The Green Line Flood of 1996

by Scott Moore and George Chiasson, with Jonathan Belcher


On the week beginning October 20th, the Metropolitan Boston area was reeling from the effects of a record rainfall. In the Boston area alone, between 8 and 12 inches of rain fell between Sunday and Monday, and the only thing that the locals had to rejoice about - was that it was not snow!

Rivers, ponds, and lakes overflowed their banks. Several dams in the region were close to breaking, including a dam in the densly populated are of Woburn. Roads were washed out and cars were mired in several feet of water.

Like many of the houses in the area, the MBTA had to deal with the water. On the whole, the system fared quite well, but the Green Line was hit hard, as the Muddy River overflowed, ran down the right-of-way on the Riverside Line, and down and into the subway.

Reports have the flood waters in the subway exceeding that of the only other major flood in the subway (October 1962). The water spilled over a "high-point" in the subway, between Kenmore and Hynes Convention Center / ICA, and flooded stations as far away as Arlington! Additional reports have the Huntinton Avenue subway (Symphony and Prudential stations) as also having been flooded, but with water coming from a different source.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the MBTA floods, and no trains were damaged by the flood waters. The stations were another matter. Kenmore station (shown) was completely under water, and reportedly had water in the mezzanine that was several feet deep at the flood's peak. Other reports had both Symphony and Prudential (also up to the floor of the mezzanine) completely submerged as well. Flood waters were less at Hynes, Copley, and Arlington. An estimated 14 million gallons of water was in the Kenmore Square area alone!

Damage in the subway was quite extensive. As of this writing (November 15th) signals are still out Between Hynes and all three of the westbound portals, although crews have restored signals on the rest of the Green Line. The electric track switch motors were severely damaged by the water, switches have been operated manually by MBTA personnel positioned in the subway. The escalators at Kenmore Square were also damaged extensively.

As of November 15th, the only service cut-backs that are still in effect on the Green Line are:

Buses between Brigham Circle and Heath Street.
Cleveland Circle to Government Center
Riverside to Park Street
North Station to Government Center/Brattle

This has been done to free up cars for the rest of the Green Line. When the signal repairs are completed (estimated to be completed in mid-December), service is expected to return to normal.


Flood Images


Both Images: WBZ-TV/CBS
Two views of the Beacon Street subway portal. Note the water is near the level of the emergency lights in the tunnel.


Left Image: WBZ-TV/CBS
Right Image: WLVI-TV/WB
Two views inside the mezzanine at Kenmore. Pumping had already been well underway at this time.


Left Image: WCVB-TV/ABC
Right Image: WHDH-TV/NBC
Shots of inside Kenmore station after a day of pumping.


Image: WCVB-TV/ABC
Flood waters were pumped from the subway to a nearby drain in Kenmore Square.


Photos: Scott Moore
Left: The temporary commuter rail station at Riverside.
Right: The end of the line - literally. The Green Line catenary was cut down to allow the commuter rail locomotive to enter the yard.


Photos: Scott Moore
The last shuttle train on the morning of October 25th leaves the Riverside yard, rounds the curve, and switches onto the Conrail Mainline.


The following information was compiled by George Chiasson. It documents events which occurred between October 20 and October 28.

Following is the summary of MBTA activities since Sunday, October 20, 1996 related to the flooding:

Red Line: No known problems.

Mattapan-Ashmont: Bussed on Sunday 10/20 due to flooding at the Ashmont Loop track.

Orange Line: Was closed Sunday afternoon (10/20) for a while between Wellington and Oak Grove due to flooding in Medford Jct. underpass (tunnel between Wellington & Oak Grove). Buses Wellington to Oak Grove. Was reopened by Monday AM rush.

Blue Line: Was briefly closed between Airport and Orient Heights Sunday afternoon & evening (10/20) due to flooding in the Neptune Ave. underpass between Airport and Wood Island. Buses Maverick to Orient Heights. Reopened by late Sunday evening.

Green Line: Service was curtailed on the Riverside line by 2:00pm Sunday 10/20. Flooding at Kenmore continued and Beacon Street was curtailed by 7:00pm. Boston College went down by late evening, and inflow at Prudential closed the Heath Street line.


As of Monday morning 10/21 the following was in place:

Shuttle: Park Street to Lechmere (crossing back lite at Boylston). Ran with two 3-car trains AM rush, 2-car trains PM rush.

Shuttle: Brattle Loop (Government Center) to Canal St. (North Station street level).

57-Watertown: Buses extended from Kenmore to Park Street.

B-Boston College: Cars Lake Street to Blandford St., buses Blandford St. to Park Street.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Park Street.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Brookline Village (2-car trains), buses Back Bay Station to Brookline Village to Kenmore Sq. (a few extended to Park Street). Until 11:30 a.m., a wash out in Newton shut down the Riveside Line east of Newton Highlands. The Riverside bus shuttle had to be extended from Brookline Village to Newton Highlands. The washout was repaired with a temporary fix and the service to Brookline Village was restored about 4:30 p.m.

E-Heath Street: No service, passengers advised to use Orange Line to Back Bay for connection to regular 39-Arborway buses (extra buses added to the 39).

Through the day, private bus companies were contacted to establish supplemental service from Riverside to Boston. H&L Bloom ran Riverside to Copley, and ABC, Cavalier, and Paul Revere ran from Newton Center to Copley.


TUESDAY (10/22):

Shuttle: Park Street to Lechmere (crossing back lite at Boylston). Ran with two 3-car trains AM rush, 2-car trains PM rush.

Shuttle: Brattle Loop to Canal St./North Station.

57-Watertown: Extended from Kenmore to Park Street.

B-Boston College: Cars Lake Street to Blandford St., buses Blandford St. to Park Street.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Park Street.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Fenway Park, buses Back Bay Station to Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. & return (no passengers carried Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. inbound).

E-Heath Street: No service, passengers advised to use Orange Line to Back Bay for connection to regular 39-Arborway buses (extra buses added to the 39).


WEDNESDAY (10/23):

Shuttle: Park Street to Lechmere (crossing back lite at Boylston). Ran with two 3-car trains AM rush, 2-car trains PM rush.

Shuttle: Brattle Loop to Canal St./North Station.

57-Watertown: Extended from Kenmore to Park Street.

B-Boston College: Cars Lake Street to Blandford St., buses Blandford St. to Park Street.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Park Street.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Fenway Park, buses Back Bay Station to Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. & return (no passengers carried Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. inbound). Started 3-car trains all day (outbound passengers on third car requested to move forward at Woodland).

E-Heath Street: No service, passengers advised to use Orange Line to Back Bay for connection to regular 39-Arborway buses (extra buses added to the 39).


THURSDAY, 10/24 UPDATE:

On Thursday, October 24, service on the Green Line was extended from Park Street to Copley Station, still supplemented by trips between Brattle Loop and Canal St. The electric power for switches and signals was still out, so cars (1- and 2-car sets) had to maintain a 10 mph speed restriction until this is resolved. There was no apparent attempt to maintain a regular headway, average time between trips this morning was a little over seven minutes. The initial inspection of Kenmore in the afternoon was not favorable and rumors were rampant that normal service may not return for up to a month. In all likelihood all electric lines and switch machines will have to be replaced; there are six major junctions in the Kenmore area. Service on the Huntington Ave. line remained suspended, partly due to shared power facilities in the Prudential area and partly due to flood recovery at Prudential, which appears to be given lower priority than Kenmore.

There were 29 Type 7's isolated at Lechmere for the shuttles: Some of these had been taken inbound on Sunday as the flood was starting and were stored between Arlington and Boylston, or on the Boylston siding: 3609, 3612, 3613, 3615, 3616, 3618, 3621, 3622, 3627, 3633, 3635, 3640, 3643, 3644, 3650, 3652, 3653, 3655, 3660, 3663, 3665, 3671, 3676, 3678, 3683, 3685, 3687, 3693 and 3696.

SERVICE SUMMARY, THURSDAY 10/24:

Shuttle: Copley to Lechmere. Ran with 2-car trains AM rush, 3-car trains PM rush.

Shuttle: Brattle Loop to Canal St./North Station, 2-car trains.

57-Watertown: Reverts to Kenmore Station.

B-Boston College: Cars Lake Street to Blandford St., buses Blandford St. to Copley.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Copley.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Fenway Park, buses Back Bay Station to Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. & return (no passengers carried Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. inbound). 3-car trains all day (outbound passengers on third car requested to move forward at Woodland).

E-Heath Street: No service, passengers advised to use Orange Line to Back Bay for connection to regular 39-Arborway buses (extra buses added to the 39).


FRIDAY, 10/25 UPDATE:

On Friday, October 25 service was resumed on the B-Boston College line from Government Center to Kenmore, and E-Heath Street service was extended back to Northeastern University, both with 2-car trains. There remain no signals and flashing red and yellow beacons were set up as a substitute measure from Arlington through to Blandford St. portal, and also inside the Huntington Ave. Subway. At Copley Jct., positive stop lanterns were displayed and the switches operated by an Inspector, with a Chief Inspector present. Radio communications were also disabled between Arlington and Hynes Convention Ctr./ICA. At Kenmore, all switches were spiked and locked with beacons displayed. The Commonwealth Ave. tracks were repaired, but the outer rails used by C-Cleveland Circle and D-Riverside showed signs of damage and work in progress. Both escalator banks are out-of-service indefinitely and the lights are being replaced. There is extensive evidence of water damage downstairs, but only some puddling in the mezzanine. In the tunnel between Hynes Convention Ctr./ICA and Kenmore, it was noted that all relay cases were open, exposing rusted and obviously useless circuitry. As such, it looks like it will be many weeks before normal Green Line operations can resume.

Equipment will be rotated off the Huntington Ave. line as required via Commonwealth Ave. to Chestnut Hill Ave. to Reservoir carhouse. With B-Boston College trains carrying much of the load, several trains of LRV's (both rebuilt and unrebuilt) were seen in the subway again.

SERVICE SUMMARY FRIDAY 10/25:

Shuttle: Brattle Loop to Canal St./North Station, 2-car trains.

Shuttle: Lechmere to Blandford St., 2-car trains.

B-Boston College: Lake Street to Government Center, 2-car trains.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Kenmore.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Fenway Park, buses Back Bay Station to Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. & return (no passengers carried Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. inbound). 3-car trains all day (outbound passengers on third car requested to move forward at Woodland).

E-Heath Street: Cars Lechmere to Northeastern University, 2-car trains. Passengers advised to change to 39-Arborway buses for points west of N.U.


SERVICE SUMMARY SATURDAY 10/26:

Shuttle: Brattle Loop to Canal St./North Station, 1 2-car train.

B-Boston College: Lake Street to Government Center, 2-car trains.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cars Cleveland Circle to St. Mary's Portal, buses St. Mary's to Kenmore.

D-Riverside: Cars Riverside to Fenway Park, buses Back Bay Station to Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. & return (no passengers carried Fenway Park to Kenmore Sq. inbound). 2-car trains.

E-Heath Street: Cars Lechmere to Northeastern University, 2-car trains. Passengers advised to change to 39-Arborway buses for points west of N.U.


UPDATE SUNDAY 10/27:

Green Line operations as follows:

Shuttle: Government Center to Canal St./North Station.

B-Boston College: Boston College to Government Center.

C-Cleveland Circle: Cleveland Circle to Government Center.

D-Riverside: Riverside to Park Street.

E-Heath Street: Northeastern University to Lechmere. 39-Arborway Bus Back Bay Station to Arborway.

Standard trains lengths (2-cars or singles off-peak) are now maintained.

ALL OTHER SHUTTLE BUS ROUTES DISCONTINUED.

Still no signals as previously noted, though they may be restored from Arlington to Copley, along with Exeter Jct. (Boylston & Huntington subways) by Wednesday, 10/30. Bus Operations advises that they are prepared to maintain service on the 39-Arborway in lieu of light rail between Northeastern University and Heath Street for the rest of the rating at least (December 28).


COMMUTER RAIL SUMMARY, 10/20 THROUGH 10/25

Rockport/Ipswich: No known problems.

Reading/Haverhill: Wellington Underpass flooded Sunday 10/20, Train 2216 (4:15 Haverhill) plowed through about 4 feet of water with the control cab because RTL Ops did not inform Railroad Operations that the Orange Line had to be shut down. Starting with 2217 (5:45 North Station), trains used the tunnel by-pass siding (on top of the grade) for the remainder of the night. Normal operations resumed Monday AM.

Lowell: Minor washout at Somerville Jct. and flooding at West Medford delayed operations Sunday & Monday (on-again, off-again situation). Flooding at Wilmington 2AM-6AM Monday when the Shawsheen River flooded into a cranberry bog and the old Middlesex Canal onto the T right of way. No.302 ended up starting out of Mishawum.

South Acton/Fitchburg: "Swift" Interlocking at old Tower H and part of Yard 14 under 4 feet of water by Sunday night. Train service curtailed at Porter station, with shuttle buses to North Station at no charge (fare required for transfer to Red Line). Water receded for operations to resume Monday evening, Grand Junction remains closed to traffic as of Wednesday midday.

No South Side problems reported other than the usual flooding at Natick (a common phenomenon).


Riverside Express & Yawkey Shuttle

On Tuesday October 22, a meeting was convened at RR Ops to determine the feasibility of running a Commuter rail train from Riverside somehow. There is an abandoned platform close by beneath the weeds that was closed in 1975, the siding was used to deliver LRV's in the 1970's, then rehabilitated in 1994 to serve as an interchange for work equipment and materials handling.

After about 15 feet of protruding overhead was removed and temporary loading platforms laid Tuesday night, two special trains began operating from Riverside to South Station via the Highland Branch stub and Conrail Boston Line (MBTA Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail) starting Wednesday, October 23. Stops were at Yawkey and Back Bay; trip times were 6:45 and 7:30 am eastbound only, behind Trains 550 and 504, and 5:10 and 5:40 westbound (following 519 and 571), with no fares collected. On the morning's runs a total of 26 passengers were carried. These trains are coupled together after the second trip and dead-headed to Framingham for storage. A midday service on 40-minute headway was also established between South Station and Yawkey, but this was dropped by mid-afternoon a/c lack of ridership (one passenger all day!).

On Thursday, October 24 inbound trip times were changed to 7:30 and 8:10, and the midday service from Yawkey to South Station restored, on a 40-minute headway 9am-4pm. By afternoon there were announcements being made in the subway advertising these trains, but they incorrectly stated that all were going to Riverside.

On Friday, October 25 there were about 20 people on the inbound trips, but almost 50 outbound.

There were no special Commuter Rail shuttles after Monday, October 28, as the Green Line had been restored.


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