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 and Plimptonville. Several weekday trains originate at Norwood Central or Walpole. Trains only serve Foxboro from Boston during special events at Gillette Stadium, but regular service is proposed.
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. 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. Service was eventually shortened to Waterbury, then to Hartford, Connecticut, before being 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. 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. The easternmost bridge over the Blackstone River in the March 17-19th flooding of the river; the line beyond Franklin was abandoned 3 years later, 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/Dean College 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. 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.
In September 2010, the MBTA completed a study to determine the feasibility of extending regular commuter rail service to Foxboro 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. 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.)
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. In October 2017, the MBTA indicated that service would begin on May 20, 2019.
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. 8 miles of track from Franklin Junction to Milford were leased by the MBTA from Conrail for the extension and to establish the possibility of future service to Milford. A 2004 analysis determined that the extension would cost $70.5 million and attract about 1,800 additional riders per weekday.
|Miles||City||Station||Fare zone||Opening date||Connections and notes|
|0.0||Boston||South Station||1A||1899||Red Line and all south side Commuter Rail lines|
Amtrak Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
|1.2||Back Bay||1A||1899||Orange Line|
splits from Framingham/Worcester Line
|2.2||Ruggles||1A||May 4, 1987||MBTA Orange Line|
|8.4||Hyde Park||1||circa 1850||temporarily closed November 2, 1979 - May 4, 1987|
|9.2||Readville||2||1834||Fairmount Line connects; splits from Providence/Stoughton Line|
|11.8||Dedham Corporate Center||2||January 15, 1990|
|17.7||Walpole||Plimptonville||4||circa 1849||Flag stop, one weekday round trip only|
- "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
- "Dedham Historical Society". Dedham Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
- 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.
- Belcher, Jonathan (12 November 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- 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.
- Howe, Peter J. (1988-06-02). "FRANKLIN MBTA OPENS NEW STATION SERVICE SLATED TO BEGIN TODAY; 700 PARKING SPACES PLANNED". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-08-10.
- Karr, Ronald Dale (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England. Branch Line Press. pp. 304–306. ISBN 0942147022.
- Jacobs Engineering Group (September 1, 2010). "Foxboro Commuter Rail Feasibility Study: Final Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
- Jessen, Klark (16 June 2015). "MassDOT Completes Framingham Secondary Rail Line Acquisition" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 25 June 2015.
- "MBTA Board Approves Foxborough Commuter Rail Pilot". Foxborough, MA Patch. 2017-08-14. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
- Gomes, Alexandra (November 1, 2017). "Foxboro's MBTA pilot program won't launch until 2019". Sun Chronicle. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
- "Franklin rail line could expand to Milford and Hopedale". Milford Daily News. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
- 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.
- "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
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