to begin sometime in late 2018 or early 2019, although Fairmount Line advocates warned it might reduce service quality to existing Fairmount Line stations.[21] In October 2017, the MBTA indicated that service would begin on May 20, 2019.[22] Service during the trial period will consist of seven daily round trips - three during the morning peak period, three in the evening peak, and one midday.[23] The launch date was later delayed to October 21, 2019.[24][7] By December 2019, daily boardings at Foxboro averaged 70 - one-third of the projected ridership.[25]

Substantially reduced schedules were in effect from March 16 to June 23, 2020.[7] Foxboro pilot service was suspended on November 2, 2020, with the intention for it to resume in Spring 2021.[26] In November 2020, as part of service cuts during the pandemic, the MBTA proposed to close Plimptonville along with five other low-ridership stations on other lines.[27] On December 14, the MBTA Board voted to enact a more limited set of cuts, including indefinitely closing Plimptonville and four of the other five stations.[28][29] That day, temporary reduced schedules were again put into place.[30]

On January 23, 2021, reduced schedules went into place with no weekend service on seven lines, including the Franklin Line.[7] Weekend service on the seven lines is scheduled to resume on July 3, 2021.[31] Service changes on April 5, 2021, added midday service as part of a transition to a regional rail model, with hourly service between Walpole and Boston and less frequent service south of Walpole. Foxboro service was not resumed at that time.[32][33] As part of that schedule change, all Franklin Line trains began stopping at Ruggles station after an additional platform there was completed.[34][33] Weekend service on the Franklin Line and the six other lines is scheduled to resume on July 3, 2021.[35]

Milford extension[edit]

In July 2011, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization began studying the viability of extending Franklin Line commuter rail service to Hopedale and Milford. The study would update a 1997 MBTA evaluation that concluded costs outweighed the benefits of a possible expansion. Local officials believe increased population and track upgrades to the Grafton and Upton Railroad may increase the viability of an extension.[36] 8 miles of track from Franklin Junction to Milford were leased by the MBTA from Conrail for the Forge Park/495 extension and to establish the possibility of future service to Milford.[7] A 2004 analysis determined that the extension would cost $70.5 million and attract about 1,800 additional riders per weekday.[37]

Station listing[edit]

Fare zone Location Mile (km)[38] Station Connections and notes
1A Boston 0.0 (0.0) Disabled access South Station Amtrak Amtrak: Acela, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount, Framingham/Worcester, Greenbush, Needham, Old Colony, and Providence/Stoughton lines; CapeFlyer (seasonal)
MBTA.svg MBTA subway: Red Line, Silver Line (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4)
Bus transport MBTA bus: 4, 7, 11
Bus transport Intercity buses at South Station Bus Terminal
1.2 (1.9) Disabled access Back Bay Amtrak Amtrak: Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Framingham/Worcester, Needham, and Providence/Stoughton lines
MBTA.svg MBTA subway: Orange Line
Bus transport MBTA bus: 10, 39, 170
2.2 (3.5) Disabled access Ruggles MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Needham and Providence/Stoughton lines
MBTA.svg MBTA subway: Orange Line
Bus transport MBTA bus: 8, 15, 19, 22, 23, 28, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, CT2, CT3
5.0 (8.0) Disabled access Forest Hills Served by Needham Line and Orange Line trains only
6.5 (10.5) Mount Hope Closed November 2, 1979
1 8.4 (13.5) Disabled access Hyde Park Bus transport MBTA bus: 32, 33, 50, 192
2 9.2 (14.8) Disabled access Readville MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount Line
Bus transport MBTA bus: 32, 33
Dedham 10.9 (17.5) Endicott
11.8 (19.0) Disabled access Dedham Corporate Center
3 Westwood 12.5 (20.1) Islington
Norwood 14.3 (23.0) Disabled access Norwood Depot
14.8 (23.8) Disabled access Norwood Central
4 16.6 (26.7) Windsor Gardens
Walpole 17.7 (28.5) Plimptonville Closed January 23, 2021
19.1 (30.7) Walpole Junction with Framingham Secondary to Foxboro
Foxborough 22.6 (36.4) Disabled access Foxboro Located on the Framingham Secondary, served weekdays (as part of a pilot program) and for special events at Gillette Stadium
5 Norfolk 23.0 (37.0) Disabled access Norfolk Bus transport GATRA: Medway "T" Shuttle
6 Franklin 27.5 (44.3) Franklin/Dean College Bus transport GATRA: Franklin Area Bus
30.3 (48.8) Disabled access Forge Park/495 Bus transport GATRA: Bellingham "T" Shuttles
Blackstone 36.4 (58.6) Blackstone Closed April 24, 1966
  Currently operating station


  1. ^ "Commuter Rail Ridership Counts" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  3. ^ "Dedham Historical Society". Dedham Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
  4. ^ Phillip A. Blakeslee (April 1953). "A Brief History of Lines West—The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Co". Catskill Archive. Railroad Enthusiasts, Inc. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  5. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (2017). The Rail Lines of Southern New England (2 ed.). Branch Line Press. p. 88. ISBN 9780942147124.
  6. ^ "Table 18: Waterbury-Hartford-Putnam-Boston". THE SCENIC SHORELINE ROUTE SERVING NEW YORK AND NEW ENGLAND. New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. April 24, 1955. p. 30 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). Boston Street Railway Association.
  8. ^ City of Woonsocket. "City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island - Commuter Rail Feasibility Study" (PDF). Greater City Providence. City of Woonsocket. p. 2. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  9. ^ Howe, Peter J. (June 2, 1988). "MBTA opens new station". Boston Globe – via open access
  10. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 304–306. ISBN 0942147022.
  11. ^ "Milford Secondary Acquisition" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. February 24, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Didtamo, Rob (November 18, 2019). "Franklin Double Track" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  13. ^ "Franklin Line Double Track". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020.
  14. ^ "FMCB Approves Franklin Line Double Track Phase 2 Work and Phase 3 Preliminary Design Work" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. November 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "MBTA rail service is available to Patriots games". Boston Globe. September 12, 1993. p. 39 – via open access
  16. ^ "T Patriots train!". Boston Globe. August 15, 1997. p. 86 – via open access
  17. ^ "New England Patriots 2010 / 2011 Football Trains to Gillette Stadium". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on November 26, 2010.
  18. ^ "New England Patriots 2011/2012 Football Trains to Gillette Stadium". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on September 7, 2011.
  19. ^ Jacobs Engineering Group (September 1, 2010). "Foxboro Commuter Rail Feasibility Study: Final Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  20. ^ Jessen, Klark (16 June 2015). "MassDOT Completes Framingham Secondary Rail Line Acquisition" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  21. ^ "MBTA Board Approves Foxborough Commuter Rail Pilot". Foxborough, MA Patch. 2017-08-14. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  22. ^ Gomes, Alexandra (November 1, 2017). "Foxboro's MBTA pilot program won't launch until 2019". Sun Chronicle. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  23. ^ Bentley, Jimmy (November 29, 2018). "Foxborough Starting Pilot For Commuter Rail Service To Boston". Foxoborough Patch.
  24. ^ Vaccaro, Adam (March 27, 2019). "Foxborough train service pushed back to fall". The Boston Globe.
  25. ^ Hand, Jim (December 12, 2019). "Foxboro train service slow to attract riders". The Sun Chronicle.
  26. ^ DiAdamo, Rob (September 14, 2020). "Fall 2020 Commuter Rail Schedule Changes" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  27. ^ Paget-Seekins, Laurel; Benesh, Kat (November 9, 2020). "Forging Ahead: Scenario and Service Planning" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 21.
  28. ^ Enwemeka, Zeninjor (December 14, 2020). "MBTA Control Board Votes To Scale Back Bus, Train And Ferry Service". WBUR. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  29. ^ Paget-Seekins, Laurel; Benesh, Kat (December 14, 2020). "Forging Ahead: Service Proposal" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 17.
  30. ^ "Commuter Rail to Temporarily Operate Reduced Service Schedule Starting December 14" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. December 10, 2021.
  31. ^ Coholan, Ryan (May 24, 2021). "Commuter Rail Performance Update" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 7.
  32. ^ "Reminder: Spring 2021 Commuter Rail Schedules Take Effect April 5" (Press release). Keolis Commuter Services. April 1, 2021.
  33. ^ a b "Franklin Line Spring 2021 Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 5, 2021.
  34. ^ "Ruggles Elevators and Commuter Rail Platform Now Complete" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 7, 2021.
  35. ^ Coholan, Ryan (May 24, 2021). "Commuter Rail Performance Update" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 7.
  36. ^ "Franklin rail line could expand to Milford and Hopedale". Milford Daily News. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
  37. ^ Central Transportation Planning Staff (January 2004) [May 2003]. "Chapter 5C: Service Expansion" (PDF). 2004 Program for Mass Transportation. Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  38. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.

External links[edit]

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