Ayer Massachusetts, June 5, 2013


MBTA Surprise.

Boston’s two primary passenger terminals have no scheduled service between them. Historically, South Station served Boston & Albany and New Haven Railroad lines, while North Station served Boston & Maine’s. Both represented consolidations of older terminals. Today, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority provides suburban service, while Amtrak operates long distance trains from both stations.

To move equipment between North and South Stations (and their respective repair and maintenance facilities), MBTA normally uses the former B&A Grand Junction Branch which crosses the Charles River and passes through Cambridge, thus forming the only Boston-area link between North- and South-side networks.

Some months ago a problem was discovered with the Charles River Bridge. So now MBTA and Amtrak equipment transfers must travel a roundabout route via Worcester (from South Station over the old B&A mainline) then north via Clinton to Ayer, and eastward via the former B&M Fitchburg line toward North Station.

Equipment transfers operate as needed, and I’ve been fortunate to catch several of them over the last few months. On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, I got lucky and stumbled into position just in time to catch one without even trying!

Rich Reed and I had traveled to Ayer to photograph Pan Am Southern’s westward intermodal train 23K. After making successful images of the train, we drove back through Ayer and over the bridge just east of the Station, where I spotted a high-green (clear) signal at AY interlocking for an eastward movement.

I guessed  that since this is a controlled signal, it would only be lined if something was due and we set up on the bridge in anticipation. This was the exact location where we’d photographed Norfolk Southern GEs switching a week earlier. See last week’s post: Ayer, Massachusetts, Wednesday May 29, 2013.

MBTA Ayer Mass.

MBTA train 420 pauses for passengers at Ayer on June 5, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.

As it turned out, the clear signal was for an eastward MBTA commuter train, which arrived shortly and paused for its Ayer station stop. As passengers were boarding we were surprised to spot a second MBTA train coming off the wye from Worcester! This was an equipment transfer, led by MBTA GenSet locomotive 3249 hauling avariety of locomotives and cars.

MBTA equipment train at Ayer.
An MBTA equipment move is coming off the Ayer wye on tit journey from South Station to North Station via Worcester, Clinton and Ayer. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.
MBTA trains at Ayer, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.

By shear dumb luck we just happened to be in precisely the right place at the right time.

Had we known this train was coming we’d probably picked a different location to intercept it. Sometimes not knowing what’s going on can earn you a better photo than knowing too much.

Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm set at f8.0 at 1/500 second at ISO 200.

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