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Boylston station

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Boylston is a light rail station in Boston, Massachusetts. It serves the MBTA Green Line system, and is located on the southeast corner of Boston Common at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street. Boylston opened along with Park Street in 1897 as the first subway stations in North America. After more than a century of continuous operation, Boylston station retains an appearance more like its original look than any other station in the MBTA system.

Boylston station inbound platform, December 2012.jpg
The inbound platform at Boylston in 2012
LocationBoylston Street at Tremont Street
Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°21′09″N 71°03′53″W / 42.3525°N 71.064722°W / 42.3525; -71.064722 (Boylston MBTA Station)Coordinates: 42°21′09″N 71°03′53″W / 42.3525°N 71.064722°W / 42.3525; -71.064722 (Boylston MBTA Station)
Owned byMBTA
Line(s)Tremont Street Subway
Platforms2 island platforms (used as side platforms)
Tracks4 (2 in passenger service)
ConnectionsBus transport MBTA Bus: 43, 55, 191, 192, 193
OpenedSeptember 3, 1897 (Green Line)
July 30, 2002 (Silver Line)
Passengers (2013)6,826 (weekday average boardings)[1]
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
Arlington Green Line Park Street
Arlington Green Line Park Street
toward Riverside
Green Line Park Street
Arlington Green Line Park Street
toward Lechmere
Tufts Medical Center Silver Line Downtown Crossing
One-way operation
Former services
Preceding station Boston Elevated Railway Following station
Pleasant Street
toward Dudley
Main Line Elevated
Park Street
Preceding station MBTA.svg MBTA Following station
toward Watertown
Green Line Park Street

Boylston station serves as a stop on the bus rapid transit Silver Line, with a southbound stop at street level. Construction of a proposed underground Silver Line station at this location has been postponed indefinitely.

Boylston is not handicapped accessible. Nearby Park Street, Chinatown, and Arlington stations are fully accessible.


Boylston headhouses in Arthur C. Goodwin's Tremont and Boylston Streets, Boston (1915)

Boylston station is located at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street in southern Downtown Boston, slightly to the east of the Back Bay neighborhood. Boylston's central location places it near many important Boston landmarks and points-of-interest. The southeastern corner of Boston Common and the northeastern corner of Emerson College are located at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street. Boylston is the closest Green Line station to the Washington Street Theatre District and Boston's Chinatown.

Boston's Chinatown is directly east of the station, and the Chinatown station on the Orange Line, only a block east at Washington Street, took its name from the neighborhood in 1987; one platform had earlier been named "Boylston" as well.


Until 2006, the lighting in the station was extremely poor (inbound platform, facing north)
Restored BERy #3295 PCC streetcar on display

Boylston and Park Street were the first two stations built in the Tremont Street Subway. The subway was constructed between 1895 and 1897, and first broke ground on the site of the current Boylston station. When the station opened in 1897, it became the first underground rapid transit station in the United States.[2] Of the two original stations, Boylston retains more of its original appearance, having undergone only minimal changes in over a century of continuous operation.[3] In 1964, the Tremont Street Subway, including Boylston station, was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Boylston and Park Street were built with rectangular stone headhouses designed by Edmund M. Wheelwright that did not aesthetically match the Common. Unlike the interior decor, the headhouses were sharply criticized as "resembling mausoleums" and "pretentiously monumental".[4][3] Later stations on the East Boston Tunnel and Washington Street Tunnel incorporated this criticism into their more modest headhouses.[4]

Historic Boston trolleys (PCC #3295 and Type 5 #5734) are sometimes kept on display in the station. Both are operable and were used for rail fan trips until 1990 and 1998.[5] The trolleys are parked on a set of outer tracks leading to a tunnel continuing southward under Tremont Street and heading to the old Pleasant Street Incline. Boylston station once connected via this tunnel to the Incline and a portal located in what is now Eliot Norton Park, immediately east of the Bay Village neighborhood of Boston. From the portal, several trolley lines diverged, including service through to South Boston via Broadway station through its now-closed upper level, which closed by the end of 1919. The trolley service was discontinued in 1962, the route was converted to buses, and the portal was later covered by construction of the park.[6]

During the summer of 2006, the MBTA installed brighter lighting at Boylston station, changing the previously dim appearance of the underground space. Modern electronic faregates and fare vending machines have also been installed.

Some of the proposals for completing Phase III of the Silver Line had involved reopening portions of the tunnel for direct connections to the Boylston Green Line station. As of 2010, all proposals for Phase III tunnel construction have been postponed indefinitely, due to lack of funding, and heavy community opposition.

Incidents and accidentsEdit

A few months before the station opened, there was a gas explosion at the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets on 4 March 1897. Gas had been escaping from an underground main for two months into the gap between the station's roof and the street above, before a horse-drawn trolley caused a spark which ignited the gas. Witnesses reported that a fireball engulfed the trolley, and burned several people and horses instantly. Six people were killed, and at least sixty were seriously injured. The station was spared any serious damage, as much of the force of the blast had radiated upward.[7]

On 6 June 1906, there was another explosion at Boylston station.[8] The origin of the explosion was deemed to be the short-circuiting of the overhead lines in the station which began to burn and catch fire.[8] Because of the electrical nature of the fire, spraying water to stop the flames failed and fire-fighters who attempted to do so were met with electric shocks. Only three people were injured, and the fire extinguished itself.[8]

On 15 November 2008, two Green Line trains collided at the northbound platform of Boylston station.[9] Although the cars themselves were not visibly damaged, a few passengers complained about neck and back pains and were sent to the hospital.[9] A few hours later, the Green Line re-opened between Arlington and Government Center stations and temporary buses stopped running.[9]

On 29 November 2012, two trolleys collided at low speed at Boylston, injuring several dozen passengers.[10] The collision was blamed on a fatigued trolley driver who had not had enough rest following his second job.[11]

Station layoutEdit

Track Layout
to Park Street
Pleasant Street Incline
(closed 1962)
to Arlington
1898 plan of Boylston, showing the outer tracks and former crossover (inbound direction is at right). The sharp right-angle turn depicted at the upper left is still traversed by all Green Line routes going through Arlington to the southwest.
Ground Street Level Exit/Entrance
Outbound      Silver Line toward Dudley Square (Tufts Medical Center)
Green Line
Unused track No regular service (to Pleasant Street Incline - closed April 1962)
Side platform (offset to north), doors will open on the right
Outbound      Green Line toward Boston College, Cleveland Circle, Riverside, or Heath (Arlington)
Inbound      Green Line toward Lechmere, North Station, Government Center, or Park Street
Side platform (offset to south), doors will open on the right
Unused track No regular service (from Pleasant Street Incline - closed April 1962)
Boards now conceal a former sub-passage that allowed free platform crossovers (inbound platform, looking northwards towards Park Street station)

Boylston was originally configured for four tracks with two island platforms (see diagram), and the original track layout has remained essentially unchanged since then. The two outer tracks formerly led to the Pleasant Street Portal, but are no longer in revenue service, have been fenced off, and are now used for storage and other miscellaneous purposes.[12] Two former streetcars – one of the Boston Elevated Railway and one of the old M.T.A. (predecessor of the MBTA) – are usually displayed on the outer track of the inbound platform, along with explanatory signage. An old work train car is usually stored on the other outer track.

There is no free crossover between the platforms; thus passengers must pay attention to signs at street level denoting the separate entrances to the inbound and outbound platforms. A former crossover passage was sealed decades ago for security reasons. However, free crossovers are possible at the next station in either direction (either Park Street or Arlington).

Rail squealEdit

The Green Line takes a sharp right-angle turn just south of Boylston station, as it turns from Tremont Street onto Boylston Street. The tight radius of curvature of the track frequently causes loud squealing noises to emit from the train wheels, which are audible at street level near the station entrance at the corner. When the MBTA buys new streetcars, they must be designed to make this extremely tight curve without derailing.

In 2017, the Green Line added 6 greasing units to the existing 13 in the system; these which pump grease onto train wheels and the rail as trains pass them. Maintenance staff also retrofitted flange stick lubricators on newer trains, which scrape graphite onto the side of the wheel and do not affect braking. [13]


  1. ^ "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  2. ^ Boston's subway finished The New York Times (August 15, 1897) Retrieved 2008-11-28
  3. ^ a b Rettig, Polly M. (June 14, 1976). "NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES INVENTORY -- NOMINATION FORM: Tremont Street Subway". National Park Service.
  4. ^ a b Coburn, Frederick W. (November 1910). "Rapid Transit and Civic Beauty". New Boston. Vol. 1 no. 7. pp. 307–314 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "ALL TIME FANTRIP LISTING" (PDF). Boston Street Railway Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  6. ^ Bierman, Noah (December 26, 2009). "Transit archeology: Tour of abandoned subway network offers a glimpse of how the T was built". Boston Globe.
  7. ^ "Tremont Street Gas Explosion, 1897". Celebrate Boston. Retrieved 2014-06-28.
  8. ^ a b c Boston subway explosion The New York Times Retrieved 2008-11-28
  9. ^ a b c Trolley crash snarls Green Line rush hour The Boston Globe Retrieved 2008-11-28
  10. ^ Moskowitz, Erik; et al. (29 November 2012). "35 taken to hospital after two trolleys collide at Boylston MBTA station". Boston Globe. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  11. ^ Moskowitz, Eric & Finucane, Martin (5 December 2012). "MBTA fires trolley operator in Green Line crash at Boylston Station for being fatigued and 'inattentive'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  12. ^ MBTA Green Line subway NYCSubway Retrieved 2008-11-28
  13. ^ Why The MBTA's Wheels Squeal — And How It's Trying To Dampen The Noise

External linksEdit