4.7 min readBy Published On: June 12th, 2024Categories: Lifestyle1 Comment on MBTA’s Red Line History Comes to On the Dot

Vintage 1600 Series Subway Car Is Something New at ‘The LOT’ in South Boston

BOSTON – An icon of MBTA Red Line history arrived yesterday at On the Dot, the mixed-use development in South Boston being planned by Core Investments, Inc., a 25-year-old Boston real estate investment and development company.

While the emerging On the Dot neighborhood is already well served by Red Line transit, running under Dorchester Avenue and locationally bracketed by stations at Andrew Square and Broadway, Core’s activation team has secured a symbol of that transit infrastructure — a vintage, decommissioned 1600 Series Red Line car that will enhance the activity space at The LOT, 383 Dorchester Ave.

The LOT, which featured a dozen well-attended weekend or nightly activities last fall and has expanded the program for this summer and the coming fall, is located next to the popular Cannonball Cafe. The season of events kicked off on Saturday, June 8, with a well-attended Car Show of vintage and newer U.S. and European models.

“On the Dot is a transit-oriented development with multi-modal options that represents a critical piece of the sustainable future of South Boston,” said John Cissel, President of Development of Core Investments. “We’re excited to be building right between two MBTA stations and partnering with the T to encourage ridership.”

Core’s Red Line car, known as No. 1643 and freshly repainted, was delivered on a flatbed truck late yesterday afternoon and placed prominently on The LOT by two large loader forklifts.

The car represents the rich history of the more-than-a-century-old Red Line tunnel extension from Broadway Station to Andrew Square, the many industrial businesses and residential riders it has served, and the promise off a 21st century future of Core Investments’ commercial, residential, retail, civic and recreational development recently approved by City of Boston planners.
“The MBTA is proud to partner with Core Investments on this unique initiative to bring a piece of Red Line history to the On the Dot development in South Boston,” said Phillip Eng, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the MBTA. “The vintage 1600 Series subway car represents the rich legacy of the Red Line and the MBTA’s vital role in connecting Boston’s neighborhoods and supporting economic growth.”

Eng called the Red Line “the transportation backbone of Boston for over a century” and noted that the 1600 Series cars were innovative for their time, introducing amenities like air-conditioning and tinted windows to improve the rider experience.

“This decommissioned rail car reminds us of our ongoing commitment to investing in modern, reliable transit options that meet the evolving needs of our transit-oriented communities,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the 1643 car find a new home at The LOT, allowing residents and visitors to appreciate this living history while taking advantage of the convenient Red Line access Core has incorporated into their plans. The MBTA is excited to continue our partnership with developers focused on smart growth near and around transit.”

The 1600 Series Red Line cars came into service in 1969 and 1970, and 34 of them are still in service, of 52 originally delivered. According to Wikipedia and the MBTA, the 1600 cars operate today along with three newer generations of Red Line cars, 1987-’89’s UTDC cars, 1993-’94’s Bombardier cars, and the newest vehicles, an order of 252 cars from CRRC, of which 14 are now running.

Earlier subway cars, reaching back to the early 1900s, were built by companies known as M1, Pressed Steel Car Co., and Bradley Car Co.

The MBTA’s Red Line was known once as the Cambridge-Dorchester line, as Route 1 on maps. When the MBTA assumed operations of the transit system in 1964, the various lines were rebranded, and in the early 1980s the older blue, white and gold car colors gave way to a consistent red hue.

The Boston Subway system, opened in 1897 from Park Street to Boylston stations, was the first in the United States. It steadily expanded, pushed under Summer Street past South Station and under the Fort Point Channel in the early 1900s.

At Dorchester Avenue and Broadway, the Boston Transit Commission, as it was called before it was the MTA and later MBTA, built South Boston’s only station on the existing Cambridge-to-Dorchester transit line. The final stretch of the Dorchester Tunnel was constructed by cut and cover method — not hand-tunneled or bored — from Broadway Station to Andrew Square Station, which opened June 29, 1918.

The larger Andrew Square neighborhood, now named after the Civil War-era Massachusetts Gov. John Andrew, was known for the last half of the 19th century as Washington Village, honoring Gen. George Washington for his heroic troops’ role in scattering British warships from Boston Harbor from Dorchester Heights.

The No. 1643 Red Line car was one of 76 new cars included in a $13 million contract the MBTA made with Pullman-Standard in 1968. According to the book Boston in Transit, that order was for 24 single cars, with numbers starting at 1500, and 26 “married” cars, the latter being pairs, with numbers 01600 and up. The T referred to the cars as Red Line Type 1 and they were commonly known as South Shore cars.

Each car accommodated 64 seated riders and had a maximum capacity of 239 people.

Boston in Transit described the cars as having “some standard features that were first for new rapid transit cars in Boston, including aluminum body construction, air-conditioning, rubber flooring, radios, public address systems and tinted safety glass.” The brushed aluminum exteriors also led to the cars being known as Silver Birds.

The cars are about 70 feet long and slightly less than 10 feet wide. According to Railway Age magazine, they were “the longest in transit service anywhere in the U.S.” Four 100-horsepower traction motors on the motorized coaches meant they could travel at 70 miles per hour.

One Comment

  1. ANNMARIE JORDAN June 19, 2024 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    OH. WOW. AWESOME. !

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