What a strange, unique station this is. And being here at night just made it even weirder! Today we’re looking at Walpole, and continuing with the Franklin Line tradition of most stations being completely distinct, Walpole is situated in the middle of a crazy industrial railroad junction. Intrigued? So am I.

What the heck is this parking lot???

Let’s start off with the first of many weird things about Walpole: the Elm Street parking lots. The one pictured above seems to be more of an overflow lot than anything, as it’s not paved – however, it has an old honor box at its entrance, so I assume it’s MBTA. It’s also one of the strangest MBTA lots I’ve ever seen, what with the ropes hanging from the lights with (presumably) the space numbers on them.

A new 1600 bus on the 34E exiting the station!

But then there’s the actual paved lot, which is just as weird. Firstly, there’s a fairly small section right next to the street, which also includes the 34E stop. (Imagine that you can ride the bus from here to Forest Hills for 2 bucks!) The bus stop is pretty bad, but other than that, it seems like a normal lot…until you notice the road that leads further into the woods.

The desolate Elm Street Lot proper.

The road goes over the Neponset River and past a few more parking spaces (sans sidewalks, I must add), before opening up into…another lot? Yes, there’s an Elm Street Lot part 2! Or 3, I guess, if you include the overflow one. It’s a fine lot, I guess, but it’s just so far from the station itself! And like I mentioned, there are no sidewalks on the connector road.

That is…dark.
So, what connects Elm Street to the actual station? A long dark ramp, of course! Yes, announced by a tall T logo, this narrow pathway leads up to the station platform. Even in the daytime, it’s fairly formidable, but at night? There is nothing lighting that thing up, I can tell you right now. Just look at it!

Well, well, well.

Who wants to talk about more parking lots? Yes, Walpole has one final lot, and it’s a complicated one. See, the station is located within a rather complicated four-way railroad junction, and one of the tracks goes right through the lot. This requires a level crossing and some interestingly-placed spaces. Overall, the station has 343 in total, which doesn’t seem like that much considering how many darn lots it has! It’s enough, though – they get about 2/3 full on the average weekday.

The station building.

Walpole’s red building is really charming. It kinda looks like a fancy house! Also interesting is the way it’s situated in the corner of the railroad intersection. Along the parking lot, there are some sheltered benches where people can wait to be picked up (as seen above), as well as potted plants, which add a nice touch of charm to an already charming building.

Looking inside the building.

Ahhhh, but the building has an inside, too, and it’s a good one! Unfortunately, it’s only open during the morning rush, but man, it must be a nice place to wait. The main attraction is the amusingly-titled “Rail Good Coffee”, which offers drinks and pastries for rather cheap prices.

Kinda eerie, isn’t it?

What else does the inside have to offer? Well, you’ve got some benches, a community board, a wastebasket, and a table with a bunch of stuff on it! Okay, I think it’s just boring stuff like straws and sugar, from what I can see. But still, this building is fantastic!

The platform.

Walpole’s platform definitely has its good points and its bad points. For the good, there are benches underneath the shelter of the building, along with a few wastebaskets and newspaper boxes. On the bad side, the platform cement isn’t in the best shape, and the whole thing is low-level – no accessibility here.

This is a strange thing to see…

So, remember how I mentioned that this station is in the middle of a huge railroad intersection? Well, one of the strangest parts about it is right at the end of the platform: a diamond crossing! Yes, the Commuter Rail track crosses right over a freight track here, and it’s…weird. You just don’t expect to find this kind of thing at a station!

Oh! Hey there, CSX.

Another side effect of Walpole being in the middle of a railroad intersection is that there’s all this industrial stuff visible from the platform. It seems to be a popular place for freight trains – a CSX locomotive was hanging out on one of the curves, while another train was further down the intersecting track. It was strangely pleasant to wait here with the CSX loco growling in the background.

A train zooming over the Elm Street overpass.

But I can’t end this review before talking about the crazy experience Sam and I had here. You see, there were some…problems on the Franklin Line that night. That meant we had to wait on the desolate platform for about an hour longer than we had hoped. We even had a run-in with a rather questionable person, but eventually the train came – a double-draft, too, with two sets stuck together! The conductor didn’t even collect fares, which just seemed to emphasize the craziness of the Franklin Line that night.

There are many blurry train pictures in this review…

Station: Walpole

Ridership: Lots! As the second-busiest station on the Franklin Line after Norwood Central, Walpole gets 945 inbound riders per weekday. and it’s one of those stations that gets way more people than parked cars – that always makes me happy.

Pros: It’s just a really quirky place! The diamond crossing, the industrial yard, the weird out-of-the-way parking lots…this is definitely a unique station. Also, the building is quite charming, and seems to be of great use to rush hour commuters in the morning.

Cons: Big thing: it’s not accessible. Considering how well-used this station is (I believe it’s the second-busiest inaccessible Commuter Rail station after Natick Center), some sort of mini-high platform would be great. Also, the Elm Street lot is really inconvenient for passengers, as they have to walk quite a distance to get to the station itself. How about a random solution? The 34E runs to the back of the lot to turn around…what if a stop was added back there and people could use the bus as a free shuttle to get to the front of it? It’s a bit crazy, but certainly not difficult to implement!

Nearby and Noteworthy: You’ve got Walpole Center right nearby, with a good amount of stores and restaurants to keep you busy, if you so desire.

Final Verdict: 7/10
I would feel bad giving an inaccessible station anything higher than a 7 – although of course, I’m sure some diligent reader will point out a multitude of times in which I’ve done that, but I like to think I’ve followed some sort of moral standard for the past four years! Seriously, though, Walpole is a super interesting station, and if you have any interest in freight trains or just quirky Commuter Rail stations, it’s a cool place to check out.

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