PCCs on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley—Looking Back.

Recently, the TRAINS Newswire published a story on MBTA’s Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley line warning of the possible demise of the historic PCC cars and possibly of the trolley line itself. (The ‘bus’ word was uttered!)

So, the word is out, if Mattapan-Ashmont Trolley is something you want to see, DON’T Wait.

I recalled an early visit to this line with my father on a May Sunday in 1979. This was back when former Dallas double-ended PCCs dominated operations on the line, and the cars were largely painted red to reflect their operation as an extension of the Red Line.

Today, I find it fascinating to look back on these photos. I couldn’t have anticipated back then that more than 36 years later, old PCCs would still be working the line, albeit with different cars.

This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I'd seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.
This old Type 3 car caught my attention. I’d seen these on the Green Line years earlier and always want to inspect one up close.
Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.
Since my 1979 visit MBTA eliminated the classic trolley shelter at Mattapan and sent many of the double-ended cars to the scrapper.

However, from strictly a photographic point of view, what is now most interesting to me is that I knew virtually nothing of the ‘rules of photography’ , other than a rudimentary understanding of how to work my father’s Weston Master III light meter and translate the settings it offered to my Leica 3A.

No one had ever told me about three-quarter angles, or where the sun was ‘supposed to be’. Front-lighting, back-lighting, and side-lighting were foreign words. I was blind as to the relative importance of foreground and background, and I didn’t known that ‘good’ photos were only made with Kodachrome, and I knew nothing about the compositional ratios of 2/3s, or any of the other stuff that later influenced my photography.

Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What's that Green car doing back there I wondered?
Here were trolley cars and lots of them. What’s that Green car doing back there I wondered?

Honestly, as record of the scene, my raw unfettered, uninformed approach has a great appeal to me today. Had I known those things, I may have exposed less interesting images.

What you see here are the inspired views of an enthusiastic 12-year old exposed using a Leica with a 50mm Summitar lens on Ektachrome film.

Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all 'wrong', just pitch this one in the bin.
Another view of the snow plow. Too much foreground? Lighting all ‘wrong’, just pitch this one in the bin.
If the cars were double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn't make heads or tails of this.
If the cars are double-ended, why do they spin them around on a loop. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this.
I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the 'heavy rail' tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There's virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn't allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!
I might not have known what I was doing, but I was visionary. I was fascinated by the ‘heavy rail’ tracks on both sides of the trolley line. Here is evidence that Conrail was still serving the former New Haven branch as far as Milton. There’s virtually no evidence of the freight operation today, and it takes a bit of imagination to figure out where the tracks were. Notice that I didn’t allow a PCC to interfere with the scene: this was about the PFE refers!

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