Lowell Line

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An outbound Lowell Line train at Anderson RTC
Type Commuter rail
System MBTA Commuter Rail
Status Operating
Locale Northeastern Massachusetts
Termini Lowell
North Station
Stations 9
Daily ridership

11,965 Daily Weekday (2014)
3,789 Saturday

2,597 Sunday [1]
Opening 1835 (Boston & Lowell Railroad)
Owner Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Operator(s) Keolis North America
Character Elevated and surface-level
Line length 25.4 Miles
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
73.3 Concord, N.H. (closed 1981, proposed)
55.5 Manchester, N.H. (closed 1981, proposed)
Manchester Airport (proposed)
46.1 Merrimack, N.H. (closed 1981, proposed)
39.0 Nashua, N.H. (closed 1981, proposed)
New Hampshire
32.1 Tyngsborough (proposed)
28.6 North Chelmsford (proposed)
25.4 Lowell
21.8 North Billerica
Wildcat Branch
(to Haverhill Line)
15.2 Wilmington
12.7 Anderson RTCAmtrak
Woburn Loop
11.6 Mishawum
11.0 Lechmere Warehouse (closed 1996)
10.0 Woburn (closed 1981)
9.0 Cross Street (closed 1981)
9.0 Winchester Highlands (closed 1978)
Woburn Loop
7.8 Winchester Center
7.3 Wedgemere
5.5 West Medford
4.0 Tufts University (closed 1979)
Lexington Branch (disconnected 1927)
Haverhill Line and
Newburyport/Rockport Line
Fitchburg Line
Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility
(MBTA employees only)
US 1
Charles River Bridge
0.0 North StationAmtrak

The Lowell Line is a railroad line of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, running north from Boston to Lowell, Massachusetts. Originally built as the Boston & Lowell Railroad and later operated as part of the Boston & Maine Railroad's Southern Division, the line was one of the first railroads in North America and the first major one in Massachusetts.


The Wildcat Branch splits at Wilmington
Junction of the former Woburn Branch in Winchester
Lowell is the current outer terminus

The Boston & Lowell Railroad started freight operations in 1835, with traffic from the Lowell mills to the Boston port. Demand for the express passenger service exceeded expectations, and in 1842 local service was added as well. The line north of Lowell was first owned by the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad, which was chartered in 1844. Trackage was completed as far as Wells River, Vermont, in 1853. The Boston & Maine Railroad (B&M) acquired the railroad in 1895.[2][3] The line served as the route for Boston to Montreal service during the Golden Age of Rail (roughly 1880 to 1930). The Ambassador, the train from Boston's North Station to Montreal, ran through Concord, New Hampshire, along this line until 1966.[4] This line, along with the New Englander, via Concord, White River Junction, Montpelier, ran through the northwestern section of Vermont prior to entering Quebec, Canada. The Alouette and Red Wing trains travelled to Montreal via Concord, Wells River and Newport in northeastern Vermont prior to entering Quebec. (The route via Wells River, St. Johnsbury and Newport was the more direct route of the two itineraries.)[5] For this itinerary the Montreal route was marketed as an Air-line railroad.

B&M passenger service to Boston on the line was shortened from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lowell in 1967.[6]

In 1973 the MBTA bought the Lowell line, along with the Haverhill and all other local Greater Boston passenger lines. Along with the sale, the B&M contracted to run the passenger service on the Lowell line for the MBTA. After bankruptcy, The B&M continued to run and fulfill its Commuter Rail contract under the protection of the United States Bankruptcy Court, in the hopes that a reorganization could make it profitable again. It emerged from the court's protection when newly formed Guilford Transportation Industries (GTI) purchased it in 1983.

For approximately thirteen months in 1980-81, daily passenger service was provided to Concord. Two round-trips were operated on each weekday and one on weekend days. Originally, there were intermediate stops in Manchester and Nashua. A stop in Merrimack was added later. Service was discontinued when federal funding was withdrawn.[7]

When GTI bought B&M, commuter rail service was in jeopardy. MBTA had owned the trains and the tracks since 1973, but had outsourced operations to B&M. Amtrak took over commuter rail operations in 1986, and in 2003, operations shifted to the MBCR. In 2014, the MBTA awarded the operating contract to Keolis North America.


As of 2011, there is a current debate over whether or not to expand the Lowell line to Nashua, New Hampshire and include stations in North Chelmsford and Tyngsborough en route, for the sake of commuters in those towns.

In January 2011, a bill was introduced into the New Hampshire legislature to end the proposed extension and give up a potential $4.1 million grant into its planning.[8]

The MBTA is currently building the Green Line Extension through Somerville and part of Medford. One branch of the Extension will follow the right of way of the Lowell Line into Medford. Several stations once existed along that section of the line, but none are in operation any longer.

Station listing[edit]

Operating stations are shaded in purple.

Milepost City Station Opening date Connections and notes
0.0 Boston Handicapped/disabled access North Station Orange Line and Green Line
MBTA Commuter Rail north-side lines
Amtrak Downeaster service to Maine
Boston Engine Terminal A flag stop with a wooden platform for MBTA employees
MBTA Fitchburg Line, Haverhill/Reading Line and Newburyport/Rockport Line split
Cambridge East Cambridge closed
on the old alignment, west of the current route
1.9 Somerville Prospect Hill closed
originally Milk Row
2.4 Winter Hill closed
2.8 Somerville Junction closed
originally Somerville
split with Lexington and Arlington Branch
future location of Lowell Street Green Line station
3.6 North Somerville closed
4.0 Medford Tufts University November 1976 (reopening)[9] closed October 1979[9]
originally College Hill
4.6 Medford Hillside closed
5.5 West Medford originally Medford Gates (in 1835)
7.3 Winchester Handicapped/disabled access Wedgemere originally Mystic
7.8 Winchester Center split with Woburn Branch
9.0 Winchester Highlands closed June 1978[9]
9.8 Woburn Montvale closed
split with Stoneham Branch
10.5 Walnut Hill closed January 17, 1965[9]
10.9 Lechmere Warehouse 1979[9] closed 1996 [10]
11.6 Mishawum September 24, 1984 (reopening)[9] originally East Woburn; limited reverse commute service only
12.7 Handicapped/disabled access Anderson Regional Transportation Center April 28, 2001[9] Amtrak Downeaster service to Maine
originally South Wilmington (had been open previously)
15.2 Wilmington Handicapped/disabled access Wilmington split with Wildcat Branch, carrying the Amtrak Downeaster service (without stopping here)
17.0 Silver Lake closed June 27, 1965[9]
Billerica East Billerica closed June 27, 1965[9]
21.8 Handicapped/disabled access North Billerica junction with Billerica and Bedford Branch
24.6 Lowell Bleachery closed
junction with Lowell and Lawrence Railroad, Lowell Branch (B&M) and Framingham and Lowell Railroad (NYNH&H)
25.5 Handicapped/disabled access Lowell LRTA buses to Lowell and beyond
originally Middlesex Street
junction with Lowell and Nashua Railroad (B&L)
Merrimack Street closed


Most stations are wheelchair accessible except for West Medford, Winchester Center, and Mishawum. See also MBTA accessibility.


  1. ^ "2014 Bluebook 14th Edition" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad waymark". Waymarking. 19 April 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  3. ^ See also Boston and Maine Corporation#Acquisitions
  4. ^ Mike Schafer, Classic American Trains, p. 31.
  5. ^ "Map of the Montreal and Boston Air Line, Passumpsic, and South Eastern Railroads, and connections". David Rumsey Map Collection. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  6. ^ MBTA-MBCR contract of February 19, 2003. Exhibit 18, p. 5.
  7. ^ Skoropowski, Eugene K. (1 August 2008). "N.H> commuter rail: a success in 1980.". New Hampshire Business Review. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "New Hampshire Republicans plan to kill commuter line". Trains Magazine. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Belcher, Jonathan (31 August 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  10. ^ ne.transportation:Abandoned rail stations. Google Groups. Retrieved 21 August 2011

External links[edit]