Needham Line

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Needham Line train 614.jpg
Needham Line train #614 leaving Forest Hills inbound to South Station.
Type Commuter rail
System MBTA Commuter Rail
Locale Greater Boston
Termini Needham Heights
South Station
Stations 12
Daily ridership

6,972 Daily Weekday (2014)
12 Saturday (2014)

44 Sunday (2014)[1]
Owner MBTA
Operator(s) Keolis North America
Line length 9.3 Miles
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map
South Station
Fairmount, Greenbush,
and Old Colony Lines
Back Bay
Framingham/Worcester Line
Forest Hills
Providence/Stoughton Line
and Franklin Line
Roslindale Village
West Roxbury
Needham Junction
Millis Branch (closed 1967)
Needham Center
Needham Heights

The Needham Line is a branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, running west from downtown Boston, Massachusetts through Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and the town of Needham. The second-shortest line of the system at just 13.7 miles long, it carries 8,218 daily riders.[1] Unlike the other MBTA Commuter Rail lines, the Needham Line is not a former intercity mainline; instead, it is formed from several former branch lines.


Needham Center station in 1904
Highland station in 1904
Highland station in 2012 with its 1980s-built mini-high platform

The line from Forest Hills to West Roxbury was built around 1835 as part of the Dedham Branch of the Boston and Providence Rail Road. The Charles River Branch Railroad opened from Brookline Village to Newton Upper Falls in 1852, and to approximately Needham Center in 1853. The line was used to haul gravel from Needham quarries to fill in the Back Bay from 1858 to the 1880s.[2] Around 1870, the line was extended southwest to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. In 1886, the Boston and Albany Railroad extended the original Charles River Branch Railroad line from Cook Junction to its main line at Riverside, forming the complete Highland Branch.

The Needham Cutoff opened on November 4, 1906 from West Roxbury to Needham Junction, allowing trains from the former New York and New England Railroad to reach Boston without needing to use the Highland Branch.[3] Building the cutoff required a significant length of difficult rock cuts - "one of the heaviest pieces of short railroad construction ever attempted in New England" - reaching a depth of 57 feet (17 m) at Great Plain Avenue.[4] Originally Needham Junction was the only stop on the cutoff; Bird's Hill opened as an infill station in 1917.[3]

The segment from West Roxbury to Dedham was subsequently abandoned; the segment from Needham Junction to Cook Junction saw reduced passenger service. Loop service began operating over the Cutoff and the Highland Branch via Needham around 1911.

The remaining line was purchased by the MBTA from Penn Central on January 27, 1973, along with most of the other southside lines.[5] The commuter rail stop at Forest Hills, not used since 1940 as the adjacent Washington Street Elevated provided more frequent service, was reopened in June 1973.[5]

When the plans to replace the Elevated were drawn up in the 1960s, the new Orange Line was planned to continue past Forest Hills to Needham Heights, replacing the Needham Line. However, as the project was stalled over the next few decades, funding was found only to complete the replacement portion to Forest Hills in 1987, and so the Needham Line was kept as a locomotive-hauled commuter service. During Southwest Corridor construction from 1979 to 1987, the line was closed.[5]

Historically, the line has had Saturday service but not Sunday service. Experimental Sunday service was operated from July 11, 1992 until February 14, 1993 along with other new southside weekend service, some of which was made permanent. As part of systemwide service cuts due to budget shortfalls, Saturday service was eliminated on July 7, 2012.[5]

$300,000 in funding for Saturday service restoration was included in the state's 2015 budget as early as August 2014.[6] On October 7, 2014, the MBTA announced the return of Saturday service on the Needham Line, as well as weekend service on the Greenbush Line and Plymouth/Kingston Line. The restored weekend service began on December 27, 2014.[7]

Station List[edit]

Miles[1] Zone fare City Station Opening date Connections and notes
0.0 1A Boston Handicapped/disabled access South Station 1899 MBTA: Red Line subway; all south side Commuter Rail lines; 4, 7, 11, 448, 449, and 459 buses
Amtrak: Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
1.2 1A Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay 1899 MBTA: Orange Line subway; Providence/Stoughton Line and Franklin Line; 10, 39, and 170 buses
Amtrak: Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
2.2 1A Handicapped/disabled access Ruggles May 4, 1987 MBTA: Orange Line subway; Providence/Stoughton Line and Franklin Line

Ruggles also serves as a major bus terminal, with connections to 13 MBTA Bus routes: 8, 15, 19, 22, 23, 28, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, CT2, CT3

5.0 1A Handicapped/disabled access Forest Hills 1909 Orange Line subway

Forest Hills serves as a major bus transfer station; 18 MBTA Bus routes terminate at the station on three separate busways: 16, 21, 30, 31, 32, 34, 34E, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 50, 51

6.4 1 Handicapped/disabled access Roslindale Village c. 1835 MBTA Bus: 14, 30, 35, 36, 37, 51
7.2 1 Handicapped/disabled accessBellevue c. 1835 MBTA Bus: 35, 36, 37, 38,
7.6 1 Handicapped/disabled accessHighland c. 1835 MBTA Bus: 35, 36, 37
8.0 1 Handicapped/disabled accessWest Roxbury c. 1835 MBTA Bus: 35, 36, 37
10.9 2 Needham Handicapped/disabled accessHersey c. 1906
12.0 2 Handicapped/disabled accessNeedham Junction c. 1870 MBTA Bus: 59
12.7 2 Handicapped/disabled accessNeedham Center c. 1870 MBTA Bus: 59
13.7 2 Handicapped/disabled accessNeedham Heights c. 1870 MBTA Bus: 59


  1. ^ a b c "2014 Bluebook 14th Edition" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Newman, William A.; Holton, Wilfred E. (2006). Boston's Back Bay: The Story of America's Greatest Nineteenth-century Landfill Project. Northeastern University Press. pp. 95–111. ISBN 9781555536510. 
  3. ^ a b Humphrey, Thomas J. and Clark, Norton D. (1985). Boston's Commuter Rail: The First 150 Years. Boston Street Railway Association. p. 45. ISBN 9780685412947. 
  4. ^ "LAST RAIL LAID.: Work on Boston's Newest Railroad is Progressing Rapidly--The Air Line From West Roxbury to Needham Has Been Cut Through Solid Rock Part of the Way.". Boston Daily Globe. 4 February 1906. Retrieved 1 June 2014 – via Proquest Historical Newspapers. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ a b c d Belcher, Jonathan (31 December 2011). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Dame, Jonathan (1 August 2014). "Saturday service restored on Needham line". Wicked Local Needham. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Commuter Rail: Weekend Service Returning on 3 Lines" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 

External links[edit]