West Cambridge to Concord

The Lexington Branch

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An RDC is seen providing passenger service along the Lexington Branch in this undated photo. Photo by Bill McCaffrey.

This line started out in 1846 as the Lexington and West Cambridge Railroad, which connected its namesake towns in Massachusetts. It continued under the name of Lexington and Arlington Railroad in 1867, was purchased by the Boston and Lowell Railroad in 1870, and by 1873, under its Middlesex Central Railroad subsidiary, had reached as far west as Concord. The Boston and Maine Railroad purchased the entire line outright in 1887.

Passenger service remained strong through the early- to mid-1900s, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority acquired the line to continue commuter service, with B&M retaining trackage rights along the line for freight service. A passenger train stranded at the Bedford Station during a snow stored spelled the end of MBTA's passenger service along the line in 1977, and freight service was discontinued soon after in 1981.

The line was abandoned in segments over time. The furthest western reaches of the line in Concord were abandoned in 1926; and the section between Bedford and Concord seeing abandonment in 1962. Rail service continued along the line to Bedford until the last freight train in 1981. Finally, in 1992, the entire line was rail-banked, and the right-of-way now serves as the Minuteman Bikeway today.

Glad to see my photo of RDC at Lexington Depot. Caption should mention that the location was Lexington Depot which had the last active passenger train shed on the B&M.

Bill McCaffrey
Haverhill, MA
3/13/2010

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Rode this line from Boston to Lexington around 1972. On a separate trip to Concord, I remember seeing the abandoned grade of the Bedford-Concord segment, where it had crossed a nearby road. No pictures though.

Mike Palmer
Los Angeles County, CA
5/3/2013

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I was stationed at Hanscom AFB from 85 to 89. At that time the tracks were still down into Bedford. The grade crossing over Hartwell Ave was still there, even though it looked like it had been a long time since a train went through. Was purprised to read that trains were moving through as late as 1981.

Walter Imhof
Manorville, NY
10/26/2013

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The line at one point continued beyond Concord to serve the Reformatory and to a junction with the Nashua Acton and Boston RR the line providing the Boston connection.

Arthur Ellis
Bedford , MA
2/15/2014

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Growing up next to tracks in East Lexington in the 50's and 60's was always entertaining. The steam trains ran until the 1955 or so. The tracks and sides were covered in deep cinders. Sidings at East Lexington,Lexington Lumber and Bedford Street brought in wood shipments,celery shipments for Gold Ribbon Farms and many other businesses. The men at the lumber yard were quite happy to see the freight car loads end as they were very difficult to unload.

One thing we always looked for were the military trucks etc. on flatbed cars being shipped to Hanscom Field. Tanker cars brought fuel to Hanscom for the jet fighters. By then the rail road stopped doing much repair work to the rails.The daily freight came by slowly always rocking from side to side.

robert walton
chelmsford, MA
2/20/2014

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In reading old Town Reports, I found that Lexington had more than one station. The North Station, located along Bedford St near the site of the current Dept of Public Works building, was famous for the massive manure pile that was there. It was not clear why the manure pile was located there, but it appears to have started a discussion about urban vs suburban which continues today.

Hank Manz
Lexington, MA
7/25/2015

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A 1938 Topo map shows that the station was at the site of where Concord Lumber sits now at Lowell Rd. The line continued on across Assabet River running west/northwest. It crossed the river again just east of the State prison. It ran through where the traffic circle is on the north side of the prison. It then crossed Union Turnpike and connected with the Old Colony RR on the southside of the pike. Just west of the prison you can see a line running south to north. If you look at the West Concord train staion you can see the line on it's east side and follow it north. Just as the line hits Union Tpk that's where the Lex Br. joined in.

Walter Imhof
Manorville, NY
7/28/2015

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Interesting ... I will have to go back to those old Town Reports to see where I picked up the notion that the station was actually in Lexington. Time to visit the local historical society which I know has pictures. The manure pile I spoke of was mentioned more than once. A good research project for when the weather turns a bit colder.

Hank Manz
Lexington, MA
7/28/2015

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