Over seven years ago, I opened up my Lechmere review by saying that it was a station on its last legs. Seven years later, those legs have finally crumbled: yesterday was the 98-year-old terminal’s last hurrah, with the station now in the process of getting demolished and relocated across the street for the Green Line extension. Despite the ongoing pandemic, a good number of people (adorned with masks, of course) still came out to ride the last train, and I was one of them! Let’s take a look back at this former piece of history.
Okay, first of all: I gave the original Lechmere a 6? A 6??? In my head I thought it was a 4, which even then is too much, but apparently nope, 13-year old me thought it deserved a 6 because it was an outdoor Green Line station with faregates. “At Lechmere, though, there are fare gates, making much less waiting time.” Great sentence construction. “The Lechmere busway, on the other hand, has no qualities.” No qualities? None at all? So it’s just…a void lacking any characteristics? And ultimately it got a 6 because “with the MBTA’s budget problems and the West Medford extension just around the corner, a big renovation isn’t necessary.” That’s like saying my waste is eventually gonna get flushed down the toilet anyway, so maybe it’s not so bad – really, though, it’s still a piece of poop that deserves less than a 6/10! Gosh, these old posts…they sure are fun to look back on, huh?
A bunch of people were converged in the busway talking and taking photos, including some fans of the blog (great to meet you, if you’re reading!). The MBTA’s remaining RTS bus, 0309, was there to celebrate the occasion, too. Nathan and I did a walkthrough of the busway, talking about how awful it was: it was always such a pain to run to the buses that boarded in the outside area, while the inside was just so decrepit and unpleasant!
One of the big praises of Lechmere is with its design, and I certainly agree that the Boston Elevated Railway was great at designing transfer stations. Unfortunately, the MBTA has had a habit of unraveling those transfers, and this one was no exception: it was supposed to be set up with two busways, such that buses could pick up where trains drop off, and drop off where trains pick up; instead, everything was changed to board and alight at the busway on the outbound platform. I thought that transferring here was always a hassle.
After all, who could forget that classic Lechmere experience of being on a train screeching down the viaduct, watching your bus pulling away and knowing you’ll have to wait another 20 minutes (or longer!) for the next one? And the companion experience of coming in on a bus, seeing that there’s a train waiting on the other side, and joining the crowd in running through the dingy underpass only to hear the wheels screeching and knowing it was too late? There were no countdown clocks here, either, so you just had to stand there hoping the next train was soon.
Speaking of that dingy underpass, that’s where the group headed next as the departure of the last train got closer. The busway on the other side isn’t used as much of anything any more – it’s just a road running alongside the station with a few parking spaces. There is that mysterious “Trolley Snacks & More” convenience store, though, which I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen open! Also, if the new sign is to be believed, this is where the shuttle bus to North Station will be boarding (I guess it’s started today, so maybe someone can confirm if they’ve seen it?).
Okay, I guess having faregates at an outdoor Green Line station is kinda unique, and it’s certainly great to have them there. As far as ease of access, you’re right in front of the train once you pay! The whole station is on such a narrow strip of land that there’s no room for excess space – those gates lead right onto the platform.
While the inbound platform is slightly wider than the outbound, this is also the place where people actually, you know, wait. The E is so unreliable that you would constantly get a crowd here, and it could be harrowing standing there on this tiny strip of space with nowhere to go. As the train came in, I would always suck in my stomach…just in case.
Also, it took me until the last day to realize this, but Lechmere is like the Ruggles busway of trains. You know that manic energy in the Ruggles busway? How buses will come out of nowhere honking their horns and blasting open the doors in random places? While you can’t totally replicate that with trains, it’s such a classic Lechmere moment for a train on the second track over to suddenly pull up with the doors open ringing its bell! There was always this feeling of not knowing exactly what was going on, and whenever a train boarded from that second track, the crowd would swarm on it. As much as I rag on this station, you can’t deny that it was a unique one!
The crowd of transit enthusiasts and MBTA employees (plus one regular rider who was probably bemused by all the commotion!) were all ready to get onto the very last inbound train, which departed at 12:30 AM. Screeching up the twisty line to the viaduct for the last time, most of us rode all the way to Heath Street. As things progressed, the train got more rambunctious and, for some people, more drunk.
At Heath Street, the train went out of service, but we were all allowed to stay on for the non-revenue trip back to Lechmere! Expressing through every station on the line was bizarre – I mean, how many riders can say they’ve gone through Copley or North Station without stopping? Returning over the viaduct, this would be the last ever outbound train to traverse the stretch of track that descends to Lechmere.
While expressing through all those stations was fun, I could have never anticipated that we’d get to go around the Lechmere loop! I mean, this is non-revenue trackage, how awesome is that?? And as we screeched around it, annoying the residents of the apartments nearby for the last time, I realized that as much as I can’t stand this station, I’m also gonna miss it a teeny tiny bit. It’s not often you see a streetcar yard shoved up in the middle of an urban neighborhood, after all!
Now it was time to take the remaining trains out of the yard. Everyone snapped pictures as each of the vehicles pulled out from their spots and headed onto the viaduct for the last time. And with the final train, 3802, trundling out of the station, Lechmere Yard was, for the first time in probably quite a while, completely empty. Yeah, I definitely gave this station a lot of flak, and to be honest, it deserved it…but there’s also no denying that it was a special place. I’m happy it got a good sendoff. Until we meet again in a different form, Lechmere…it’s been nice knowing you.