Template:Good article Template:Infobox rail line

The Orange Line is one of the four subway lines of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It extends from Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, Boston in the south to Oak Grove in Malden, Massachusetts in the north. It meets the Red Line at Downtown Crossing, the Blue Line at State and the Green Line at Haymarket and North Station. It connects with Amtrak and Commuter Rail service at Back Bay and North Station, and the commuter rail at Ruggles station in Roxbury and at Forest Hills. From 1901 to 1987 it provided the first elevated rapid transit in Boston; the last elevated section was torn down in 1987 when the southern portion of the line was moved to the Southwest Corridor.


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The current name, assigned in 1965,[1] is derived from Orange Street, an old name for the section of Washington Street immediately south of downtown under which the Washington Street Tunnel, forming the center of the line, still runs.[2][3] The line was previously named the Main Line Elevated by the Boston Elevated Railway and by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) as the Forest Hills–Everett Elevated.[1]

Several stations were renamed in 1967 and 1987 from the names of the nearest street intersections to those of local landmarks; for example, "Boylston-Essex" was renamed "Chinatown".


File:Charlestown El on Charlestown Bridge.jpg

The Main Line of the electric Boston Elevated Railway opened in segments, starting in 1901. It proceeded from Sullivan Square along the Charlestown Elevated to the Canal Street Incline near North Station. It was carried underground by the Tremont Street Subway (now part of the Green Line), returning above ground at the Pleasant Street Incline (now closed, located just south of Boylston station). A temporary link connected from there to the Washington Street Elevated, which in 1901 ran from this point via Washington Street to Dudley Square (which is most of what is now Phase 1 of the Silver Line).

Also in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated opened, branching at Causeway Street to provide an alternate route through downtown Boston (along the shoreline, where today there is no rail transit) to the Washington Street Elevated.

In 1908, a new Washington Street Tunnel opened, allowing Main Line service to travel from the Charlestown Elevated, underground via an additional new portal at the Canal Street Incline, under downtown Boston and back up again to meet the Washington Street Elevated and Atlantic Avenue Elevated near Chinatown. Use of the parallel Tremont Street Subway was returned exclusively to streetcars.

By 1909, the Washington Street Elevated had been extended south to Forest Hills. Trains from Washington Street were routed through the new subway, either all the way to Sullivan Square, or back around in a loop via the subway and then the Atlantic Avenue Elevated.

In 1919, the Charlestown Elevated was extended north from Sullivan Square to Everett, over surface right-of-way parallel to Alford Street/Broadway, with a drawbridge over the Mystic River. The Boston Elevated had long-term plans to continue this extension further north to Malden, a goal which would only be achieved decades later, under public ownership and not via the Everett route.[1]

Closure of Atlantic Elevated and ownership changesEdit

File:1915 AtlanticAve NewBoston.png

Following a 1928 accident at a tight curve on Beach Street, the southern connection between South Station and Washington Street was closed, breaking the loop. By 1938, the entire Atlantic Avenue Elevated had been closed, leaving the subway as the only route through downtown - what is now the Orange Line between Haymarket and Chinatown stations.

Ownership of the railway was transferred from the private Boston Elevated Railway to the public Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in 1947, reconstituted as the modern Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in 1964.

Rerouting of Charlestown and Everett serviceEdit

File:Main Line Elevated.jpg

The Boston Transportation Planning Review looked at the line in the 1970s, considering extensions to reach the beltway Route 128, with termini at Reading in the north and Dedham in the south. As a result of this review, the Charlestown Elevated - which served the Charlestown neighborhood north of downtown Boston and the inner suburb Everett - was demolished and replaced in 1975.

The Haymarket North Extension rerouted the Orange Line through an underwater crossing of the Charles River. Service in Charlestown was replaced with service along Boston and Maine tracks routed partially beneath an elevated section of Interstate 93, ultimately to Wellington and then to Oak Grove in Malden, Massachusetts instead of Everett. Rail service to Everett was replaced with buses.

Closure of Washington Street ElevatedEdit


Construction of Interstate 95 into downtown Boston was cancelled in 1972 after local protest over the necessary demolition. However, land for I-95's Southwest Corridor through Roxbury had already been cleared of buildings; moreover, the state had already committed to using this vacant land for transportation purposes.[4] As a result, instead of an 8-lane Interstate highway with a relocated Orange Line running in its median (in a manner similar to the Chicago Transit Authority's Dan Ryan and Congress and Jefferson Park lines), the space would be occupied by the realigned Orange Line, a reconstructed three-track mainline for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and MBTA commuter rail and a linear park. After this re-routing was accomplished in 1987 and the Washington Street Elevated was torn down, the last major segment of the original elevated line to be demolished.

File:South Bay Tunnel junction HDR.JPG

Between April 30 and May 3, 1987, the Washington Street Elevated south of the Chinatown station was closed to allow the Orange Line to be tied into the new Southwest Corridor. On May 4, 1987, the Orange Line was rerouted from the southern end of the Washington Street Tunnel onto the new Southwest Corridor. Instead of rising up to elevated tracks, it now veered west at the Massachusetts Turnpike and followed the Pike and the old Boston and Albany Railroad right-of-way to the existing MBTA Commuter Rail stop at Back Bay. It then continued along new tracks, partially covered and partially open but depressed, to Forest Hills. This MBTA right-of-way is also shared by Amtrak as part of the national Northeast Corridor intercity passenger rail service.

While ending more or less at the same terminus (Forest Hills), the new routing bypassed significantly to the west of its previous route on Washington Street; local residents were promised replacement service. Originally, plans provided for light rail vehicles street running in mixed traffic, from Washington Street to Dudley Square, then diverting southeastward on Warren Street towards Dorchester. In 2002, Phase 1 of the Silver Line bus rapid transit was added to connect Washington Street to the downtown subways, attempting to address this service need. This replacement service was controversial, as many residents preferred the return of rail transportation.Template:Citation needed

Renovations during the Big DigEdit

Haymarket and North Station received major renovations during the Big Dig in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, as the Causeway Street Elevated portion of the Green Line was buried, its physical connection to the Orange Line was improved to make transfers easier, the Canal Street Incline was finally closed, and the Green Line was re-rerouted through a new portal closer to the river, near the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Template:-


Template:Main A new station, Assembly, opened in Somerville at the Assembly Square development on September 2, 2014.[5] Assembly is an infill station, located between Sullivan and Wellington on a section of the line that has been active since 1975. It is the first new station on the MBTA subway system since 1987.[5]

Historical routesEdit

1901-1908 1908-1938
Template:MBTA Orange Line 1901-1908 Template:MBTA Orange Line 1908-1938
1938-1975 1975-1987
Template:MBTA Orange Line 1938-1975 Template:MBTA Orange Line 1975-1987
1987–present Notes
Template:MBTA Orange Line 1987-present
  • The Forest Hills extension of the Washington Street Elevated opened in 1909; the infill station at Green Street opened in 1912.
  • The section of the Atlantic Avenue elevated between South Station and the junction near Dover was closed in 1928 after an accident.
  • Haymarket and State got their modern names in 1967. Downtown Crossing and Chinatown also changed names in 1967, but changed again in 1987.
  • Oak Grove opened in 1977, two years after the rest of the Haymarket North Extension.
  • Tufts Medical Center was New England Medical Center until 2010.

Station listingEdit

Station Time to
Downtown Crossing
Opened Transfers and notes
Template:Access icon Oak Grove 16 March 20, 1977
Template:Access icon Malden Center 14 December 27, 1975 Commuter Rail: Haverhill/Reading Line
Template:Access icon Wellington 11 September 6, 1975
Template:Access icon Assembly 10 September 2, 2014 Infill station
Template:Access icon Sullivan Square 8 April 7, 1975 Separate station from one on the Charlestown Elevated closed April 4, 1975
Template:Access icon Community College 6 April 7, 1975 Serves Bunker Hill Community College
Template:Access icon North Station 4 April 7, 1975 Green Line and Commuter Rail north side lines.
Amtrak: Downeaster
Template:Access icon Haymarket 3 November 30, 1908 Green Line
Originally Friend-Union until January 25, 1967
Template:Access icon State 2 November 30, 1908 Blue Line
Originally Milk-State until January 24, 1967
Template:Access icon Downtown Crossing - November 30, 1908 Red Line, Green Line and Silver Line
Originally Winter-Summer until January 22, 1967, then Washington until May 3, 1987
Template:Access icon Chinatown 2 November 30, 1908 Silver Line
Originally Boylston-Essex until February 10, 1967, then Essex until May 3, 1987
Template:Access icon Tufts Medical Center 3 May 4, 1987 Silver Line
Originally New England Medical Center until April 2010
Template:Access icon Back Bay 5 May 4, 1987 Amtrak: Acela Express, Northeast Regional and Lake Shore Limited
Commuter Rail: Providence/Stoughton Line, Framingham/Worcester Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line
Also called Back Bay/South End
Template:Access icon Massachusetts Avenue 7 May 4, 1987
Template:Access icon Ruggles 9 May 4, 1987 Commuter Rail: Providence/Stoughton Line, Franklin Line and Needham Line
Template:Access icon Roxbury Crossing 11 May 4, 1987
Template:Access icon Jackson Square 13 May 4, 1987
Template:Access icon Stony Brook 14 May 4, 1987
Template:Access icon Green Street 16 May 4, 1987 Separate station from one on the former Washington Street Elevated closed April 30, 1987
Template:Access icon Forest Hills 18 May 4, 1987 Commuter Rail: Needham Line
Separate station from one on the former Washington Street Elevated closed April 30, 1987
Former terminus of Green Line E branch



The Orange Line is standard gauge heavy rail and uses third rail for power. The current fleet is the 01200 series, built 1979-1981 by Hawker Siddeley Canada Car and Foundry (now Bombardier Transportation) of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. They are 65 feet (20 m) long and 9 ft 3 in (2.8 m) wide, with three pairs of doors on each side. They are based on the PA3 model used by PATH in New Jersey. There are 120 cars, numbered 01200-01319. All in-service Orange Line trains run in six-car configurations.

Year Built Make Model Length ft ( mm) Width in ( mm) Gauge Road Numbers
1979–1981 Hawker Siddeley Canada PA3 Template:Convert Template:Convert Template:RailGauge 1200–1319

New trainsEdit

It was announced in the Spring of 2009 that the planning process for new Orange and Red Line vehicles had begun. The simultaneous order calls for 146 Orange Line cars (to replace the whole fleet) and 74 Red Line cars (presumably to replace the 1500s and 1600s, of which there were 76, with 72 still in service). This order would be similar to the current Orange Line cars and the old Blue Line cars, ordered at the same time and largely identical except for size. The announcement also suggested that new Green Line cars will be planned as well, although these cars would not be similar to the Orange and Red Line cars due to the differing natures of the lines.[7] In October 2013, MassDOT announced plans for a $1.3 billion subway car order for the Orange and Red Lines, which would provide 152 new cars to replace the current 120-car fleet and add more frequent service.[8]

On October 22, 2014, the Department of Transportation Board awarded Chinese manufacturer CNR a $566.6 million contract to build 152 replacement railcars for the Orange Line, as well as additional cars for the Red Line.[9] CNR will build the cars at a new manufacturing plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, with initial deliveries expected in 2018 and all cars in service by 2023.[9] In conjunction with the new rolling stock, the remainder of the $1.3 billion allocated for the project will pay for testing, signal improvements and expanded maintenance facilities, as well as other related expenses.[9]


The Orange Line has two tracks (one in each direction) and a third track between Wellington and the Charles River portal.[10] This track is used to bypass construction on the other two, and for testing newly delivered cars for the Orange and Blue lines. The primary maintenance and storage facility is at Wellington Station.[10] Had the Orange Line been extended to Reading, the third track would have become an express track.


Template:See also All stations on the Orange Line are handicapped accessible.

Art and architectureEdit

Template:See also The MBTA maintains an online catalog of the over 90 artworks installed along its six major transit lines. Each downloadable guide is illustrated with full-color photographs, titles, artists, locations, and descriptions of individual artworks.[11]

References Edit


External linksEdit

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